Our bodies are designed for simple movement. Our unique upright posture is built for endurance activities; long, forward facing toes and long legs are perfectly designed for forward locomotion; a wide and expansive rib cage makes for efficient respiration; the ability to regulate temperature through sweating further highlights endurance capacity; and mobile shoulder and hip joints allow us to effectively transfer force and manipulate bodyweight.
When it comes to training, there is often a mismatch between body design and program design. We have forgotten that nature already designed the best training system.
From the moment we were born, we systematically achieved mastery in key motor development milestones – learning to stabilize our bodies, manipulate objects, and finally locomotion. During this journey, certain movement patterns became part of our movement portfolio, and continue to bring benefits as we grow older. Movements such as squatting, bending, stepping, pushing, pulling, twisting and walking/running not only give us natural strength, mobility and control, but also keep our bodies in good physical balance.
As young children, almost every day contained a balance of these movements; unfortunately, the modern day adult lifestyle has caused a steady decline in the frequency and skill of simple movement.
With this in mind, let’s take a quick look at the 7 key movement patterns, and how you can easily incorporate them into your workouts.
Arguably, the most important human movement. In its simplest form, it starts with the bodyweight squat. When you learn to bottom out with bodyweight, you can start to add load, for example the front squat (barbell). Further challenge yourself by using kettle bells, med balls and core bags.
Developmentally, the step allowed us to bring the body more upright, ready for standing. As an exercise, begin with bodyweight lunges, or box steps. Adding load will further build strength and challenge stability and balance. You can also add locomotion to the mix with walking lunges. Don’t forget to play around with different loads, such as med balls, core bags and dumbbells.
This is the prerequisite movement to lifting and carrying, and one of the best postural exercises you can ever do. As a starting point, learn to hinge the hips – which involves tilting pelvis slightly and setting the hips/core. Once you have mastered this, you can begin to include the classic barbell deadlift. If barbells aren’t your thing, you can use dumbbells, kettle bells, core bags and even med balls – all of which will add variety to your bends/lifts.
This upper body pattern begins with the humble push up. Master good technique on your knees, before moving to the full push up position. Further variations included lifting one leg, or raising the feet on a box. For added core engagement, try standing chest presses on the Kinesis cable machine; for speed and power, try med ball wall slams.
The simple pull up is often just beyond reach for. Last beginners. But don’t worry, you can build up to this by starting with rows on the TRX or Trapeze bar – this will get you used to pulling your bodyweight towards an object. If you like free weights, add barbell/DB/KB/core bag rows to your workouts.
The ability to rotate our spines provides a direction for movement and is important for maintaining balance and control. Prolonged sitting and overuse of the core muscles can significantly reduce spinal mobility, so it’s important to include simple spinal mobility in your training. Include gentle spinal rotations in your warm up and cool down; add chopping movements to your main workout, such as med ball twists, cable wood chops; and incorporate twisting yoga poses into your cool down routine.
These patterns can include anything that moves you from A to B, including walking, running, jumping, crawling, rolling, and even handstand walking! Aim to include at least one of these movements in every workout.
By regularly including these simple movement patterns in your workouts, you will not only simplify your training – you will also build high levels of natural, balanced strength and mobility.