As the winter starts to come to an end we begin to worry about shedding our clothing and revealing the winter weight many of us have put on. Heading into the spring is when many people begin to head back to the gym to up their fitness routines.

With the myriad of exercise equipment lined up in the gym and the plethora of exercises to choose from, where does one begin when designing an effective workout program?

Though designing an exercise program may seem complex and confusing, it can be broken down into fairly simple movement patterns. The human body has moved and performed the same way since its inception. The apparatus we use today may be very high tech but the movements are based on what we call Primal Movement Patterns:

1) We push
2) We pull
3) We level change
4) We flex and extend
5) We twist and rotate
6) We ambulate

If we include these movements in our exercise routine we will cover all aspects of our training and see positive results both aesthetically and functionally.

Each category holds a multitude of exercises and by simply choosing several from each category you can build a solid and complete routine that will both strengthen the individual muscle groups and, more importantly, balance the body so it will be equally strong in all movements and directions.

Balancing the body is extremely important in achieving optimal fitness and staying injury-free. So often people only train the muscles they can see in the mirror or the muscles that are their favorite on the beach – chest, abs biceps. However, by overtraining certain muscle groups at the expense of other groups we create muscular imbalances in our bodies that will result in postural problems, chronic pain, and potential injury. Furthermore, if the body is not well balanced and certain muscles are noticeably weaker, this will affect your ability to strengthen and develop those muscles you like – the body works as one unit and a weakness in one area will affect another area. Therefore, it becomes critical that you do an equal amount of exercises in each category (ex. If you do 5 push exercises you must do 5 pull exercises).

So before you start your exercise program take the time to map out a simple plan. Choose several exercises from each of the 6 primal movement patterns and include them equally in your routine. The exercises do not have to be done all on the same day. You can break your routine into “push” days and “pull” days and combine these days with other movements such as “twist and rotate”. You can combine the movements however you like. However, it is extremely important that by the end of the week or the end of the month you have performed a fairly equal amount of sets and reps for the 6 primal movement patterns. Again this will keep the body structurally, functionally, and aesthetically balanced.

Here are some examples of exercises from each category:
Push
Moving external resistance away from the body
Chest press, tricep extension, push-ups.
Pull
Bringing external resistance toward the body
Seated row, bicep curl, pull-ups
Level change
Changing the level of our center of gravity
These comprise our leg exercises
Squats, lunges, step-ups
Flex and extend
Shortening and lengthening our core
Ball crunches (shorten), hyperextensions (lengthen), Deadlifts (lengthen)
Twist and rotate
Moving resistance diagonally through our core
Using cables, resistance bands or medicine balls we perform rotating motions through our core imitating chopping and swinging movements.
Ambulate
Moving or propelling our body in forward, lateral or reverse motion
Jogging, sprinting, jumping forward, side shuffling, backpedaling.