The 5 Foundational Movement Patterns

We live in a magnificent era. We can have anything we want delivered right to our doorstep, we have access to any type of food our heart desires without having to hunt for it, and we could potentially go through an entire day without having to exert any sort of physical effort. This is fantastic, but also super terrible for our bodies.

We no longer have to to hike up the mountainside to go hunting (unless we choose) nor do we have to sit in a squatting position while building a fire thanks to the wonderful invention of chairs. While this is all well and good, our bodies have this tendency to "use it or lose it."

You see, our bodies are smart. Our biological makeup today is roughly the same as it was as much as 200,000 years ago. Evolution is an impressive happening, but it takes time... Lots  of time. And we as a species are inventing technologies at a speed that far outpaces our ability to evolve and adapt to it. Our current biological makeup has us prepared to survive in an environment where food isn't guaranteed. 

Now, you may be wondering...

"Mark, how did people eat if there were no restaurants to serve us food?... What the hell did they post pictures of on Instagram... Did they plate the food themselves or something?'

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We had to hunt. We had to gather. We had to move. Evolution has led us into a position where we are designed to excel at those three things, among others of the intellectual variety. Our body is designed to bend over to pick up firewood, pull a piece of fruit down from a tree, or lift up wild game and carry it back to the campfire. To accomplish all of these tasks in the most efficient way possible our body is designed to carry out five foundational movement patters. 

Our increasingly sedentary lifestyle has caused a lot of us to "Lose it" much more than we "Use It" thereby decreasing our ability to perform these movements effectively. It is entirely possible to regain that function and move better and more effectively than ever before with a little bit of work, and hopefully this post can get you jump started on incorporating these movements into your workouts and daily life.

Here are the five foundational movements that everyone should be able to do no matter what age they are.

1) Squat- The squat is arguably the most important foundational movement we have the ability to carry out. It involves bending at the knees and hips while maintaining a neutral spine. We use the squatting motion whenever we stand up out of a chair or bend down to observe something below us. Squatting is important because, when carried out properly, it can help maintain good hip an ankle mobility while improving knee and core strength. 

Tips: Start with feet just outside the shoulders with your toes angled slightly outward, sit your butt straight down, and push your knees out while maintaining a neutral spine. Engage your quads, glutes, and hamstrings on the way up.

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2) Hip Hinge- This is a favorite of ours here at Progressive Athletics. The Hip Hinge involves slightly bending the knees, while primarily bending at the hips and lowering the shoulders while maintaining a neutral spine. On the way up you want to make sure you engage your glutes! We use the hip hinge when we bend down to pick something up off of the ground. It involves keeping a nice, neutral spine thereby protecting the lower back while utilizing the big powerful glutes to stand yourself up. Hip Hinging is important as it helps to strengthen the entire backside of your body when executed properly thus taking a lot of pressure off of the lumbar spine. It can allow you to pick up heavy, awkward objects off the ground without jeopardizing the safety of the spine.

Tips: Start with feet shoulder width apart, stick your butt out, and bring your shoulders down while maintaining a neutral spine. Engage your glutes and hamstrings on the way up.

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3) Lunge- The lunge movement is unique in that it incorporates sound movement techniques as well as balance. The better your balance is, the less likely you are to fall and one of the top causes for injuries in populations over 65 is falling. This movement pattern is seen in everyday activities such as jogging, hiking, or even walking. Anytime you are on one foot, this movement pattern comes into play. There are a zillion variations of the lunge but for beginners we recommend trying the standard forward lunge.

Tips: Start with feet together, take a nice big step, sink your hips down until your knees are at a 90 degree angle. Push through your forward leg on the way up.

This lady knows what's up.

This lady knows what's up.

4) Pull- This upper body movement should get some extra consideration during your workouts. We spend a lot of time hunched over our computers or slouching on the couch watching TV. This causes a lot of the muscles on the front side of our upper body to get really tight while causing the muscles on the back side of our upper body to become lax and under active. Proper pulling technique can help correct this muscular imbalance which can improve your posture and shoulder health. We see pulling in movements such as starting a lawn mower or opening a door.

Tips: Pull your shoulders down away from your ears, keep your elbows in tight, and squeeze your shoulder blades together.


5) Push- Last on our list we have the push. When you walk into any gym in America, you see no shortage of people pushing. You have your bench press, push-ups, and shoulder press variations.  To get the most bang for your buck with these exercises, you want to make sure you are using proper form. Without proper form you can further increase the aforementioned upper body muscular imbalance between the front and the back sides of the upper body, and you can also risk injuring your shoulder. In daily life this movement is used to push open a door or get yourself off of the floor.

Or moving a car like this boss lady right here...

Or moving a car like this boss lady right here...

In Sum:

When incorporating these five movement patters into your workout regimen with proper technique, you will see impressive gains in your overall strength and fitness levels.

  • The squat is great for maintaining mobility and strength as you age. 
  • The hip hinge is going to protect your back when bending over.
  • The lunge is going to improve your overall balance preventing you from falling. 
  • The pull is going to correct a lot of those upper body postural and muscular imbalances.
  • The push is going to come in handy during a plethora of daily activities... like pushing cars...

As always, if you have any questions, do not hesitate to reach out to us here at Progressive Athletics. We'd love to hear from you!

Until next time!