If you want to write a workout plan for yourself but aren’t sure where to start, think about your everyday, functional movement patterns. Examples of everyday, functional movements include: placing or removing something overhead; pulling something towards you; picking something up from the ground; sitting down; carrying groceries; putting on a seat belt; or swinging a sporting instrument such as a bat, golf club or tennis racket. After that, think about how to strengthen and stabilize the muscles used doing those things to improve your performance and prevent injury. Some movements should be done in conjunction with the other, such as push/pull movements, to avoid muscle imbalances. The same can be said for core strengthening, done with rotation/anti-rotation movements, to provide stability to the upper and lower body. Let’s take a look at the seven movements below:
Push movements strengthen the muscles of the anterior chain (front of the body) and can be divided into horizontal push and vertical push. Muscle tissue contracts as weight is pushed away from the body and lengthens as weight travels back towards the body. These involve the chest, front shoulders, triceps and thighs.
Examples of push movements include: push ups; bench press; overhead press; tricep extensions; and tricep dips.
Pulling movements strengthen the muscles of the posterior chain (back of the body) and can be divided into horizontal pulling and vertical pulling. Muscle tissue contracts as weight is pulled towards the body and lengthens as the weight travels away from the body. They involve the back, hamstrings and biceps. Examples of pulling movements include: rows; pull ups; lat pull downs; and bicep curls.
3. Hip Hinge
The hip hinge provides the driving force behind lifting things and can also contribute greatly to athletic performance. To do the hip hinge correctly means you are “flexing” at the hip joint with minimal bending of your knees and minimal curving of the spine; doing this protects the lower back. Examples of hip hinge movements include: cable or banded pull throughs; deadlifts; barbell hip thrusts; single leg Romanian deadlifts; and kettlebell swings.
If you sit down, jump or push off of the ground, this applies to you. The squat can build a formidable amount of lower body and core strength--it’s a fantastic bang for your buck exercise, which, when done correctly, can improve your posture; increase flexibility; and reduce your risk for injury as a result of strengthened muscles surrounding joints used in everyday movement.
Examples of squat movements are: bodyweight squats; goblet squats; barbell squats; split squats; and overhead squats.
5. Loaded Carry
Considered a great bang-for-your-buck movement, loaded carries will work nearly every muscle in your body and more importantly, will: increase strength; improve stability; increase cardiovascular conditioning; and improve posture. Load up with some weight in either both hands or in one hand and walk for distance or walk for time. Examples of loaded carry movements: farmer’s carry; suitcase carry; waiter’s carry; and one arm racked carry.
This is a twisting movement that should take place more in the thoracic (upper) spine rather than the lumbar (lower) spine. Rotation, or twisting, movements are excellent for developing power through the core and the hips and they are key for those who play tennis, baseball, golf and hockey. Examples of rotation movements include: banded or cable chop and lifts; medicine ball throws; rotating planks; banded or cable core rotations.
These are designed to keep you stable and aligned so your body will absorb force without over twisting or moving out of alignment by enduring too much movement between the pelvis and the spine, thereby potentially sustaining an injury. Think of it as your body’s natural braking system--it helps you maintain a neutral spine under load or force so you won’t over rotate.
Examples of anti-rotation movements include: planks with shoulder taps; planks with renegade rows; Pallof presses; banded or cable chops.
Find an exercise or two from the categories above to incorporate into your workouts. An example of how you might program a week if time is a consideration would be to break up your days by upper body and lower body and one day of full body work. A workout doesn’t have to be fancy to be effective. Master the basics that can be applied to functional movements of everyday life--your body will thank you with increased strength, stability, mobility and flexibility!
Michele is a part time fitness and nutrition coach. Fitness has been a part of her life for the past 20 years as a requirement for her career, and she enjoys sharing her knowledge with others. She is most passionate about strength training and defensive measures training. She believes in keeping things simple when it comes to wellness and committing to one change at a time. To follow Michele, check out her website and Instagram.
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