With the influence of the popular media, there is a trend amongst men to focus on their arms, chest and 6-pack abs, while for women it is all about well-toned glutes and legs. Training with just the focus on one or two muscle groups is a recipe for disaster, as it leads to muscle imbalance i.e. some muscles become stronger than the rest. Any imbalance in the muscle strength and functionality can lead to injuries, poor posture and poor aesthetics: picture a skinny guy with just big arms.
In order for our body to function normally we need to have a good balance in the strength of all our muscles. A well-balanced skinny person will be better in both overall strength and aesthetics than a guy with just big arms. Hence a workout should be balanced, where all the major muscle groups are targeted.
You might now be asking, how do we make sure that we are targeting all the muscle groups in our body? A common approach you will see people use in the gym is to categorize different exercises based on the muscles they target and then select a few for each muscle group, to cover all muscle groups. This approach is too complicated to follow, as one needs to clearly understand which exercise targets which muscle group and how.
An easier approach is to include exercises based on the fundamental movements that our body performs to properly function in the daily life. Imagine the old times, when machines were absent: we used to become strong just by using our bodies to do daily chores. Our body is designed perfectly for all the major functions we need to perform to survive; imbalances arise when we artificially introduce new routines to our life such as sitting all day in front of a computer. If we do exercises based on the fundamental movements of our body, we will develop a well-balanced physique.
There are eight movements of the body, which you should include in your workout to target all your major muscles groups. These will be
Horizontal Pushing: This movement involves pushing a heavy load in front of you. This is a great movement to develop a strong chest. Examples exercises include Push-ups or Bench Press
Horizontal Pulling: This movement involves pulling a heavy load in front of you toward yourself. This is a great movement to develop your upper back. Example exercises include any type of rows
Vertical Pushing: This movement involves pushing a heavy load overhead. This movement will help you develop strong shoulders. Shoulder press is a great vertical pushing exercises.
Vertical Pulling: This movement involves pulling a heavy load overhead down towards you. This is another great movement for the upper back. Pull ups or Lat pull downs are the best vertical pulling exercise
Bending Push: This movement involves bending over to push an object down our body. This is the most important movement for developing that six pack abs. Sit-ups is the most common exercise for this movement
Bending Pull: This is the movement we use to bend over and pick up object. Performing this develops our lower back, glutes and hamstrings. The best exercise for this movement is deadlift; other examples are Kettle-bell swings and Good-mornings.
Squatting: This is the movement we perform when while sitting down and getting up. It is a great movement for developing strong legs. Include this movement in your program by performing some type of squats, another one of our favorite exercises.
Twisting: This is the movement that we perform whenever we twist our back, an example will be the batter’s movement in baseball. This movement is great for developing a strong core. Best exercise for this movement is wood-chops
You might say well what about swinging arms or kicking and you are right these are also critical movements of our body, but these are secondary movements, which will naturally develop as we develop our fundamental movements.
It should be noted though that due to inherent characteristics of your body’s need, this movement based workout, although great functionality wise, might have to be tweaked. For example if someone has back injury then he might have to omit the bending/hinging movement. However that discussion is relevant for another time. For a healthy individual including these 8 movements are a must in the workout.