The 6 Movement Patterns that will make Quick Improvements

By Coach Jeremy Hoy, MS, CSCS, SCCC, PES, TPI1, RPR1

In order to create effective performance training programs (think improvements), it is important for a strength coach to understand how to analyze the functions/demands of a sport.  In this post, I’d like to mention 6 movement patterns (fundamental) for quick and lasting improvements and examples of each. Whether you are a parent, athlete, or coach, it’s useful to know these patterns to recognize if your program is using them for your development or the development of your athletes.


Using these 6 movement patterns, it is possible for a less experienced coach to design “functionally” based performance programs.  Implementing all of these patterns into a program can help an athlete move better, and lead to improvements in performance.


Advanced Sport Analysis: A Closer Look


As a strength and conditioning and long term athlete development coach, prior to designing individual programs, I inspect each sport in great detail to determine the following needs:


  1. Biomechanical Functions/Demands  (fundamental movement patterns, planes of movement, etc.)
  2. Physiological Functions/Demands (neurological demands, time frames of events, specific energy systems utilized, power, strength, etc.)
  3. Injury Statistics (most prevalent, common, gender specific, age specific, overuse, etc.)
  4. Additional Concerns (gender, age, position/event specific needs, etc.)


When looking at the biomechanical demands and function of a sport, according to Dr. Stuart McGill (Ultimate Back Fitness and Performance, Backfitpro Inc., 2006, p. 127), all movement can be broken down into six fundamental patterns:


Six Fundamental Movement Patterns


  1. Squat/Lift (some will add hinge to this as well)
  2. Push/Pull
  3. Lunge
  4. Gait (walk, run, sprint; weighted carries, walks, etc.)
  5. Twist (rotations, etc.)
  6. Maintaining Balance (single leg balance, balance boards, uneven/unstable surfaces)


McGill is internationally identified as an expert in spine function and back injuries, and uses the six fundamental movement patterns to analyze the biomechanical functions of sports.


To understand how to use these six fundamental patterns, McGill uses the example of a baseball pitcher performing the pitching motion.  At initial observation of the movement, you should see a lunge, a push, and a twist, all within an upright balance environment (p. 128).


So, what does this tell you?


Well, this tells you that from a functional perspective, the baseball pitcher needs to be able to perform these movements well in addition to addressing the other needs of the sport.  A well-planned program should address these needs.  Understand, however, that not all of the identified patterns can be trained initially in the program—some movements require additional foundational movements to be addressed first before advancing to the specific movement. 


 As a rule, general skills, general fitness, and general movements should be trained before progressing to specific/advanced training.  Also remember, there always needs to be a foundation laid before you can build on top of it.  The ultimate goal is to create a foundation and build towards exercises that will have the highest transfer to sport application.  Always start with basic, unweighted movements for teaching/learning technique before adding external resistance.


Understanding movement is very important to successful performance programming and consequently to improving performance.  If you do not have a detailed understanding of movement, begin by using the six fundamental movement patterns outlined above.  For more specific information, please comment below. (And don't forget to check out our new apparel designs!)

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