In the world of fitness and health, understanding and mastering functional movement patterns is critical. These movements reflect our natural motion, offering a roadmap for how our bodies are designed to move in everyday life. Each of us has strengths and weaknesses within these patterns, which can influence our fitness progress and recovery from injury. As an example, my strongest and most resilient pattern is the upper body pull.
What Are the 7 Functional Movement Patterns
The 7 primary functional movement patterns include:
1. Hinge: Movements where you bend at the hips, like during deadlifts.
2. Squat: Lowering and raising the body through bending the knees and hips, like in a classic squat.
3. Lunge: Stepping forward, backward, or sideways to lower your body, commonly seen in lunges.
4. Push: Any motion where you push an object away from you, such as during a push-up or bench press.
5. Pull: Movements where you're pulling something towards you, like during a pull-up or row.
6. Rotate: Any movement where you're rotating your body, often seen in sports.
7. Gait: This includes walking and running patterns as well as walking carrys.
Individual Differences in Functional Movement Patterns
Not everyone has the same proficiency in these movement patterns. Our strengths and weaknesses can be influenced by factors like age, previous injuries, lifestyle, and physical activity levels. Some may find the squat more natural due to their lower body strength, while others might excel at rotational movements due to regular participation in sports like golf or tennis.
My Personal Functional Movement Pattern: Upper Body Pull
Personally, I've found that my strongest functional movement pattern is the upper body pull. This realization came from consistent training and performance monitoring, and it's helped me shape my workouts to maximize my natural strengths while also focusing on areas of improvement. This strength in pulling movements has given me an edge in exercises like rows and pull-ups and has influenced how I approach physical tasks in my daily life.
This has also always been an area that I like to work because of the fact I am good at it. We tend to gravitate toward activities that we excel at and are comfortable. The problem is that this drives even greater deficits.
I believe in continuing to work on our strengths but also shoring up our weaknesses to a level that does not expose us to increased risk of injury.
Functional Movement Patterns in Physical Therapy
Understanding your functional movement patterns is not just essential for fitness and physical therapy, but it is also crucial during rehabilitation from injuries. It allows us to leverage our strengths to support the healing process while being mindful of weaker patterns that might need more focused work. Ignoring these weaker movement patterns during rehabilitation can lead to imbalances and potential reinjury.
For example, if I have an athlete that is recovering from a labrum repair in the shoulder I can pull different levers to regain function based on the areas we can push safely. They may have pain or limitation with upper body pushing patterns but have no pain or limitation with pulling patterns or carry patterns. In this case I can push harder in the carry and upper pulling pattern and then work to improve pushing patterns carefully.
This allows us to improve overall shoulder strength while not putting any of the structural repair at risk. Your physical therapist should be doing the same. Just because you are impaired in one movement pattern doesn't mean you can't move in the others. This is especially true when dealing with an upper body injury. You should be working lower body and core muscle patterns. This can also help to speed recovery.
Functional Movement Patterns as Rocks to Push
Consider each functional movement pattern as a different rock that you're trying to push up a hill. We all have rocks that are easier to move based on our strengths and others that are a bit more challenging. The key to balanced fitness and successful rehabilitation is to keep pushing all the rocks, even when some seem heavier than others. This might mean incorporating specific exercises to strengthen your weaker movement patterns, or maybe even modifying how you perform certain movements in your day-to-day life.
This doesn't mean you don't need to put effort into the ones you are already proficient at. It just means that the ones you aren't proficient at may take a little more effort in the beginning.
Start Moving Rocks
Recognizing and understanding your own functional movement patterns can make a substantial difference in your fitness journey and injury recovery process. By identifying and working on these patterns, we can move more efficiently, reduce injury risk, and optimize our overall physical well-being. Keep pushing those rocks, and remember that every step forward, no matter how small, is progress.