Functional Fitness vs Weightlifting: What Is The Difference?

Author: Sergii Putsov (20 years of Oly Lifting & Training experience)

Reviewed by: Oleksiy Torokhtiy (Olympian with 21 years of Oly Lifting experience)

Olympic weightlifting is a traditional sport that is now experiencing a rebirth in popularity, whereas Functional fitnessis one of the largest fitness trends on the globe. Are they really so different? In today's article, we'll learn more about functional fitness vs weightlifting.

Olympic weightlifting is a deep sport that teaches just two strength and power exercises: snatch and clean & jerk to the greatest level. Whereas functional fitness is a broad sport that incorporates a large variety of movements, exercises, and physical abilities all trained to a decent level. Let's take a deep look on functional fitness vs olympic lifting.

Functional Fitness vs Weightlifting

What Is Weightlifting?

Olympic weightlifting is a sport in which participants compete by effectively lifting the highest weights while using a barbell weighted with the plates from the floor to overhead. Snatch and clean & jerk are two exercises that athletes compete in.

The wide-grip lift known as the snatch involves lifting the weighted barbell overhead in a single motion.

A combined movement known as the clean and jerk involves lifting the barbell from the platform to the front rack position – clean phase, then lifting it above – jerk phase.

Each weightlifter is given three attempts at the snatch and C&J, with the snatch attempts coming first. The total of the heaviest weight successfully lifted in kg for each lift determines an athlete's score. Different weight classes, which differ for each gender and have changed every 3-4 Olympic cycles, are used for competition. Lifters earn a "incomplete" entry for the meets if they are unable to properly complete at least 1 snatch attempt and at least 1 C&J. Since the first Summer Olympic Games in 1896, weightlifting has been an Olympic sport.

man weightlifting training

Does Rowing Build Muscle and Is It Effective?

Rowing is a high-intensity, resistance-based exercise that places significant demand on the body. The intensity and duration of your rowing session can be adjusted towards specific fitness goals, including cardiovascular endurance, raw strength, or explosive power. But can rowing build muscle?

It can but to a certain degree. In a nutshell, when rowing, the repetitive pulling motion engages a wide range of muscle groups, including the back, legs, core, arms, and shoulders.

Consistent rowing training, combined with progressive overload and proper technique, can contribute to building general strength and toning our physique, however, it’s not the most effective exercise if you’re looking for strict muscle growth (size).

Weightlifting Workouts

Weightlifters devote the most of their training preparation to performing different barbell lifts in order to increase their strength. The majority of exercises are snatch, C&J, pulls and squats variations.

Every day training structure

1. Warm-up

Before each training session, weightlifters go through a full warm-up that lasts 15 to 30 minutes and raises body temperature while incorporating dynamic stretches and movement-specific drills. 

2. Main Workout

Weightlifters workout for between one and two hours, focusing mostly on: snatch, C&J, pulls, squats variations and additional drills. A good example of this type of programming is - Male Competition Program.

3. Cool Down

After each training session, weightlifters go through a specific cool down for 10 to 30 minutes. Some athletes spend this time concentrating on their technique and finish their accessory workouts for the tiny muscles. 

athlete weightlifting workout

4. Training Schedule per Week

Beginner weightlifters often work out for 1-2 hours, 3-5 days per week. Depending on the season, professional or elite weightlifters may attend up to 15 training sessions each week.

Lifters often base their yearly training schedule on a select few competitions. Instead of trying to stay in top shape all year, the objective is to perform at your best at the biggest events of the year.

In general, an athlete spends more time on general strength the further away from a competition they are. Lifters divert their attention away from the technical aspects of the lifts and toward increasing general strength.

Here is a good example of an "off-season" training program for weightlifters - Weightlifting Bodybuilding.

During this "off-season", some lifters even cut back on training sessions or start playing more outside activities to keep in shape. During this time, it's not unusual to see lifters forsake the Olympic lifts. Many weightlifters choose to place a strong emphasis on strength development with workouts like squats and complexes, which are a series of linked barbell movements performed without breaks.

