There’s No Faking The Mastery of Foundational Movement Patterns
While there are no “exercises” that are absolute necessities in smart strength training programs, there are six foundational movement patterns that every single person walking the earth should be able to develop, load and master. And yes, I mean everyone.
These fundamental movement patterns that the human body was designed to display in some variation of another consist of the:
Lunge (Single Leg)
Push (Upper Body)
Pull (Upper Body)
If your training is blatantly disregarding one of these core movement patterns, you’re not only placing your results at risk, but also your long term orthopedic health and wellness. Simply put, no program is complete without training each and every one of these patterns pain-free.
Emphasizing movement development rather than laying slave to dogmatically programmed “exercises” that may not fit your body, your current skill set or your goals is the key to long term success in your training, and living a life of pain-free physicality.
Developing sound movement patterns and challenging them through various training methods is the single effective way to develop strength, build muscle and prevent injuries.
Yeah, movement patterns are that important, and that’s why we’ve brought together six of the top experts in the fields of sports performance and fitness to literally teach you these movement patterns from the ground up. It’s about time you perfect the six movement patterns that will forge a strong and resilient body that will work for you the rest of your life.
by Dr. Ryan DeBell – Rehabilitation & Injury Prevention Expert
The squat is the king of all lower body movements, plain and simple. But a common problem remains for many people trying to train the squat pattern; they have no idea how to execute a sound squat. Movement quality is the foundation that all training effects depend on. And if you are struggling with your squat, chances are you aren’t setting up properly. Lets fix that, shall we?
Having an appreciation for the fact that all people are built differently in terms of their hip and pelvis structure (in addition to pretty much every other anatomical and physiological aspect of the human body) is a huge step forward in realizing that all people must squat differently. But how do you determine what squat setup and variation is the right fit for you? You assess it!
The video above showcases my hip assessment process to determine not only an optimal squat position setup in terms of foot position, knee tracking and depth, but also allows coaches and practitioners to get an appreciation of an athletes hip structure.
Before we have our athlete’s squat, this quick hip assessment is a key tool that allows us to optimize positions to improve potential of success with the squat to produce a training effect, and not exacerbate injuries. Do yourself a favor and assess yourself, along with your clients and enjoy far more pain-free squat sessions.
I’m a firm believer that in order to get good at something you need to DO the thing you’re trying to get good at. Want to get better at deadlifting? Deadlift. Want to get better at bench pressing? Bench press. Want to get better at not having people of the opposite sex want to hang out with you? Go to Star Trek conventions.
When it comes to the deadlift – or any “main” movement for that matter – one of the best ways to bring it up (outside of practice) is to cater your accessory work towards a weakness or technique flaw. Different people are different, and when we start to toss in leverages and body-types this becomes all the more apparent. For me, I have always been slow off the ground with my deadlift. It more or less goes like this:
*Begin initial pull* Shit, shit, shit, this is hard, the bar isn’t budging, FML, shit, shit, shit. Okay, there we go, now it’s moving, fast forward 17 seconds (bar finally hits mid-shin level), Sha-ZAM….fast lockout.
One thing that has helped is including more PAUSE deadlifts into my repertoire. In short, the idea is that by increasing time under tension within a ROM where I’m weakest, I’ll suck less within that ROM. Another side benefit: pause deadlifts are also great for those struggling to keep the bar CLOSE to the body. You want to “pull the bar into you.”
The lunge movement is an excellent movement pattern to build a strong, resilient lower body. Compared to your typical squats and deadlifts, single leg movements like the lunge require additional stability through the foot, ankle, knee, and hip and are a worthwhile addition to any high-performance training routine.
Lunges can be incorporated as a primary lower body strength training movement for rapid and as an accessory movement aimed at triggering functional hypertrophy. Typically, I’ll alternate between three lunge movement patterns: The split squat, the forward lunge, and the step back lunge. All three can be loaded with dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells, and nearly any other training modality at your disposal.
Split Squats are the least complex on the lunge movement patterns and an excellent starting point for engraining single leg stability and building the lateral subsystem without unnecessary complexity. I prefer these for higher rep work focused on pure hypertrophy due to the increased metabolic stress in the split position.
The Lunge, or forward lunge is an excellent single lunge movement for building the quads and grooving a declaration movement mechanic. In addition, the forward lunge hammers the quads into massive growth, but also requires increased tibial inclination, which increases shear stress at the knee. If knee pain is a common problem, consider removing forward lunges from your training.
The Step Back Lunge is an excellent lunge variation to take stress off of the knee compared to a forward lunge and load up the glute and hamstring to a greater degree. Due to the step back nature, the tibia stays vertical, reducing shear stress on the knee for pain-free gains.
Think you know how to do pushups? Think again. The pushup is one of the most butchered bodyweight exercises in existence. Unfortunately most individuals fail to realize the detail and complexity involved in this seemingly simple move. Often times this leads to the assumption that a pushup simply requires the lifter to push their body up and down to successfully complete the exercise. Well I’ve got news for you; it’s not that simple.
A proper pushup requires precise levels of motor control, functional strength, and body alignment as well as the ability to smoothly integrate each portion of your body in one seamless coordinated movement. Here are 7 cues you’ll want to implement the next time you perform pushups.
Don’t flex your glutes. Instead, engage your hip flexors to resist gravitational forces attempting to push your body into extension. Flexing the glutes only assists gravity rather than fighting it.
