Fitness has come a long way from just sweating it out at the local gym with your headphones on. Nowadays people around the world can take those hard-earned training gains to competitive tournaments, testing their skills in a range of functional fitness events.
When we talk about functional fitness we mean exercise formats that replicate real-life actions. Unlike training methods like bodybuilding that don't necessarily translate to day-to-day movements, functional training is designed to help develop strength and mobility and can improve the way the body moves, from climbing stairs to applications in sports performed by top athletes.
Where once functional fitness was a form of training that existed solely to make people fitter in some way, now it has become a sport in its own right, with people all over the world competing in tournaments to see how quickly and efficiently they can carry out the various workouts.
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The most obvious example of these tournaments are those associated with CrossFit, many of which act as qualifying events for the CrossFit Games â probably the biggest event in the world of functional fitness.
Not all of them do though, with new independent events popping up all the time. Here we've picked a selection of our favourite barbell-swinging events from around the world. And if you've got the wellness travel bug, check out our guide to the best fitness retreats around the world.
NOTE: Due to Covid-19 restrictions the dates for some events are still TBC and will be updated as soon as the information is available.
Where: Miami, USA
When: February 2022
There arenât many functional fitness events as impressive as Wodapalooza â which isnât surprising when you consider that not only is it one of the CrossFit sanctioned events, but it also takes place in the enormous open venue at Miamiâs Bayfront Park.
The four-day festival is heavily focused on inclusivity, with divisions including teen, adaptive, scaled, masters, intermediate and Rx'd athletes. Thereâs also a one-day Olympic lifting competition as well as seminars, workshops and the chance to visit over 100 exhibitors over the duration of the festival.
Last year saw 1,590 athletes take part in the event itself, although those places have to be earned via the online qualification process or through application to the scaled competition â thatâs unless youâre a top athlete and you get invited along to take part. Online qualifiers for individuals takes place from 3 October, or 12 November if youâre hoping to get in as part of a team.
The Turf Games Dubai
Where: Dubai, UAE
When: 4-5 November 2021
The London-born fitness event was designed as a way to bring people together in a team-based challenge. Now it has become a landmark occurrence for the fitness community, with events taking place around the world as well as a series of training sessions in the run-up to the main showdowns.
The two-day outdoor event, which takes place at Max & Aegle, is open to mixed teams of five. If youâre an elite, youâre looking at tougher workouts, heavier weights and an extra arena stage to deal with on opening Thursday evening. Lucky you.
Each team works their way through a minimum of four workouts before the top teams battle it out in a 'Winner Takes All' final in front of cheering fans. Workouts, as youâd imagine, cover a wide range of functional training movements. Those movements are designed to be accessible to anyone who frequents a gym, instead of the advanced techniques used in CrossFit. Trust us, that doesn't mean they're going to be easy though.
The NFG Fitfest
Where: Loughborough, UK
When: 10-11 September 2021
If you're in the UK, the National Fitness Games is the competition to set your sights on, with multiple locations being added to its calendar since it launched in Loughborough. Expect the crĂ¨me de la crĂ¨me of the functional athletes from locations around the globe, battling it out to show the spoils of their training.
Taking place in one of the UK's best-equipped sports facilities, the two-day competition combines a wide range of tournaments, including Fitgames, Strongman, a 5k run, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and the Roundnet National Championships.
The event is designed to be accessible, focussing on fitness and teamwork as opposed to technical movements. Exercises include staples like deadlifts, burpees, sled pushes, box jumps and, inevitably, some running.
The Battle of Riga
Where: Riga, Latvia
The 2018 Battle of Riga not only saw some of the most gruelling functional challenges youâre ever likely to find, but they also threw in a section where you hammer out 100 calories on an assault bike before jumping into a pool for a max length swim. As functional workouts go, it doesnât get more varied than that.
Qualifiers take place over two weeks in April and May, with athlete classes covering elites, sport, over 35s (men) and over 40s (men) â the elites battling it out for a âŹ6,500 prize pot across the three best athletes in each gender group.
Fancy trying out the workouts from the 2018 event? Then you can find each of the six WODs, including the swim, on the event website.
Where: Berlin, Germany
When: 20 November 2021
Hyrox is by far one of the most impressive fitness competitions weâve seen and the fastest-growing in terms of locations and competitors. Individual tournaments take place in cities across Europe throughout the year and include the sort of technical set-up you'd expect to see at the CrossFit Games.
Previous formats have seen participants running for 1km before completing a functional workout, repeating the format eight times with a different functional section until finally crossing the finish line. So, unlike some of the other competitions out there, the idea is that youâre in with a chance whether youâre a CrossFitter, a cyclist, a runner or anything else that might make you fit.
Where: Cape Town, South Africa (there are other international events in the series)
The Tribal Clash event series takes place in five locations around the world, with the Cape Town event acting as the final of the series. Every one of them takes place next to the sea, which may give you some indication as to a general theme you might find with the competitions â that and the fact most of the pictures seem to feature a fair amount of water.
The three-day event is heavily focused on the concept of âprimal fitnessâ, a training methodology similar to that used in CrossFit, but with an emphasis on outdoor experience, natural movement and a minimal use of specialist or expensive equipment. What are those movements? Well, according to the website, things like lifting, carrying, crawling, heaving, hauling, pushing, pulling, throwing, running, rowing, paddling, swimming, jumping and climbing. Probably time to start doing a bit more of that cross-training then.
The event is open to teams of six made up of three men and three women. There are no qualifying rounds and no categories based on ability. All you need to do is register in time and youâre in for the long haul.
Where: London, UK (other series destinations across the world)
When: 17 October 2021
A mass-participation fitness competition that raises money for cancer charities across the world, Battle Cancer is a one-day, all-inclusive event for teams of four. Set in the enormous Olympia, itâs one of the largest competitions set up by the founders.
Workouts at Olympia and the other five locations around the world (Los Angeles, Dublin, Manchester, Berlin and Madrid) are the kind of WODs youâre likely to see in any CrossFit box, with a focus on team and partner movements. Things like synchro squats, partner deadlifts and object carries â so youâll need to make sure your teamwork is on point. Obviously the events are held to raise money for cancer charities across the world, which means you're not only having fun, but you're doing a good thing as well.
Where: West Yorkshire, UK
When: 21-22 August 2021
Titled 'The New Dawn', this two-day event pits mixed teams (three men, three women) against each other across eight different and varied workouts. The final workout is a battle between the leading teams over the weekend.
Nestled amongst the trees of a beautiful, albeit slightly foreboding pine forest in Yorkshire, the workouts have an emphasis on teamwork and fun â although that doesn't mean it's in any way easy.
Like all good fitness competitions the exact details of the workouts are a secret until the event itself, so aside from your level of fitness, you'll be in the same boat as everyone else when it comes to the weekend. Expect all aspects of functional fitness with everything from lifting, shifting, carrying, dragging, running, sprinting to cycling and even climbing.
If you want an idea of how to train for the event and what level of fitness you need to be at then head over to the handy workouts section on the website.