The training intensifies and gets more technical as the lifter approaches a competition. Different Snatch and C&J variants take the role of regular training. Of course, every rule has exceptions.

weightlifting workout

Weightlifting Pros & Cons


  • A good method to increase explosiveness and overall body power

  • Can connect the gap between the training room and the playing field

  • Can aid in the development of elasticity in soft tissue & joints

  • Make a strength training program more interesting and challenging

Could be better:

  • Challenging to master and do effectively

  • It may take years of practice to execute perfect

  • High injury risk with modest payoff

  • Effective for athletes, not necessarily for regular people

What Is Functional Fitness?

About ten years ago, when box gyms started to appear not just in the USA but also across the world, functional fitness gained enormous popularity as a fitness training. Members of more than 13,000 affiliated gyms across 120 countries participate in functional fitness. Over 7,000 gyms only in the United States offer the fintess program. There are approximately 4 million functional fitness athlets worldwide, and the group has even been compared to a cult because of how dedicated its members are to the competitive style of training.

Functional fitnessis a type of high-intensity interval training; it is a strength & conditioning routine composed of functional movements carried out at a high level of intensity.

These movements include those you do every day, such as squatting, pushing, pulling, carrying etc. Many exercises that assist growing muscles include variants of squats, weightlifting, and pressing that endure for set periods of time. This is different from a typical exercise, which could specify how many repetitions to perform over any time.

The emphasis placed on the factors of load, distance, and pace throughout the exercises, which aid in the development of strong levels of power, makes them so successful. To do this, the workout may make use of various types of equipment: barbells, speedropes, kettlebells, rowing machines, balls, airbikes, ect.

man training in gym

Functional Fitness Workouts

The four main components of a normal functional fitness exercise are warm up, power & strength block, (WOD) workout of the day and cool down. Each session can be adapted to any fitness level, so every person can participate.

The fundamental framework of functional fitness workout:

1. Warm-Up

You must warm up before the main part, just as with any other workout. Depending on the session's primary objective, the exact functional fitness warm-up will alter.

However, it will entail:

Light aerobic exercises, such as two minutes on an assault bike, rowing machine, or ski erg. In order to improve ROM throughout your session, mobility practice is incorporated. A crucial component is muscle activation. Your muscles will warm up as a result, getting ready for an intense exercise. The duration of the warm-up might range from five to fifteen minutes.

2. strength block

Strength training is part of functional fitness. There are specific days when your workout will focus largely on building your strength through particular routines. Beginners will practice their form & technique by performing reps & sets of these exercises. Lifters who are intermediate and advanced will intensify these exercises to develop their strength in the 1-6 rep ranges.

3. WOD

Typically, this is a high-intensity circuit which incorporates many movements to test one or more aspects of your fitness, such as anaerobic power, coordination, conditioning, endurance, etc. This is one of the main differences in functional fitness vs weight training. Usually, WOD last somewhere between 20 and 30 minutes. However, if the strength block is shorter, it may occasionally be longer.

4. Cool Down

The goal of a cool down is to get your heart rate down to normal resting levels, and it usually lasts for five minutes on average.

Functional Fitness Pros & Cons


  • Strong community

  • Exciting atmosphere

  • Competition

Could be better:

  • Lack of personalization

  • Lack of programming

  • Lack of scalability

Weightlifting vs Functional Fitness Comparison

The workouts' unpredictability is therefore what sets functional fitness vs weightlifting. Olympic weightlifting concentrates on a smaller number of exercises to develop Snatch and C&J, but functional fitness workout concentrates on a large variety of varied type exercises.

1. Different Approach To Competition

The challenges that the participating athletes will face during the functional fitness games will not be explained to them until the day of the competition. In Olympic weightlifting, where they prepare for two lifts — the situation is very different. There are significant differences in the training equipment as well in functional fitness or strength training.

