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  • Writer's pictureKennon McArthur

Primal Movement Patterns

Primal movement patterns are represented by the seven basic movements of life, and include squatting, bending, lunging, pushing, pulling, twisting, and gait. Mastering these movements will not only help you to move well on a daily basis but remain injury free while doing so. In one’s quest for optimal health, true functional movement may be the most critical component necessary to reach those end goals. Functional movement is not only important in daily routines, it’s one of the last few roadblocks before being ready to progress into a performance training regimen.

First of all, every person who has worked to enhance flexibility (no matter what range of motion), build up energy through “working in” and other energizing exercises, and begun to condition the core, through turning on the inner unit, is capable of doing all of the primal movements. Optimal performance in these movements should be defined as continuous improvement, no matter to what degree one is able to perform them. These seven movements have been imperative to human survival throughout time and are just as important today. Remember, you may have varying levels of performance in each of these movements and some modification or assistance may be required.

Although “functional” movement is not always represented accurately in the modern gym setting, awareness of the seven primal movement patterns will help to ensure that you’re always making wise choices when it comes to the exercises in your program. The allure of fancy machines and strength training contraptions can be strong when you first enter the gym, after all, they’re designed to get you to use the equipment that they have. Simply remembering a few basic guidelines can help you navigate your way around the gym.

One of the most important questions to ask when choosing an exercise is “does it require activation of the core?” If the answer is no, then the movement is likely to isolate certain muscle groups, and therefore not qualify as functional. A common example would be the seated leg extension or leg curl machine. Although these machines can be great for targeting very specific muscle groups, they aren’t necessarily functional for most people.

Additionally, ask yourself, “does this exercise require multiple movement patterns?” Virtually every athletic movement, whether it’s simply sitting down in a low chair or competing in sport will involve multiple primal movement patterns, and they’re critical to optimizing function. Some common examples include throwing, which incorporates a lunge, a twist, a bend, and a push; swinging a tennis racket or golf club will require a bend, a squat or lunge, a twist, a pull, and a push; and shooting a basketball which incorporates a squat, bend, and push.

If you’re still not sure whether an exercise is truly functional then ask yourself, “does this movement pattern require me to focus on balance?” Balance is a terrific indicator of function, and if the movement challenges you to stay centered then it’s likely a good one! Again, don’t be afraid to modify any movements that you need to. Use a stick or dowel rod to help maintain balance during squats, bends, and lunges, or stabilize yourself with a chair while pulling, the possibilities are endless.

Regardless of your current fitness level or competency in the primal movement patterns, work toward small improvements on a consistent basis. “Even though our lifestyle is very different from our developmental ancestors, these seven movement patterns are still key to performing daily tasks and staying injury free.” Time and consistency can produce amazing results, and sooner rather than later, you’ll be ready to take on whatever life throws your way.

In health and happiness….

Kennon McArthur – CHEK IMS 1

@catchinglessons on Twitter


CHEK Integrated Movement Science Level 1 Manual Notes

How to Eat Move and Be Healthy 2nd edition by Paul Chek 2004

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