Movement Based Training: 5 Elements to Your Workouts

The majority of your workouts should revolve around movements.  Times when we don’t follow this protocol should be due to specific goals we have – goals which cannot be attained though movement based training.  For example, take a bodybuilder who is training for hypertrophy; their emphasis will be on isolation exercises in order to develop certain muscles independently.

Training movements through compound exercises will most definitely suffice for the average Joe in the gym.  Most males want to put on a bit of mass and perhaps shed some fat.  Many females want to ‘tone up’ and lose a few pounds as well. Compound exercises will satisfy these desires.  They will also have more carryover in terms of daily living and athletics. Someone who squats and deadlifts while in the gym will benefit more from their training sessions than someone who curls and crunches their body into a permanent state of flexion.




Hip hinge



Stabilization and twisting exercises are important for engaging the core and may often be labelled as key elements of training.  However, if the above five movements are carried out correctly, the core will always be firing away.


Squatting properly takes a lot of strength in the legs and trunk, and requires substantial stabilization of the upper body.  Squatting with a barbell should be worked up to and isn’t something to jump into. Everyday in my gym I see people squatting with barbells when they shouldn’t be. Their heels are lifting from the ground, their knees aren’t tracking over their feet, there is a valgus (inwards) collapse of the knees, and they lack extension in the thoracic spine. These are just a few of the major no-no’s related to squatting. Even if one of these mistakes is present, the form should be corrected (if possible), or the individual should drop down to a squatting movement of lesser difficulty. Squat Variations

Bodyweight squat

Goblet squat

Box squat

Jump squat

Barbell back squat

Barbell front squat

Overhead squat


 Like the squat, a lunge is a pretty primal movement and should be included in your workouts.  As soon as you assume t he split stance, you will recognize the instability, which in turn limits the amount of weight you will be able to perform the given exercise with.









Lunge variations

Forward lunge

Reverse lunge

Side Lunge

Walking Lunges

Rear Foot Elevated Split Squats

Hip Hinge

Any time you pick something up, you should be hinging at the hips.  The hinge is another basic, primitive movement, which is why it has stuck around in training programs and will always be there.  The deadlift is a form of hinging and rivals the squat in terms of practical carryover.  Both are considered ‘big lifts’ and are routinely tested in weightlifting. Hip hinge Variations


Single leg deadlift

Kettlebell Swing

Cable Pull Through


Pushing movements run rampant in the gym.  A lot of guys want a bigger, aesthetically pleasing chest, so they bench three times a week.  There are alternatives that’ll save your shoulders and help break out of plateaus. I did a post a while back on how to improve your bench press and in that post there are quite a few alternatives to the conventional bench press. Check it out HERE. Push Variations


Barbell bench press

Dumbbell Bench press

Incline bench press

Floor press

Shoulder press


Cable chest press


We like to push or press things in the gym so it only makes sense to pull as well.  Pulling exercises promote thoracic spine extension, scapular retraction, and are important in maintaining efficient shoulder function.  Males in particular love to press weight in the gym and don’t do enough pulling. The importance of pulling and the suggested ratio of pushes to pulls is again explained in the above article.

Pull Variations

Seated row

Standing single arm row (cable machine)

Dumbbell single arm row Barbell row

Chin up

Pull up


Training these movements is great if you can’t get to the gym very often. If you can only go twice a week, you can hit your whole body implementing these compound movements. It’s silly to do split routines (i.e. chest back day) if you aren’t in the gym at least four times per week.

Train with purpose and don’t be a wimp.  If you aren’t sweating while doing these big movements, you aren’t pushing it enough and you won’t get the results.


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2 Comments on “Movement Based Training: 5 Elements to Your Workouts”

  1. Soc August 16, 2012 at 1:09 am #

    John Broz has argued that lunging is not a true basic human movement and i agree tbh. Squatting is the most natural and you can relax for hours at the bottom of a squat performing numerous tasks. Even though we CAN lunge, doesnt mean we should imo.

    Dan John breaks the movements down to squat, hinge, press, pull, load carry (farmers walk, yoke etc). Carrying a load over a distance is more basic and far more useful than a lunge.

    Great article though, if more people trained movements instead of muscles the world would be a more physically fit place.

  2. Jeremy Smith August 16, 2012 at 12:11 pm #

    thanks for sharing Soc. If I were to drop one of the movements listed, it would be the lunge. I think the squat and hip hinge take presidence. Loaded carries and movements incorporating stabilisation are important and I was debating including them as well.

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