Tag Archive for: primal movement patterns

Why Your Exercise Routine Will Hurt You If It's An Exercise Routine

Here’s another great guest post by Halevy Life’s Director of Programming and Education, Nick Johnson:

I recently had something very foreign happen to me; my mother told me I was right.


She sent this via text message from an examination room at a hospital, immediately after receiving an MRI for her knee that had been bothering her for around a year and a half by this point. Coincidentally it was about a year and a half (+ 3 weeks) ago she decided to join a step class. At that point it was a great idea right? You can just step up and down, squat and lunge for an hour straight and melt the fat away. What could possibly go wrong with this scenario?


I had expressed my concerns with only doing step classes and not adding any variation to her routine. About 2 weeks in to the 3-day/week step class experience, my mother started devloping knee pain. She had never had knee problems before this, so naturally my first inclination was to blame the step classes. She stopped taking the classes a week later and the pain and discomfort somewhat subsided, but any time she would really exert herself, the pain would come back. Fast-forward a year and a half, and the text message reads “Dr. says it’s a meniscus tear, looks like it has been the problem all along.” It’s hard not to say “I told you so”, so naturally that is exactly what I did. Because she didn’t listen to my advice, she was in pain; it’s the wooden spoon story in reverse. So why isn’t it a good idea to do the same thing over and over again?


Before we further address this question I want to make it clear that this isn’t just a knock on step classes; any exercise routine where you do the same thing over and over again is not a good idea. Even running all the time without switching things up will cause problems.

According to Paul Chek, and many other individuals of much greater intelligence than the most of us, there are 7 different ways in which the human body can move. Every movement is a derivation of those 7 “primal movement patterns.”

These movement patterns are:

1. Gait: as humans we can walk, jog or sprint. Every time you take a step, pushing off of the ground in a forward motion, you are demonstrating what the nerds like to call “gait.”

2. Lunge: this is my roommate’s least favorite of the 7 (he doesn’t like gait much either, at least at a faster pace). Every time you take a step up or down a stair you are exhibiting the lunge pattern (we live in a 5th floor walk-up apartment).

3. Squat: think of how much you get up and down out of your chair every day, you are squatting each and every time.

4. Bend: Picking anything up from the ground usually involves some type of bending, and so does doing the dishes.

5. Push: pushing has a vertical and horizontal component to it, so pushing away from your desk at work to grab another coffee (horizontal), or lifting that serving tray you use once a year at thanksgiving back up to the super inconvenient cabinet space above the refrigerator are both pushing movements.

6. Pull: much like the push pattern, pulling also has a vertical and horizontal component to it. Whether it’s pulling yourself up to grab that tray above the fridge you put away last year or opening the car door, it’s a pull.

7. Twist: rotation across the transverse plane (divides the body into a top and a bottom at the hips) occurs so frequently in daily life, but seems to be a big problem when it comes to strength and stability. Placing the dishes in the drying rack after you washed them, reaching up high for something with one hand, pulling open anything heavy with one hand all involve a twisting motion.


The secret (not really a secret, the information has been out there for a long time) to a good exercise program is incorporating a good balance of each movement pattern. Overtraining any one of these could lead to structural problems such as a meniscus tear, or injuries due to an overdevelopment of a specific area and weakness in another. Once again, this isn’t specific to step classes. Running, spinning, or even strength training the same patterns over and over again will not only increase the chance of injury, but decrease the effectiveness of the program as well; a discussion better saved for another time.

If you want to know more about creating a balanced program hit me up on Twitter @HL_Nick.