What are the 7 Human Body Movements?


An exercise professional should be able to inform their client that there are basic body movements that will be incorporated  into their training programme – regardless of whether they are new to exercise or an experienced athlete.

There are seven basic movements the human body can perform, and all other exercises are merely variations of these seven:

  1. Pull.
  2. Push.
  3. Squat.
  4. Lunge.
    1. Anti-rotation: some exercise professionals do not include lunge, replacing it with anti-rotation.
    2. Some believe that the lunge is a combination of two movement patterns:
      1. Locomotion because of the way the oblique slings contralaterally work with each other in order to locomote the body – meaning it is very similar to that of walking; and
      2. Depending on the situation, the torso position and the degree of knee flexion, the lunge is either locomotion-hinge or locomotion-squat.
  5. Hinge (i.e. bend over).
  6. Rotation.
  7. Gait (also termed walk or locomotion).

These body movements make up the seven movement patterns that your body relies on to get things done every day (aka activities of daily living or ADL), and not just during a training session. For example, think about:

  • How you pull a box off a shelf;
  • Squat down to pick something up; or
  • Walk around.

For those readers who probably spend much of their day hunched over at their desk, it can compromise your ability to perform these important, functional movement patterns.

For further information on functional training look here.

Functional Movement Skills in Children

Gallahue, Ozmun and Goodway (2012) state that there are three constructs which make up functional movement skills:

  1. Locomotor (run, hop, jump, slide, gallop, leap);
  2. Object control (strike, dribble, kick, throw, underarm roll, catch); and
  3. Stability skills (non-locomotor skills such as body rolling, bending, and twisting).

The ability to perform various fundamental movement skills (FMS) (e.g., running, catching, hopping, throwing) in a consistent and proficient manner, is often defined as movement competence (Gabbard, 2012; Gallahue, Ozmun and Goodway, 2012).

High levels of FMS competence in childhood are related to a number of health and physical activity outcomes (Lubans et al. 2010).

Children who possess high FMS levels have a greater chance of maintaining good health, are more likely to participate in physical activity and possess better fitness in later life (Rudd et al., 2008; Jaakkola et al., 2015).

As the reader will note, the sooner we develop movement competence, the better the outcome for the individual both as a child and adult.

Alternative Terms

There are a number of alternative terms used by health and exercise professionals, including:

  • Body movements.
  • Primal movements.
  • Primal movement patterns.
  • Movement patterns.
  • Basic human movements.
  • Fundamental movements.
  • Functional movements.
  • Functional movement patterns (and so on).

The Seven Basic Human Movements

When performing all of these movements, you will be able to stimulate all of the major muscle groups in your body. These motions focus on recruiting multiple muscle groups, making them efficient for those using time as an excuse not to exercise. Some exercise professional state that individuals should focus on the movement pattern, not the muscle group(s) involved – although it is important to understand the muscle group(s) involved, how they affect the movement, their limitations, how muscle dysfunction can impede movement etc.

