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Fit 4 Life | Foundational movement [Part II]

Published:Monday | February 18, 2019 | 12:00 AMMarvin Gordon/Contributor
In the realm of basic movement patterns, push refers to the upper-body action of applying a force against a load to move it away from the body or vice versa.

Training basic movement patterns provide a healthy foundation for exercise and everyday performance. It builds fitness while improving joint health and promoting exercise safety. If one can execute the primal movement patterns proficiently, the chances of injury are greatly reduced.

Here are a few more basic movement patterns we should all aim to master:


In the realm of basic movement patterns, push refers to the upper-body action of applying a force against a load to move it away from the body or vice versa.

There are two variations of push: horizontal (to the front) and vertical (overhead).

Stability is important in the upper-body push pattern. The movement requires many joints and muscles to work together to produce the force necessary for safe motion. Muscles such as the spinal erectors, trapezius, or even the pectoralis may be required to provide a strong, stable platform for a safe and effective pushing movement. 

Well-thought-out progression is, therefore, recommended for training pushing movements. 


Beginners should start with closed-chain bodyweight horizontal movements – pushups – where possible. These will allow you to build the stability necessary for more advanced movements such as the bench press or overhead presses.

COMMON VARIATIONS: Pushups, bench press, shoulder press.


Pull is the opposite of push – moving a load towards the body. As with the push pattern, there are two main variations: vertical and horizontal. 

The pull pattern is related to push in another important way: training pulling movements help to build the stability necessary to safely perform – or, more importantly, improve – pushing movements.


Rows, such as the single-arm dumbbell row and the bent over row should, ideally, be used to master the horizontal pulling movement before moving on to the more advanced vertical movements such as pull-ups. Deadlifts are another important exercise for building pulling strength.

COMMON VARIATIONS: Single-arm dumbbell row, barbell bent over row, inverted row, pull-up, lat pulldown, face pull.


The twist movement pattern is often overlooked, even by fitness trainers. It covers the rotational movement of the body.

There are two kinds to twisting movement: 

• Rotational: the action of twisting the body. 

• Anti-rotational: the action of preventing twisting.

Training these types of movement improves core stability. 

COMMON VARIATIONS: Wood Chops, Medicine ball throws, Russian twists.


Training individual movement patterns is good but in everyday life, we use them in combination. The gait/combination movement pattern covers a range of movements from walking to sprinting to carrying. It is about maintaining control over the body during dynamic movements which combine multiple movement patterns. This pattern must be trained to maximise training gains.


Start small. Master movements such as walking and jogging, before attempting exercises such as sprinting or carrying.

COMMON VARIATIONS: Running, sprinting, farmers walk.

- Marvin Gordon is a fitness coach; email:;