The Functionally Fit Fast Workout — Strong, Enduring, Mobile (Part I)

The reason you rarely see gym-goers improve their fitness is because they do not do the right exercises with the required effort. If you’d like to get strong, muscular, more flexible and improve your cardio, dig in and watch this six-part series.

Joe Garma demonstrating mobility

Joe doing his thing.

Note: This is part of my FREE guide, Transform Your Body and Mind. Go here and get the rest.

RECENTLY, I visited two long-time friends in Washington, DC and Charlottesville, VA.  Those boys fed me plenty. Fortunately, they also gave me plenty of opportunities to exercise.

Kevin, my DC friend, plopped me on his spare bike and had me chase him all over the magnificent Capital Crescent bike trail. Gary, my Charlottesville pal, hauled my lazy butt to his gym nearly every day that I was with him where we would pretend like we’re weight lifters.

From time to time, I’d see Gary looking over at my weight lifting antics. On the third day, he wandered over, kindly waited for me to catch my breath, and asked me if I could put together a workout routine for him.

Gary is typical of the gym-going crowd who goes regularly, but doesn’t get much out of it. In his case, he’s gotten in decent aerobic shape by furiously pumping pedals to keep up with a comely bike diva that he rides with, but the muscle/strength thing was lagging.

“So, Joe, could you put me on a new routine that will get me in better shape?”, Gary asked.

Still panting, I nodded and blurted, “Sure, tomorrow.”

That night at his home, I penciled out the workout routine I’m about to share with you. My aim was to present Gary, and by extension, you, a workout that would do six things:

1. Grow muscle
2. Build strength
3. Improve mobility
4. Increase anaerobic and aerobic conditioning
5. Be flexible
6. Be progressive

If we had a video camera and were a little less shy, we could have taped what I showed him. Since we didn’t, I’ve hunted down similar exercises on YouTube. I used to have all these exercises on one long page, but soon discovered that the page was bogged down with all the video and loaded slowly.  So now it’s in six parts:

The 6-Part Functional Strength Series

  • Part I — this very page you’re reading — gets you oriented to the workout, including the important “Workout Guidelines” and “Workout Routine”, which are presented below.
  • Part II  focuses on mobility, which is the full range of motion in joints, and flexibility in ligaments and muscle, as well as some specialized exercises for overlooked muscles.
  • Part III focuses on the back, lats, glutes and calves.
  • Part IV focuses on the chest, shoulders and thighs.
  • Part V focuses on chest, biceps and triceps.
  • Part VI focuses on very important post-weight lifting stretches.

Before you jump to the videos, please read the following Guidelines. Without knowing them, confusion will abound.


Your 10 Workout Guidelines is Part 1 of the Functionally Fit Workout

1. Whole body each session

This training routine consists of five Compound Sets of resistance exercises for increasing joint mobility, muscular development and strength. The entire body will be exercised each session.

2. Workout session frequency

The routine will be done three alternate days per week to allow your body to recuperate. Muscles do not get built during the exercise, but when rested afterwards.

3. Sets and reps

“Sets” typically refer to the number of times you do a particular exercise, but here we tweak the term a bit by referring to a sequence of multiple exercises done without pause as a “Compound Set”. So, say, rather than doing 10 push ups and referring to that as one set, we will do a push up and some other exercises back-to-back, and call all those together one Compound Set.

“Reps” are typically the number of times you do an exercise to complete the Set. Same here: you’ll do some number of reps for each exercise within a Compound Set.

Aim for 12 reps for upper body exercises and 15 for lower. After a month or two of consistent lifting, you can cut the reps to 8 upper, 10 lower, as you add weight. Typically, high reps produces definition and cardio capacity, and low reps produce muscle and strength, although there are plenty of exceptions.

4. Exercise routine

The routine consists of some number of Compound Sets done without rest, followed by active rest. Before each Compound Set, focus your mind on what you’re about to do, and make sure that the equipment is ready so you can more quickly from one exercise to the next in the compound set.

5. Be here now

Be where you are, meaning do the number of Compound Sets and Reps that your body and mind enables without judgment. You will quickly improve.

6. Proper form is key

Proper form is exceptionally important. Unless you aim to be competitive, the amount of weight lifted is inconsequential as long as it’s heavy enough to tax you. If you can, see yourself in a mirror to ensure proper form. Stop the exercise when your form breaks down, such as rounding your back when dead lifting. Ideally, ask a fitness trainer to observe your technique.

7. Multiple exercise options

For most exercises here, multiple options are presented so that you may select one that matches your interest, ability and equipment. Remember #6 and do not overreach. So, if you have a “bad” back, do not choose barbell dead lifts.

8. Fresh and confused

Keep your routine fresh. From time to time, substitute the exercise you’re doing with an alternative offered. Not only will these keep your exercise sessions interesting, but present muscle confusion; meaning, your muscles will continue to be challenged by new stimuli.

9. Off day activity

If desired, do aerobic, yoga or HIIT activities on non-workout days.

If you wish to incorporate High Intensity Interval Training (“HIIT”) into your workouts, limit them to twice per week, and seek to do one on a non-workout day and one on workout day, but before it, and cut the number of exercises in the workout. (More on HITT here.)

10. Feed your muscles

Just prior to exercise, drink about 20 grams of whey protein with water, skim milk or almond milk. Within an hour after exercise, again consume the whey drink, but this time add some carbs and high quality fat to it, such as blueberries/blackberries, banana, 1/2 cup of Greek yogurt, flax seed powder and chia seeds.

Be aware of total calories; you don’t want this post-workout drink to replace a meal.

Before bed, consume some casein protein powder. Casein digests more slowly than whey protein, so is ideal for feeding the muscle tissue you broke down during exercise as you sleep. Whey is digested quickly, and so feeds the muscle when you most need it — just before and after exercise.

Protein supplement quality is very important. The whey should be “denatured” and cold processed. Among the few brands that fit the bill are Dr. Mercola’s Miracle Whey Protein Powder, and Prohealth’s ImmunPlex Undenatured Whey Protein.

ImmunPlex Undenatured Whey Protein (306grams, powder)

As Ori Hofmekler describes in If Your Protein Contains This – Throw it in the Trash, most casein on the market is garbage. Although Hofmekler does a great job of underscoring what’s bad in most casein supplements, he does not give recommendations for good brands to use, nor have I yet found any. So, know that a good alternative to casein is low-fat, organic cottage cheese.

[If you can recommend a quality casein protein supplement, please mention it in the Comments section below.]

OK, with these Guidelines in mind, let’s review some terminology…


The Workout Routines

-There are five Compound Sets, each consisting of three or more exercises.

-Go for 12 Reps for each upper body and 15 Reps for lower body exercise.

-If you can, do three circuits of each Compound Set before moving to the next one. But one is fine to start.

-Rest: During each Compound Set, you rest while doing the Calf Raisers. Once done with all the circuits for a Compound Set, try not to rest more than three minutes before moving on to the next.

-Duration: It may take longer to do this routine than you like at first, but as you become more accomplished, you’ll fly through it.

OK, you’re ready… first up is Warm-up/Core/Glutes in Part II.


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Last Updated on February 28, 2022 by Joe Garma

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Joe Garma

I help people live with more vitality and strength. I'm a big believer in sustainability, and am a bit nutty about optimizing my diet, supplements, hormones and exercise. To get exclusive Updates, tips and be on your way to a stronger, more youthful body, join my weekly Newsletter. You can also find me on LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram.

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