Train Movements, Not Muscles

We move in life.  When doing everyday activities, we use every body part, in every plane of motion.  We sit, we stand, we lie down, we get up, we bend over to pick things up and we twist and rotate our bodies in some way, shape or form.  We move in all planes of motion.

However, when we work out, we tend to go in only one direction and in an extremely limited range of motion.  Meaning, we only run in one direction: straight.  We train on machines, which isolates muscles.  We lift weights for only for certain body parts.  We do random workouts of the day with no structure or purpose other than to sweat.

While these things are definitely a part of the puzzle, they are all things that lead to a limited range of motion when done repeatedly.  This limited range of motion is where all the problems start.  When you just run for example, you tend to overtrain one muscle group while undertraining another.  This causes imbalances in the whole body.  These imbalances can cause things like IT Band syndrome, runner’s knee, hip pain, back pain, shoulder pain, arch pain, etc.  Now, I am not saying don’t run; I am saying train more detailed so you can run more efficiently.

So to avoid these issues, or at the very least, severely reduce these common problems, you should train movement patterns, not muscles.  When you train movement patterns, you are recruiting a whole bunch of muscle groups.  So if you do a push away from the body, you should do a pull towards the body.  In the ideal world, you should train everything from your fingertips to your toes in every workout.  To get back to the running example, most of the time, the quads and calves are overtrained and the hamstrings, glutes, back and core are undertrained.  Plus, most runners don’t do much lateral or rotational work.  These imbalances can lead to severe injuries over time.

That being said, the most important factor is to build your fitness foundation through movement.  Learn to move correctly so that you can move on to the more advanced training methods and push your body to new limits.  If you can’t move in all planes of motion and do movements that are fundamental to begin with, then you are setting yourself up for failure, or even worse, injury.  Things like joint mobility, lateral movement, rotational patterns, general endurance, general strength, coordination, and flexibility are all cornerstones to any successful training program, but are almost always missing.

Believe it or not, our bodies are very much like a car.  You don’t drive your car and expect it to run efficiently without doing maintenance, do you?  Of course you don’t.

How many times do people begin workouts or jump right into an exercise class and don’t even think twice about whether their bodies are actually prepared for such vigorous exercise? You could actually be doing more harm than good.  You might be breaking a sweat and burning calories, but your body is paying the price structurally and physiologically.

Let’s get back to the car analogy.  Your car will still run for a while despite you ignoring the maintenance that needs to be done.  Sooner or later, though, something is bound to happen.  Your body is NO different!

This is why training movements is like doing maintenance to your car.  If you take care of your car, you will have a more efficient and reliable car.  You are limiting the risk of breaking down and having accidents.

If you train movements, you will have a more efficient and reliable body. This translates into a fitter body, and one that has a reduced risk of nagging pain or potential injury.

Here is a simple dynamic movement routine to help get you started.  I recommend 5 minutes of a general cardio-based activity to get your core body temperature up and get some blood flowing into your muscles.  Things like running, biking, rowing, jumping rope, etc.  Then onto a well-rounded dynamic warm-up routine that encompasses all planes of motion.  Here is one example:

Do each movement for 50 feet:

  1. Cross Over Toe Touch (hamstrings)
  2. Leg Sweep (hamstrings)
  3. Leg Cradle (balance/hip/glutes)
  4. Walking Quad Pull
  5. Butt kickers (quads)
  6. Charlie’s Angels (hip flexors/lumbar extension)
  7. Fast high knees (running mechanics)
  8. Lunge with rotation
  9. Backwards lunge
  10. Skater lunge with external hip rotation
  11. Lateral lunge with internal hip rotation
  12. Lateral shuffle
  13. Grapevine


Todd M. Cambio, CSCS is a strength and conditioning coach that specializes in sports performance training and obstacle course/mud run racing. He believes in training the whole body, from your fingertips to your toes, using body weight, kettlebells and even strongman equipment to reach your goals. Todd is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) through the National Strength and Conditioning Association who holds numerous certifications including: Certified Spartan Group X (SGX) Obstacle Course Coach, StrongFirst Level II (SFG II) Kettlebell Instructor, and Functional Movement Screen (FMS), as well as being a published author and presenter for Lebert Fitness.  

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