When first starting out with a new client, one of the first things I look at is their fundamental movement skills. Sometimes I may start with some fitness tests depending on the client’s needs, but if their goal is to simply start living more of an active healthy lifestyle this is my initial go to.
These movement skills are also known as the 6 primal movement patterns, the 6 exercises compose of a squat, lunge, hinge, push, pull, and rotate. Over the years and due to my background I have also expanded on this and included other primary assessments,
The breathing mechanics of a client, their ability to jump and land, awareness of bending in all directions and some kind of locomotion are all what I class as fundamental motor skills, I feel everybody should master these along with the 6 primal movements before progressing onto more intense forms of exercise. I feel the need for a human to be able to control their own body in time and space is vital before moving onto something more mechanical.
A lunge or split squat is first as it is a great way to introduce a single leg component into a training routine, I mean evidently, we don’t jump around from place to place, we walk. As we walk, we shift weight from one leg to another having some time with only one point on contact on the floor, the same as when we run.
A split stance with a narrow base of support is also less stable and is a great way to also introduce balance training within a training program. Not to mention is you have any asymmetries in your squat or hinge, a split squat can help resolve them.
A squat is the most natural human resting position, you can see how easy we adopt this as baby. I know that replicating a baby’s squat is not possible for everyone and near impossible for others but by reversing some of the bad habits we have all incorporated throughout life we should be able to work towards something of a similar nature, at least being able to rest in our squat for a certain period of time.
Without the physical strength and capabilities to push and pull we wouldn’t be able to open and close doors, let alone pick ourselves up if we fall over. Although more of an extreme example, without stairs, lifts and escalators we would actually have to climb up things combining our leg strength with pulling power.
These three examples above should start to give you the jift of why these exercises are not only seen as fundamental, but also a little bit primal. The better we execute the movements the better chance we would have of survival if were still living In the caveman era.
Along with these fundamentals I feel it’s also a must for clients new to an exercise routine or training under my wing to experience movement in all planes of motion. Bending and rotating will cover this as a side bend is in what’s called a frontal plane and rotation is executed in a transverse plane.
I feel elaborating on this not only allows them to experience the use of muscles that they may have been dissociated from, but is also allows them to experience the sensory response of exploring their body. Not only will this help them functionally in term of their body mapping like mentioned, but it will also help improve the function of their vestibular system leading to a better sensory response, and therefore improved balance.
The irony with this approach of development with my clientele is that from starting here they are already prepared for the exercises at the other end of the continuum. Other than Olympic weightlifting, a squat with a barbell or a hinge with a barbell (a deadlift), are as complex as it gets. If you can master these movements from the get-go and own your body’s movement, adding load progressively over time doesn’t get much more complex.
Yes, it gets more challenging and there of course will be some differences in terms of grip position and ways to manoeuvre your body around a barbell but nothing major.
Once these movement have been learnt and competency has been shown it also saves time when progressing onto more intense exercise’s, the reference back towards these fundamentals is also a great tool of comparison.
Personally, even after ten years of training I feel you can always work on improving these movement patterns and they are great to incorporate into a warm up to help up regulate your muscle fibres, not to mention mobilise tissues and prepare them for the main section of the workout.