Updated: Mar 28, 2020
We want the best for our bodies and developing a daily movement practice is one of the most beneficial things you can do. It's easy to over-complicate a movement practice and there are so many workouts, programs, modalities, classes, and exercises to choose from. So how can you filter out some of the fluff and figure out what is really essential for a daily movement practice?
*Especially if you only have a few moments in your day to move your body.
So to help you out, here are 8 essential movements/exercises that most people can benefit from on a daily basis. Some of the movements are very specific and I might go into some technical terms, so if you have questions feel free to reach out and ask away. All of the movements are open to variations depending upon your movement background, level of body awareness, and general motor control.
All of my clients receive daily homework. Why? It is important to move our bodies dynamically each day, whether it is only for 15 minutes that you can spare at lunch or for an hour-long workout in the morning. I encourage all of my clients to move daily, even on "rest" days. And I encourage you to do the same.
*Your body will thank you for it later.
So let's get into it. I'm going to try to keep it simple and straight forward. Here are the movements in a suggested order, but always feel free to modify this routine in any way that fits your body's needs.
*Video links are also provided so you can see what each movement looks like. I hope you learn something new about your body and how it moves, and enjoy!
Your Daily Movement Practice:
- Ankle CARs -
Simplified "How To" = rotate your ankle slowly a few times in both directions. Make sure that you are isolating the ankle joint and that your hip and knee are not contributing to the rotation. Keep tension in your leg and foot and try to achieve as much range of motion (ROM) as you can. This is like flossing or lubricating your ankle joint to ensure that they have the necessary ROM to walk, run, squat, lunge, dance, be a human, etc.
Benefits = ankle mobility; ability to articulate and engage feet and ankles (which are super important for supporting most human movements); to help mitigate ankle sprains (most common human injury)
- Segmented Cat/Cow -
Simplified "How To" = a slow and articulated variation of cat/cow. Begin in a quadruped position on hands and knees and find your full flexion of your spine. Then start from the tailbone, going up vertebrae by vertebrae into full extension of your spine. Once there, initiate from the tailbone again to segment back into flexion. Repeat at least 3 slow rounds with as much control, ROM, and articulation as you can achieve.
Benefits = ability to control your spine is the ability to perform movements properly and with less risk of injury; to create more neurological engagement and body awareness; to mobilize the spine, which is our center and the source of all movement.
- Isometric Dead-bug -
Simplified "How To" = lay on your back and bring your knees directly above your hips at a 90 degree angle. Place your hands on the front of your thighs. Create tension by pressing your hands into your legs and your legs back into your hands; create as much engagement as possible, while drawing your ribcage in and down towards the floor to get more abdominal recruitment. Then lift your head and protract your scapulas to help the ribcage fall further down and toward the floor. Hold and breathe, keeping the ribcage down. Hold for 20-30 seconds.
Benefits = learn to create intra-abdominal pressure and engage your abdominal "wall"; to learn how to create tension from within and brace your abs; to engage your deeper abdominal muscles that stabilize your trunk/spine as you move, rotate, transfer force, etc.
- Side Plank -
Simplified "How To" = turn to one side, place your elbow directly underneath your shoulder, stack your legs and hips on top of one another, and then press down with your elbow and the outside edge of your bottom foot to lift your hips and torso off of the ground. Squeeze inner thighs and glutes, and engage your abs (ribcage down and in). Create space between the floor and your hips by engaging your obliques. Hold for 30 seconds on each side, maintaining full body engagement and tension.
Benefits = to teach your body how to engage your lateral chain of muscle fibers and tissues; to build strength and stability in your obliques, adductors, and shoulders; to challenge your balance and anti-rotation.
- Farmer Carry -
Simplified "How To" = carry heavy load with a tall posture while walking slowly and purposefully. You can start with symmetrical loads and then progress to assymmetrical (so many fun variations, but for another post). Think of your tallest and best posture: broad chest, shoulders down, ribcage down and in, abs firm and engaged. Walk slowly and press your heel down and then the front of your foot as you step, articulating the dorsiflexion of your ankle and shifting the load from on foot to the next smoothly. The kettlebells (or whatever load you are carrying) should also not touch your legs/hips. Try to externally rotate your shoulders to encourage space between the load and your legs. Carry for as long as you can without compensating your posture (your grip will most likely fail first)
Benefits = a full body integration of locomotion under load; posture; abs; grip strength; time under tension; balance and coordination; challenge your endurance and the fortitude of your will-power/mental capacity to carry heavy shit which gets really uncomfortable quick.
- Deadlift -
Simplified "How To" = the deadlift is a hip hinge. You can do this many ways, loaded or unloaded. Stand with your feet about hips-width distance. Send your hips down and back, with a long spine, keeping a relatively vertical shin. Feel the tension in your hamstrings and glutes. If you have a kettlebell or barbell, grip the bar/handle and pretend like you are going to snap it in half; you will feel your shoulders/scaps glide down your back and your lats will engage/lock in. Inhale and brace your abs (that intra-abdominal pressure that you did earlier in the dead bug). Begin to push your feet into the floor and stand up with the load as you exhale; you will be in a "standing-plank" position. Keep tension in the body as you send your hips back and down, lowering the load with control. (keep breaking the bar) Perform 10-15 repetitions with load that you can control. Or perform an isometric deadlift at your bottom position (explanation in another post coming up).
Benefits = you hip hinge all day so this will teach your body the movement pattern in a more mindful way; learn to pick things up with confidence and better engagement; full-body integration of strength, mobility, and power; #bootygainz
- Side Lunge -
Simplified "How To" = a lateral hip hinge in its essence. Start with your feet together, all ten toes pointing forward. Then step your right foot directly to the right (about the width of your "wing-span"). As you do so, hinge your hips back in space and your spine/torso will hinge forward at about a 45 degree angle; your right knee will bend, but your left leg remains straight. Make sure your toes are still pointing forward. Then push into the right foot (push down and out to the right) and that will bring yourself back to the starting position with both legs straight and an upright posture. Repeat on the other side. Perform 8-10 repetitions on each side.
Benefits = brings you out of the sagittal plane and into the frontal plane of motion (try to do this more often with your movement); requires both mobility and strength; adductors are one of the main muscles working and they often get overlooked or are forgotten about.
- Turkish Get Up -
Simplified "How To" = Start on the ground in a fetal position turned to your right side, with your right hand wrapped around the kettlebell handle. Then turn onto your back and press the kettlebell directly over your right shoulder. Press your right foot into the floor to initiate your hip to drive across and you'll get onto your left elbow. Then you will press up onto your left hand. Bridge your hips up and bring your left knee underneath you. Hinge your hips back and get into a tall half-kneeling position. You'll square your hips to the direction you're facing, and then push down with your front foot to stand all the way up. You will then reverse everything you did until you are back in the fetal position. Then drag the kettlebell around your head and, as you do so, turn your body so you can set up for the left side. Perform 3-5 repetitions on each side.
*Maintain a strong and straight wrist, keep your eye on the kettlebell, and keep pressing knuckles up.
*The full sequence consists of multiple positions and steps that might take a few weeks to learn correctly and safely. My suggestion is to practice the sequence without any load first.
Benefits = learn how to efficiently and systematically get up from the floor to a full standing position and then back down to the floor; shoulder stability; grip strength; motor control and coordination; a great way to check in with your body for the day and see how you feel/if anything is in need of attention.