The health and fitness industry is forever overcomplicating training. 

    In order to become better at  strength and fitness training we must understand the fundamentals of movement. There are basically 7 main movement patterns that our human body is capable of doing. Understanding these movement patterns will help you to become more competent in your own training. 

    I have listed the movement patterns, the muscle that are targeted, and a few exercise variations below to help you design your own program. 

    The movement patterns are as follows:


    The squat is considered to be an essential exercise for lower body. A squatting movement pattern should be in most peoples’ training program. If your goal is fat loss, strength, sports related, longevity, the squat is probably something that you should be doing. 

    Muscles worked: Quadriceps, hamstrings, adductors, and gluteals. 

    Below are some squatting variations that you can include into your training.

    • bodyweight squat
    • Goblet squat
    • Zercher squat
    • Front squat
    • Back squat
    • Box squat
    • Overhead squat
    • Belt squat
    • Anderson squat


    A hip hinge is where you push your hips back into flexion, followed by driving your hips forward into extension. This movement pattern can create a lot of force and we tend to use exercises where we can load a great amount of weight, such as, deadlifts. Learning to hinge properly at the hips will have great carryover to sports, every day activities, and will reduce your chances of injury. 

    Muscles worked: gluteals, hamstrings, erector spinae, trapezius, rhomboids, calves. 

    • Bodyweight hinge
    • Romanian deadlift 
    • Kettlebell deadlift
    • Conventional deadlift
    • Sumo deadlift
    • Trap bar deadlift
    • Kettlebell swing
    • Hip thrust
    • Good morning
    • Rack pull


    The lunge is a unilateral or contralateral movement pattern, which means you are working single-leg strength. The lunge has a great carryover to bilateral movements such as squats and deadlifts. The added benefit to lunges is that you can work on muscular imbalances and improve potential asymmetries that you may have in the lower body. Lunges are also great for improving athletic performance. 

    Muscles worked: quadriceps, gluteals, hamstrings, calves.

    • Bodyweight lunge
    • Rear foot elevated split squat
    • Walking lunge
    • Reverse lunge
    • Lateral lunge
    • Step up
    • Pistol squat
    • Front foot elevated split squat


    There are two types of pushing movement patterns. A horizontal push and a vertical push. e.g. bench press is a horizontal pushing exercise and an overhead press is a vertical pushing exercise. This is important to know when designing a program so you can balance the both. 

    Muscles worked: Pectorals, deltoids, triceps.

    • Bench press
    • Push up
    • Dip
    • Overhead press
    • Push press
    • Arnold press
    • Landmine press


    Just like pushing exercises we have horizontal and vertical pulling exercises. e.g. Pull up is a vertical pulling exercise and a barbell row is a horizontal pulling exercise. Again, you have to bare this in mind when creating a program, to have a balance between the both.

    Muscles worked: Lats, traps, rhomboids, biceps.

    • Pull up
    • Chin up
    • Barbell row
    • Penally row
    • Lat pull down
    • Inverted row
    • Prone row
    • Shrug
    • Single-arm DB row


    You use your core in pretty much every exercise that you do, to create stiffness and stability throughout our body. Your core also helps transfer force from one aspect of the body to the next, e.g. changing direction. 

    The brace is the ability to create tension and resist force. You must brace during exercises such as squatting, deadlifting, pushing and pulling exercises to support the spine and help generate more force throughout the limbs.

    There are 3 planes of motions; sagittal, frontal and transverse. We tend to spend the majority of our training time in either sagittal or frontal planes, with very limited time doing rotational specific exercises. Rotation is a transverse plane of movement. Adding rotation drills in your training will promote joint health, increase explosive power, and will help with injury prevention.

    Muscles worked: Transversus abdominus. Rectus abdominus, obliques, erector spinal, quadratus lumborum, lats, glutes.

    • Woodchop 
    • Pallof press
    • Ab rollouts
    • Deadbug
    • Birddog
    • Hanging leg raise
    • Front plank
    • Side plank
    • Side bend


    Gait refers to walking and walking drills such as loaded carries. Locomotion includes sprinting, jumping, cutting, etc. We use these types of movements in every day life. You can select an exercise dependant upon your training goals. Example; If you want to become faster, then sprinting should be included in your training program.

    • Loaded carries
    • Walking
    • Jogging
    • Running
    • Jumping 
    • Hopping
    • Skipping 

    Muscles worked: Full body, all energy systems dependant on activity.

    Now, that you have a better understanding of movement, you can select one or two exercises from each movement pattern to develop your own training program based on your goals. It doesn’t matter if you’re an athlete or someone who just wants to be fit and healthy. How you create your program is based on what components of fitness you’d like to improve (strength, power, speed, hypertrophy, endurance, etc). I would recommend improving in all areas of your training.

    You can incorporate these movement patterns into your daily or weekly session(s).

    Here’s an example of incorporating all movement patterns into one singular daily session. 

    Warm up: 

    5 minutes low intensity jog


    A1: Back squat 3×5

    B1: Romanian deadlift 3×6

    B2: Split squat 3×6 each leg

    C1: Chin ups 3×5

    C2: Dips 3×10

    D1: Pallof press 2×8

    However, it is possible to spread them out throughout the week. Just like so:

    Day 1:

    A1: Front squat 5×5

    B1: Good morning 3×8

    C1: Walking lunge 4×12

    C2: Farmers carry 4x20m

    Day 2:

    A1: Overhead press 5×5

    B1: Barbell row 3×8

    C1: Push up 3×12

    C2: Ab rollouts 3×12

    Day 3:

    A1: 5km run

    Day 4:

    A1: Conventional deadlift 3×5

    B1: Bench press 5×5

    B2: Weighted chin up 5×5

    C1: Banded wood chop 3×10

    Ultimately, when it comes to training you must select movements/exercises that give you the best opportunity to progress and get results. Rather than overcomplicating your training, just pick one exercise from each movement pattern which you would like to improve on. Stay consistent with those movements and aim to master the exercises with the goal of becoming stronger overtime. You cannot fail if you follow this structure. It’s worth mentioning that proper movement mechanics are essential and always work through full range of motion. 

    (Quality trumps quantity in training every time).

    To find out more about strength training and progressive overload, head over to our blog on “Master the basics of strength training” featured below: