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7 Functional Movement Patterns You Need to Master

Published September 21, 2019
Ben Kissam

Written By: Ben Kissam, BS

Ben has a B.S. in Movement and Sports Science and over 7 years Certified Personal Training Experience.

functional-movement-patterns
<script type="application/ld+json"> { "@type":"BlogPosting", "headline":"7 Functional Movement Patterns You Need to Master", "datePublished":"September 21, 2019", "description":"Not sure which exercises you should use? These 7 functional movements form the foundation for an amazing workout routine. Give them a try!", "image": "https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/media/public/2019/08/functional-movement-woman-lunge-beach-thumbnail-0245.jpg" }, } ] } </script> <article> <div> <ul> <li><a href="#section1">Why is Functional Movement Important?</a></li> <li><a href="#section2">What are Functional Moves?</a></li> <li><a href="#section3">What are the 7 Primal Movements?</a></li> <li><a href="#section4">Functional Movements—Wrapping Up</a></li> </ul> </div> <section> <p>Considered a ‘buzz word’ by some people in the fitness world, functional movements are now perhaps the most popular type of exercise.</p> <p>Buzz word or not, functional training delivers results—<a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com" rel="noreferrer">weight loss</a>, strong, <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/foolproof-guide-to-building-lean-muscle" rel="noreferrer">lean muscles</a>, <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/5-simple-chair-exercises-for-everyday-fitness/" rel="noreferrer">improved posture</a>, <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/two-exercises-to-fix-back-pain" rel="noreferrer">reduced pain</a>, and more. After all, people wouldn’t talk about functional training if it didn’t work.</p> <p><i>But what are functional movement exercises exactly?</i></p> <p>The idea behind functional exercise is simple: train to maximize everyday movements outside your workouts. Basically do workouts that mimic daily activities so your training carries over into life. <i>Sounds pretty sweet, right?</i> </p> <p>Now if we told you there are only seven functional movements, you might scratch your head. <i>Only seven? All human movement is based on only seven movement patterns?</i></p> <p>Indeed—and those are the seven movement patterns you should master in your training. </p> <p>Let’s break down why functional movements are important and the seven exercises you should be doing when you workout.</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section id="section1"> <script type="application/ld+json">{"@context":"https://schema.org","@type":"FAQPage","mainEntity":[{"@type":"Question","name":"Why is functional movement important?","acceptedAnswer":{"@type":"Answer","text":"Functional movements mimic and train you for life outside your workouts. Our bodies evolved over thousands of years to be able to perform these exercises—and it only became a choice to do these movements recently. \n\nChoice: Do I go for a walk today—or do I watch Netflix instead?\n\nStrengthening muscles the same way you’d use them outside of a workout can reduce your risk of injury. You’ll have more endurance and muscular strength to complete daily tasks and go through life pain-free, which increases your quality of life, too.\n\nBecause of this, functional movements only become more important as you age. Elderly people are far less likely to break bones or fall if they’re doing regular strength training."}}]}</script> <h2>Why is functional movement important?</h2> <p><a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/what-is-functional-training-and-can-it-benefit-you/" rel="noreferrer">Functional movements</a> mimic and train you for life outside your workouts. Our bodies evolved over thousands of years to be able to perform these exercises—and it only became a <i>choice</i> to do these movements recently.</p> <p><i>Choice: Do I go for a walk today—or do I watch Netflix instead?</i></p> <p>Strengthening muscles the same way you’d use them outside of a workout can reduce your risk of injury <sup>1</sup>. You’ll have more endurance and muscular strength to complete daily tasks and go through life pain-free, which increases your quality of life, too.</p> <p>Because of this, <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/what-is-functional-training-and-can-it-benefit-you/" rel="noreferrer">functional movements</a> only become more important as you age. <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/the-best-low-impact-exercises-for-seniors/" rel="noreferrer">Elderly people</a> are far less likely to break bones or fall if they’re doing regular strength training <sup>2</sup>.</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section id="section2"> <script type="application/ld+json">{"@context":"https://schema.org","@type":"FAQPage","mainEntity":[{"@type":"Question","name":"What are functional moves?","acceptedAnswer":{"@type":"Answer","text":"Brainstorm a quick list in your head. What physical activities do you do throughout the day?\n\nExamples include: Walking, Sitting and standing, Climbing stairs, Carrying groceries or picking up children, Reaching under a table, Removing something heavy from a high shelf\n\nNow consider which functional fitness exercises, if you did them regularly and got stronger, would make these daily activities easier.\n\nFor example, squats strengthen the muscles you use to bend down or get out of bed. Lunges are a unilateral (one-leg) exercise that make it easier to walk up stairs.