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Fundamental Human Movements

Updated: Jan 15, 2019


Movement is fundamental to our initial growth and development and continues to be a primary focus point throughout every part of our lives.


There is an interdependence between the musculoskeletal system and the nervous system, the body works as a single unit and not as independent muscles.

Although the objective may be to stretch what is tight and strengthen what is weak, consider this in the context of movement and not muscles in isolation.


If lifelong fitness, aging gracefully or athletic performance is the goal, rather than looking at muscles in isolation, we should consider how we move.


Fundamental human movements are fundamental &

fundamentals come first.


Basically, we all move the same way. As a coach, I consider five fundamental human movements.

1. Push: Planks, Push-ups, overhead presses, single arm bench press, push press …


2. Pull: Rows, pull-ups, plank rows…


3. Squat: Assisted squats, body weight squats, front squats, back squats, pistol squats…


4. Hip Hinge: Hip hinge pattern, bridges, deadlifts, swings…


5. Gait: Farmers walk, suitcase walk ...


6. Plus 1: An additional category can be considered which may include exercises that are a combination of the above movements or/and add another element to them. Bird-dogs, The Turkish get-up, rolling, single leg movements, split stance, half kneeling and tall kneeling exercise …


Most of the exercises I use for these movement patterns are compound (multi-joint) and some are foundation exercises using free weights or body weight resistance.


Foundation exercises may include isometric exercises such as planks and bird dogs to teach and develop whole body and spinal stabilisation.


Compound exercises engage large muscle groups, involve multiple joints that allow for heavier loads, which is tremendous for hypertrophy or strength development. They require you to engage your stabilisers and challenge you to maintain proper control of your body. An example would be the squat, where the ankles, knees, and hips are forced to move. The squat is first and foremost a fundamental human movement pattern.


Calisthenics (bodyweight training) means beautiful movement.


Strive for grace of movement, think mastery.

Master the movement before you add load to the movement. Loading a dysfunctional pattern only reinforces that dysfunctional pattern.



If you can't perform the movement pattern, slowly under load, you should have no interest in doing it fast.

Movement quality must come first. Mastery is the journey.


The Kettlebell Front Squat: The position of the kettlebells in the front squat adds an extra challenge to the stabilisers, multi joint exercises allow for greater loads to be used safely.

Free weights vs Machines


Machines can be used to increase lean body mass, but they are generally unable to produce the same degree of multi-dimensional neuromuscular training that free weights (kettlebells, dumbbells, barbells) do.


It is an incomplete way of regularly training the body for functional development.


Essentially machines give your stabilising muscles a free ride, as machines very often compel you to sit or lie down.

Machines involve utilising fewer joints with less degree of movement and mostly focus on muscles in isolation.


Machines involve utilising fewer joints with less degree of movement and mostly focus on muscles in isolation.


They generally provide inadequate functional proprioceptive training and thereby can reduce one's level of functionality (motor control, stability, and safety).

The squat, a fundamental human movement we use daily, requires proprioceptive integration to be optimal. This cannot be achieved with exercises on machines such as the leg curl, leg extension and leg press machine.


Machines cannot offer the same proprioceptive feedback that will transfer to real life and sporting activities that a free weight squat can.

However, machines are still useful in a rehabilitation setting but when the rehab is over the training wheels should come off.


Mastery of the fundamental human movements will have a more valuable impact on aging gracefully and athletic development than endless isolation exercises ever will.


If it's important, do it every day!


The fundamental human movements are great for resistance training programs that target lean muscle mass, strength, power and muscular imbalances.


They are also tremendous for cardio when appropriately programmed and along with joint mobility great for light restorative training days.


Including joint mobility work in your workouts with fundamental human movements will deliver better performance in sports and in life.


Contact me if you have any questions.

Disclaimer


Always consult with a qualified healthcare professional prior to beginning any diet or exercise program or taking any dietary supplement. The content on this website is for informational and educational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice or to replace a relationship with a qualified healthcare professional.

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Devon, United Kingdom

Disclaimer: Please recognise that it is your responsibility to work directly with your health care provider prior to beginning any exercise or nutrition program or taking any supplements. The content on this website is for informational and educational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice or to replace a relationship with a qualified healthcare professional.  Any information provided is not to be followed without prior approval of your doctor. If you choose to use this information without such approval, you agree to accept full responsibility for your decision.​