movements take care of muscles

A movement based paradigm versus a muscle based paradigm.

I came of age in the fitness industry during a time that the body was viewed as a “bag of parts”. Because strength training was viewed muscle by muscle, we developed a machine for every muscle.  Using machines to improve general fitness, local muscle strength and endurance and get all of the wonderful physiological benefits of resistance training is a great idea. 

That said, we also have evolved as Fitness Professionals and feel compelled to share the emerging notion of “movement not muscles”. To illuminate this shift of thought, let’s look at an important connection of observations: by training towards excellence in “movements”, it appears as though “muscles” seem to take care of themselves…  Think of a gymnast (the ultimate expression if beautiful movement) or, at a lower level, a wrestler or a farmer.  These are all examples of very strong “athletes” and provided they eat reasonably well, they tend to have impressive muscle development. 

On the other hand, we look at physique oriented trainees and often they “look like Tarzan, play like Jane”. Looking great is an excellent reason to strength train, but why not get the best of both worlds and use a movement based template to help select exercises that are best for you?


Here is a very simple example:


Movement type:

Day(s) 1 & 3

Day(s) 2 & 4




Chest press or Push up



Shoulder press; machine or dumbbell




Lat pull down or Pull up



Seated machine or cable row


Hip dominant



Single leg deadlift or forward balance reach


Supine bridge or Deadlift

Knee dominant



Leg press or Squat


Step up or Reverse lunge




Anti-rotation press



Bicep curl and triceps press down



This style of selecting exercises allows us to get a great balance of pushing and pulling in the major planes of motion (forward to back and up and down). These movements will help develop the chest, back, shoulders and arms. For the lower body, we get the front and back of the legs, as well as the hips, by including hip dominant and knee dominant exercises.  Doing them with one side of the body as well as both sides helps us improve balance, core strength and coordination.  The “other” category allows for an area of weakness to be improved, to get some extra work on the body parts you really want to improve or to get in some extra work for the core.

Each of the exercises listed in the chart should be easy for you to find videos or pictures of. If you really want to get a personalized program, and learn the best way for you to do them, our trainers at ACAC do exactly that!


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About Mark

I am a busy guy; husband, father, coach, mentor, gardener, outdoors man and cook are the primary hats I wear. To be the best of these I can be, I need to stay in shape for all those pursuits, and feed myself in a way that allows me to keep up the pace. I can help you to take the next manageable step in fitness and wellness to get you closer to your ideal self.