The 9 Foundational Movements in Picture Form

The 9 Movements – A Master List

Whether you are a trainer, gym owner, or just an average Joe that wants to get in shape, I highly recommend you master the 9 movements.  Learning how to perform them effectively as an athlete or as coach will drastically improve your personal fitness and that of your client’s.

Remember: Fit clients tell all their friends and fit Joe’s take their shirts off at the beach…so become a better athlete or Coach by mastering the basics!

The Air Squat

The squat is a fundamental movement that is a part of our human evolutionary biology.   It is not an ‘exercise’ created by a trainer or coach, it is a natural human movement.  Everyone can and should squat.  

Squatting is not bad for the knees, in fact, it is necessary for healthy joints (and helps the hips and back as well).  If you don’t squat you don’t have functioning and healthy knees.  The use it for lose it concept very much applies to the squat just as it does to the brain and the rest of the body.

Scaling options for the squat are many but my favorite is a box.  Position a box at the heels of a weak squatter and have them sit down.  Then have them stand up following the same knee-to-foot plane in which they sat down.  Then do reps of this.  That’s it.

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Common Squat Fault: Dropping Shoulders

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Common Squat Fault: Missing Depth

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The “good but not great” Squat: Missing Depth

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*Thanks to Carrie Norman for modeling these pictures 

The Front Squat

The front squat is tricky for many people because of the rack position shown in step 1.  The flexibility of the wrists and elbows makes it nearly impossible to hold a perfect front squat position for many new athletes.  

There is also the issue of improper form.  Many athletes try to hold the bar and don’t make a shelf with their shoulders by pulling the neck back and making a solid base to place the bar.  This is further compounded by the flexibility issues of the hips when in the bottom of the squat (the pocket) where very few athletes can hold a perfect position (even fewer with heavy weights).

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The Overhead Squat

The overhead squat is one of my favorite lifts.  It offers so much bang for time-invested-buck as well as requiring a high level of skill to perform well.  A simple way to evaluate weaknesses in yourself or a client is to have the athlete perform overhead squats with a light load (PVC even).  It will be clear where the weaknesses in the athlete’s flexibility  balance, and strength.  

For those looking to get strong abs there is no better movement.  Train overhead squats with light and medium loads often, and sometimes at near maximal loads, and you will see a huge improvements in your fitness and strength.

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The Shoulder Press

The strict shoulder press is a fundamental move that is very neglected by many.  Even within the bodybuilding community you will hear things such as “never go overhead” to the detriment of many gullible trainees.  

The shoulder press is excellent for developing upper body strength and health as well as developing the power zone.  The power zone includes the hip flexors, hip extensors, spinal erectors, and quadriceps.  Developing power from the core to these extremities (the power zone) is a fundamental skill needed for athletic success.

A common fault I see with the shoulder press is not fully extending the elbows out at the top and the arms not fully pressing out.  Often times you will see athletes stick their head completely through like on the thruster and this is not necessary of advisable   You should press the shoulders straight up and avoid pushing your head forward or through too much.

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The Push Press

The push press is huge for developing power and strength of the upper body as well as the power transfer from the hips and core.  A secret of getting big and strong from old generation weightlifters was doing heavy push presses.  Because you can load more weight on the bar when you add the hips to the movement it allows for mega strength gains.

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Video Demo:

The Push Jerk

The push jerk adds a jump and dip landing to the push press.  It takes a lot of practice to get good at this movement and you should train with a dowel or bar every workout as a skill warmup. In time you will develop the technique awareness to start lifting reasonable weights overhead.  

You can typically lift 30% more weight with the push press than with the shoulder press and 30% more with the push jerk than with the push press.

*Remember you will need to practice the jerk a ton if you want to take heavy weight overhead.

Push Jerk Video Demo:

 

Split Jerk Video Demo:

The Deadlift

If you had to pick one exercise, and only one, to train for the rest of your life it SHOULD be the deadlift.  This amazing exercise actives more muscles than any other exercise in existence (I consider tire flips the same movement btw).

Because I’m a skinny guy I have to focus on deadlifts and squats to generate as much HGH and testosterone in my body as possible to help my smaller frame build and maintain muscle.  If you are a guy and aren’t deadlifting on a regular basis you are doing yourself a major disservice.

Not only is the deadlift great for building full body muscle and fitness but it is also an amazing preventative exercise.  It develops many dormant muscles that don’t get the action they need from other movements.  It is as ‘functional’ and effective as you can get.  It improves you in any sport, prepares you to survive anything that can come your way, and gives you a shredded back. That sounds like a triple play to me…so start deadlifting today!

For the ladies: Do you desire a sexy back end comprised of firm thighs and butt?  Make deadlifting your go-to exercise (and squatting of course).  That is the secret formula for developing the female figure – deadlifting and squatting.

Safety: Yes it is safe.  Done properly the deadlift is super safe and is a necessary movement to be a functional human being.  We all pick stuff up and put it down.  Period.   The deadlift has been blamed for back injuries done by lifters not taking their time or using proper form on heavy lifts. Anything is unsafe when performed this way.

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The Sumo Deadlift High Pull

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The Medicine Ball Clean

The medicine ball clean looks simple enough right?  Well don’t let it fool you, it’s not easy to do well, especially for those new to fitness. 

The medicine ball clean is the most complex of the 9 movements and mastering it can pay huge dividends in your fitness or that of your client’s fitness.  It is a great training and teaching tool.

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The 9 Movements As Individual Posts

Air Squat Front Squat Overhead Squat Shoulder Press Push Press Push Jerk Deadlift Sumo Deadlift High Pull Medicine Ball Clean

The 9 Foundational movements

There you have it, the 9 movements broken down step by step in simple terms.  Mastering these movements will be huge dividends in your training. If you can master coaching these movements you will be a world-class coach and your clients will thank you and tell their friends and family how awesome you are (no really they will).

Don’t forget the fundamentals. Each one of these movements is the foundation of more advanced movements.  When you master these movements you become inherently better at their advanced counterparts.  I see athletes forgo the basics all the time and their results suffer because of it. I see plateaus in PR’s, WOD times, and even physical results because of a breakdown of the fundamentals.

As Greg Glassman always used to say, “the beauty is in the movements.”  You will be a more effective Athlete and Coach by becoming a master at these 9 movements.  You will have the skills to train yourself or someone else anywhere in the world with little or no equipment. This is a sick skill to have I think…

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3 thoughts on “The 9 Foundational Movements in Picture Form

  1. In the front squat position I am unable to get the back of my arms parallel to the ground. The coach at my box told me that I need to use a lacrosse ball to breakup the muscle in my back by my scapula. I was also told by a physical therapist that I am using too heavy a weight. Has anyone experienced this when starting their cross fit journey and how did you fix it?
    Thanks.

    • Your coach is right. Your PT may be right, but a statement like you are using “too heavy a weight” is ignorant. It doesn’t factor in the many factors. Overall, what i’ve learned about the rack position is it’s usually nothing to do with weight. As you see above, a proper front rack position has the barbell–and weight–resting on your shoulders.

      This ends up being more of a wrist/upper back and even hip flexibility issue. Lots of foam rolling/lacrosse ball + a ton and ton of reps with an empty barbell or dowel is the key.

      You have to practice the movement and position over and over until you get it. Holding the front squat position with an empty barbell while pointing your elbows as high as possible is a great static exercise for your hips, squat and rack position.

      • Thank you for the reply. I will try your recommendations for sure!