7 Functional Movements you Should be Performing


When you get ready to walk into the gym you probably think of traditional training exercises you can perform like bench press, back squat, deadlift, and dumbbell row.

These are all great movements, but what value do they really add to your life?

Ask yourself why are you performing these movements? Are they functional?

This blog is going to teach you the 7 functional movement patterns to create a well-rounded fitness program, why you should perform each movement weekly, and how to progress each functional pattern.

At Fueled to Perform we value training with intention and purpose. Client’s perform basic movements with intention and reasoning daily.

If you are interested in becoming part of the Fueled to Perform team to get a personalized training program to help your work toward your goals with intention, enrollment is now only open until May 10th. Schedule a free clarity call here

You know when you scroll through Instagram and you see fancy exercises where a guy is standing on 3 BOSU balls and squatting, or a girl is using an assisted pull-up machine as a standing leg press? Why? What is the goal of these movements?

Why not just perform a squat with one dumbbell to your side for a stability/ balance challenge? Why not just use a step-up box, or walk stairs for leg strength?

These unconventional exercises lead to uncertainty, injury, and are just not functional for life.

Stick to the basics, because the basics work.

Grab some type of load (dumbbell, kettlebell, resistance bands, barbell), find some open space, and focus on the 7 functional movement patterns, and you’ll have an effective and safe workout!

Every beginner should learn and work to master the 7 basic movement patterns listed below.

And no matter how advanced you are, you still should be training these patterns, because you are NEVER too advanced for the basics.

Every certification, fitness company, and trainer might have a different list of basic movement patterns but Fueled to Perform programs focus on these 7 patterns.

We believe these are the most important areas to focus on in a functional, long-term, and effective training program.

The 7 functional movement patterns you should be performing weekly to improve functional strength:


1. The Squat:


The Squat is a knee-dominant exercise where the knee flexes. It is a great test of ankle mobility, knee stability, hip mobility, and overall full-body strength. 

But through the years we have developed misconceptions that squatting is bad. “Heavy squats hurt your knees” or “only squat to 90 degrees”.

These are not functional ideas, and they are misconceptions.

Every time you sit down on a seat, couch, or toilet and get back up, you’re performing a squat. 

I will guarantee you most of the time you squat in everyday movements, you’re squatting below 90, your knees are going past your toes, and you don’t have what we have conceptualized as ‘perfect squat form’. 

And that’s okay.

Because it’s a functional movement, everyone performs a squat differently based on their anatomy, and there are no perfect rules to a squat. 

Have you ever watched a baby squat? They have beautiful and perfect form, we need to squat like babies more often.Baby squatting with perfect form




Squat progressions we use at Fueled to Perform: bodyweight squat, goblet squat, barbell front squat, barbell back squat, bulgarian split squat, single-leg squat


2. Hinge:


The hinge is a hip dominant movement where the torso folds over the lower body, like closing a book.

Think of a pole running horizontally through your hips and you have to lean over to pick something up.

Have you ever heard “Lift with your legs, not your back”? This is exactly why you should perform hinge movements (like the deadlift). Yes, even if you had or have back pain!

I am sure you have heard or maybe even said to yourself “Oh my back is bad, I can’t lift that”. 

There is this common misconception that the deadlift is bad for your back which causes people to end up avoiding hinge movements all together, which worsens back pain.

How many times a day do you bend over? Probably a lot. That is why the hinge movement pattern is so crucial for improving strength and avoiding chronic back pain.

Hinge progressions we use at Fueled to Perform: Bodyweight good morning, kettlebell deadlift, dumbbell romanian deadlift, trap bar deadlift, barbell deadlift

Other important hinge movements: kettlebell swing and power clean.


3. Push:


Push is one of the most common movements you will see walking into a gym, basically, every gym-goer performs some type of bench press and push-up weekly. 

The push-up is our favorite exercise in this category!


The push-up is complex and requires shoulder and spine stability, proper core activation, power, strength, mobility, and hip stability. 

Push movements might be a little more difficult to identify in your everyday life, but you do perform them.

When you push a door closed, press a stack of plates above the head into the cabinet, or push yourself up from the ground you’re utilizing the push pattern.

Push movements can be broken up into 2 categories: Horizontal push (push-up and bench press) and vertical push (overhead press).

