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By: Adam MacDougall | In: Exercise

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As a result of all the confusing information on training I often have blokes ask me what’s the best way to train. These are often the same guys in the gym looking completely lost, spending countless hours on the treadmill, cross trainer or using some weird and useless piece of gym equipment.

It should be every person’s fitness goal to look and move better and in doing so increase their ability perform everyday activities. For the most part gym equipment only serves to build strength in limited movement patterns inhibiting your mobility and making the simple task of bending over and tying up your shoelaces challenging. Our training should first and foremost, make our bodies more functional and efficient.

The Man Challenge workouts focus on full body movements that enhance our body’s daily movement patterns. Every movement our bodies perform can be broken down into any one of seven movement patterns. These are often referred to as the "Seven Primal Movement Patterns”:

1. Squat

A squat is a movement pattern where you plant both feet on the ground then bend your legs to lower your body down while keeping your chest up and lower back straight. We use squats in our daily life such as squatting in and out of a chair. As we age an inability to squat can negatively affect our quality of life. The most common reason why people have trouble squatting is because of tight hip flexors or tight calves.

2. Lunge

A lunge is single leg exercise movement that requires one leg to step forward and bend while the other leg remains stationary. Throwing a punch, lunging forward to catch a ball or simple lunging down to pick up an object requires balance, strength, and flexibility. The lunge is a dynamic exercise because you can lunge in any direction with both legs forwards, backwards and sideways.

3. Push

A pushing exercise requires pushing external weight away from your body, or your centre of mass away from the ground, like in a push up. Pushing yourself off the ground to get up or pushing a box overhead to put it away in a cupboard are both pushing movements used in our daily life.

There are two primary types of pushing movements (1) vertical push and (2) horizontal push. A vertical push is a handstand or shoulder press. A horizontal push is pushing a weight away from your horizontally, like in a push up. A vertical press tends to emphasise your shoulder muscles while engaging the back of the arms (triceps) while a horizontal press emphasises the chest, while engaging the shoulders and the back of the arms.

4. Pull

A pulling motion is the opposite of a pushing motion in that you are pulling a weight towards your body or pulling your body up to an object, like in a chin up. From pulling down your garage door to starting an old lawn mower, pulling is a movement we use in our daily lives. Given the long hours we spend hunched over in front of computers and steering wheels, pulling (rather than pushing) exercises are more beneficial in correcting our posture and balancing out over developed pushing muscles.

There are two primary pulling movements: (1) vertical pull and (2) horizontal pull. An example of a vertical pull is a chin up, which is a classic exercise that develops strength in your back, shoulders, biceps and core. An example of a horizontal pulling motion is a row.

5. Hip Hinge

Bending at the hips is a common movement pattern which, as we grow older and stiffer, we quickly lose the ability to do. Everyday movements such as picking up objects off the ground to lifting a heavy suitcase, places men at at risk of injury as they invariably end up bending from the spine rather than the hips. This is evident by the fact that more than half of adults experience lower back pain at some point in their lives.

Bearing the brunt of the weight on your hips, glutes and legs is the key to lifting weight in a bent over position. This is done by keeping your lower back in a neutral to slightly arched position as you bend over to lift an object off the ground. Rounding your back too much, places significant pressure on your intervertebral disks, which may cause a disk herniation. The Man Challenge program will teach you to hinge from the hips and help prevent lower back pain as a result of incorrectly lifting objects.

6. Twisting

The exercises listed so far are completed in two planes of movement, either forward or to the side (sagittal and frontal planes). But there is a third plane of motion which makes exercise much more functional – the transverse plane or twisting motion.

If you think about lunging down and reaching across your body or throwing a ball, running or even walking, most human movement has some rotation element involved. The problem is that most exercises we do in the gym have no rotational component.

There are two primary types of twisting or rotational movements: (1) rotational and (2) anti-rotational. Rotational movements are the basic twisting exercises such as twisting to throw a ball. Anti-rotation are exercises where the rotational movement is prevented, like a single arm row or plank push up.

7. Gait

Walking, jogging or sprinting is called a gait movement which requires pulling, lunging, and twisting motions to propel the body forward. Whether you are sprinting to catch the bus, keep up with your child or walking in the park, gait is the most frequently used of all the movement patterns in our daily lives. I consider this last movement pattern as a catch-all for dynamic human movement (eg jumping, cutting, crawling) and combinations of movements.

Every single one of us must have general functionality in each one of these above movement patterns just to get through normal daily life (loading groceries, lifting boxes of printer paper, running to catch the bus or playing with the kids). And it’s even more important for those of you who have to perform these movements at full speed (athletes, parents, weekend warriors etc.).

So now that you have a list of your most used patterns, I recommend you go through testing yourself in every pattern. Find which of the patterns seem easy and which need work and then go about working on these movements. Better yet, join The Man Challenge today and let us improve the way you look, feel and move.

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