Movements Not Muscles


Movements Not Muscles


You send your cars to the mechanic, you send your kids to tutors, you enlist advisors for your finances, yet you have full capabilities of creating your own workout program??  Get real.  Your program consists of bench press, lat pull-down, bicep curls, and triceps push downs.   3 sets of 10 for everything, rinse and repeat every day, and you wonder why you never make any progress…

Everybody should look in a mirror, and train what you CAN’T see more than what you can see.  What does that mean?  It means your back is probably weaker than it should be, your glutes are underdeveloped, and you don’t train your hamstrings.  You probably look like a bulldog.  Your shoulders are rounded forward, you can’t fully extend your elbows, and you feel like you’re choking if you put your hands over your head.

Now don’t get all pissed off yet; you’re working hard and doing better than those who aren’t in the gym, but you could be getting more bang for your buck if you put your hard work towards working smart and working hard.

Your body doesn’t move in muscles.  It moves in patterns.  So train your body in movement patterns.  Now that probably offended a lot of bodybuilders, so let’s dive into that a little deeper… If you are a competitive bodybuilder and are looking solely for aesthetics and symmetry, then by all means, isolate and train the shit out of the muscle group.  But get ready to dedicate at least 2 hours per night in the gym, and completely lock down your nutrition, give up all restaurants, and drinking alcohol.

But if you are looking to get strong, look like you work out, move better, be pain free, and still enjoy a burger and a beer, keep on reading…

There are 4 essential movement patterns, and if you read anything Dan John puts out, there’s 4+1. So if you’ve been living under a rock for the past couple years and haven’t read his work, start. (You’re welcome).

Push, pull, hinge, bend at the knee, add the 5th, and call it the core (although I’m not in love with the term).  If you are under the Dan John school of thought, the 5th is loaded carries.  Let’s break this down by category…



The great thing about these patterns is that they are very simple.  A pushing pattern simply means to push something away from you or to push yourself away from something else.  There are two pushes…. horizontal and vertical.  Now going back to you looking like a bull dog, you should put less emphasis on pushing and focus more on pulling, but a good sound program will have both.

Horizontal:  Bench press, dumbbell press, push ups, 1 arm dumbbell bench, cable press, etc.

Vertical: military press, push press, 1/2 kneeling press, handstand push ups, etc.



Pulling movements simply mean, pull something towards your body or pull your body towards something else.  Pulling is underutilized by the majority of people in the gym. Your back musculature goes back up to the mirror test.. you can’t see your back facing a mirror, so you should probably train more pulls than pushes.  A lot of really smart people say 2:1 pull to push ratio just to be safe.  Just like pressing, there are two variations…horizontal and vertical.

Horizontal:  1 arm row, seated cable row (but stand your lazy ass up, you already sit too much) 1 arm cable row, and probably the best thing you can do for your scapular health are ring rows.

Vertical: Lat pull downs (don’t be lazy and stand up), X-pull downs, pull ups, chin ups.  If you are a pull up ninja, stop doing so many reps, and try adding external loads for fewer reps.



This is single handedly the biggest movement pattern missed by the majority of gym-goers.  The hinge is a movement that is initiated through the hips.  With the amount of time people sit down, people forget how to use their asses.  Well luckily there are ways to wake them up…

There are numerous ways to train the hip hinge movement, but first, you need to be able to do it properly.  This means with a flat back.  Start by using a dowel that is in contact with the back of your head, mid back, and backside.  Then push your butt backwards until you are at about 45 degrees.

Now there is another thing we need to take into consideration when we are going to train the hinging pattern.  You need to be able to touch your toes.  This is something you need to do on a daily basis, if you have a job where you can’t wear flip flops and have to tie your shoes every day.  If you can’t touch your toes, you need to Google the name Michael Mullin, or any other PRI expert, and start with that before anything else.  But that is a whole different can of worms to dive into.

For this article, let’s assume you can touch your toes and you can do a hip hinge with a PVC pipe or dowel…

Hinge: Deadlift, trap bar deadlift (it’s a hybrid movement), RDL, kettlebell swing variations, single leg deadlift, hip thrust.


Knee Dominant

Knee dominant movements are movements in which you are bending at your knees.  This movement can be done with both legs on the ground, or with only one.  Again, these patterns are very simple, bend at your knees.

Knee Dominant: squats, lunges, split squats, rear foot elevated split squat, pistol squat.



When most people hear the word core training, they think of thousands of sit ups, crunches, and those useless side bend things.  Well hopefully this will teach you how to truly create core strength. If you are looking for the aesthetics of a 6-pack, lower your body fat %.

First off, think of anti movement for this one.  Your core is made to resist movement, not create movement.  When people fail to stabilize their core, they typically end up rotating with their lumbar spine (which isn’t made to rotate) and end up with back pain.  For simplicity, think of Dan John’s loaded carries as the Core’s awesome +1 date.

Anti-core training

Anti-(Lateral)Flexion-  this is where the loaded carries play a huge role. Farmers carries, 1 arm farmers carries, X-Walks, bottoms up kettlebell carries, rack carries. Essentially carrying any external load will cause you to start to hunch over (flexion).  Resist that feeling, and stay tall.

Anti-Rotation-  Pallof Press variations have to be your go to here.

Anti-Extension-  Swiss ball stir the pots, ab wheel roll outs, body saws. Or any plank variation.


Putting it all together..

Ok, great.  You learned all of the movement patterns and now have some ideas of what those patterns look like. Now what?  Put them all together into a badass workout. Here’s an example of a 3 day split.

