Breakdown of the Basic Functional Movements


It’s no secret that functional movement is the foundation for managing a healthy and active lifestyle. That’s why many health professionals program workouts focused on improving specific movement patterns used during a typical day. This blog will share a breakdown of the Basic Functional Movements so you can understand your programs with greater clarity.

Not everyone needs to be on a functional movement program depending on their goals, however, if your goals include improving or maintaining your activity and health; then this may be a helpful approach for you to utilize progressing forward.


Everyone has done a squat in their life before, and there are numerous techniques to doing a squat. There isn’t one squat variation that’s necessarily better than the other because each individual’s anatomy is slightly deviated from average. As such, each person must find their own slightly unique way to squat that works for both their body and the task at hand. Think about when you stand up compared to when you lift a box or jump off of the ground.

All three examples are squat variations, but probably feel marginally different because each task demands slight changes in the squat movement pattern to best accommodate a person’s anatomy. For that reason, you shouldn’t practice only one form of squat; but multiple variations such as a sumo squat, kettlebell squat, or even goblet squat.

These squatting exercises should mostly target the quadriceps; but also engage the abdominals, glutes, hamstrings, and hip extensors as well to finish standing up.


When you hear the word “hinge”, think about bending over to touch your toes. The action of flexing and extending at the hip is what health professionals refer to as hinging; it’s usually a more complex pattern than the squat because it also factors in hamstring flexibility can be a common limiting factor for untrained individuals.

Nonetheless, we can often compensate for a lack of hamstring flexibility by integrating the hinge with the squat. In other words, think about what it feels like to bend over a fence to pick up a box compared to bending over to tie your shoes or jumping over a big puddle.

The difference is that you bend your knees more to tie your shoes or jump because there’s nothing to prevent it. Needless to say, hinging also has various forms and can slightly vary in technique depending on an individual’s anatomy. Try sumo deadlifts, kettlebell swings, or single-leg Romanian deadlifts as variations to integrate into your program. These hinging exercises should mostly target the gluteals, hamstrings, and hip extensors, with the quadriceps as a supplemental muscle group.


Pulling is often broken down further into both vertical and horizontal pulling. This is because the two actions can work for different major muscle groups; therefore it is recommended to cover all of the major muscle groups at least twice a week.

Vertical pulling is the same as doing a pull-up or closing a window. On the other hand, horizontal pulling is like starting a lawnmower or opening a drawer.

Biomechanically, both variations should generally cover the biceps, latissimus dorsi, upper back, and rotator cuff muscle groups; however, engage them in different ways to help replicate all the different pulling actions we perform on a daily basis. You can try variations such as incline prone rows, or lat pulldowns to satisfy the pulling functional movement pattern.


Pushing can be thought of as two separate actions just like pulling vertically and horizontally. Think of vertical pushing as putting a heavy box on the top shelf or throwing a baseball into the sky. Meanwhile, horizontal pushing is like throwing a punch or pushing a heavy door shut.

In general, these movements will typically cover the triceps, chest, deltoids, and scapular muscles. But again, vertical and horizontal pushing exercises engage those muscles in unique ways to prepare and protect our upper body from injury. 


Gait is a fancy term for walking mechanics and is often most related to core and hip strength. However, it can also involve full-body stability. For example, carrying a suitcase through the airport is a great example of gait and can be replicated in the gym by doing a farmer’s carry.

Walking with a weight load to the side of you requires slightly different muscles to maintain a proper posture than walking with a weight load in front of you or above you. One may require more lateral core muscles as opposed to posterior core muscles; this is why it’s important to cycle through multiple variations of gait and supplement other core exercises into the workout as well.

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