Horizontal Push Progressions used at FTP: Incline push-up, bodyweight push-up, dumbbell bench press, barbell bench press

Vertical Push Progressions used at FTP: Single dumbbell strict press, dual dumbbell strict press, barbell strict press

4. Pull:


Pull movements are a crucial aspect of any strength training program.

Any time you pull a door open, pull your pants up, or pull a beverage to your mouth you are performing a pulling movement. 

Pull movements help develop a strong and stable back, and improve and strengthen postural muscles.

Walk around any busy area today, and you’ll see 90% of people leaned over, back rounded, shoulders caved in, head tilted forward. 

Posture check! 

Set both feet flat on the floor, pull your belly button to your spine, roll your shoulders back and down, stack your neck and head over your hips, place two fingers on your chin, and push back slightly.

Okay, now you’re ready, let’s keep going!

One way to help improve postural strength to avoid back pain and other immobility long-term are to perform pulling movements. 

Similar to the push, the pull can be categorized by vertical pull and horizontal pull.

Vertical Pull Progressions used at FTP: chest supported row, inverted row, single-arm dumbbell row, barbell bent-over row

Horizontal Pull Progressions uesd at FTP: lat-pulldown, assisted pull-up (many variations can fit here), bodyweight pull-up


5. Unilateral:


Unilateral means one side at a time, where most traditional movements are bilateral (both sides).

Many people use ‘Single Leg Movements’ as a basic movement pattern, but we like to broaden this category even more to ‘Unilateral movements’.

Unilateral movements challenge balance, core, and stability. Performing exercises one side at a time helps focus on imbalances and overall balance. 

Walking upstairs, balancing on rocks during your next hike, basically doing anything with a weight to one side, or with one limb moving.

Single leg progressions used at FTP: split squat, rear foot elevated bulgarian squat, front foot elevated bulgarian squat, reverse lunge, forward lunge, single-leg deadlift

You can perform just about any exercise unilaterally! 

Unilateral exercises you should try: Single leg deadlift, Single-arm shoulder press, single-arm bench press, Unilaterally loaded dumbbell squat


6. Loaded carry:


We carry things daily! Groceries, backpack, lunch box, purse, kids, tools, boxes when we move. And the majority of the time when we carry things, we carry objects of different weights in each arm.

Carrying is by far the most underrated functional movement.


I am not talking about just picking something up and carrying it across the room with no control, focus, or intention. 

Training the loaded carry pattern is about mastering walking, utilizing core muscles, and controlling the movement. 

A strong representation of an athlete’s overall strength, grip strength, and ability to move effectively is a loaded carry.

The movement requires a great amount of stability, focus, concentration, and strength. 

Training the carry movement is difficult, but can be done with basically anything around your house.

Loaded Carry Progressions used at FTP: walking, farmer carry, unilateral farmer carry, front-loaded carry, mixed grip carry, overhead carry


7. Rotation:


The last and final movement pattern: Rotational movements are most commonly seen in sports. Watch a golfer swing to drive the ball or a baseball player.

But we rotate during everyday activities. 

Turn to look before merging while driving, reach around to grab your coffee, putting laundry from the washer to the dryer we are rotating in some way.

I know what you’re thinking… “but I have back pain”. Even with back pain, you should be training rotational movement within your body’s limits!

Rotational progressions used at FTP: lying hip twists, bodyweight Russian twists, woodchop, landmine twist

Anti-rotational movements fall into this category such as bird-dog, pallof press, dead bug, and plank forward reaches. 

These movements challenge the core muscles to prevent rotation. Anti-rotational movements will give you the biggest bang for your buck when training the core.


Next time you train, consider these 7 movement patterns and aim to add each one to your weekly program- squat, hinge, push, pull, unilateral, loaded carry, and rotational movements.

No matter how much you foam roll, stretch, or go to the chiropractor if you are not performing ALL 7 of these movements on a regular basis, you will most likely experience pain and tightness.

Movement is the number one best thing you can do for your body, to decrease pain, prevent pain, and for overall longevity. 

So train for life, train with intention, train to perform!

If you struggle to move effectively and pain-free, seek out professional help. Search for a qualified trainer who values functional movement, and who can help teach you how to move effectively. 

VIP online Training enrollment is now only open until May 10th! Receive personalized and progressive training programs to an app on your phone, with individualized feedback, and video exercise demonstrations to help you move functionally and achieve your performance goals.

Learn more!


Eat to Fuel, Train to Perform.

-Coach Court