\n\nAnd if you think about it, dropping the remote under the couch is sort of like the first half of a burpee.."}}]}</script> <h2>What are functional moves?</h2> <p>Brainstorm a quick list in your head. <i>What physical activities do you do throughout the day?</i></p> <p>Examples include:</p> <ul> <li><a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/10-reasons-why-walking-is-the-best-exercise" rel="noreferrer">Walking</a></li> <li>Sitting and standing</li> <li>Climbing stairs</li> <li>Carrying groceries or picking up children</li> <li>Reaching under a table</li> <li>Removing something heavy from a high shelf</li> </ul> <p>Now consider which functional fitness exercises, if you did them regularly and got stronger, would make these daily activities easier.</p> <p>For example, <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/step-by-step-guide-on-how-to-do-perfect-squats" rel="noreferrer">squats</a> strengthen the muscles you use to bend down or get out of bed. <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/6-bodyweight-leg-workout-progressions-you-can" rel="noreferrer">Lunges</a> are a unilateral (one-leg) exercise that make it easier to walk up stairs. </p> <p>And if you think about it, dropping the remote under the couch is <i>sort</i> of like the first half of a <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/why-burpees-are-one-of-the-best-exercises" rel="noreferrer">burpee</a>.</p> <p><i>...Sort of.</i></p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section id="section3"> <script type="application/ld+json">{"@context":"https://schema.org","@type":"FAQPage","mainEntity":[{"@type":"Question","name":"What are the 7 primal movements?","acceptedAnswer":{"@type":"Answer","text":"These 7 functional fitness exercises make up the foundation for how we move. Add our favorite ‘beginner functional exercise to try’ from each section to your next fat-blasting high-intensity interval training (HIIT) or circuit workout. \n\n1. Squat \n\n2. Twist \n\n3. Hinge \n\n4. Pull \n\n5. Push \n\n6. Lunge \n\n7. Gait/stride"}}]}</script> <h2>What are the 7 primal movements?</h2> <p>These 7 <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/what-is-functional-training-and-can-it-benefit-you/" rel="noreferrer">functional fitness</a> exercises make up the foundation for how we move. Add our favorite ‘beginner functional exercise to try’ from each section to your next fat-blasting <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/what-is-functional-training-and-can-it-benefit-you/" rel="noreferrer">high-intensity interval training</a> (HIIT) or <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/circuit-training-for-weight-loss/" rel="noreferrer">circuit workout</a>.</p> <h3>1. Squat</h3> <p>Of the seven exercises, squats (and their many variations) are the ‘kings’ of <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/what-is-functional-training-and-can-it-benefit-you/" rel="noreferrer">functional movements</a>. </p> <p><i>Why?</i> Because squats (with good form) strengthen muscles from your nose to your toes. Your quads, <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/glutes-101-best-exercises-for-your-gluteus-maximus/" rel="noreferrer">glutes</a>, core, and even your chest and upper back all must work together to do them correctly.</p> <p>Squats are the ‘best bang for your buck’ of any exercise, functional or otherwise. That’s why we’ve written so much about them. Check out:</p> <ul> <li><a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/step-by-step-guide-on-how-to-do-perfect-squats/" rel="noreferrer">Squats 101: A Step-By-Step Guide for Doing Perfect Squats</a></li> <li><a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/how-to-do-perfect-squats-and-pushups/" rel="noreferrer">How to Do Perfect Squats and Push-ups</a></li> <li><a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/5-squat-variations-that-will-kick-your-butt/" rel="noreferrer">5 Squat Variations That Will Kick Your Butt</a></li> <li><a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/6-bodyweight-leg-workout-progressions-you-can/" rel="noreferrer">6 Bodyweight Leg Progressions You Can Do Right At Home</a></li> </ul> <p>Beginner functional exercise to try: <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/27-beginner-bodyweight-exercises-that-get-results/" rel="noreferrer">Sit to stands</a> (or another <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/27-beginner-bodyweight-exercises-that-get-results/" rel="noreferrer">beginner variation</a>)</p> <div class="row justify-content-center text-center"> <div class="col-12 col-md-5"> <video class="d-block mx-auto" autoplay="" loop="" muted=""> <source src="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/media/public/Assets/media/exercises/beginner/SIT-TO-STAND.webm" type="video/webm"> <source src="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/media/public/Assets/media/exercises/beginner/SIT-TO-STAND.mp4" type="video/mp4"> </video> </div> </div> <h3>2. Twist</h3> <p>Reaching across your body, throwing a ball, and chopping wood are all examples of twisting movements.</p> <p>Anything that forces your trunk to rotate or twist are great for your <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/best-oblique-exercises-for-core-strength" rel="noreferrer">obliques</a>, <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/the-best-lower-ab-exercises-you-can-do-at-home/" rel="noreferrer">abs</a>, and <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/best-at-home-exercises-for-lower-back-pain" rel="noreferrer">lower back</a>. Twisting helps reduce the risk of back injuries and carries over to upper and lower body exercises.