The ONLY 7 Exercises You Need to Master
…What do you choose first when starting out as a Gym Newbie?
Well, although there are thousands of individual exercises, all of them fall into one or a combination of only 7 Key Movement Patterns.
They are: Squat, Lunge, Bend, Twist, Push, Pull and Gait.
If you can master these 7 key movement patterns, you will pretty much be set for the rest of your training life.
These seven movements are what we refer to as the Primal Movement PatternsTM.
It’s a simple concept which I originally learned about through my studies with the Chek Institute. Their founder Paul Chek, developed this system after studying the development of early man.
He concluded that in order to survive the harsh conditions of our developmental environment, we would have had to be proficient in our execution of the 7 Primal Movement PatternsTM or we would likely not survive.
To demonstrate how these principles still apply today, I will briefly describe how each is still used in our everyday lives and also give examples of exercises you can use in the gym.
The 7 Best Gym Exercises
Note: Whenever you perform any of the following exercises, I highly recommend you use full range of motion (ROM) wherever good form will allow – unless you have a specific reason for limiting ROM of course. 🙂
First and foremost, we have the squat.
Not only is the Squat essential to achieving maximum results in the gym as well as helping to maintain optimal digestive function but you actually use this key movement several times a day, likely without even realising.
For example, every time you go to the toilet or sit down in a chair, even getting in and out of your car requires an advanced single leg squat variation!
That said, these days we often fail to use the full ROM provided by our bodies when squatting which limits it’s effectiveness.
The Squat has been named The King of Exercises in the fitness industry and it’s for good reason.
Performing a full depth Squat uses almost every muscle in your body and pretty much guarantees a great workout whenever it’s included it your programme.
5 of the best gym exercises which make use of the Squat pattern include:
- Swiss Ball Hip Raise
- Body Weight Squat
- Dumbbell Squats
- Barbell Squats
- Single Leg Squats (Pistols)
- Bonus Exercise: Breathing Squat – Click here for a great article on Mercola.com where Paul Chek explains the benefits of performing the Breathing Squat on a daily basis.
The Lunge is the main movement you use when stepping over something and you have to take a longer step than your standard stride length.
These days it’s most frequently used used as part of more complex movements in sporting events such as Tennis, Football, Hockey and Martial Arts to name a few.
5 of the best gym exercises which make use of the Lunge pattern that you can use include:
- Split Squats
- Forward Lunge
- Reverse Lunges
- Frontal/ Lateral Lunges
- Multi-directional Lunges
All of the above can be done with your bodyweight or with added resistance depending on your level of exercise experience.
Also used frequently, is the bend pattern.
Every time you pick something up off the floor or put your socks and shoes on, you will be using the Bend pattern.
This key movement pattern is perfect for strengthening the Posterior Chain (muscle of the back of our body) which often become weak and dysfunctional with the less than optimal environment that we humans live in today – the seated workplace being one of the main problems – but that’s a whole other article in itself.
5 Exercises that use the Bend pattern are:
- Body Weight Toe Touches
- Body Weight Hip Hinge
- Romanian Dead Lifts
- The Dead Lift
- Good Mornings
- Bonus exercise: Prone Cobra (although you don’t have to actually bend and move an object with your arms, this is one of the best exercises improving the strength needed to maintain good upright posture by strengthening the ‘bend’ pattern in your Thoracic Spine).
The twist is possibly the most frequently used movement pattern of all these days – but only from the perspective that most movements involve some level of twist or rotation, even walking.
On the flip-side though, it’s probably the least frequently trained of the Primal Movement Patterns – especially in the gym!
The problem with having limitations or weaknesses in your Twist pattern is that it’s pretty much guaranteed to show up as pain or injury somewhere in the body, at some point.
Most movements we complete with our limbs, rely on optimal rotation through the Thoracic Spine and shoulder and/or hip in order to prevent the ‘beating up’ of a compensatory joint or muscle.
As you can see, being able to Twist effectively is very important.
5 Exercises to improve your ability to Twist and strengthen the Twisting motion effectively are:
- Standing Cross Crawl
- Swiss Ball Oblique Crunch
- Standing Pallof Press
- Cable Woodchop
- Cable Reverse Woodchop
- Bonus Exercise: Foam Roller Longitudinal – Thoracic Rotation
From a developmental standpoint we would have regularly used the Push pattern to throw implements such as rocks or spears when hunting.
Although most of us rarely throw rocks and likely never throw spears, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t apply to you.
For a start it’s one of the main movement patterns used when getting up from laying on your front.
And every time you go shopping and push your shopping trolley around the supermarket, it’s one of the main movement patterns used then also.
5 of the best gym exercises whih make use of the push pattern include:
- Push Ups (on knees and full)
- Swiss Ball Dumbbell Chest Press
- Kettlebell Overhead Press
- Standing 2 Arm Cable Push
- Single Arm Standing Cable Push
- Bonus Exercise: Scapular ‘Set’ Barbell Bench Press – Not only is it great for building upper body strength, it’s also less likely to injure your shoulders than a standard Barbell Bench Press.
Our pulling muscles are mainly the muscles of our back.
It’s essential to train your pull pattern in order to maintain good posture and prevent posture related injuries both statically (just sitting or standing around) and dynamically (during movement).
There is a huge tendency to neglect training of the pull movement in gyms these days and it does nothing except increase your chances of muscle imbalance which will likely lead to injury and poor posture.
5 Pulling exercises to improve your Pull pattern include:
- Cable Facepull
- Seated Cable Row
- Dumbbell/ Barbell Bent Over Row
- Single Arm Standing Cable Pull
- Barbell Power Clean
- Bonus exercise: Inverted Body Weight Row
Gait simply refers to Walking, Jogging and Running.
Most good training programmes should eventually include a combination of all three forms of Gait in order to maintain optimal human performance – particularly Walking and Running (Sprinting).
Walking is a great way to chill out and assist your bodies recovery from the stress of this faced paced world we live in today.
As for Sprinting, whether your goal is Fat Loss or Building Muscle, Sprints are one of the most effective tools for achieving either or both.
Unless you have a specific goal that requires you to do otherwise, I would highly recommend you focus your training programmes around the 7 key movements patterns mentioned above.
This will help to ensure optimal balance throughout the body as well as improved function and results. It will also help to reduce your risk of injury and guarantee boredom is prevented from doing the same things over and over and over again.