How to Create a Training Program Using Movement Patterns 

When creating a well-rounded strength training program, it’s important to know the basic movement patterns associated with different major muscle groups in order to develop a balanced physique. Core movement patterns that cover the entire body include:

  • Squats – Quads and Glutes
  • Hinges – Glutes and Hamstrings
  • Horizontal Hip Extension – Glutes and Hamstrings 
  • Vertical Push – Shoulders and Triceps
  • Horizontal Push – Chest and Shoulders
  • Vertical Pull – Back and Biceps
  • Horizontal Pull – Back and Biceps
  • Carry/Anti-Rotational – Core and Grip 
  • Isolations – Various Muscle Groups 

The reason why it is important to learn these movement patterns in replace of only learning fundamental exercises is because different muscle groups can be developed in different ways by training them at different muscle lengths and in different movement planes. For example, the glutes complex controls hip extension, hip external rotation, and hip abduction (moving the leg away from the middle of the body). Knowing this information will help determine which exercises to choose to target and fully develop the glutes, if that is part of your physique goals. 

Another reason why it is important to learn about movement patterns is to develop a symmetrically strong body in order to avoid muscular imbalances that can ultimately lead to injury, especially in the case of chronically overdoing the same exercises. Overuse injuries can be common amongst people who continue to practice the same exercises chronically (especially when performed with improper technique) and it may be beneficial to change your training program overtime to continue to progress in strength and size as well as avoid overuse injuries. It should be noted, however, that without the presence of injury, it is safe to perform similar, if not, the same exercises on a week-to-week basis as long as proper progression and technique is used regularly. 

Depending on the frequency of your training program, it is recommended to choose exercises from each of the above listed movement patterns to perform at least once per week (likely more) to promote the proper stimulus needed to get stronger and promote muscular hypertrophy (muscle growth). Note that some exercises may be more taxing to the body than others, so it is important to structure your workouts with that in mind. Compound lifts like deadlifts, squats, and bench press involve multiple joints and muscle groups and typically create a lot of muscle damage and general fatigue. Spreading these exercises out throughout the week and placing them at the beginning of your workout will be best to receive the most benefits from these exercises.

Exercises for the Squat Movement Pattern:

  • Barbell, Dumbbell, Banded, Hack Squat 
  • Leg Press 
  • Split Squats (Bulgarian, Standing, Elevated) 
  • Walking, Dumbbell, Barbell Lunges 

Exercises for the Hinge Movement Pattern:

  • Deadlift (Conventional, Romanian, Single Leg) 
  • Good Morning 

Exercises for the Horizontal Hip Extension Movement Pattern:

  • Hip Thrusts/Glute Bridge 
  • 45-Degree Hyperextensions
  • Reverse Hyperextensions

Exercises for the Vertical Push Movement Pattern: 

  • Dumbbell, Barbell, Cable, Kettlebell, Banded Overhead Press 
  • One Arm Press (All Variations Listed Above, More Core Stabilization) 
  • Barbell, Weighted Bar Landmine Press 

Exercises for the Horizontal Push Movement Pattern: 

  • Dumbbell, Barbell, Cable Chest Press 
  • One Arm Press (All Variations Listed Above, More Core Stabilization)
  • Dumbbell, Barbell, Cable Incline Press
  • Dumbbell, Barbell, Cable Decline Press
  • Floor Press (Smaller Range of Motion) 
  • Cable Fly 

Exercises for Vertical Pull Movement Pattern: 

  • Assisted, Unassisted, Weighted Pull-Up/Chin-Up
  • Cable, Machine Lat Pulldown
  • Dumbbell Lat Pullover 

Exercises for Horizontal Pull Movement Pattern:

  • Dumbbell, Barbell, Cable Row
  • Barbell, Dumbbell Seal Row 
  • Cable, Banded Seated Row
  • Aussie (Inverted) Row 
  • Dumbbell, Cable Rear Delt Row

Exercises for Carry and Anti-Rotational Core Movement Pattern:

Carry Movement Pattern:

  • Farmer’s Carry
  • Suitcase Carry 
  • Front-Loaded Carry
  • Overhead Carry
  • Dumbbell, Barbell, Kettlebell, Plate Marches 

Anti-Rotational Movement Pattern:

  • Birddog/Deadbug
  • Pallof Press 
  • Single-Arm Carry (All Single-Arm Movements) 
  • Dumbbell, Kettlebell, Banded Plank Pulls

Isolation Exercises:

Isolations are exercises that can be used to develop specific muscle groups that may be lagging in size and/or strength. These exercises vary from upper body movements like overhead tricep extensions that develop the long head of the tricep and leg extensions to develop the quads without the involvement of the glutes. Isolation exercises are great for people who wish to develop a very balanced physique but are not always necessary to include in your program if you are not concerned with aesthetics or specific muscle groups. Compound exercises should make up the majority of your training program using isolation exercises only to fill any gaps within your training plan. 

How to Structure Your Workout Week Using Movement Patterns

The following is a great way to structure a week of training using all of the movement patterns in a 3-day training microcycle (one week of training) for a novice lifter whose main goal is to gain strength and size. 

Monday – Day 1 Full Body

Dumbbell Squat 

Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift 

Dumbbell Chest Press 

Body Weight Inverted Row 

Kettlebell Farmer’s Carry 

Wednesday – Day 2 Full Body 

Dumbbell Shoulder Press

Cable Lat Pulldown

Barbell Hip Bridge

Bodyweight Walking Lunges 

Kettlebell March

Friday – Day 3 Full Body 

Assisted Chin Ups

Dumbbell Chest Press

Dumbbell Split Squat

Seated Cable Row 

Bodyweight 45-Degree Hyperextension 

This is an example of using a variety of the basic movement patterns throughout the week on a 3-day per week program. Exercise selection can be changed depending on how your body feels on the day of the program. As previously mentioned, some exercises may leave your body feeling more fatigued than others so it is important to have access to a library of exercises to exchange for when certain exercises are not able to be performed. Knowing these general movement patterns alone will allow you to start experimenting with different exercises and place you in a position to develop a more well-rounded and enjoyable training program. Need help with the specifics of intensity, volume, and duration within your workout? Check out my previous two blog posts regarding exercise program design and training goals. 

Article Sources and Additional Program Design References:

Anti-rotational Exercises:

Weighted Carry Exercises:

Exercise Library & Program Design Quick Start Guide:

Program Design Certification Via N1 Education: 


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