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7 Essential Functional Movements

And why they're important to your workouts.

7 essential functional movements

Movement: Just what the doctor ordered.

Make a habit of moving and you’re more likely to experience fat loss, lean muscle gain, increased mobility, less pain, improved bone density, improved cardiovascular and respiratory function, lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol and higher energy levels.

Sound good?

Here are the 7 functional movements that everyone should have as a foundation in their exercise program.

Once you master these movements, you’ll be on your way to a healthier and longer life.


Have you ever heard the saying "don't skip leg day"? Squats are an essential exercise to work your glutes, hamstrings, and quads. Squats also help build muscle and improve balance.


Test: Can you lower into a squat position with hips back, knees tracking over ankles and heels on the ground? Ideally, your hips would be almost touching your heels.

To improve on your squat, try a body weight squat, Swiss ball squat, bench squat, TRX squat, or goblet squat.


Want to improve your bone strength and density? Try working in lunges into your fitness routine.


Test: Forward Lunge; step forward with one foot and bend your back knee until it is almost touching the ground. Knees and ankles should be stable. Chest up (not hunched over).

Improve on your lunges by using your body weight and performing reverse lunges, walking lunge, static lunge, box lunge, split squats, and a TRX reverse lunge.


Gain strength and build muscle in your upper body - chest, arms, shoulders - and lower back with push exercises.


Test: Get into a push-up position, lower body to the ground and push back to the starting position. Is your body straight from heels to head? If not, you may have lack of stability and weakness in your core.

Improvement exercises include incline push ups, chest press using a machine, and planks.


Pulling exercises are an important piece to improving your upper body strength, targeting your arms, back, chest, and shoulders.


Test: Try pull ups. If strength is an issue, try using a lat-pulldown machine. This movement can reveal some postural issues such as having your shoulder too far forward, a rounded spine and head tucked forward. Basically, it looks like poor posture while sitting at a desk.

To improve pull strength, try exercises such as the lat-pulldown machine, cable pullovers, machine row, and bent over barbell row.


Have you ever bent over to pick something up off the ground without squatting? Then you have performed a hip hinge movement.


Test: Try a deadlift. Grab weight bar or dumbbells, set your feet slightly wider than shoulder width, hinge forward with your hips and knees bent about 15-20 degrees. You should feel this movement in your glutes.

Improvement exercises include dumbbell Romanian deadlift, single leg dumbbell Romanian deadlift, barbell good morning


Give your obliques a workout and get your heart rate up with twist exercises.


Test: Try Russian twists. Start on a mat with your bottom on the floor, slightly lean back, knees bent and heels on the ground. Leading with your hands twist your torso side to side. Can you keep your back straight?


Gait, or how you walk or run, is one of the key movements that takes you from one place to another. Having poor gait, either from bad form or an injury, can create additional health problems, aggravate old injuries, and put unnecessary strain on muscles.


Test: Walk in a straight line. Your shoulders should be back, chest up and feet pointed forward. Feet that flare out, hips that shake from side-to-side, rounded shoulders or head pushing forward with too much torso lean are all indicators that your gait needs work.

Strengthening your hips and knees is essential to improving your gait. There are a variety of exercises you can do to improve strength in these areas such as working out in a pool, exercise ball routines, floor exercises, swimming, and yoga.

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