You might have heard of them - the primary movement patterns. The squat, hinge, lift, push, pull, twist and gait (walking).
Some call these the ‘primal’ movement patterns (originally coined by Paul Chek) - and they're thought to be the most basic patterns of movement. WHICH MEANS, that over time, a lot of folks in the fitness world have over-simplified exercise to limit intentional movement to simply: squats, deadlifts (hinge), pushing a bar, pulling a bar or body weight. I see this in workout programs like StrongLifts and 5x5 workouts - the same movement patterns over and over again. Forever. And ever.
In reality - in LIFE - we move through combinations of these patterns. We are rarely simply squatting, or simply pushing overhead. We’re squatting while picking something up, we’re laterally lunging and twisting our way into the car while taking off our backpacks
To me, that’s a great deal about what functional fitness is, and it’s why I still believe that understanding the primary movement patterns are important as stepping stones for experiencing variations on them out in the wild.
It’s critical to train our bodies through a variety of movement and motions. Some would argue that the primary movement patterns are too simplistic - and while I think that’s true when we zoom out to the big picture, I think there’s a lot that can be learned from starting with the primary movement patterns and “mastering” them in a controlled space.
To me, practicing form and technique is a key piece of building body awareness, and body awareness is what helps as traverse through space more effectively.
It’s also fundamental for building progressions. If you can learn and understand the ‘primary movement patterns’, you can build on them. A bodyweight squat can become a weighted squat, which can transform to a single leg squat, which can learn to become a lateral lunge, and so forth. The primary movement patterns give us a structure from which we can grow and challenge more life-like movements: combining a single leg squat with a rotation, for example.
That’s why I don't think it's enough to learn to squat a barbell and stay there forever. It's also why I program and teach clients progressively. We learn the fundamentals, sure. We also practice coordination and stability to truly master the skills, we add variation like power and agility - other skills that apply to real life scenarios like avoiding a collision on a sidewalk or lunging to catch something that’s rolling off the counter.
Primary movements are just that. Primary. Something from which we can jump off of (so to speak) to practice more functional and applicable skills.
Agree or disagree?
Want to learn more and start to practice primary movements in your own body? Join me for a live workshop online via Zoom on Friday, June 24th at 9am OR get ahead of the game and register for BEYOND, where we go in depth and practice primary movements and their many variations.