As exercisers seek new ways to reach strength goals and maximize motivation, new research findings point to a promising approach for boosting both power and enjoyment with measurable results.

Far from being a flash in the pan, the appetite for strength workouts is stronger than ever. A recent Life Time Fitness survey revealed building muscle is exercisers’ number one goal for 2024 (35.9%) – an increase of more than 3% from 2023.

But as we double down on strength in 2024, balancing meaningful outcomes with motivational training is key to staying on track. And that’s where workout experiences that spark joy come in. A Mindbody survey of over 8,000 people found 33% prioritize fun as a way to support wellbeing, with strong ties to community and connection. Interestingly, strength training is the number one group training activity for Gen Z, and the most popular fitness class to bring a friend to.

Diversifying your strength-building workouts helps to maintain motivation and ensure you stay on track with achieving tangible results. Enter LES MILLS FUNCTIONAL STRENGTH™️.

“An exciting new approach to strength training that balances a slow eccentric heavy weight load with concentric (explosive) force using a lighter weight.” Bryce Hastings, Les Mills Head of Research

Functional Strength with Ben Main

Erin Maw and Ben Main, creators of LES MILLS FUNCTIONAL STRENGTH, looked to the latest sports conditioning and performance training techniques to devise their formula that combines the best of heavy compound lifting and functional strength training. And once they’d perfected the workout, it was over to Auckland University of Technology to rigorously test it. Researchers enlisted 27 participants (16 female, 11 male) with previous strength training experience to take part in an 8-week program assessing the following criteria:

  • Maximum strength performance
  • Jump (power) performance
  • ‘Core’ strength endurance (plank)
  • Confidence and motivation for strength training

As part of their testing, researchers also measured enjoyment levels. Assessments occurred at baseline and week 8 and the findings revealed a strength program offering impressive gains across all variables. Improvements classified as ‘significant’ were achieved in Squat, Deadlift, Bench Press, Jump Height, and Core Endurance: representing meaningful and impactful changes for these individuals. Standout results included:

  • Squat with loaded barbell: +20%
  • Vertical jump height, as assessed from standing: +19%
  • Bench press with loaded barbell: +13%

Research shows significant strength improvements in Squat, Deadlift, Bench Press, Jump Height, and Core Endurance.

Functional Strength

The innovative workout achieves these results by super-setting heavy compound loading exercises with explosive functional movement patterns. Paired together, these movements deliver significant athletic gains. Bryce Hastings, Les Mills Head of Research, explains the physiological benefits:

“FUNCTIONAL STRENGTH has created an exciting new approach to strength training by balancing a slow eccentric heavy weight load with concentric (explosive) force using a lighter weight.”

“It creates a really unique type of superset – generating muscle pressure and disruption through tension, followed by a contrasting more explosive contraction. By utilizing specific focuses on the eccentric and concentric components, it maximizes the disruption within the muscle unit, leading to the statistically significant results seen in the research.”

In addition to significant strength gains, enjoyment levels were maintained and confidence grew by an impressive 25%.

Hastings notes the benefits of functional training are ideal for amateur and professional sports teams alike. “It’s a great workout for sports people because of the high velocity, dynamic movements. You build muscle and strength, while increasing your explosive power and control. It keeps you nimble and means you can move things quickly.”

In addition to significant strength gains, researchers noted that enjoyment levels were maintained at 78% and confidence grew by an impressive 25%. Hastings says the findings are key to understanding how enjoyment can improve outcomes.

“Participants in the trial told us they enjoyed feeling progress in their strength, and their ability to execute ‘explosive’ movements. Many commented that their lower body improvements (strength and power) were most noticeable. Crucially, they found these gains were augmented by the energy of a motivational group environment, which helped them push themselves to greater exertion. This research highlights that the combination of results and enjoyment is a powerful motivating force.”

If you’re ready to experience a new strength-building option that’s scientifically shown to deliver results and enjoyment, now’s your chance.

Find a LES MILLS FUNCTIONAL STRENGTH class near you or try the workout at home using LES MILLS+


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