The 6 Basic Movement Patterns in CrossFit


A major misconception about CrossFit is that you have to be fit before you can start. That is completely untrue! CrossFit can seem intimidating because of the weights that we use and the variance of training but in reality we rely on just a few basic movement patterns. By breaking these movement patterns down we can improve even the most beginner athlete’s performance, function, and appearance.

“I love CrossFit because we get to do lots of different exercises and it’s never the same!”

True, we do vary different aspects of training such as exercise selection (movements), volume (sets and reps), and also intensity (weights and rest) in our program. But what do these variations really mean and in what ways are they different? Today, let’s look at the 6 basic movement patterns we use.

The 6 Basic Movement Patterns

When we design our program, we take a look at basic movement patterns that are performed by the human body. These movements can be categorized in 6 different ways.

  1. SquatSquat - StandSquat - Squat
  2. Hinge Hinge - StandHinge - Hinge
  3. Horizontal Push Horizontal push - StartHorizontal Push - Push
  4. Vertical Push Vertical Press - StartVertical Press - Press
  5. Horizontal Pull Horizontal Pull - StartVertical Pull - Pull
  6. Vertical Pull Vertical Pull - Pull Vertical Pull - Pull

Why These 6?

Almost all movements we perform in the gym will fall under one of these 6 categories in some sort of variation or a combination of them. For example, a lunge is a single leg variation of a squat. A thruster would be a combination of a squat and a vertical push. Even an exercise like a banded pull-apart is an isolated variation of a horizontal pull with the arms taken out of play.

Lunge (Single Leg Squat Variation)

Lunge - Start Lunge - Lunge

Thruster (Squat + Vertical Push)

Thruster - Squat Thruster - Press

Band Pull-Apart (Horizontal Pull Variation)

Banded Pull Apart - Pull Banded Pull Apart - Apart

How about outside the gym? Any time we sit down and up out of a chair we are squatting. Picking up an object and putting it on the top shelf is a hinge plus a vertical push. Walking up stairs is exactly the same as body weight step-ups, a single leg variation of a squat!

Sitting Down and Up (Squat)Sitting - Squat Sitting - Stand

Pick Up and Raise (Hinge + Vertical Push)

Picking Things up Raising things up

Stairs (Single Leg Squat Variation)Box step up - downStanding up - up


These 6 basic movement patterns are naturally occurring and functional in nature. Focusing on these 6 patterns ensures we never miss a body part vital for life. As long as we constantly rotate and hit these 6 patterns regularly, we will become stronger, healthier and happier. Adding load and varying intensity of these movements will theoretically prepare us for whatever life throws at us.

Food for thought

Now, the human body is capable of doing very complex movements, such as throwing or punching. Which category do they fall under? Well, these movements have a rotational aspect added to them which make them seem like outliers. However, when observed carefully they can be broken down into the 6 categories performed in a chain. A punch for example, is performed by PUSHing off the back foot, rotation in the hip joint, an aggressive PULL of one arm, rotation of the thoracic spine, and explosive PUSH with the other arm to strike. This transition of power through multiple joints and muscles working simultaneously is called a kinetic chain. All the 6 basic movement patterns involve the use of a kinetic chain when performed, but the efficiency of this becomes extremely vital for athletic performance in sports.

To learn more on how to implement these movements into your workout routine feel free to contact us here.


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