Early movement patterns can increase fitness and longevity

i amIf you’ve ever seen a child in action, you’ve probably noticed that they use primitive movement patterns. “This refers to movements that are natural and fundamental to the human body, such as squatting, lunging, pulling, hinging, rotating or pushing,” says Andrew Slane, sports conditioning expert and trainer at Smart Home Fitness Mirror Features. Basic movements are instinctive, so little people are able to perform them without being taught why.

But these movements aren’t just essential to your childhood development—doing them every day is also an indicator of longevity. In fact, the number one thing the longest-living people on the planet have is natural, aka primitive, movement practices.

“As we age, we fall into dysfunctional movements that lead to injury over time — how we pick up, bend, or perform seemingly normal tasks in our daily lives,” says Slane. “Usually, we attribute this to aging, but in fact, it’s due to bad habits and not paying attention to how we perform a task.”

He gives the example of lifting a basket of laundry: “Do you hinge correctly at your hips with a neutral spine and no twist or torque in your neck, or do you just bend with a rounded back? Now, imagine how that tolls over a few decades. ,” he said. “Working the basic movement patterns correctly, and making sure these movements remain harmonious and fluid over time, is key to moving efficiently and without pain.”

More often than not, you’ll hear trainers talk about basic movements as “functional movements,” meaning they mimic the way you use your body in your everyday life. Yet everyone’s day looks different. “Working” for a professional athlete is going to be different from a mail delivery person or desk worker. The primary movement, however, is for all of us to go back to basics.

“Early movement often involves play, which can be fun and a welcome change from traditional exercise that can feel monotonous,” he says. Again, think about a kid. Their idea of ​​fun is sitting down to play with toys, throwing a ball, or pushing themselves off the floor. “They suit a wide range of fitness levels and can vary,” adds Slane.

Facilitate early movement patterns

While exactly what you’ll get from basic range of motion exercises depends on your own fitness and goals, Slane says there are three universal benefits that most people can expect to gain.

increase in strength

Because early range of motion exercises use the body in a natural and functional way, according to Slane, they often help improve overall strength.

Increased mobility and flexibility

Early range of motion exercises can increase the range of motion of both muscles (increasing flexibility) and joints (increasing mobility).

Advanced coordination

“Early movement exercises often use multiple muscle groups together, which can help improve overall coordination,” Slane says.

The best way to incorporate basic movement into your fitness routine

Slane says there are several good ways to go about it. Here, he offers a few sample basic movement exercises to try adding to your next workout:

Russian twist

Begin by sitting on the floor with knees slightly bent, leaning back to engage your torso. From there, rotate your torso from side to side. Do three sets of 8 to 12 repetitions.


Start lying face down on the floor with your arms and legs extended, keeping your neck neutral while looking down. While keeping your arms and legs straight, engage your core muscles, then lift your arms and legs toward the ceiling just a few inches, using your glutes instead of your lower back. For a less advanced version, just raise your arms. Hold for a few seconds and lower with control for one rep. Do three sets of 8 to 12 repetitions.


Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and lower your body like you’re sitting in a chair. Make sure to keep your chest up and your weight on your heels. Do three sets of 8 to 12 repetitions.

push up

Start in a plank position with your hands shoulder-width apart and squat your body. Make sure to keep your core engaged. Do three sets of 8 to 12 repetitions.


Start in a high push-up position with your hands shoulder-width apart, engage your core, and hold for 30 seconds. Do three sets.

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Begin standing straight with feet hip-distance apart, hands behind head, elbows wide. Next, hinge forward by pushing your hips back, bending your knees slightly. Slowly lower your torso until your spine is almost parallel to the floor, maintaining a flat back from your head to your hips. Then return to the starting position, keeping your core engaged. Do three sets of 8 to 12 repetitions.


Begin standing straight with feet hip-distance apart. Step forward with one leg and lower your body until your front thigh is parallel to the ground. Push off the front heel to return to your starting position. Make sure to keep your torso straight. Do three sets of 8 to 12 repetitions on each leg.

Best practice for beginners

If you’re new to basic movements, start slow and gradually build up the intensity and complexity of the workout as you become more proficient and comfortable, says Slane. “It’s also important to listen to your body, take breaks when needed, and use proper form and posture to get the most out of the workout and avoid potential injuries,” she adds. “When starting out, it’s also important to consult with a qualified fitness professional who can help you determine the best workout plan for you and learn proper technique.”

As you get stronger, continue to progress your exercises by adding loads to the exercises—but only after you’ve nailed good form.

Why the primary movement is more than a passing fad

Searches for early movement on Pinterest increased 120 percent last year, so you can probably expect to start hearing more about it. But this is far from a new idea.

“To some, early movement may seem like a niche form of exercise, or a fad—it’s not,” Slane says. “It’s functional training to help someone do their daily life activities better, which is at the heart of the main goal of fitness: to keep people healthy and moving properly. Really, it doesn’t get much more old school than that.”

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