“Functional fitness” is a buzzword thrown around by savvy trainers and experts alike, but the concept is often tossed aside when it comes to fitting it into your workout.

After all, it’s tough to make time for exercises that don’t appear to have a physique benefit. “Functional fitness is for all of the movements you do in life, from chasing your kids to hiking a mountain. But often people disregard it because they think they won’t be effective,” notes Liu Gross, athletic director for React Fitness in Chicago.

That’s a mistake, because functional fitness not only helps you move more easily and reduce injury risk; it can also sculpt muscles and blast calories. Working with Chicago-based physical therapist David Reavy, Gross has created a functional routine that kicks your butt while helping keep you mobile.

“These exercises are unconventional, but so is life,” explains Gross. “You’re constantly doing awkward movements, whether that’s lifting something overhead or bending down to tie your shoe.” His workout plan here targets three spots where most of us are the weakest or tightest: upper back, core, and glutes.

How to Do It 

Do these exercises as a circuit in the order given. For the first set, focus more on the movement pattern than the weight used. Once you’ve got the exercises down, you can feel free to increase the weight, says Gross.