Simplifying exercise programming using Movement Patterns.
Exercise • • 1 minute to read • By Pankaj Narsian, INFS Faculty
Author- Pankaj N, CSCS an INFS Faculty
A moment in the past
A few thousand years ago, humankind did not have a squat rack or a deadlift platform. Neither they had a seated row nor a chest press machine. Lastly, not even a single pair of dumbbells or resistance bands. But, humans were still using the same movements back then as the 8-times Mr Olympia Ronnie Coleman did back in the gym. Of course, there could be a newbie who may not know Ronnie Coleman. Still, everyone remembers his famous gym motivation quote, "Yeah, buddy light-weight," while bench pressing with 200 lbs dumbbells.
So what is the difference between the above two? If we look closely, nothing except the application of resistance between the two. Early humans climbed the tree to safeguard themselves from predators, using a vertical pull. Similarly, Ronnie Coleman did a machine pulldown regularly to increase the muscle mass on his back.
Back in the present
Walk into any gym these days; an individual witnesses over a dozen exercise variations for a single muscle group. So naturally, questions like which variation works the best for a muscle group and how many are needed to start are common newbie questions for every coach. But most of them fall under the basic five movement patterns if seen closely.
Introduction to Primary Movements Patterns
Humans have specific movements that are primary to them. These movements are learned and refined from when an individual is born until old age. In addition, since an individual uses specific movement patterns in day-to-day function, practicing them and getting better in the gym is extremely important. Therefore, a coach should teach the trainee all the primary movements and prepare them well for exercise execution to avoid injury and gain strength.
- Hinge or Bend
- Push - Horizontal and Vertical
- Pull - Horizontal and Vertical
The squat is a movement pattern wherein you plant both the feet on the ground, stand with a shoulder-width stance, shoulders relaxed and neutral. Then, start to flex your knees and hips to lower yourself towards the floor while maintaining an upright chest and a neutral spine position. To make the squat pattern a practical exercise, add loads from various sides to add further challenges.
- Goblet squat
- Back squat.
- Front squat
- Overhead squat
The lunge is a single leg movement pattern wherein one of the two legs moves while the other is stationary. The moving leg takes a step slightly longer than the walking stride and bends at the hip and knee while slightly leaning forward from the trunk simultaneously. Additionally, an individual can lunge forward, reverse, and sideways.
- Forward lunge
- Reverse lunge
- Curtsy lunge
The hinge is a movement pattern where you bend forward by moving at the hip while the rest of the body remains in the same position. For example, a widespread movement would be to bend over when picking up the phone or a baby from the floor. The back muscles should be strong enough to handle the daily wear and tear. A coach should teach the correct execution in which the glutes, quads, and hamstrings take the significant workload of the hinge— keeping a neutral spine position while lifting the weight off the ground.
- Kettlebell deadlift
- Romanian deadlift
- Conventional deadlift
Push - Vertical and Horizontal
A push movement pattern involves pushing an object away, assuming a specific body position. An individual can execute the push movement in a horizontal and vertical direction. Some real-life examples include pushing a car or putting the luggage in the overhead compartment on a flight.
A vertical push emphasizes your shoulder muscles while engaging the back of the arms (triceps). In contrast, a horizontal press emphasizes the chest while engaging the shoulders and the back of the arm.
- Dumbbell bench press
- Standing shoulder overhead, press
- Vertical chest press
- Shoulder push press
Pull - Vertical and Horizontal
The pull is a movement pattern opposite to pushing. Here the object is pulled closer, assuming a specific body position. An individual can execute the pull movement in a horizontal and vertical direction. Some real-life examples include playing the tug of war or pulling the luggage from the conveyor belt at the airport.
A vertical and horizontal pull emphasizes your back muscles while engaging the front of the arms (biceps) and other supporting muscle groups.
- Dumbbell bent-over rows
- Lat pulldown
- Seated row
- Straight arm pulldown
Life could be simpler if the coaches start planning the program by seeing the exercises as movement patterns. Therefore, when writing an exercise program for a client, include all the movement patterns and add two to three variations. For example, the first can be a multi-joint unsupported exercise, while the other can be a multi-joint supported and a single joint exercise. Then divide the movement workload across several days depending on the client's time commitment to the process. Finally, a basic beginner program is ready for execution.
- Cook, G., Burton, L., Hoogenboom, B.J. and Voight, M., 2014. Functional movement screening: the use of fundamental movements as an assessment of function-part 2. International journal of sports physical therapy, 9(4).
- Bagherian, S., Ghasempoor, K., Rahnama, N. and Wikstrom, E.A., 2019. The effect of core stability training on functional movement patterns in college athletes. Journal of sport rehabilitation, 28(5), pp.444-449.
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