A solid, well thought-out workout program should have you move in every direction – forward, backward, sideways and even rotationally.
We need functional strength in every plane of motion to help us prevent injury when moving in everyday life. When the movement patterns you practice in the gym mimic the movements you perform in everyday life, you become stronger, more efficient, and can literally slow down the clock on age-related muscle atrophy (or muscle breakdown) while greatly reducing your risk of injury!
Here’s a crazy statistic: between the ages of 30-80, your muscle mass and strength can decrease by up to 40.9%(https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3940510/).
Many of my online training and nutrition clients initially come to me with this sudden fear and anxiety of their bodies breaking down and being too weak, overweight and/or fatigued to participate in life in the way they always imagined.
And this is from people in their 30s typically. 30s!
Maybe 15-year-old me would have said 30s was “old” but damn, as an adult I realize 30s is young… WAY too young to be worrying about injuries that make us feel older than we are.
And you know why this is? Once we hit our 30s things start to change. Unfortunately our bodies aren’t the same as they were - weight creeps up, muscle mass decreases, aches and pains and creaks we remember our parents complaining about suddenly creep their way into our lives…and it’s scary.
Fortunately, common every-day injuries from picking up our kids or bending over wrong can be greatly reduced by building up the muscular strength needed to support the joints and spine well, and learning to move throughout life correctly and efficiently!
Did you know that grip strength is one of the top indicators of longevity? (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5750866/)
No, this doesn’t mean that if you let go of the bar first, you’ll die first…it means that your physical strength is one of the greatest (if not the greatest) indicator of overall health - even moreso than blood pressure. Resistance training even just 2-3x per week has the power to protect your joints from injury, increase bone density, reduce or prevent cognitive decline, provide a means of effective weight management, and improve flexibility, balance and mobility. Not to mention, total body strength is an indicator of a healthy, mobile, health conscious individual.
Not to mention…that same muscular strength also has the power to change our mindset and negative self-talk, leading to feeling like a total bad-ass. And who doesn’t want that?
The basis of any solid strength training program should aim to improve an individuals functional movement and strength. As an online trainer and nutritional coach, I do this by revolving my programs around the 7 Functional Movement Patterns.
The 7 Functional Movement Patterns are patterns which our bodies move naturally, every day. Think of bending over to pick up your child, picking up a box from the floor, pushing yourself up off the floor, running while playing soccer, carrying your child on your hip, tying your shoe, vacuuming, rearranging furniture…each one of these activities requires movement that falls under one of the 7 Functional Movement Patterns. By strengthening these specific patterns in the gym, we have the ability to literally move more efficiently throughout life, reducing the risk for injury and increasing the quality of life, now and as we age.
The 7 Functional Movement Patterns are:
You can think of each of these terms like a big umbrella. Under each umbrella you have a variety of exercises that trains within that movement pattern. Including exercises from under each umbrella, taking into account an individuals experience and history, is critical for developing an exercise program that improves an individuals strength, functionality and mobility at a pace that works within their range of ability.
Ok enough of that, let’s go through them shall we?!
There’s a reason this is number one! The hinge is a classic movement pattern, executed multiple times a day, every single day, by almost every single person in the world.
How often do you bend over every day? The correct answer: A MILLION TIMES.
Bending over IS hinging…but probably done incorrectly, placing loads of unneeded stress on a likely unconditioned and not very strong lower back.
This movement pattern is also one of the most feared in the gym due to the “risk” of lower back injuries. Many people avoid deadlifts all together because they feel it’s too risky. These same people also often confuse the hinge pattern with deadlifts (when in reality a deadlift falls under the hinge umbrella), and so they tend to ignore this movement pattern all together … which is a terrible thing to do, because the best way to prevent lower back injuries in the gym and in every day life is to strengthen the lower back. The best way to strengthen the lower back? Master the hinge.
By mastering the hinge and executing it correctly you can reduce or eliminate lower back tweaks, tightness, dull pain and flare ups.
The main muscles worked in any hinge exercise are the glutes, hamstrings and back. How much of your back is involved depends on the specific movement, stance, and form.
Here are some exercises that fall under the Hinge umbrella:
The squat is a coveted exercise by booty-builders and elderly alike, and is arguably the most important of the movement patterns. Being able to do a proper squat will keep your knees safe and is the only exercise that can literally strengthen your entire lower body, including your quads, hamstrings, glutes, and hip flexors.
We have tons of opportunities to squat in everyday life, but what I notice is, people who are scared to squat because of bad knees will often just lean over instead. And as you just read, leaning over is often a hinge-gone-wrong and can exacerbate lower-back pain. And in reality, many times that we bend over to pick something up, we should probably be squatting instead. Examples would be picking up your child, or a large/heavy box.
Squats work your entire lower body, including your quads, glutes, hamstrings and hip flexors. However, unlike the popular folklore, squats are not the best exercise to build your glutes. Squats actually work the quadriceps more than the glutes. The best booty-building exercises tend to fall under the Hinge and Lunge movement pattern umbrellas.
While practicing good squat form in the gym is important, remember to transfer your skills to every-day life. To avoid injury in the knees and hips, it’s important to spread your weight evenly across the foot, mainly in your mid-foot and heels, and aim for proper depth. Remember to work on going a little lower each time - this will come with improved hip and ankle mobility.
Here are some exercises that fall under the Squat umbrella:
The Lunge movement pattern is actually a single-leg cross-over between the Hinge and Squat movement patterns.
Exercises under the Lunge umbrella are usually quick to point out your specific weaknesses and imbalances! They also typically require way less weight (less than 50%) than the weight we can do bilaterally. For these reasons, lunge exercises are commonly unloved and neglected, especially by ego-lifters. The poor things…
And poor ego-lifter. Because getting stronger unilaterally will absolutely transfer to bilateral training. By pointing out weaknesses and imbalances, lunge exercises can greatly help to improve and strengthen them, which will translate very quickly to your squats and hinges as well.
If you feel insecure about your balance during any lunge exercise, try lightly touching (not leaning on) a chair, pole or wall near you. A very light touch on a stable surface will do wonders for improving your balance, and you can wean away from it slowly over time.
Here are some exercises that fall under the Lunge umbrella:
The Pushing movement is either over or under emphasized in most gyms. There’s no real middle ground.
In every-day life, this movement pattern comes in to play when you are getting off the ground from a stomach-down position, or putting something heavy away on a top shelf.
However the Push-Up is a coveted exercise by almost everyone, especially many women who wish they could do “real” push-ups.
The pushing movement pattern can be divided into two groups: horizontal pushing (think bench presses and push-ups) and vertical pushing (think overhead pushing like shoulder presses). Each type of pushing requires slightly different muscle recruitment. Horizontal pushing works primarily the chest and shoulders, while vertical pushing works primarily the shoulders and triceps (with lots of crossover in between, depending on the exercise).
BOTH types of pushing require a strong and stable shoulder. Shoulders are especially susceptible to injury due to their great mobility (and inherent instability). Therefor it is incredibly important for lifters, especially newbies, to go slow and steady in the weight they push, nail proper form, and consistently work on shoulder mobility drills in between lifts. Also, posture plays a big role here. A rounded back, slumping shoulders and tight pectoral muscles could mean the ball of your shoulder joint isn’t sitting correctly in it’s socket, and this will make your shoulder even more susceptible to injury. This could be a simple fix - like just being generally aware of how you are standing - or it could require more intense work, like thoratic spine mobility exercises and releasing tightness in your pectoral muscles, combined with strengthening the upper back.
Here are some exercises from under the Push umbrella:
Push’s friendly counter-opposite is our friend Pull. In the gym and every-day life this would be pulling something towards yourself or pulling yourself towards something else. The pull-up is one of the most classic signs of total-body strength, so if you want to improve them, you’ll want to pay attention to this section.
Similar to the Push umbrella, the Pull umbrella can be separated into horizontal pulling (any type of row) and vertical pulling (pull-ups and pull-downs). Both types of pulls work the same muscles in your back (traps, lats, rhomboids and rear delts) as well as your biceps and forearms; the grip is what makes the difference here.
A suppinated (underhand) grip will bring in more biceps, making the move essentially easier. A pronated (overhand) grip is less reliant on the biceps for assistance and usually feel harder. This is why chin-ups are easier to do than pull-ups.
Training this movement pattern regularly will not only define and strengthen your back, but it will greatly help your posture and help to prevent back injuries over time.
Here are some exercises under the Pull umbrella:
This is probably the most functional and practical movement pattern of all of them. We walk. Sometimes we carry things when we walk. Sometimes we carry our kids when we walk, on only one side of our bodies. Sometimes we run or play sports.
There is something incredibly foundational and logical about being able to move your body through space, in all planes of motion, with ease, strength and ability.
Gait can be focused on through walking with correct posture and core engagement, sprinting, jogging, and sled pushes/drags.
Carries are typically thought of as core work, since the core is the center of all motion.
Think about carrying your child on one hip. The only reason the child’s weight isn’t taking you down on one side is because your core on the opposite side is resisting it. Intentionally mimicking this in an exercise program has a lot of practicality for improving stability and strength in every day life.
However, it must progress properly. If you need to improve your posture, chances are you shouldn’t be doing loaded carries until your gait while walking is optimal.
Examples of carries include:
Twist it…shake-a, shake-a, shake-a, shake-a babeeeeeh…
Think about lunging to throw a ball, or jogging, or even turning to talk to someone behind you in line. These are all examples of how common rotation is in your daily lives, yet we often forget to train it in the gym.
Twisting can be classified into two separate categories: rotational and anti-rotational. In anti-rotational, your core is resisting a twist. Imagine somebody pushing you aggressively on one shoulder (what a jerk), and you resisting that push with your core - this is anti-rotation.
Both rotation and anti-rotation exercises are great to incorporate in your gym routine. Want to build total core stability and strength? Twisting (or resisting twisting…) is where it’s at.
Here are some exercises that fall under the twist umbrella:
Now that you know the 7 Functional Movement Patterns for Strength Training and their practicality, you know what to look for in a solid strength training routine.
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fat loss, fitness, weight, functional fitness
fitness, fitmom, functional fitness, strength training, movement patterns, fat loss