</p> <p><strong>Beginner functional exercise to try</strong>: <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/27-beginner-bodyweight-exercises-that-get-results/" rel="noreferrer">Russian twists</a></p> <div class="row justify-content-center text-center"> <div class="col-12 col-md-4"> <video class="d-block mx-auto" autoplay="" loop="" muted=""> <source src="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/media/public/Assets/media/exercises/beginner/RUSSIAN-TWIST.webm" type="video/webm"> <source src="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/media/public/Assets/media/exercises/beginner/RUSSIAN-TWIST.mp4" type="video/mp4"> </video> </div> </div> <h3>3. Hinge</h3> <p><i>Hinge? Like a door?</i> Yep! Well, kind of.</p> <p>You may not realize it, but you hinge all the time. Anytime you pick something up, reach down, or bend at the waist, you’re hinging. </p> <p>Hinging exercises always incorporate the <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/5-exercises-for-hip-pain" rel="noreferrer">hips</a>. The ‘hinge’ term is because your upper body is hinging forward, while your center of gravity (hips, <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/glutes-101-best-exercises-for-your-gluteus-maximus/" rel="noreferrer">glutes</a>, core) shifts back, activating the muscles on the back side of your body.</p> <p>Done correctly, hinge movements teaches your spine <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/the-best-erector-spinae-exercises" rel="noreferrer">how to bear weight</a>. Like twisting, hinge exercises <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/best-at-home-exercises-for-lower-back-pain" rel="noreferrer">protect your back from injuries</a> and improve your posture. They also teach your lower posterior chain (the muscles in the back of your legs) to support your <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/best-at-home-exercises-for-lower-back-pain" rel="noreferrer">lower back</a>.</p> <p><b>Beginner functional exercise to try</b>: <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/27-beginner-bodyweight-exercises-that-get-results/" rel="noreferrer">Drinking birds</a></p> <div class="row justify-content-center text-center"> <div class="col-12 col-md-5"> <video class="d-block mx-auto" autoplay="" loop="" muted=""> <source src="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/media/public/Assets/media/exercises/beginner/DRINKING-BIRDS.webm" type="video/webm"> <source src="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/media/public/Assets/media/exercises/beginner/DRINKING-BIRDS.mp4" type="video/mp4"> </video> </div> </div> <h3>4. Pull</h3> <p>Reaching for your morning cup of coffee? There’s a ‘pull’—or at least, you’re using the muscles involved in a pulling exercise.</p> <p>Your <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/latissimus-dorsi" rel="noreferrer">lats</a>, <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/shoulder-workouts-to-build-your-delts" rel="noreferrer">shoulders</a>, and biceps work together to bring things towards your body. Strengthening these muscles keeps your upper back and <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/at-home-exercises-to-strengthen-your-shoulders/" rel="noreferrer">shoulders</a> healthy and makes any sort of labor you do much easier.</p> <p>Pull-ups and rows are common types of pulls, but any exercise that gets your <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/latissimus-dorsi" rel="noreferrer">lats</a> firing and forces your <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/at-home-exercises-to-strengthen-your-shoulders/" rel="noreferrer">shoulders</a> muscles to stabilize involves pulling, too.</p> <p>Remember <i>all</i> exercises start from the core. Even upper body pulling movements require you to stabilize your <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/the-best-lower-ab-exercises-you-can-do-at-home/" rel="noreferrer">abs</a> and <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/best-at-home-exercises-for-lower-back-pain" rel="noreferrer">lower back</a>.</p> <p><b>Beginner functional exercise to try</b>: <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/27-beginner-bodyweight-exercises-that-get-results/" rel="noreferrer">kneeling inchworms</a></p> <div class="row justify-content-center text-center"> <div class="col-12 col-md-5"> <video class="d-block mx-auto" autoplay="" loop="" muted=""> <source src="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/media/public/Assets/media/exercises/beginner/KNEELING-INCHWORMS.webm" type="video/webm"> <source src="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/media/public/Assets/media/exercises/beginner/KNEELING-INCHWORMS.mp4" type="video/mp4"> </video> </div> </div> <h3>5. Push</h3> <p>The opposite of a pull (<i>duh!</i>), pushing objects away from you is equally important. </p> <p><i>Why?</i> It’s functional! Pushing your body off the ground or up from a seated position are both examples. And if you pull too much without doing any pushing, you might develop muscle imbalances, which lead to tight and prone-to-injury muscles and joints.</p> <p>Your triceps, pectorals, and <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/shoulder-workouts-to-build-your-delts" rel="noreferrer">shoulders</a> bear most of the load with pushing exercises. </p> <p>And—you guessed it— push exercises are sneaky core workouts, same as pulling. Without stabilizing your <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/the-best-lower-ab-exercises-you-can-do-at-home/" rel="noreferrer">abs</a> and <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/best-at-home-exercises-for-lower-back-pain" rel="noreferrer">lower back</a>, you’d be unable to generate the force to push yourself away from the floor.