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.