The Basic Exercise Movement Breakdown

Here’s a guest post on training mechanics from Logan Christopher. You probably should know him for his feats of strength. If not then you should take a closer look at this guy. He knows what he’s talking about. – AZ


Many people have trouble figuring out how to integrate different tools into their workouts. I do not, and by the end of this article you shouldn’t either. Or they go a long ways with neglecting a major movement group in the human body.

As an example in the workout I just finished up today I worked on heavy deadlifts in a full range of motion and partials, frog stand presses up into a handstand, a progression towards the one arm chin, and finished with L-sits.

As you’ll see this one workout hit the major muscles and movements of the body. So let’s break it down.


To put it simply this is your arms moving out from your body. Here are a few examples:

  • Full Range Handstand PushupMilitary Press
  • Side Press
  • Pushup
  • Bench Press
  • Sandbag Push Press
  • Cable Press Out
  • Kettlebell Bottoms Up Press

When you do any sort of press you tend to be working the triceps, the shoulders and often the chest. Different variations work different parts more or less. For example the bottoms up kettlebell press adds a grip component to everything else. The cable press out isolates the triceps in a plane that isn’t generally trained. The push press regardless of object used adds in the legs, but then generally heavier weights can be used. (The jerk could be included here but relies heavily on the legs.)

You can also look at the different planes of movement. Handstand pushups and military presses work the vertical plane. Pushups and bench presses work the horizontal plane. You can go between these as well, like an incline bent, and outside too. The side press is both vertical pressing and out to the side.

Depending on your goals you may use different tools and different exercises. But no matter what you’re doing you absolutely should include some form of press in your training.


This is when your arms move into your body and is done with bent arms at some point in the movement. Here are a few examples:

  • Ring ChinnupChin-up
  • Curl
  • Barbell Row
  • One Arm Dumbbell Row
  • Upright Row
  • Inverted Rows
  • Lat Pulldown
  • Clean
  • Barbell Snatch

Pulls tend to work the biceps, the lats and the traps. As before other muscles can be involved. The clean and snatch heavily use the legs. The upright row uses the shoulders too.

Again we can look at the planes of movement. More rows are done in a horizontal plane like two arm or one arm rows. Chinnups works the overhead vertical plane, while cleans and snatches work the same plane from the other direction.

Once again, you have many choices but you would be wise to include at least one major pulling movement in your training.


Along with traditional squats I would add in this category deadlifting, jumping and running. All these work the legs in a major way. (Sure some deadlifts minimize the use of the legs but I’m trying to keep it simple. Some people like to break it down into straight arms pulls like deadlifts and swings, but I find three groups works fine.)

  • Barbell SquatBack Squats
  • Front Squats
  • Pistols
  • Hindu Squats
  • Sumo Deadlift
  • Conventional Deadlift
  • Jumping
  • Sprinting
  • Kettlebell Goblet Squat
  • Kettlebell Swings
  • Kettlebell Snatches

The legs involve a large portion of the mass in the body. They need to be worked and often its good to hit them in two or more ways. Make sure both the hamstrings and the quads are getting a good amount of work, not to mention the calves.

Because bodyweight exercises tend to become easy after a period of training (even with one legged squats) to continue to improve you’ll either need to move to weights or continue by adding intensity with speed and explosiveness.

The Smaller Three

Its hard to call these lesser then the others but they do tend to be smaller.

  • Neck
  • Grip
  • Abs

Once you have the big three covered I would add these in. Many people do ab work, few people do grip work, and almost no one does direct neck work, which is a shame.

My favorites for these are various types of leg raises, all kinds of grip tools, and then bridging for the neck. But those are big subjects in and of themselves, which will have to be covered elsewhere.

Remember that this is simplified to help you out. Don’t freak out when you can’t easily place a clubbell swing in the groups or don’t know where a burpee goes. Just use this as a tool when it serves your purposes and forget about it went its not.

Also this just covers the strength base, but if you want to be even more well rounded you’ll need to add in endurance training, and possibly some speed, flexibility and mobility work depending on where you‘re at.

But if you understand the basic movement breakdown of the human body you can easily tell if a workout program is complete or not. You’ll notice the majority of the great ones out there do include all these groups. Also you can put together your own workouts easily. And you can seamlessly integrate different tools together.

Logan Christopher runs Legendary Strength where you can get the Peak Performance Trinity by signing up for free which includes tips on physical training, health & nutrition and mental training. He specializes in bodyweight and kettlebell training but includes barbells and a wide variety of feats of strengths.


My Thoughts

Well, here you go. This is simple and basic. Everyone who is involved in strength training should understand these simple principles. Everything is ok but I should add here one more plane. It’s Straight Arm Scapular Strength. It’s the concept I was introduced to by Ido Portal. It derives from gymnastics. And for overall strength development you need to add it to your program. Thanks for reading.

Play rough!

Alex Zinchenko

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3 thoughts on “The Basic Exercise Movement Breakdown

  1. Mitchell - Home Fitness Manual


    This is a pretty comprehensive primer for anyone interested in starting a strength training program should read at least twice because sometimes great knowledge takes time to sink in. And I agree, mastering the pulling/pressing/squat elements should come before training areas like the abs.


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