      Day 1

Push- Vertical

Hip- Bilateral Variation

Core- 2 Hand Carry

Mobility–  Upper Body Stretch/Mobility Drill

Pull- Horizontal

Knee- Single Leg

Core- Anti- Extension

Mobility- Lower Body Stretch/Mobility Drill

        Day 2

Push- Horizontal

Hip- Single Leg

Core- 1 Hand Carry

Mobility–  Upper Body Stretch/Mobility Drill

Pull-  Vertical

Knee- Bilateral

Core- Anti-Rotation

Mobility–  Lower Body Stretch/Mobility Drill

       Day 3

Push- 1 Arm  Vertical

Hip- Bilateral Variation

Core-  Loaded Carry (Waiter’s Walks, X-Walk, Bottoms-Up Walk)

Mobility–  Upper Body Stretch/Mobility Drill

Pull-  Horizontal

Knee- Single Leg

Core- Anti-Extension

Mobility–  Lower Body Stretch/Mobility Drill


If you have any other questions about movement patterns or setting up your own workout.  Contact for more information.


Let The Kids Play!


This post is an add on to a shorter column I was asked to write for The First Tee of NH.  The First Tee is a great youth golf program that aims to help young golfers fall in love with the game of golf, but more importantly they try to instill several lifelong lessons that translate into life outside of sports.

I love the game of golf, but never played for a team or competitively in tournaments.  I just play for fun.  I was given my first set of clubs as a bright eyed 3rd grader by my best friend’s father.  Luckily, he was a lefty too.  He also set me up with one lesson from the local pro, and after that, off I went to figure it out on my own.  Several of my friends played competitive golf in youth tournaments (some of which I caddied) and continued to compete all the way through high school.  I loved football too much to play on the golf team, so I only played with them for fun.  But when you play with people who are better than you,  there is only one thing to do….FIND A WAY TO GET BETTER!  As we got older, they got better, and I got stronger. The only reason I was able to hang with them on the course was because I could hit the ball further.  I continue to play golf today, and have gotten a little bit better, holding a handicap in the single digits, I still don’t have the touch that my friends do, but I can still hit the ball further, and give myself a fighting chance because of that. 

I guess that was just a long intro into getting to the point that because I played other sports, and am athletic, I was able to draw on previous athletic experiences to “figure out” my own style of golf game.  Nowadays youngsters are “playing” less and less and participating in year long single sports more and more.  Tremendous growth can be attained by playing.  Not the playing that happens while on organized teams but rather the type of play that happens when in the backyard with buddies or on a playground where the rules and teams are made up by the kids without the help or instruction of adults. 

Huge motor development growth occurs when adolescents are subjected to a vast array of athletic situations such as running, jumping, climbing, playing tag, crawling, somersaulting, wrestling and many more.  Just because your child plays on 3 different travel teams throughout the year doesn’t mean they have the motor control, strength, or coordination to be a resilient athlete who will be less susceptible to over-use and non-contact injuries.  Adults are stopping huge growth in athleticism, self-confidence, and self-worth because they are hovering over top of their children and not letting them explore movement, fail, figure it out for themselves and creating the success on their own. 

let the kids play

So what can we do to combat this?  LET THE KIDS PLAY!  Let them make up games, and teams, let them climb trees, skin their knees, try as many different sports as possible and have self guided discovery.  As adults we try and make things easier for children, and we may be handcuffing them to gain some of the best learning experiences they will get in their lifetimes.  Failure isn’t a death sentence, on the contrary, it will allow the kids to learn what doesn’t work, what ways are faster, what ways are harder, and what they enjoy the most.  Let exercise, activity, and play become a lifelong journey.  By creating the healthy habit of play as a child, we are setting them up for a life of health, wellness, and curiosity. 

5 Core Exercises You Should Be Doing


If you want washboard abs, get your nutrition locked down.  If you want actual core strength keep on reading..

Washboard abs without core strength is like a brand new tire without any tire pressure (paraphrasing from Dan John).  The ability to create internal pressure is hugely important in not only lifting but also in sports performance.  With that being said:

The mindset behind core training is shifting to “anti-core” training. Your core is meant to be stable, not to be moving. It is important to be able to resist motion.

So ditch the Russian twists and crunches and start incorporating these exercises when you’re in the gym if you want to take your core strength to the next level.

  1. Roll Outs think about keeping a straight line from your knees to your hips to your shoulders. Keep your back flat, and don’t let your core sag downward.  To make this movement easier, start by using a Swiss ball, progressing from there would be an ab wheel with a limited range of motion like in the video above.
  2. Loaded Carries–  pick up two heavy kettlebells, or two dumbbells and go for a walk.  Keep the best posture you can, and brace your core.  A very strong person would be able to carry their bodyweight (1/2 in each hand) for the length of a football field.
  3. Palloff Presses-  get into a 1/2 kneeling position, with your inside knee down and position your body perpendicular to the cable machine. Have the handle at mid-chest height. Keep shoulders and hips square and press both hands away from your body.  Make sure you do a set facing each direction.
  4. Swiss Ball Stir the Pots- start by holding a low plank on a Swiss ball.  From there, keeping legs straight and back flat, rotate your arms in a circular motion.  Make sure to do a set clockwise and counter clockwise.  The bigger the circle, the harder it’ll be.  A wider stance with your legs will make this easier.
  5. Body Saws-  Using a set of floor sliders, or a towel on a wooden floor, start in a low plank position with your toes on the sliders.  Move your body backwards without compensating the plank position.  For a more challenging version, perform in a push up position or by lifting one foot off the ground.

For more tips and tricks about training and sports performance, make sure to check back in for more information or email me at