How to Coach Movement Better, Part 1

The best Coaches, the professionals, know that coaching just one pillar of health and fitness limits not only the level of sustainable result you can guide a client to, but also the coach’s own earning potential. We teach the SEMM Model precisely for this reason. The coaches, and gyms, who did best during the pandemic did so because they were well rounded and adaptable. Having said that, it’s time to level up our ability to coach movement better as that is what clients are doing when we see them in the gym. As with our previous series on the ‘Sleep‘ and ‘Manage‘ pillars, we’ll break this topic down into a few digestible posts as well, so let’s get going.

Before we cover things like movement correction, exercise selection, or assessment, you’ll need to have a basic understanding of human movement. Don’t worry, although it was one of my favorite university courses of all time, this won’t be a biomechanics course! The reason this step is important is because it will allow you to see opportunities down the road with your client for regression and progression of movement. You will realize that there is an infinite variety of movement possibilities for your client, limited only by your imagination. Of course resources like Google and YouTube can certainly help with that last point, nothing will ever replace a coach who can create the appropriate movement solution on the fly for a client that is right in front of you. Talk about inspiring confidence in your competence!

Humans navigate their physical space five basic ways, which we call the ‘Fundamental Movement Patterns’:

  • Squat
  • Hinge
  • Push
  • Pull
  • Core

(I’ve see a lot of variation of this list over the years, but I personally think Dan John deserves credit as his teaching is burned most deeply into my brain for it’s beauty and simplicity. #HonorTheSource) Below we will go through each pattern and provide:

  • Definition of the global movement pattern
  • Local differentiation within the pattern
  • Movement Examples, with a link to an extensive video library for each pattern

The Squat:

  1. Definition – this pattern begins from the tall, standing position. Movement is initiated with an eccentric contraction where hip, knee, and ankle flexion occur at roughly the same rate as your center of mass lowers. Extension to the full stand completes the movement
  2. Local Differentiation – when it comes to the squat, the local differences in the pattern arise from emphasis being placed more dominantly on the hips or the knees.
  3. Movement Examples
    1. Hip Dominant – back squat, box squat, lateral squat, lateral lunge
    2. Knee Dominant – front squat, wall ball shot, goblet squat, linear lunge, split squat

The Hinge:

  1. Definition – this pattern typically begins with a concentric muscle contraction where hip, knee, and ankle extension occur at much different rates, as you rise to full extension from the starting point of being bent over. Flexion back to the bottom/start position may or may not complete the movement.
  2. Local Differentiation – similar to the squat pattern, the local differentiators for the hinge arise from either a hip or knee dominant exercise
  3. Movement Examples
    1. Hip Dominant – deadlift, kettlebell swing, Romanian deadlift, good morning (although this starts from the tall position), power clean, power snatch
    2. Knee Dominant – hamstring curls, glute-ham raises

The Push

  1. Definition – an upper body pattern initiated by a concentric muscle contraction, where you push the body away from a surface or push an object away from the body.
  2. Local Differentiation – when it comes to upper body pushing, the local differentiators come from the pattern moving in a vertical or horizontal fashion.
  3. Movement Examples
    1. Vertical – dumbbell and barbell shoulder to overhead variations, handstand push-ups, pike push-ups
    2. Horizontal – bench press, push-up, burpee

The Pull

  1. Definition – an upper body pattern initiated by an eccentric muscle contraction, where you pull the body to a surface/object or pull an object toward the body.
  2. Local Differentiation – similar to the push pattern, differentiation occurs by way of pulling in a horizontal or vertical fashion.
  3. Movement Examples
    1. Vertical – pull-up, chin-up, lat pull-down, muscle-up
    2. Horizontal – ring-row, dumbbell and barbell row variations

The Core

  1. Definition – this is the section of your body from shoulders to hips, otherwise known as your torso, trunk, pillar, mid-line, or abs. It is responsible for protecting your internal organs, holding your bag of bones upright, and generating force.
  2. Local Differentiation – not only is your core used to keep your body stable, it is also the way power is generated/transferred throughout the body. Therefore the differentiator occurs by way of task demand – does it need to generate force (propulsion) or resist movement (anti-rotation)?
  3. Movement Examples
    1. Propulsion – throws (linear, lateral, rotational), sit-ups, toes-to-bar, knees-to-elbow
    2. Anti-Rotation – planks, cable chops, medicine ball deceleration drills

Now that you’re armed with a basic understanding of human movement, the most useful thing you can do is to observe it daily and develop an awareness of patterns in the gym and everyday life. Our next post will cover what you should do before even providing someone a program design: ASSESSMENT!

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