Focus on MOVEMENTS instead of MUSCLES

What is your approach when you head to the gym to lift weights?  Do you address a specific muscle or body part?  For years, I trained this way, assigning muscle groups to a particular day – Chest and triceps on Mondays, Back and Biceps on Tuesday, Legs on Wednesdays…you get the gist.  It wasn’t until I went through the American Council on Exercise (ACE) personal trainer certification program where I learned a wealth of knowledge that I changed my exercise protocol in a more effective and efficient manner.

ACE developed the Integrated Fitness Training Model with two training components to cover Cardiorespiratory and Functional Movement and Resistance training.  As defined by ACE, “The Functional Movement and Resistance Training component of the ACE IFT Model provides a blueprint of assessments and programming progressions that personal trainers can use to first address a clientʼs needs for improved postural and joint stability and mobility, and then help clients to develop good movement patterns before moving on to loading movements with external weight, and finally incorporating training for improved athletic performance for those clients who have athletic goals.

The model has four phases: Phase 1 – Stability and Mobility Training, Phase 2 – Movement Training, Phase 3 – Loaded Training, Phase 4 – Performance Training.  The training would begin at Phase 1 to build a strong foundation (your core) and address muscular imbalances before progressing to Phase 3 or Phase 4, depending on the individual’s goal. Basically, by the time you reach the third phase when resistance is added, you’re familiar with the exercises and can execute them with good form.

The Movement Training in Phase 2 focuses on the 5 basic movements of exercise.  A movement pattern involves numerous muscles working together, therefore it makes the most sense to train movement rather than train muscles in isolation.  It’s my current approach to training as it is a productive way to torch calories and improve overall strength in a short period of time.

We do most of the 5 basic movements in our daily living unless of course, we sit on our butts all day for work, come home to sit for dinner, and spend the rest of the evening on the couch to watch TV.  If that’s the case, it’s even more significant to focus on these movements as it targets every part of your body.

  • Pushing movements – Best push exercise you can do anywhere? Push-ups!  So many variations to do.  If you can’t execute a proper full push-up, elevate your hands by placing them on a step or a chair to make it easier. Check out this article from ACE Fitness for a whole body checklist on how to do a push-up with good form.

Photo credit: ACE Fitness – Down position of a push-up

  • Pulling movements – My favorite pulling movement hands-down is a pull-up.  However, it takes time to develop strength to do at least one.  A year ago, I could probably pull myself a quarter of a way up but I worked on it by doing variations of assisted pull-ups at the gym. Now, I can do 3 pullups and up to 5 chinups!  This post from ACE Fitness, 4 Moves to Help you Master the Pull-up  provides exercises to improve overall strength and lead you to successfully performing an unassisted pull-up.

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  • Single-leg movements Forward lunges, Reverse Lunges, Side Lunges – so many options.  Or do all 3 with the Clock Lunge exercise!

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  • Bend and Lift movements – I break this movement down into two categories, quad-dominant (squats) and hip-dominant (deadlifts).  With both exercises, it’s important to learn the correct way to hip-hinge.  The article I previously mentioned that shows how to check your body for a proper push-up also has a checklist for properly performing a hip-hinge.

Photo Credit: ACE Fitness


  • Rotational movements –I like to add rotation to my core exercises using a medicine ball.  A few of the exercises featured in the post 6 Standing Ab Exercises are great examples of twisting movements to incorporate in your workouts.

Photo credit:  ACE Fitness


The next time you head to the gym (or do an at-home workout), think about how you can incorporate these five movements into your session.

Tell me about your strength training program – muscles or movements?

I am linking up with Courtney at Eat Pray Run DC, Mar at Mar on the Run, and Cynthia at You Signed up for What for their Friday Five.  Topic this week is Favorites and this is my favorite way to work-out.


Disclaimer:  For professional guidance in your exercise program, please find a certified Personal Trainer in your area. It’s important to see a qualified healthcare provider for advice and to address any questions or concerns prior to starting a fitness program. The exercises presented on this post are for suggestion only.  Participate at your own risk and stop if you feel faint or experience shortness of breath.