The 6 exercise movements you should be doing

woman dumbbell

woman dumbbellIf you’ve been going it alone in the gym and feel you’re lacking some direction, here are the six basic exercise movements you should be including in your resistance routines to ensure you’re getting a functional full body workout.

Rather than isolating specific muscles and focusing on one body part at a time, functional training aims to replicate ‘real life’ movements that you would use in your everyday activities to target multiple muscles at once.


To work out your legs, you can either choose to do a basic squat with feet hip-width apart, knees tracking directly over your toes as you squat down, or you can do a variation.

There are so many options you can do a different option each time if you like. Ways you can squat include Sumo squats with your feet wider than hip-width, toes angled slightly outwards, add weight by carrying dumbbells, a barbell, a medicine ball or other weight, change it up and do a one-legged squat (just make sure you match the reps when you do your other leg!)…  just to name a few!


For additional leg training, add a form of lunges to your workout. With feet hip-width apart, take a big step forward and trail your back heel off the ground. Drop toward the ground (don’t let your knee hit it) and use your front leg to push back up. Don’t let your front knee come forward over your toe.

For variations on this, you can do walking lunges – alternating as you step forward. You can also try adding extra weight of some kind, or alternate them on the spot by doing one on one side, then doing one on the other.


Performing a pushing movement works out your chest and triceps. For these you could be doing push ups, triceps dips, or a weighted exercise like bench press or chest press. Variations you can do include triceps push ups – with either your hands positioned directly under your shoulders and elbows close to your ribcage, brushing them, or diamond push ups with your thumbs and index fingers on the ground forming a diamond shape and elbows going out to the sides.


Doing a pulling exercise works out your back and your biceps. You can do pull ups/chin ups, or some kind of rowing movement using weights. Think about the different ways you can angle your arms; with your elbows at shoulder height, or in close and brushing your ribs. Or you could find a bar (like a stretching bar or handrail) to angle yourself under and ‘row’ yourself in towards it.


One of the best functional bending movements is a deadlift. Holding a pair of dumbbells or a barbell, feet hip-width apart and palms facing downwards to your thighs, activate your core and bend from the waist towards the ground letting your hands drift naturally forwards.

Keep your eyes trailing on the floor just in front of you and don’t go too deep; stop around the top of your knees. Then squeeze your butt and the backs of your legs to help you stand back up again (don’t leave your lower back to do all the work).


This means an exercise where you twist at your belly – a side to side twist movement. Woodchoppers are great for this – with feet hip-width apart and holding some kind of weight with both hands such as a medicine ball or dumbbell, start with it just in front of one knee.

Keep your eye gaze on your hands to ensure your body twists to match your movement, then slowly and purposely take it up on a diagonal above your head/towards the ceiling on your opposite side, stretching as far as you can and letting your back heel naturally lift off the ground, then return to original position. It should be a ‘woodchopping’ diagonal motion. Repeat other side.

You could also add your twist into other exercises, such as a straight armed forward-facing plank twisting into a side plank.

What are your favourite exercises that would fit in with these six movements? Let us know and comment below!

Image / FreeDigitalPhotos.net – Ambro

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