  1. Pull:
    1. A pulling motion which consists of pulling a weight toward your body or your body towards your hands.
    2. This can be a vertical or horizontal pull, such as a pull up or barbell row, respectively.
    3. Movements include opening a door, picking something up from the floor, pulling yourself up onto something, climbing or hanging from a ledge.
    4. The main muscles being worked in these set of movements are the mid and upper back, biceps, forearms and rear shoulders.
  2. Push:
    1. Pushing is the opposite of the pull!
    2. This movement involves pushing a weight away from your body or your body away from an object.
    3. This can be a vertical and horizontal push.
    4. Movements include putting a suitcase into an overhead locker, getting up from the floor (or from an armchair), a press-up, a dip, military press, or dumbbell shoulder press.
    5. The muscles targeted are the chest, triceps and front shoulders.
  3. Squat:
    1. Some consider this movement to be the most complex movement the human body is capable of, for others it is the original human sitting position.
    2. Variations of the squat include goblet squats, sumo squats, front squats, rocking, single leg squats, etc.
    3. The squat targets the glutes, core, quadriceps and to a slight degree, the hamstring muscles.
  4. Lunge:
    1. This movement involves placing your body in a less stable position of one foot further forward than the other.
    2. Since your body is at a disadvantaged stance, this movement set demands greater flexibility, stability, and balance.
    3. Exercises in this group include step ups, side lunges, and Bulgarian split squats (despite its name, it is still considered a lunge).
    4. Muscles involved include the glutes, quadriceps, core and hamstrings (as in squats above).
    5. However, the lunge can stimulate the glute muscles to a greater degree because of the split stance.
  5. Hinge:
    1. When we hinge (bend over), we use the biggest and most powerful muscles in the body, the glutes (or at least we should).
    2. Hip hinge exercises are performed by kicking your butt back and leaning your torso forward while maintain a neutral spine, for example, when picking up something off the floor.
    3. Exercises in this group include deadlifts, with varying forms such as sumo deadlifts, Romanian deadlifts, kettlebell deadlifts, etc, prayer movement, bridge variations, and bending over to pick something up.
    4. These exercises build the posterior chain, which comprises of the hamstrings, glutes, and lower back.
  6. Rotation:
    1. Rotation movement is unique from the other six movements because of the plane that it works in.
    2. The other movements involve moving forward and backward (sagittal plane) or side to side (frontal plane), yet rotation involves twisting at the core (transverse plane). However, for example, an individual can lunge and include rotation.
    3. In rotation, the torso produces movement in contrast to anti-rotation which resists movement.
    4. This motion is underrated, despite being essential for success in sports.
    5. Rotation is seen while throwing something, reaching for something, kicking a ball, changing directions while running, boxing, and many other actions.
    6. The core (specifically the obliques) are the main contributor to this set of movements.
    7. Exercises that fall under this group are Pall of presses, Russian twist and wood chops.
  7. Gait:
    1. Also termed walk or locomotion.
    2. Gait is the technique of walking.
    3. This is the most important, but often most neglected movement.
    4. It includes crawling, stepping up, walking, walking while carrying something, and sprinting.
    5. This might seem obvious or trivial, but walking is a fundamental human (and animal) movement.
    6. Gait is a combination of multiple movements (involving lunging, rotating and pulling with the hamstrings).
    7. Exercises in this group include jogging, jumping, and farmer’s walk.
    8. Think posture and position:
      1. What is your posture whilst walking?
      2. Are you shoulders drooped or rounded forward?
      3. Is your head pushing forward from your collarbones?
      4. Do your hips shake from side-to-side (particularly when you run)? This can signal an
      5. imbalance, a problem with hip mobility or a dysfunction in your core.
      6. Does one foot flare out to the side?
  8. Anti-Rotation:
    1. This means eliminating movement through the torso while the shoulders and hips move.
    2. It also means having the ability to stabilise the spine in the event of external forces being applied.
    3. Includes steering a shopping cart, countering an external force (in the form of an accidental push or a nudge), single arm or single leg resistance training.

Once an exercise professional understands these seven fundamental movements, balanced exercise routines can be developed by creating a training programme that encompasses all of the motions at least once a week.


Barnett, L.M., van Beurden, E., Morgan, P.J., Brooks, L.O. & Beard, J.R. (2008) Does Childhood Motor Skill Proficiency Predict Adolescent Fitness? Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. 40(12), pp.2137-2144.

Gabbard, C. (2012) Lifelong Motor Development. 6th Ed. San Francisco: Pearson Benjamin Cummings.

Gallahue, D.L., Ozmun, J.C. & Goodway, J. (2012) Understanding Motor Development: Infants, Children, Adolescents, Adults. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Jaakkola, T., Yli-Piipari, S., Huotari, P., Watt, A. & Liukkonen, J. (2015) Fundamental movement skills and physical fitness as predictors of physical activity: A 6-year follow-up study. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports. 26(1), pp.74-81. doi: 10.1111/sms.12407. Epub 2015 Feb 2.

Rudd, J.R., Barnett, L.M., Butson, M.L., Farrow, D., Berry, J. & Polman, R.C.J. (2015) Fundamental Movement Skills Are More than Run, Throw and Catch: The Role of Stability Skills. PLOS One. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0140224.


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