The 4 Movements That Must Be In Every Gym Program

In my last article, I discussed and outlined two important factors and reasons for simplifying your gym program. If you missed it, you can check it out HERE.

Today, I want to detail the four movement patterns which should be included in every single gym program (including yours), regardless of your goal.

When you use the exercises contained in each of these categories, you can work your whole body, maximise every single training session and ultimately, get better results with fewer exercises!

These four movements will help to stabilise all of your major joints, strengthen the most amount of muscle groups at one time, burn a significant amount of calories, improve your coordination and also develop confidence in some of the most powerful exercises in the gym.

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I have found tremendous success by breaking down exercises into the four categories below and will explain why they are essential to include in your program.

Before I cover their major benefits and perks, I want to outline what the four movement patterns are.

  1. Push

  2. Pull

  3. Hinge

  4. Squat

After many years of trial and error, creating, testing and personally trying different training programs, I am confident in saying that these four types of movements yield the best results.

The reason for this is that you get to target, strengthen and develop all of your major muscle groups and joints by using one exercise from each category. (Plus the framework is really simple to use and follow.)

Each category allows you to work a different part of your body. But, put together, all four allow you to work your whole body and leave virtually no area untouched.

I will now break down each category and provide you with a list of exercises which you can select from, to create a program which is in line with your goals and works around any restrictions or limitations you may have.

1. Push



Push movements are exercises which involve you pushing or pressing something away from your body.

Movements from this category can be performed with a number of different tools, but it's important to understand the differences when I refer to horizontal and vertical positions.

The classification of these exercises is dependent on where you are pressing, relative to your torso. Which I explain in more detail in the video below.

Push exercises



There are also some exercises which are a hybrid, or an "in between" line of push.

An example of this would be a landmine press, where you aren't pressing directly overhead (vertical), or straight away from your chest (horizontal), but somewhere in between those two positions -- diagonally.

2. Pull

Lat Pulldown

Lat Pulldown

Pull movements are exercises which involve you pulling or bringing something towards your body. These are also classified as either vertical or horizontal, depending on the line of pull.

Pull exercises



You can see that there are many more options in the horizontal category, compared to the vertical one.

This is actually a really good thing, as most people need to increase the amount of mid to upper back work -- which heavily contributes to healthy shoulders and good posture -- rather than just working on the lats, which are heavily used in lat pulldowns and chin-ups/pull-ups.

3. Hinge

Barbell Deadlift

Barbell Deadlift

Hinge movements are hip-dominant exercises, which will target and strengthen what is known as your 'posterior chain'.

This is the group of muscles on the back side of your body (posterior) -- namely the hamstrings, glutes and lower back group.

Hinge exercises

This category of movements allows you a lot of different options depending on your experience and strength level.

The main point I would like to make regarding hinge movements is that you want your hips to move backwards.

It isn't a squat where you go up-down, or simply where you just bend over.

It is more of a backward-forward motion, caused by pushing your hips back.

Your lower back will be involved with these exercises, but they shouldn't always be the main muscle group working. It's important that you learn how to hip hinge correctly, so your lower back can help, but not do all of the lifting.

The goal here is to try and engage your hamstrings and glutes.

4. Squat

Bodyweight Squat

Bodyweight Squat

Squat movements are knee-dominant exercises which generally target and use your quads and glutes, along with some hamstrings.

The exercises in this category will be performed by bending and moving your knees.

You ARE allowed to bend and load your knees -- contrary to some beliefs. That is actually their prime function, to bend and straighten your leg.

Squat exercises

I have included lunges, step-ups and up-downs in this category as they are knee-dominant exercises.

Yes, I know and do understand they aren't squats, per se, but they still fit into this category as they engage similar muscle groups and use the same joints.

My recommendation for what to do with these exercises is this: Pick one exercise from each category and voilà, you have a simple and easy-to-follow gym program.

  • You work your chest, shoulders and triceps via push movements.

  • Pull movements strengthen your mid-back, lats, biceps and grip.

  • The hinge exercises cover your hamstrings, glutes, lower back and abs.

  • Squat movements hit your quads, hamstrings, glutes, hips and abs.

That's really all you need in a gym program.

If you can perform those exercises at a really high intensity and on a regular basis, you're pretty well covered!

You may want to include some targeted work for your core and also some cardio to improve your heart function, but that shouldn't take you too long to complete.

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Alternatively, you can do it on a different day.

Side Note: Cardio also acts a way to speed up the recovery process, by increasing blood-flow and removing waste products from your body.

So, if you do find yourself feeling stiff, sore and struggling to move, due to muscle soreness, then some cardio might do you good!

Cardio will also help you in the gym, by making your heart more efficient at pumping blood around your body.

There you have it.

A blueprint to put together a very simple gym program, which is designed to maximise your results.

There is some science to gym training -- making your body more resilient, building muscle and losing body fat -- but it isn't rocket science.

When you simplify your gym program and start focusing on the quality of your reps and the intensity at which you do them, good things will happen.

If you have any questions on this topic, please comment below. I love geeking out and talking about gym programs, I could do it all day!

Until next time,

Stick to the 4 movement patterns.



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