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  • Nicola Dale

The 6 Foundational Movement Patterns

Starting a new workout routine can be daunting, especially with so many workouts being shared online. The specifics of a workout plan are dependent on your goals and what you enjoy doing but everyone can benefit from working on the 6 foundational movement patterns.

What are they? They are 6 movement patterns that we use on a daily basis. These are: Squat, Hinge, Lunge, Push, Pull and Carry. You’re probably thinking of gym exercises when you read these but here is how we use them in everyday life:

1) Squat – Sitting down and getting up from a chair.

2) Hinge – Bending over to pick something up like your shopping, a child or a pet.

3) Lunge – Walking or leaning forward to stroke a dog.

4) Push – Pushing someone away from you or pushing something back in a cupboard.

5) Pull – Pulling someone in for a hug or pulling something out of a cupboard.

6) Carry – Carrying the groceries, your suitcase, your handbag or a laptop.

Training these movements patterns will help you move and feel better every day. They’ll improve your strength, speed, power, stability and co-ordination. But it is important you select exercises that are suitable for you. Don’t jump straight in with the heavy weights, instead learn the movement with your bodyweight and then gradually build up the weights. Below I’ve listed a few variations for you to try.

YouTube is a fantastic source for video demos of exercises, so you can see what they’re supposed to look like. I’ve linked a video example for one exercise in each movement pattern below. Another tip is record yourself when performing a new movement. This enables you to see any mistakes you’re making without needing someone to be there and watch you.

Without further ado, the 6 foundational movement patterns.



1. The Squat

There’s no one right way to squat. Factors including the shape of your hip socket your torso-to-femur and femur-to-tibia ratio, your mobility, stability and motor control issues (timing and coordination of all the muscles involved in a squat) will all impact your squat. This is why your squat may look different to that of someone else in the gym or online. Key points you want to remember whilst squatting is to keep your chest up and avoid letting your knees cave inwards.

To begin with master the bodyweight squat. Then progress by adding weight in the form of a kettlebell, dumbbells or a barbell.

Squat Example

2. The Hinge

The Hinge movement pattern is often thought of as a conventional deadlift but this is just one example of a hinge. Glute bridges, Hip Thrusts, Kettlebell Swings and Romanian Deadlifts are all example of hip hinges.

First, try out a bodyweight Romanian deadlift. This differs from a conventional deadlift as it starts from a standing position and hinges more, really emphasising on pushing the hips back, making it great for novices learning to hinge properly. Once you’ve mastered the technique you can add weight using dumbbells or a kettlebell and work up to a barbell.

Romanian Deadlift Example

3. The Lunge

Single-leg exercises are fantastic for identifying and correcting muscle imbalances, improving balance, avoiding the overuse of the dominant side and core stabilisation. Every day you use single-leg movements simply by walking, thus it is a key movement pattern to work on. It’s important to note that in any single-side work you are not purely isolating one side. Training one side of the body will indirectly stimulate the other.

Start with a bodyweight split squat. Then try elevating the back foot, elevating the front foot, reverse lunges, walking lunges and adding weights by holding dumbbells or a kettlebell.

Split Squat Example

4. The Push

Pushing movements can be split into horizontal and vertical planes of motion. The most common pushing exercises seen in gyms are the bench press and push up. Whilst they look simple, the combination of core stability, shoulder tension and muscle co-ordination required to perform these movements makes them tricky.

Before attempting other forms of pushing movements, master the form of a push up. This can be done from a full push up position, a kneeling position or by elevating your upper body for an inclined push up depending on your ability. Once you’ve got this movement down you could go onto try a floor press, a bench press with either dumbbells or a barbell and go onto vertical pushing movements such as a dumbbell shoulder press. Whilst performing these movements you need to be aware of not only your shoulders and upper body but also your core and hips to ensure stability and good positioning.

Incline Push Up Example

5. The Pull

As with pushing, pulling movements can also be split into horizontal and vertical planes of motion. Often people jump straight to pull ups (vertical) without first mastering the shoulder stability and core integration which is learnt during horizontal pull variations. This stabilisation is vital if you want progress your movement with good form and avoid injury.

First you could try chest supported rows. These are great for learning correct form as the bench helps to stabilise you. Once you understand the movement try bent over rows and single-arm bent over rows, where you need actively stabilise yourself. When you’re comfortable with horizontal pulling move onto vertical pulling movements such as lat pulldowns and assisted pull ups.

Chest Supported Row Example

6. The Carry

The carry is often overlooked but the easiest to see in everyday life. It’s moving your body with stability and control, it’s walking and running, playing sports or playing with your children. Targeting the core, it involves strength, stability, co-ordination and integration of the upper and lower body.

Loaded carries can b e done with a variety of tools. You could walk holding one kettlebell down by your side; walk holding two dumbbells either side of you or; hold one kettlebell overhead as you walk.

Loaded Carry Example

Why not incorporate these exercises into an EMOM or AMRAP workout which I discussed in another post previous blog post?


Let me know in the comments which exercises you use from the 6 movement patterns.