Six Movements Every Good Lifting Program Needs
If you have taken fitness advice from any old and salty Bro, they may have told you about the four or five day “split”: Mon day is chest day, Tuesday is back and biceps, Wednesday is legs, and so on. This is the old school way of working out but also reflects a very old training philosophy of focusing on training body parts rather than movement patterns.
Modern training philosophies tend to focus more on movement patterns, rather than body parts. Yes, movement patterns tend to happen in only specific body parts (hinging doesn’t happen at the shoulder and it’s hard to pull objects with your legs) but the point is, rather than targeting muscle groups, we target movement abilities.
This does a couple of things. Firstly, we take a bit of pressure off of aesthetic goals and focus more on performance goals. Considering that many women have body image issues, this is a great psychological relief. We can now direct our attention to how well a movement is performed rather than if a movement is working to change our body. Performance goals tend to change the body and work faster than aesthetic goals. Or attention is diverted from our body image and instead directed toward what it is capable of. When you work on getting better and stronger at a particular movement, the body will adapter to accomplish this task. With aesthetic goals, it often tuns into a long game of “are we there yet?” with no fixed end point.
Additionally, when we focus on movement goals, we focus on movement ability - the side effect of which is strengthening life long movement skill and therefore elongating our independence. Much of the heart break of getting older is losing the strength and ability to perform activities of daily living, or ADL’s. These tasks range anywhere from walking up stairs, to carrying groceries in to having the ability to use the toilet independently. Keeping these skills is vital to health, safety and fulfillment.
Fundamentally, the movement needs of humans vary by degree, not type. From an olympian, to a metal worker, to a child, to an old lady - we all need to squat, carry, balance and press.
When you are putting your program together, or researching a program to use, there are six major movement patterns that will be of great importance. This is not to say that there are no other movements that need to be mastered or even performed, but these movements will end up being the bread and butter of any good program.
Push: vertical push like an overhead press and tricep dip, horizontal push like a bench press. This movement shapes and strengthens primarily the shoulders, chest and triceps.
Pull: vertical pull like a pull-up, horizontal pull like a bent-over row or face pull. This movement shapes and strengthens primarily the rear shoulders, upper and mid back.
Squat: barbell back squat or goblet squat. This movement shapes and strengthens primarily the legs.
Hinge/Hip-Dominant: barbell Romanian deadlift or barbell hip thrust. This movement shapes and strengthens primarily the glutes, lower back and spinal erectors.
Split-stance or single-leg: reverse lunge, step-up. This movement shapes and strengthens primarily the legs and the hips. Split stances are very important for women considering the Q angle of our hips and how much stress they go though burning pregnancy and childbirth.
Loaded carry: suitcase carry, farmer’s carry, waiter walk. This movement shapes and strengthens primarily the spinal erectors, core, shoulders and legs.
The good news is, most basic barbell and dumbbell exercises will fall into this category. They types of movements should make up 70-100% of our program. You could build an incredibly effective program with movements that only come from this category. And I can say with great confidence, you would be hard pressed to find a program that doesn’t have these elements because they mirror the natural movement of the human form.
This is a great guiding post when you are starting your fitness journey. Doing two movements from each category would give you a good workout indeed. You can also add some accessory or rehabilitative movements to your program. This would give a bit more personalization and strengthen weak point that are unique to any individual body.
Knowing this, you now have the ability to spot a great program and a program that is filled with useless fluff.