2. Different Training Goals

Functional fitness aims to combine power and endurance. High endurance/rep exercises are combined with some strength training during workouts. Olympic lifters aim for power, which combines strength and explosive speed. They work out emphasizing intensity over repetitions. Functional fitness athlets are strong and powerful, yet they cannot match the weights lifted by Olympiс weightlifters. The same is true for weightlifters.

3. Weightlifting Can Help Excel At Functional Fitness

Many athletes choose to focus more on weightlifting, which aids in performing functional fitness routines. Squatting improves weightlifting performance, which improves functional fitness performance, which is essentially just yet another method of indicating that they are more physically fit. Check this training program designed especially for functional fitness athletes who want to put more attention on Olympiс weightlifting - WL4FF.

athlete hammer training

4. Balance Between The Two Is Difficult

Many experienced athletes and coaches advise that you select a choice: weightlifting vs functional fitness. You cannot have everything. It would be ideal to choose only one way, but choose at least one priority. Functional fitnessis more focused on overall fitness and the "model" look. Olympic weightlifting is mostly on strength and power, with little emphasis on appearance.

Weightlifting For Functional Fitness


Is Functional Fitness Or Weightlifting Better For Weight Loss?

While both weightlifters and functional fitness athlets may be used for demanding, intensive workouts, functional fitness provides a more effective way to lose weight while Olympic weightlifting encourages the development of speed and power.

Can I Build Muscle With Functional Fitness?

You need muscles and a body fat percentage low enough to show it if you want to seem athletic. You will surely gain muscular mass doing functional fitness. You might also enhance your mobility, flexibility, and stamina.

Is Functional Fitness Good For Strength Training?

Yes, of course! Functional fitness could be a useful workout for increasing your basic strength level and also cardiovascular fitness, agility, and flexibility.


So, is functional fitness preferable to weightlifting? The vast majority of those who have experienced a lot in both functional fitness and weightlifting claim that weightlifting is superior to functional fitness. This is more about setting objectives, making plans to achieve those goals, and attaining those goals than it is about the world's fittest man. Because functional fitness is so unpredictable, a lot of athletes prioritize weightlifting at least twice a week. It's your time now! Which training will you select? Please tell me everything in the comments!

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Weightlifting For Functional Fitness

WBCL autor Sergii Putsov

Head of Sport Science, PhD

Experience: 20 years

Best Results: Snatch - 165 kg, 

C&J - 200 kg

Sergii is a professional weightlifter and National team member in the past. Competed in 94 kg w/c, won multiple medals on national competitions.

Nowadays Sergii is responsible for designing training programs, writing blog articles, doing live commentary of international weightlifting competitions, running different sport & fitness educational seminars, including Olympic weightlifting together with Oleksiy Torokhtiy all around the globe.

Reviewed by: Oleksiy Torokhtiy

Olympic Weightlifting Champion

Experience: 21 years

Best Results: Snatch – 200 kg,

C&J - 240 kg

My name is Oleksiy Torokhtiy. I am a professional athlete with 20 years of experience in Olympic weightlifting. I have won multiple European, and World titles and have taken part in two Olympic Games (Beijing 2008, London 2012).

After finishing my career, I have committed myself to coach, and as of 2022, I’ve hosted 200+ weightlifting seminars all over the globe. I’m the founder of an international sportswear and accessories brand, Warm Body Cold Mind (my motto), author, and creator of a series of training programs and eBooks.

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This article was written by our qualified author and proofread by expert with proven experience. When writing the article we use our expertise and data from open sources with strong reputation, scientific or medical based. The list of references is provided at the end of the article.

Our team of authors and experts includes professional athletes (Olympians, winners of European and World titles) PhD in Sport Science, certified coaches, sports nutritionists, CSCP, physiotherapists and other. Read more about the team here, and more about how we test here.

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