Primal Pattern Movements
The term "functional exercise" has been overused and abused in the exercise industry. I interpret it as replicating an exercise or movement to achieve an everyday goal or task rather than general fitness exercises.
I don't get people to perform squats in the gym for the sake of just working the lower body muscles, I do it to coach them in using this movement in every day life, otherwise it's pointless learning how to do it! If you squat perfectly in the gym but do the wrong movement patterns when lifting up boxes, shopping bags or picking up the kids you’re more likely to blow your back out… then your time in the gym was for nothing more than to simply look better. Every single one of us should aim primarily to ‘perform’ better in our everyday movements and stay strong and injury free whilst going about our lives.
Below are Seven Primal Pattern movements, called as such because without being efficient in these movements in the wild you'd struggle to survive but of course they are still essential today. Whether you're an athlete or you just want to prevent injury when doing daily activities they are key to staying injury free.
Try to work at perfecting all the following movements and making the correct movement automatic. By incorporating all these into your exercise regimes you’ll be gaining optimal muscle balance and results!
We all have to sit, and most of us sit for waaay to long, which in turn can cause tight hip flexors, hamstrings just to name a few. By learning to sit and stand again correctly, including squatting when lifting heavy objects you’ll strengthen the move, rebalance the muscles and support your body correctly to avoid injury. For example many people experience lower back pain, and this at times may be due from incorrectly performing this movement again and again.
Again, similar to squatting, it would be a very inactive day if you didn't get around to having to bend over to pick something up. Putting your shoes on or picking up a golf ball are good examples of typical actions that are injury prone movements (when done incorrectly) as they're light objects to lift so it's easy not to think about moving correctly.
This is hugely important for most sports but even in every day life for stepping over objects and improving balance. Poor balance increases the chances of falling and injury, and some statistics even show falls and loss of balance to be a common cause of death in the elderly.
Whether pushing a trolley or a broken down car, you still need to engage the correct muscles regardless of effort required - otherwise it's possible to injure your shoulder or back for example when not recruiting the right muscles.
You could be pulling the rubbish bin up the drive, scaling a wall or needing to climb a tree in an emergency, you don't have to be an olympic rower to have to learn to pull correctly. This is a highly rewarding move that when done correctly will make you stronger, more stable and enable you to do many thing we took for granted as children, like the monkey bars!
This is a tricky one as it tends to be combined with other primal movements at the same time like throwing something for example. You have to lunge, twist and push throughout the movement. Most of the gym based exercises we’re used to performing have no twisting components, and yet it’s one of the most common natural human movement! So you should aim to include this in your training as bending and twisting incorrectly has injury written all over it.
Gait - Gait is the movement pattern of walking, jogging and sprinting.
We all do this everyday and it’s a combinations movements that are magnified if you enjoy jogging or running. If you’re looking at improving your jog or run technique then a tailored strength and conditioning programme will help to identify any issues (say jogging with your knees collapsing inwards for example). More running or jogging will not fix bad running patterns and it will creates more stress, wear and tear on the body ultimately resulting in what are in fact avoidable injuries.
So that’s the Seven Primal Movements – I hope you found this useful. Try to start thinking of your body as one, where all muscles and movements are interlinked and working together rather than muscle groups working individually. By working these movements into your routines you’ll enjoy feeling stronger, more stable and staying injury free.
Thanks for reading.
Be Healthy. Be Happy.