Keep the glutes tall and slightly above the rest of the body. Most individuals allow the hips to sag resulting in stress to the low back. Aim for the center of the hip joint to be in line with the rest of the torso, not the top of your butt.
Maintain a natural curvature in the spine. You’re not an 80-year-old cripple who’s lost all structural integrity of the spine. The back should not be flat but instead should have a slight curve and arch to it.
Keep the head and neck tall and elongated on the spine. Most lifters either flex (drop the head down) or extend the neck (tilt the head up). Also don’t overly pack the chin, which can lead to spinal compression.
Regardless of what you’ve read, the elbows should not be flared and they should not be at 45 degrees. Instead the arms and elbows should remain close to the torso at roughly a 10-20 degree angle.
Keep the chest out by retracting and depressing the scapula the more you descend into the movement. Failure to retract and depress the shoulders blades on the eccentric phase of the pushup is a sure-fire recipe for shoulder pain.
Stay as tall as you can on the toes. Most lifters sag to their heels resulting in lethargic foot and ankle activation. Besides degrading form and body mechanics this compromises signaling and activation all the way up the kinetic chain.
The Pull-Up and row variations are staple foundational movements in nearly every type of strength, performance and muscle-building program. The problem is, many people butcher the movement, making it not only ineffective for developing strength and function, but potentially injurious to the lower back and shoulders, especially the vertical pull.
If you are experiencing pain or struggling to develop strength or performance on the bar, instead of avoiding Pull-Ups altogether, you need to improve your setup and execution with these Pull-Up tips. To get the most out of your Pull-Ups in a safe and effective manner, follow the tips. They will teach you how to properly perform a Pull-Up.
1. Gain Stability at the Shoulders Before You Pull
Jumping up to the bar is the last thing you want to think about when developing your Pull-Up technique. Instead, if you are using a high bar position, place a box or bench under the bar. By stepping up onto the box, you can create great tension at the bottom range of the Pull-Up before you start the movement. This will not only protect your shoulders from instability, but also promote a strong and stable full range of motion throughout the movement itself.
2.Use a Straight-Leg Position in Front of Your Body
Maybe the most common mistake in the Pull-Up is the lack of a strong and stable spinal position during the pull. As with other movements performed in strength training, the spine must achieve and maintain neutral alignment throughout the duration of the movement to get the best training effect while reducing the risk of injury.
Many times, athletes bend at the knee and extend their hips back to alter the line of pull during the Pull-Up, compensating to a “stronger” position to mask the presence of weakness or movement dysfunction. This is the polar opposite of what you want for a properly performed pain-free Pull-Up.
Positioning your feet in front of your body with knees straight and hips slightly flexed forward provides the spine with a better opportunity to remain neutral throughout the lowering and raising portions of the pull. It also positions the core and stabilizing muscles of the spine and pelvis to work more optimally.
3.ContractYour Glutes, Quads and Core During the Movement
Once you have mastered the above two basics of setup and execution, you should be able to fine-tune your Pull-Ups by learning to generate full-body tension throughout the movement. When you actively contract the muscles of your legs, hips and core in a non-moving isometric manner, your body will become stiff and work as a functional unit.
This is great for taking stress off the joints and muscles not targeted by Pull-Ups, and also for improving performance and strength by providing more stability for the active and mobile shoulder girdle. The stiffer you can make your core and lower body, the stronger you’ll be able to display your function.
Whether you are hoisting a heavy box up on a high shelf, sprinting off of the blocks in a track meet, or dunking a basketball, your performance will suffer if you have neglected to train your core in standing or while walking.
Lifting and carrying heavy objects is a great way to train your core in standing or while walking. This will help you avoid postural and core dysfunction. Like anything else in training there are right ways and wrong ways to execute a lift or carry. The video above shows you how to lift and carry heavy objects the right way.
This exercise can be done with dumbbells if you don’t have access to farmer walk bars.
Get some loaded carry variations into your program. Not only is it the best core exercise you’re not doing, but it will help you offset the destruction you are doing by always being plugged into your phone, keyboard or steering wheel! Start with manageable loads and work towards heavier loads, once you have mastered the keys to lifting and carrying highlighted in the video above. You will perform better, feel better and be less susceptible to injury.
Loaded carries are one hell of a way to build resilient core stiffness, grip strength, and improved shoulder stability, all while developing a brutal total body work capacity.
Loaded carries are also considered a self limiting exercises, which means that they are damn hard to cheat in terms of hoisting too much weight or using poor technique. Self limiting exercises like the loaded carry are some of the safest ways to develop pain-free strength and function, while also providing a huge training effect and moving some serious weight.
The video tutorial above are the staple loaded carry variations that I use with my athletes and clients, along with common mistakes we routinely see when teaching this foundational movement pattern. And before you think that your achy shoulders disqualify you from carrying around some serious weight and walking with it, I’ve also added shoulder friendly modifications.
Even though I pretty much threw the everything along with the kitchen sink at you in terms of loaded carry variations, there are a few key implements you can use for loaded carry variations, depending on what you have at your disposal:
– Trap Bar
– Farmers Walk Handles
– Zercher Bar
– Stones, Rocks, any odd objects
The beauty of the farmer’s walk is its simplicity. You can add it to any training program and make the program better. We like to add some version of a loaded carry at the end of most strength training workouts as challenging finishers. Start incorporating these loaded carries into any type of training day to start developing real core strength. You’re welcome.