The Importance Of Proper Functional Movement

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The Importance Of Proper Functional Movement

From Rhod:

My daughter just had her first birthday recently and I have been carefully watching her physical development. More specifically, the way her functional movement reveals patterns. If you want to see how to squat, whether you are merely picking something up off the floor or overhead squatting 135 Lbs., watch a baby move. Their form from a standing position to a squatting position and back again (this can be seen during bowel movements or picking their favorite toy up off the floor) is flawless. Adult movement patterns should be the same. Unfortunately, they stereotypically are not! I asked myself how and where we universally developed our bad habits.  Although I can point the finger at limited range of motion, improper coaching, muscle imbalances and genetic disorders, the question remains largely unanswered in my mind. All I know is that we have to retrain the “broken” movement patterns within the brain/body connection. To do this, you typically have to perform an exercise a specific way (which requires a ton of focus initially) and repeat those exact movements (at a minimum of) 5000 times before your brain will fire the muscles in the appropriate plane, sequence and manner subconsciously. Oh, by the way, I said 5000, that was not a typo!

Over the years I have trained hundreds of athletes and non-athletes alike and there is a fundamental connection between nearly all of them. The primary movement of the squat is performed incorrectly. When asked to perform a complex movement like the overhead squat that requires correct musculature “stacking” and “firing” sequences, few, if any are able to perform it correctly, if at all.

Unfortunately, the bulk of my interaction with clients revolves around group fitness (boot camp) where the business model is to warm up, crack on with 50 to 55 minutes of intense output followed by a short cool down (and even that sometimes is not featured in the workout). There is simply a lack of time to “coach” correct form for all exercises performed over the course of the hour and frankly, the athletes don’t want it. They want to get in, get their sweat on and get out, which is fine. However, it comes with a price. These are the reasons that the relative weight of barbells and dumbbells for any given exercise remains relatively light in this environment and are combined with relatively high repetition counts. People simply couldn’t perform certain exercises with “solid” weight due to their incorrect musculature “stacking” procedures.

The consequence of improper squatting form ultimately leads to chronic low back pain and your maximum physical potential never being reached.

This problem is not only observed in the squat, I have seen it with countless movement patterns – I am only highlighting the squat because it is fundamental to so many other movements. During our time awake, we probably spend less than 5% of it actually working out. Therefore, it is simply not enough to be only conscious of your skeletal and musculature stacking during this workout time. It’s important to be aware of your position throughout the entire day. Postural awareness is as fundamental in preventing chronic muscle fatigue and its associated pain, as weightlifting with good form.

This of course, changes when I work with personal training clients. Until my client can complete a certain repertoire of exercises with proper form I simply will not ask them to perform any type of weighted squat. All I would be accomplishing, apart from encouraging injury, is reinforcing the bad movement patterns and making it worse, which is the antithesis of my “scope of practice” as a trainer. You have to literally “break” current movement principles that are ingrained in the brain, synapses and motor neurons and start from scratch. This can be more difficult than most people imagine and can take several sessions to achieve.

Monitor the effects of your workout. If you start to experience chronic low back pain then it’s the body’s indicator that something is not right and needs to be fixed. I am a huge advocate of group exercise but there is no substitute for building solid, functional movement patterns prior to enrolling in a group exercise program where technical instruction is not the primary focus of the trainers that run them (me included).

If you would like to set up some personal training sessions with the nationally certified instructors here at Rogue who can identify and correct poor functional movement patterns, please contact us at: 


  1. Tami Vinson

    Great article! After having just coming off an injury that was the result of lack of regular stretching, improper running technique and wearing the incorrect shoes for my foot type, I definitely am more conscience of my need to perform with proper technique and appreciate this article. There are certainly many times in bootcamp that I’m rushing through to get finished but probably not doing so with correct form. I ALWAYS appreciate the feedback that you give me in class to correct my form so THANK YOU Rhod!

  2. Heather Engbrock

    Rhod – great article! I remember a class where you had everyone do proper squats with no weight and we could barely get through 20. Does this mean you’re never coming back to teach? Just kidding. Very much enjoyed the message here.

  3. Terry Tucker

    I find all of your articles to be in the neighborhood of my general likes. The fitness ones seem to actually dumb down the fitness lingo so that a goof like me who use to know how to be fit can understand it. I wouldn’t mind a few more articles on nutrition because without that all the squats in the world won’t matter. Keep up the good work.

  4. I’d recommend some form of yoga as a compliment to any of these, esoecially for those of us with less exciting, slumped over desks jobs. It is all about the form, there’s 20 some kinds so you really cannot NOT like it, it brings awareness to poses, helps prevent injury and can help heal injuries. Couldn’t agree more though.

  5. All of your comments are fantastic! Thanks and keep them up. We appreciate the conversations!


  6. read it while squatting.

  7. Raza Prince

    Yet again Rhod, you have addressed another issue that most humans experience. I was in a park a little while ago where I saw the back of a woman in a seated squat playing with what I thought was her children ( both aged under 5 ).
    As I walked pass I thought to myself that her posture and strength of her core must be matched to a Jedi master……
    My jaw dropped when I looked back at her and to my amazement this seated lady was aged above 80!
    she in my mind has just kicked master Yoda’s reputation right out of the park.
    What great example of a human enjoying their life to the full.
    The lessons that you have taught me still stay with me and I thank you for your teachings. Without your input I would never have been able to achieve my goals.
    Thankyou and keep up with your words of wisdom.

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