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5 Smart Ways to Structure Strength Training

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For many years, we’ve been led to believe that the only option when it comes to strength training was to focus specifically on working individual muscle groups—chest on Mondays and triceps on Tuesdays, for example. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with this approach, there’s another option to consider when structuring your strength training: Focusing on movement patterns as opposed to body parts.

This concept stems from an understanding that muscles rarely work in isolation in everyday life. Instead, they work together to do everything from maintaining a neutral pelvic position and proper posture, to picking up a heavy bag of groceries, or dancing.

In examining human movement, there are five primary movement patterns that we not only engage in an every day life, but that we can look to and utilize as a blueprint for developing smarter, more efficient strength training sessions. Structuring your workouts and ultimately performing these movement patterns effectively with the appropriate levels of joint stability and mobility can help to not only minimize pain and reduce the risk of injury and overtraining, but to also maximize movement efficiency, which in turn means enhanced performance and better workout results. Here, the movements to master.

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1. Bend-and-lift/hip hinge/squatting movements. In every day life this includes sitting down in your car and rising up out of your chair at work. During your workout sessions, fundamental movements such as squats and deadlifts are primary examples.

2. Single-leg/lunging movements. The simple act of walking to catch catch the train or subway is a perfect example of single-leg balance in action, as are common exercises such as lunges and Bulgarian split squats.

3. Pushing movements. From putting dishes away on a high shelf to propping yourself up to seated position after taking a nap, pushing movements occur in various directions in every day life, and so too do they occur in our workouts from push-ups and dips to shoulder presses.

4. Pulling movements. Whether you’re opening your car door, picking up your furry friend, or performing tried-and-true moves like pull-ups or rows at the gym, pulling movements are essential. They counter our many pushing movements and to create muscular balance in the body.

5. Rotational movements. When you reach to buckle your seat belt or perform a core training exercise such as woodchops or haybailers, the ability to move in this plane of motion stems from the thoracic spine’s ability to rotate during many common movements.

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