If you train with me or any of my fantastic staff of trainers, you will have heard us mention the five primary movement patterns of squatting, lunging, pushing, pulling and rotating. And why these patterns of movement should be an integral part of all exercise programs.
However, I wanted to add to this list and feature these specific movement patterns in detail to highlight the benefits and to also note that regardless of age or limitations, everyone can perform some variation on these themes so that they remain as functional as possible throughout life.
To back up for one moment, it is important to mention that there is a hierarchy of functional aging which Cody Sipe, PhD, the co-founder of Functional Aging Institute, Associate Professor, Director of Clinical Research, Harding University DPT Program, developed and is worth sharing with you. There are eight categories and, of course, a spectrum within each, but these are as follows:
Elite Athlete/Fully Fit/Semi Fit/Higher Independence/Lower Independence/Pre-Frail/Frail/Dependent
The reason to be aware of this hierarchy is that the fundamental movement patterns are coached and taught based upon the functionality of the client, and once a client is in the dependent category, they are probably no longer training with a personal trainer. Instead, they are working with their physicians, occupational and physical therapists to manage the level of care at this stage. The other seven categories though, we as experienced trainers who have been trained ourselves to safely and effectively work with older adults, regularly train within each category and teach the seven fundamental movement patterns.
Hinging/Deadlifting Movement Patterns
A good way to visualize the hinge movement pattern is to imagine a filing cabinet drawer open behind you. Then, imagine shutting the drawer with your hind quarters (i.e., buttocks to the wall behind you) and standing up erect once the drawer is shut! Why do we need to master hinging/deadlifting movement patterns? Because we regularly are required to hinge forward to pick up items from the floor or move objects from one place to another and if we are not hinging from the hips, instead we are flexing our spine, this may lead to serious lumbar spine injury/strain. Therefore, learning to hinge and deadlift (does not require heavy lifting necessarily) teaches the body to hip flex and not spinal flex, encourages safe postural mechanics, helps you to stabilize your trunk (i.e., learn how to extend and work from the posterior chain of the body) and over time, will enhance your endurance and strength.
The Second Movement Pattern is Squatting
And, while we may use the chair stand as a precursor to squatting, the movement pattern is not the same. Squatting requires considerable levels of ankle mobility. As a result, many older adults, particularly those who have been relatively sedentary or have suffered an ankle injury at some point in life which has caused limited mobility in the ankle joint, may struggle with the squatting movement pattern. As trainers, we work with our clients who have this limitation to improve their range of motion and strength at the ankle joint which may lead to a more effective squatting movement pattern down the line.
Squatting requires hip/knee/ankle mobility and core stability all of which we need in our daily lives.
The Third is Lunging
You might respond to this movement pattern negatively as you may have knee joint issues which in the past have caused pain in the knee joint when attempting to perform a lunge. However, my experience is that just about everyone can perform some variation of a lunge if it is taught and performed properly taking into consideration the limitations of the individual. Why lunge? The lunging movement pattern represents stepping off a city street curb or stepping up onto a higher platform, among many other examples. Therefore, once again it is a necessary movement pattern in our daily lives and needs to be included in most exercise programs. One other note regarding lunging, once the foundational lunging movement pattern is mastered, then adding all three planes of the body (i.e., side/back lunges; curtsy lunges, etc.) is also quite beneficial as we do move through all three planes of motion daily.
The Fourth is Pushing
We push daily, therefore, we must push in our exercise programs. Examples of pushing are pushups, chest/bench press, squatting, etc.
The Fifth is Pulling
We pull daily, therefore, we must pull in our exercise programs. Examples of pulling are pull ups, inverted rows, shoulder extensions, lat pull downs, etc.
The Sixth is Anti-Rotation
This is discussed frequently in our classes as well as personal training sessions. Particularly when standing and performing exercises such as unilateral chest flyes with resistive tubing. We concentrate, once the movement pattern is established, on bracing the body, maintaining a neutral pelvis and countering any attempt by the body to rotate—therefore, anti-rotation. Often this is associated with “vertical core training” which is one of the primary reasons, beyond strengthening the pectorals/deltoids in the example of a unilateral chest flye described above, that we perform this exercise. This movement pattern requires solid core stability to perform it safely/effectively, therefore, while we train the pectorals, we are also training our entire nose to toes core!
The Seventh Movement Pattern is Carrying
We use weighted carries and “farmer’s walking” movement patterns as our daily lives require us to move load from one place to the other. Consider carrying your laundry, groceries or suitcase or packages from the post office and you will then see how this movement pattern translates to our daily lives. It also trains the entire nose to toes core, improves cardiovascular endurance and stamina!
Therefore, in your next training session, see if you can identify these primary movement patterns and note how critical these movement patterns are to leading a healthy, fit and happy lifestyle!