We have lost focus on the most primitive and basic movements and turned our exercise regimens into gut-it-out super drills that end up in injury and time out of sport. At the most basic of levels, each one of our goals should be focused first and foremost on function.

Instead of high volume and how much, perhaps a switch to dissolving stacking fitness on top of dysfunction. We should all be using our fitness time getting our minds in our bodies to make sure our bodies are 100% functional and able to perform all the movements that are necessary in our daily lives and for our active lifestyle.

Exercise for your desired lifestyle.

For example, if you play in a recreational tennis team on the weekends, you want to make sure that your body is able to adequately handle sprinting, jumping, throwing, getting ground balls, and swinging the racket. Or if you are parent, you need to be able to pick up your children from bent-over positions, rotate with them and then place them in their car seat (again in a bent-over position).

Lastly, if you are a runner, you need to be able to have full range of motion in your leg muscles to allow for running hills and encountering sudden changes of direction or uneven terrain. Runners also need to understand the mechanics of their feet.  We stick our feet in cinder block shoes and inhibit the intrinsic muscles of the feet and in time these muscles turn into cement and forget they have any function at all.

Begin to look at your lifestyle and activities and see what functions you need to be able to perform on a regular basis. From there, you should start thinking about those movements in terms not of their specifics (throwing, sprinting, etc.), but in terms of the movement patterns they fit into. Every movement our bodies perform can be broken down into a series of one of seven movement patterns.

Seven Primal Movement Patterns for Full-Body Strength

  1. Squat
  2. Lunge
  3. Push
  4. Pull
  5. Bend
  6. Twist
  7. Gait

For example, a swing of a tennis racket would be broken down into a lunge, a twist and a push. If you are throwing or swinging and one of these patterns is performed incorrectly, then this will force your body to compensate with the remaining patterns, often leading to injury.

For example, if a softball player has weak, tight obliques or a locked up rib cage, twisting movement patterns will be weak or reduced, then the athlete would have to put far more reliance on the  shoulder and the push pattern in order to get the distance out of the mechanics. Such an example is the exact reason that many ball (tennis, soft ball, baseball, golf) players obtain shoulder injuries—lack of function within the entire movement chain (or within one or more of their primal patterns).

Focus on function.

Every single one of us should have general functionality in each one of these patterns just to get through normal daily life (loading groceries, lifting boxes of printer paper, running to catch the subway). But for those of you who have to perform these movements at full speed (athletes, parents, etc.) it is vital that your bodies are trained to handle them correctly.

With this list of the most used patterns, I recommend going through testing of yourself in every pattern (or have someone skilled in the CKFMS-Certified Kettlebell Functional Movement System). Find which of the patterns seem easy and which need work. Someone that is skilled in this type of assessment can help you work your system towards its top form.

It is vital that you are fully functional, not only in each of these patterns, but in each of the patterns while under max speed or max strength. Let it be your mission to stomp out stacking fitness on top of disfunction.