A Functional Workout

A Functional Workout October 10, 2018Leave a comment

This workout mash-up combines three of her ‘fav’ disciplines – fitness, functional training and CrossFit

How do you measure up to one of the most hardcore athletes in SA?

When it comes to health and fitness, Nicole Warburg (previously Seymour) has been there and done it all, and, in most cases, won the trophy, too.

As a former gymnast, Nicole dominated the competitive Fitness stage for years, enthralling judges and crowds at bodybuilding shows with her feats of strength, plyometric power, gymnastic prowess,  and her incredible physique.

And when that no longer proved challenging enough for her – she also took time off to start a family – Nicole then decided to focus her competitive spirit on a new challenge, and she was soon powering through CrossFit WODs at competitions around the country with her characteristic style and finesse. Ranked as high as second in the Africa region at one stage, she’s still dominating competitions today.

Between all of this, Nicole also built a successful business in the fitness industry, most notably with her Iron Angel brand and gym. The stylish studio facility located in Ballito in KwaZulu-Natal became a mecca for clients looking for the best in functional training and fitness, and following her CrossFit success, it soon become a popular box, too.

Needless to say, Nicole has a wealth of professional and first-hand experience in a variety of training modalities. Now, about to begin a new chapter in her career with a move up to Johannesburg to become a trainer at The Yard Athletic, this phenomenal athlete and trainer, affectionately known as ‘Hardcore’ by those in the industry, is back in business, in a big way.

In this workout mash-up, I share three of my best workouts, developed and fine-tuned through many years. In it, you’ll find elements of functional training, elements from my days as a fitness competitor in the form of plyometrics, and loads of the bodyweight work and moves with a loaded bar that you’ll likely encounter in a CrossFit box. So go, challenge yourself and see how you measure up!

Workout 1: Functional training workout

Stage 1: Warm up

Perform 2 rounds

  • 6 x Turkish get-ups (TGU) either side
  • 6 x Jackknife and roll

Turkish Get-ups

The TGU is a full-body kettlebell exercise that targets all the major muscle groups in the back, chest, shoulders, arms, legs, hips and core. It’s a complex exercise that requires multiple movements to get right, but once you do, you’ll reap the rewards. Here’s how to do it:

Lay on the floor on your back. Start with the kettlebell in your left hand and your arm extended overhead. Bring the knee of your left leg up and move your right leg out to the side slightly while keeping it straight. Extend your right arm out to the side. Keep your left shoulder blade pressed back and down into the ground.

To the elbow: Drive through your left heel and engage your core to get up onto your right elbow. Maintain head and spinal alignment by keeping your chest up and your right leg lengthened.

To the hand: Transition from your right elbow to your right hand and bring your torso into the upright position. Maintain spinal alignment and keep your shoulder close to your body to maintain the extension in your left arm.

High bridge: Drive through your left heel and engage your glutes to extend your hips off the ground and move into the high bridge position.

The sweep: Pull your right leg back between your left leg and right arm. Position your forefoot and knee on the floor behind your left foot and right hand.

The get up: Position your torso in an upright position, then stand up with your left arm remaining in the fully extended vertical position.

The return: Step back with your right leg and kneel down, as you would in the downward phase of a rear lunge. Lean to your right side and place your right hand on the floor. Shift your weight onto your right arm. Pull your right leg forward between your left leg and right arm. Sit back down with your right leg extended outward and your left leg bent. Extend your left leg as you gently lie down.

Jackknife and roll

Lay on a mat, on your back, with your hands at your side. Perform a V-sit, touching your toes and fingers together at the midpoint. Return to the starting position, with your waist, hips and knees extended. Keeping your core contracted, roll onto your side, then your tummy, then back onto your side, and then onto your back again. Repeat the jackknife, then roll back to the starting position.

Tips: Keep the tension on your abs throughout the entire exercise.

Building solid core stability and strength are the foundations required to progress to the development of power, speed and athletic ability.

Stage 2:

  • Power clean and press x 16, 14, 12
  • Weighted pistol squats x 16, 14, 12

Power clean and press

Deadlift the loaded bar off the floor. Drive up forcefully, rising up onto the balls of your feet while shrugging and raising the bar up to your shoulders. As the bar reaches chest level, bend at the knees and drop down into a semi-squat position, ‘catching’ the bar at shoulder level. Continue to lower yourself down into a half squat position, then push back up while thrusting the bar into an overhead press position.

Weighted pistol squats

Stand holding a kettlebell in both hands, at chest level. Place one leg straight out in front of you while squatting down with the other. Press back with your hips and squat all the way down. Drive back up, pressing your foot into the ground and extending the loaded leg and hip to return to the standing position.