</p> <p>Push-ups, after all, would be impossible without a <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/plank-exercises-to-activate-your-core/" rel="noreferrer">solid plank position</a>.</p> <p><b>Beginner functional exercise to try</b>: <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/27-beginner-bodyweight-exercises-that-get-results/" rel="noreferrer">kneeling push-ups</a></p> <div class="row justify-content-center text-center"> <div class="col-12 col-md-4"> <video class="d-block mx-auto" autoplay="" loop="" muted=""> <source src="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/media/public/Assets/media/exercises/beginner/KNEELING-PUSHUP.webm" type="video/webm"> <source src="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/media/public/Assets/media/exercises/beginner/KNEELING-PUSHUP.mp4" type="video/mp4"> </video> </div> </div> <h3>6. Lunge</h3> <p>Lunges are a unilateral exercise, meaning they train one side of your body at a time. These kinds of movements force your core to stabilize in a different way, recruiting your <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/best-oblique-exercises-for-core-strength" rel="noreferrer">obliques</a>, <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/latissimus-dorsi" rel="noreferrer">lats</a>, and serratus muscles to keep you facing forward.</p> <p>These come in handy anytime you need to generate force from an unbalanced position, such as standing with split feet or when down on one knee.</p> <p>And being strong and stable on one leg is vital for another reason: any form of locomotion (<a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/10-reasons-why-walking-is-the-best-exercise" rel="noreferrer">walking</a>, running, and heck, even skipping) requires you to be strong on one leg. So you should probably prioritize strengthening those muscles and <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/3-low-impact-exercises-for-bad-knees" rel="noreferrer">joints</a> in your training.</p> <p><b>Beginner functional exercise to try</b>: <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/27-beginner-bodyweight-exercises-that-get-results/" rel="noreferrer">alternating reverse lunges</a></p> <div class="row justify-content-center text-center"> <div class="col-12 col-md-5"> <video class="d-block mx-auto" autoplay="" loop="" muted=""> <source src="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/media/public/Assets/media/exercises/beginner/ALTERNATING-REVERSE-LUNGES.webm" type="video/webm"> <source src="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/media/public/Assets/media/exercises/beginner/ALTERNATING-REVERSE-LUNGES.mp4" type="video/mp4"> </video> </div> </div> <h3>7. Gait/stride</h3> <p>There’s nothing more functional than walking. Other exercises on this list might get talked about more in the functional fitness world, but don’t overlook walking. It’s an amazing tool for <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/" rel="noreferrer">weight loss</a> and increasing fitness.</p> <p>Walking is one of the <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/10-reasons-why-walking-is-the-best-exercise/" rel="noreferrer">best exercises you can do</a>, because it’s a contralateral movement. This means one side of your body moves forward while the other moves backwards—something that only happens when you walk. It’s a natural human movement that’s <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/everything-to-know-about-low-impact-exercise/" rel="noreferrer">low-impact</a> and even effective for burning fat.</p> <p><b>Beginner functional exercise to try</b>: A <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/10-reasons-why-walking-is-the-best-exercise/" rel="noreferrer">long walk</a>. We recommend <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/10-reasons-why-walking-is-the-best-exercise/" rel="noreferrer">going barefoot</a>!</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/walking-functional-movement-feet-shoes-outdoor-woman-0245.webp" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/walking-functional-movement-feet-shoes-outdoor-woman-0245.jp2" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/walking-functional-movement-feet-shoes-outdoor-woman-0245.jpg"> <img src="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/walking-functional-movement-feet-shoes-outdoor-woman-LR-0245.jpg" class="img-fluid" alt="walking-functional-movement-feet-shoes-outdoor"> </picture> <h2 id="section4">Functional Movements—Wrapping Up</h2> <p>Whether you want to lose weight, get stronger, or relieve pain, these 7 functional movements (combined with a <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/" rel="noreferrer">good diet</a>) form the foundation for an awesome workout routine.</p> <p>They’re more than buzzwords; functional movements are versatile and highly effective tools for your fitness!</p> <h3>Resources</h3> <ol> <li><a target="_blank" href="https://www.healthline.com/health/fitness/functional-fitness-adults#1" rel="nofollow noreferrer">Why Functional Fitness Is Important for Everyone</a></li> <li><a target="_blank" href="https://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/sgr/olderad.htm" rel="nofollow noreferrer">Physical Activity and Health: A Report of the Surgeon General</a></li> </ol> </section> </article>

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