Primal Movement Patterns

Most of us know that it is important to move our bodies, we also know that we can move our body in lots of different ways, but have you ever taken time to really consider the way our bodies move in detail and how this can we can relate this to our training?

You may have heard some trainers talk about functional training. Put simply this involves movements that are based on real life situations and biomechanics. Generally, it will involve multiple different muscle groups. Functional training focuses on primal movements over training with a focus specifically on individual muscles.

I am quite passionate about functional training using primal movements because the most important thing in my job is to give people a better quality of life through exercise. By selecting and prescribing exercises which will improve their ability to move, they will be able to see benefits in their every day life.

Roll the clock back to caveman times…. When we think about human evolution our ability to move, adapt and survive has been fundamental to our success. Over time we have developed specialised functions in order to survive and have had to adapt to particular environments. Back in the day this would have been examples like moving large boulders, being able to turn fast to react to sounds or squatting down behind a large tree to hide from predators. These days we use primal movements when we reach into a cupboard for a glass, get in and out of our cars, sit down in a meeting or bend down to pick up our shopping and go for a run.

There are 7 primal movements. We development & learn these movements soon after birth and we rely on them throughout our lives in order to be able to live well. The best way to think of it is that our body is works together as one entire unit. These movements become the building blocks of every move we make and therefore it is important o understand them and also perform them correctly.

If we neglect our movement patterns or don’t correct any improper movement, we will over time cause damage to our bodies. Many of us have poor form when performing these movements and it is important, we correct these through training in order to alleviate pain, reduce the risk of injury and ensure we move well for as long as possible!

So, what are the primal movement patterns?

  1. Squat

Squatting involves our ability to both hinge at the hip and bend in the knees whilst keeping our chest up and back straight. This is one of the most commonly known movements and something we do every day when we sit down in a chair. Exercises which relate to this primal movement in the gym include goblet squats, back squats, front squats etc.

2. Lunge

Lunging involves our ability to balance as we step a leg away from the body and then bring it back to the midline. This can be in different directions such as forward, back and side. An example of when we use lunging in our every day life could be when we are fixing something low to the ground or getting up from being on our knees. Exercises which relate to this primal movement in the gym include side lunges, reverse lunges, overhead lunges etc.

3. Push

Push exercises are when we push weight away from our body or from our centre of mass. There are 2 types of push movements: horizontal and vertical. Examples in our every day life would be pushing a box overhead to put it away on a shelf (vertical), pushing a wardrobe into place (Horizontal) or pushing ourself up off the ground (horizontal) which is something we learn very early on as a baby. Exercises which relate to this primal movement in the gym include press ups (horizontal), shoulder press (vertical), bench press (horizontal

4. Pull

We can either pull weight towards us or pull ourselves towards an object, and just like push movements this can be both horizontal and vertical pull. When we were younger, we would often pull ourselves up on a table to stand but we also using pulling to bring things closer to us such as pulling a rope attached to an object. Exercises which relate to this primal movement in the gym include seated row (horizontal), pull ups (vertical), Lat pull down (Vertical)

5. Twist

Twisting gives us the ability to rotate, to turn our bodies to look in different direction and move accordingly. There are two different types of rotation we can achieve and that is rotation and anti-rotation. Naturally anti-rotation is when we resist against the body rotating. We twist to look behind us and to move things from one side to another. An example of anti-rotation is when we are trying to hold something steady that is pulling us in a certain direction. Exercises which relate to this primal movement in the gym include Russian twists (rotation), Palov Press (anti-rotation), wood chops (rotation).

6. Bend

Also sometimes known as hinging, this movement is where we pivot and bend at the hips which in turn leans the body forward. This is by far one of the most complicated movement patterns to learn and many people often get this wrong which leads to injuries, especially lower back pain. We use this movement every day when we pick things off the ground or lift heavy objects such as shopping backs or suitcases. The most important thing to remember is to maintain a neutral spine (which put simply means a straight back) when lifting. Exercises which relate to this primal movement in the gym include deadlifts, RDL (Romanian Dead Lift).

7. Gait

Our most commonly used movement is our gait. This includes things such as walking and running and uses a combination of some of the other movements above in order to be able to happen. Every time you go out for a walk you will be working on this of course and just the same as the other movements it is important that we get it right!

I really hope you found this interesting, and I am hoping for some there will be new information or perhaps things you may not have thought about when moving before. The one takeaway from this is that EXERCISE IS ALL ABOUT MOVEMENT!  That is why in my opinion focussing on movement patterns and ensuring you cover all of these bases in a well-rounded programme is a winning combination!

Lots of Love


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