Essential movement patterns for athletes

By Dylan Masloski, CSCS

Every athlete needs to be squatting, hinging, pushing, pulling, and carrying.  These very basic movement patterns are key to building a strong and healthy body that will not break down, or become injured.


Masloski_Dylan_MUG_RGBSquatting may seem like an intimidating exercise to learn, but it’s not if you follow this simple progression 1: Body Weight Squat, 2: Goblet Squat, 3: Barbell Front or Back Squat.  Once you have mastered the basics, you can move on to some more complex variations such as Box Squat, Zercher Squat, Pin Squat, or Pause Squat.  Your focus should be finding a variation that you can do pain-free and slowly progress and get stronger at doing.


For push exercises, you are just pushing a weight away from your body.  You want to make sure you get both variations where you are pushing a weight horizontally and vertically.  Some great examples of horizontal pushing are Pushups and Bench Press.  If you have never done vertical pushing before, start by doing a Half Kneeling Overhead Press, and slowly work your way up to doing an Overhead Press from the standing position.


Pulling exercises are just as simple as pushing exercises.  You are either pulling your body up or pulling a weight to your body.  Every weekly program should have rows and pull-ups in it, and you should be doing close to the same amount of pulls as you are pushes.  Some great Row variations are TRX Rows, Inverted Rows, Barbell Row, and Dumbbell Row.  Start with the bodyweight exercises like TRX and Inverted Rows, and slowly work your way to the weighted variations.  If you cannot do Pull-Ups go through this simple progression, 1: Lat Pulldowns, 2: Band Assisted Pull Ups, 3: Pull-Ups.  Once you feel comfortable doing bodyweight Pull Ups feel free to start adding weight.


If you are not familiar with Hinging, it is when you bend over at the waist, pushing your butt back behind you, and creating separation between your shoulders and hips, while maintaining a neutral spine. These can be a tricky pattern to learn, so an easy progression to follow is 1: Dowel RDLs, 2: Dumbbell RDL, 3: Barbell RDL, 4: Kettle Bell Deadlift, 5: Trap Bar Deadlift, 6: Rack Pulls, 7: Barbell Deadlift.  Some people may find it hard to maintain a neutral spine while hinging.  If you do have troubles maintaining a neutral spine, do not force it.  Only go as low as your mobility allows you.


The carry is the simplest movement pattern.  Pick something up and carry it.  You can carry something for long distances with lightweight or short distances with heavy weight.  It does not matter, just carry something.  Some of the best carry variations are Farmers Carries, Suitcase Carries, and Waiter Carries.