Stage 3: Giant set

Perform 3 rounds. Complete one set of each exercise back to back, without rest to complete one round.

  • Man makers x 12 (6 on either side)
  • Burped box jump overs x 12
  • Weighted jump lunges x 20 (10 either side, alternating)

Man makers

Perform a push-up on a pair of dumbbells. At the top of the movement, drop onto your knees and perform a single arm row on both sides. Next, hop your legs up into a deep squat position, ‘cleaning’ the dumbbells as you do so. Bring the weights up to shoulder level as you hop up again. Descend into a deep squat, then explosively rise up, pressing the dumbbells overhead into a full extension.

Bend over as you squat down to return the weights back to the floor in front of you. Repeat.

Burped box jump overs

Perform a burpee in front of a box. As you rise up from the push-up position by bringing your knees up under your chest, explode upward and forward, jumping up and over the box.

Weighted jump lunges

Stand holding dumbbells in either hand, in a lunge position with your left leg forward and your right leg back. Perform a lunge, then jump explosively upwards. While in the air, switch legs. Land back into a deep lunge with the other leg in front and repeat the movement pattern.

Workout 2: barbell complex

Perform 3-4 rounds

A complex is basically two or more exercises using the same implement and load (i.e. barbell, dumbbell, kettlebell) performed back to back without resting between exercises. You choose your number of repetitions, sets, and load, and then go from exercise to exercise without resting.

  • 5 x bent-over rows
  • 5 x cleans
  • 5 x front squats
  • 5 x push presses
  • 5 x back squats

Bent-over rows

Hold a loaded barbell with an overhand grip while standing in an upright position,  with a slight bend in your knees. Flex your hips to tilt your torso forward at 60 degrees. Pull the bar from the fully extended hanging position to your lower chest. Return your arms to the fully extended position. Complete 5 reps.


Stand up from the bent-over row position. With the bar above your knees, shrug upwards with a powerful movement as you roll your wrists inwards. Keep the bar close to your body, before moving under it as it rises up. Pull your elbows up and rotate them forward to position the bar in the racked front squat position. Drop the bar back down to mid-thigh level and repeat 5 times.

Front squat

Once you’ve completed all 5 cleans, do not drop the bar back down. Keeping it in the racked front squat position, perform 5 front squats.

Push press

From the racked front squat position, press the bar overhead five times.

Back squats

One the final push press rep, drop the bar down behind your head onto your upper back. Perform 5 back squats.

Complex finisher:

Perform 1 rep of each movement, as already explained, consecutively. Move smoothly from one move to the next. Repeat the entire sequence a total of 5 times.

5 x row, clean, front squat, push press, back squat

Barbell complexes are lots of fun and are really challenging. They’re also great if you are limited for time and want a quick and effective overall workout.

Workout 3: full-body bodyweight Tabata

Tabata structure: 20 sec work + 10 sec rest x 8 rounds per exercise. Rest only between exercises.

It is essential that you warm up sufficiently before engaging in any form of plyometric training, as your ligaments, tendons and muscles are placed under a lot of stress during this type of training.

  • Jump squats
  • Clap push-ups
  • Jump lunges
  • Box jumps
  • Burpees

Jump squats

The aim is to get as high off the ground as possible by exploding upward with every rep.

Form tip: As you land back down, absorb the shock by immediately returning to the deep-squat position.

Clap push-ups

Drive hard through your arms to explode your upper body off the floor. Get as much height as possible. Absorb the impact through your arms by dropping directly into the next rep when you land.

Beginner tip: Perform this plyometric exercise without the clap at first to ensure you don’t fall flat on your face.

Form tip: Keep your core engaged throughout the movement.

Jump lunges

Start in a deep lunge position. Drive your body up by explosively extending the hip and knee of your leading leg. Switch legs mid-air and repeat.

Box jumps

Stand facing a box or solid surface like a tyre (pictured). Drop into a semi-squat position and perform a jump squat onto the box. Jump back down immediately and repeat.


Drop into a deep squat position with your hands on the floor. Kick your feet back into a full push-up position, then immediately return your feet to the starting deep squat position. Explode upward, extending your arms up into the air.

Form tip: It’s important to get your knees and feet tucked under your chest before the jump.

Plyometric training is a high intensity, high impact form of exercise that places a substantial amount of stress on your joints, bones, connective tissue, and muscles. Ensure that you’re injury free and have the necessary strength before attempting this workout.

Enjoy the workout and let me know how you do!


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