There’s an overload of information available these days on the best ways to get into shape, which can be attributed to a general lack of understanding of proper nutrition. However, nearly as important as proper nutrition is proper exercise. It pains me to see skinny teenagers or middle-aged folks doing a routine made for a bodybuilder. There’s a much better way.
The best exercises for healthy living and improved performance aren’t necessarily exercises at all: it’s a bit more general than that. They’re more accurately classified as “movements.”
The 5 Fundamental Movements
Instead of focusing on isolation exercises, I’d like to see nearly everyone (except aspiring bodybuilders and physique competitors) focus on movements. “Movements versus muscles” has become a popular mantra in the fitness industry lately, and for good reason. Strengthening movement patterns is much more effective for the average person than doing “bodybuilder-type” isolation exercises.
Humans aren’t meant to move one muscle at a time, and that’s why isolation exercises usually don’t fit the bill when trying to improve strength, movement quality, or athletic performance. Movements are what should be improved, and there are 5 fundamental movements that humans perform:
Nearly every natural movement performed on a daily basis can be put into one of those categories. Strengthening these movements will come with noticeable improvements in muscle mass, structural integrity, flexibility, balance, movement efficiency, and overall quality of life.
Implementing the 5 Movements
It is vitally important to add these movements to a healthy lifestyle, especially as one gets older. Implementing them is easy: simply do them as much as possible. Strength and movement efficiency come with practice, so it’s important to “practice” these movements often.
It’s also important to find which exercises will work best for your particular body type. The best exercises for each movement are listed below.
Pull: pull-down variations, pull-up variations, rowing variations
Push: bench press variations, dips, military/overhead press variations, push-up variations
Squat: squat variations (“duh” is the proper response), including back squats, front squats, overhead squats, split/1-leg squats, goblet squats, etc. Lunges also fit in here.
Hinge: deadlift variations, good mornings, pull-throughs, kettlebell/dumbbell swings/snatches
Gait: walking, preferably with added weight, and sprinting, possibly with resistance.
The word “variation” above means there are at least 10 different ways to do the given movement. Variations include changes in grip or stance width, range of motion, implement type (for example… barbell vs. dumbbell), tempo, and multiple other possible factors. The key is finding a variation that works for one’s individual body type and goals, and preferably one that is enjoyable as well.
There’s no good reason to put off implementing these movements today. The exercises listed above truly are the best exercises for healthy living, and a little practice will go a long way. Trust me, just 10 minutes per day of the above movements (that’s 2 minutes per movement) will keep strength, movement quality, and quality of life high as one continues to age.