Functional Muscle Training: Jason Momoa's Alternative for Staying in Shape

We can achieve muscle growth without the machines in the gym. To do this, we must stick to functional muscle training such as the kind used by Jason Momoa.
Functional Muscle Training: Jason Momoa's Alternative for Staying in Shape
Leonardo Biolatto

Written and verified by the doctor Leonardo Biolatto.

Last update: 10 October, 2022

Jason Momoa does functional muscle training and that’s how he gets Aquaman’s body. But does he do anything else? In fact, it seems so, to a large extent.

While it’s true that sets with external weights that mechanically stimulate muscle fibers are ideal for hypertrophy (for larger muscles), but calisthenics and functional training aren’t far behind. In fact, there are many practitioners of these two disciplines who boast both a worked core and bulky biceps.

As has become customary among celebrities who play superheroes, part of their publications on social networks consist of showing how they prepare for the roles. And that’s how we were able to learn that Jason Momoa bases his routine on functional training.

What is functional muscle training?

You may have seen a gym offering “functional classes.” Or you may have read a story like the one about Jason Momoa doing functional muscle training instead of traditional machines.

But what is this modality? As its name suggests, it’s a regulated and serial exercise that aims to improve your physical condition for daily functionality. 

This means that the plan doesn’t aim to have aesthetic muscles, but is useful for everyday life. That’s why the proposed movements have a clear multi-joint orientation, as we’ll explain later. Meanwhile, a person’s balance is also stimulated, which is an essential quality from the moment we wake up until we go to bed at night.

Now it’s possible that you’re getting a better grasp of this type of training. Jason Momoa’s functional muscle training will give you bigger muscles, but it should also make you more efficient at performing simple, everyday tasks like bending over, reaching for a distant object, or just walking.

We think you may also enjoy reading this article: Muscle Stretching or Muscle Strengthening: Which Is Best?

The main characteristics of functional training

If we had to summarize the characteristics of “functional training” that make it special, different from other training plans, and with clear practical application, we would say that they’re the following:

  • Train several muscles at the same time: This is what we mentioned before called “multi-joint training.” Instead of just working the biceps with one routine, for example, what you do is mobilize the entire upper limb. Why? Because in real life, we need the shoulder and elbow joints to reach a high object, for example.
  • It makes use of concentric and eccentric movements: Everyday activities almost always require full extension of the muscles and full relaxation. This is how we function almost all day long. This is known as concentric and eccentric movement in strength training. When we exercise with machines, we may be tempted to do only one of these phases – that is, only contract and return “halfway” with the barbell, for example. Functional training prioritizes complete movements, which initiate, contract, maintain, relax ,and return to the initial position.
  • It proposes unilateral work: Functional muscle training also seeks to promote balance. This is essential for daily life. For this purpose, exercises are proposed with only one side of the body loaded with weight. In this way, we’re forced to compensate to avoid falling. This stimulates our sense of orientation and balance and strengthens the core indirectly, since much of the tension of the fibers that support our posture lies there.

Like this article? You may also like to read: Valine and Muscle Mass Gain: All You Need to Know

Jason Momoa’s favorite functional muscle training exercises

The actor has spread his primary exercises on social networks. However, that’s not to say they’re the only functional exercises out there. Nevertheless, it is interesting to take a look at these options that he’s made known and that can serve as a guide for those who are starting in the functional modality.

Bulgarian squats or split squats

This squat uses a delayed leg, usually on a bench or on something elevated. In this way, the forward leg performs the up and down motion in a sort of unbalanced fashion.

A kettlebell can be added to the set to add complexity. There are also variants with bars to hold while executing the movement.

Momoa performs 6 sets of 10 repetitions for each leg. This equals 120 complete movements.


Climbing is a discipline in itself. It exists in its indoor variant on climbing walls equipped for that purpose, as well as in its alpine version outdoors (on rock or ice).

Jason Momoa is a regular climber. As such, multi-joint movements are a rule, as each extension to reach a hold or a reliable grip often involves diverse muscles.

Climbing, in turn, requires a firm core. Much of the time, it’s necessary for it to be in constant and isotonic contraction of the abdominal muscles to bring the trunk closer to the wall and balance the counterweight of gravity.

Escalada en palestra.
There are more and more climbing gyms in cities that offer adequate spaces to take advantage of the benefits of climbing.

A medicine ball

The use of a medicine ball is a functional alternative to traditional weights. The object allows for more multi-joint dynamics,with the need for balance and a powerful core workout.

Medicine balls have different weights and can be used to throw by oneself, to throw a partner, or to rotate the axis of the trunk and feel centrifugal pressure. Some people regulate their movements to make them slowly. Others prefer explosive movements.

Either way, it’s a versatile tool that fits very well into functional training plans. Also not to be underestimated is the precision required in the hands to hold onto the ball, which adds training for the wrists and fingers.

Balón medicinal.
The medicine ball is increasingly found in gyms. It’s an interesting replacement for conventional weights.

Outdoors, contact sports, and yoga for Aquaman’s physique

Jason Momoa does functional muscle training, but he’s also a fan of outdoor sports. Along with climbing, he enjoys surfing when the weather is warm and the sea is nearby.

Boxing is another of his regular activities. The physical benefits for those who train in this discipline are well known, because it’s not just about unloading anger. In fact, the actor is also a practitioner of yoga – a discipline that many consider the opposite of fighting in the ring! However, the combination provides power to his muscles fibers, as well as flexibility.

Don’t have the time to replicate all of Aquaman’s activities? Start with functional training. It’s a very healthy form of exercise for everyday life. After all, nothing beats becoming more efficient at what we do every day!

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Andersen, Vidar, et al. “Muscle activation and strength in squat and Bulgarian squat on stable and unstable surface.” International journal of sports medicine 35.14 (2014): 1196-1202.
  • Giles, Luisa V., Edward C. Rhodes, and Jack E. Taunton. “The physiology of rock climbing.” Sports medicine 36.6 (2006): 529-545.
  • Van den Tillaar, Roland, and Mário C. Marques. “Reliability of seated and standing throwing velocity using differently weighted medicine balls.” The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 27.5 (2013): 1234-1238.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.