Kevin kearns

Burn with Kearns: Beach-Ready: Bodybuilding vs. Functional Strength Training – Kevin Kearns

by Kevin Kearns, contributing writer on exercise and fitness

As beach season approaches, many of us aim to shed extra pounds and get into peak physical condition. While bodybuilding and functional strength training are both popular approaches to fitness, they offer different benefits and outcomes. This article explores why functional strength training can get you in shape faster, help you lose weight more efficiently, and make you stronger and fitter in all three planes of human motion compared to traditional bodybuilding. This is coming from real world experience. From the age of 14 till I was in my early 30’s I concentrated on bodybuilding and it was all I knew. Then life happens as it always does. I tweak my back doing back squats while experimenting not using a weightlifting belt. Which I have been taught to use for a long time. This back injury led me to use a stability ball to rehab my back versus going this physical therapy. That’s when my whole epiphany changed into the functional training world.

Understanding Bodybuilding and Functional Strength Training

Bodybuilding focuses on hypertrophy, or muscle growth, through targeted exercises that isolate specific muscle groups. This method typically involves lifting heavy weights with higher repetitions to build muscle size and definition. The aesthetic goal of bodybuilding is a sculpted, symmetrical physique.

Functional strength training, on the other hand, emphasizes movements that mimic real-life activities, engaging multiple muscle groups simultaneously. This type of training enhances overall strength, coordination, balance, and flexibility. Functional exercises are performed in various planes of motion: sagittal (forward and backward), frontal (side to side), and transverse (rotational movements).

Why Functional Strength Training Gets You in Shape Faster

  1. Engages Multiple Muscle Groups Functional strength training involves compound movements like squats, deadlifts, and kettlebell swings that recruit multiple muscle groups simultaneously. This leads to a higher caloric expenditure during and after workouts, accelerating fat loss and improving cardiovascular fitness more quickly than isolation exercises typical in bodybuilding.
  2. Improves Cardiovascular Fitness Many functional training exercises are high-intensity and include elements of cardio, such as burpees or battle ropes. This combination boosts your heart rate and enhances cardiovascular health, contributing to quicker weight loss and overall conditioning.
  3. Enhances Core Stability and Balance Functional exercises often require core engagement to maintain stability, which strengthens the abdominal and lower back muscles. Improved core stability not only enhances your overall strength but also reduces the risk of injuries, enabling more consistent and effective workouts.
  4. Promotes Flexibility and Mobility Functional strength training includes a variety of movement patterns that enhance flexibility and joint mobility. Improved flexibility helps prevent injuries and allows for a greater range of motion during exercises, leading to more effective workouts and better muscle development.

Why Functional Strength Training Aids Faster Weight Loss

Higher Caloric Burn The compound movements and high-intensity nature of functional strength training create a greater metabolic demand, resulting in a higher caloric burn both during and after workouts. This effect, known as excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC), means your body continues to burn calories at an elevated rate even after the workout is complete.

Increases Lean Muscle Mass While bodybuilding focuses on muscle size, functional training builds lean muscle mass, which is more metabolically active. Increased lean muscle mass boosts your resting metabolic rate, leading to more efficient calorie burning and quicker weight loss.

Reduces Workout Time Because functional strength training involves high-intensity, full-body workouts, you can achieve significant fitness gains in a shorter amount of time compared to traditional bodybuilding routines. This efficiency makes it easier to stay consistent and see faster results.

Functional Strength Training for Comprehensive Fitness

  1. Training in All Three Planes of Motion Functional strength training addresses movements in all three planes of human motion: sagittal, frontal, and transverse. By incorporating exercises that involve forward/backward, side-to-side, and rotational movements, functional training prepares your body for a wide range of physical activities, enhancing overall athleticism and reducing the risk of injury.
  2. Improves Everyday Functional Movements The primary goal of functional strength training is to improve the efficiency of everyday movements. Exercises mimic real-life activities, making daily tasks easier and reducing the likelihood of injuries. This approach not only makes you stronger and fitter but also enhances your quality of life.
  3. Builds Balanced Muscle Development Unlike bodybuilding, which can sometimes lead to muscle imbalances due to isolated muscle group training, functional strength training promotes balanced muscle development. This holistic approach ensures that all muscle groups work harmoniously, leading to better overall strength and performance.


While bodybuilding can help you achieve a sculpted physique, functional strength training offers a more comprehensive approach to fitness. By engaging multiple muscle groups, enhancing cardiovascular fitness, and promoting flexibility and balance, functional strength training can get you in

shape faster, help you lose weight more efficiently, and make you stronger and fitter in all three planes of motion. As you prepare for the beach season, consider incorporating functional strength training into your routine to achieve optimal fitness and enjoy a healthier, more active lifestyle.

Try these workouts for a change!

Be Relentless in your health and wellness

Coach Kearns


    Read ALL articles by Kevin Kearns – here: BURN WITH KEARNS

    Both of Coach Kearns’ books may be purchased on For more information about Coach Kevin Kearns, including scheduling speaking engagements and classes (both online and in person), please contact him at 508-404-8503 or [email protected].Author of “There’s Light In The Tunnel” How to Survive and Thrive with Depression  – “Always Picked Last“ A guide to navigating bullies on Amazon and Audible

    Coach Kevin Kearns has been coaching in the world of fitness, nutrition, and tactical self defense for over 3 decades. As the former conditioning coach to 15 UFC Pro Fighters, and ranked in the Top 5 in the UFC , he is no stranger to the the importance of proper nutrition and proper mindset programming. He has long advocated to all his clients – athletes or the general population – about the importance of programming mind, body and spirit. Coach Kevin Kearns BS FMS CPT – Former conditioning coach to 15 UFC Pros Ranked in Top 5 by the UFC Personal Fitness Coach, Author, Columnist, Motivational Speaker, Corporate Wellness Consultant, Youth Wellness Program Provider, Certification Specialist, Personal Self Defense, and Law Enforcement Defensive Tactics Specialist.

    Posted in ,

    Leave a Comment