Skip to main content

Pillars of Human Movement

For decades the majority of exercise routines have centered around a dozen or so large muscle groups or areas of the body (i.e. chest, back, arms, shoulders, legs, and abs). This comes primarily from the world of bodybuilding. Therefore, if your desire is to stand on stage in a bikini or speedo all lubed up with tanning lotion and oil while flexing your muscles for all the world to see, then chances are that type of program is what you seek.

If your goals are different from that, then perhaps you may want to focus on how well your body moves with the least amount of pain or restriction rather than just the aesthetics. To make it easy, let’s think in terms of basic human motion. Better yet, we will call them pillars of human movement because they are the foundation of every action we take.

Pillars of Human Movement

  1. Pressing
  2. Pulling
  3. Level Change
  4. Rotation
  5. Locomotion

Pressing is simply exerting force away from the body. Examples are push ups, dips, bench press, handstands, and the shoulder press.

Pulling is exerting force toward the body. Examples are rowing, pull ups, pulldowns, curls, and climbing.

Level Change refers to the motion of the head as it moves up and down. Exercises that require this action are squats, lunges, step ups, and deadlifts and all of their variations.

Rotation is really how the body moves. It is a key ingredient for overall success. You can perform exercises that encourage torso rotation, hip rotation, head rotation, or total body rotation. Examples of a rotational exercise are medicine ball throws, cable or resistance band rotation, hitting a punching, and lunges where the stepping leg crosses the midline of the body.

Locomotion is moving the body through space; from one location to another. Examples of locomotion are crawling, skipping, broad jumps, walking lunges, and sprinting.

By covering all of the pillars the body gets to experience integrative functional movement; something that is not focused upon with a bodybuilding routine. With over 600 muscles in the body it makes sense to try and condition as many as possible rather than a dozen or so. Here is just one sample list of exercises using the concept of pillars as the central idea.

Push up

Pull Up



Medicine Ball Side Toss

Sled push

Once you get the idea of the pillars, the workouts become easy and fun to create. Just try having at least one exercise from each of the pillars. You will find that one exercise may fall under more than one pillar. Get creative and have fun.