The Seven Basic Human Movements

As coaches and trainers, we are so often asked, “How do I put together a program at home?” or “How do you put your classes together?” The simple answer is we make sure to include both grinds and ballistics within the seven basic human movement patterns.

The Seven Basic Human Movements

Grinds, in kettlebell practice, are the slow exercises—the ones you want to perform for 3-5 sets of 3-5 reps, such as presses, deadlifts, squats, and get-ups. Ballistics are the quick lifts—such as swings and snatches—that are to be performed for however many reps before form degrades from fatigue or before power output diminishes. Typically, this falls between 10-20 reps.

The seven basic human movements are combined from former StrongFirst Certified Master Instructors Dan John and David Whitley. Dan’s five movements are:

1. Push
2. Pull
3. Hinge
4. Squat
5. Loaded Carry

After assisting a workshop with David Whitley, I added:

1. Rotation
2. Counter-rotation (fighting against rotation)

Examples of Each Movement

When training for general physical preparedness (without any specific athletic goal in mind), you will want to start with some get-ups (which cover many categories) and then fill in the blanks. Plenty of exercises fall into two categories. And you can use one kettlebell or two.

By no means is this a comprehensive list, but here are some examples of each movement.

  1. Push: You can do any of the numerous press variations (military press, floor press, etc.).  You can even combine push and counter-rotation by doing a one-sided floor press. If you don’t want to use a kettlebell, you can do pushups (of which there are numerous variations).
  2. Pull: Any of the row variations (rows, renegade rows, single-leg rows, batwings, etc.) or pullups fall into the pull category.
  3. Hinge: Deadlifts, swings, cleans, and snatches all are hinges.
  4. Squat: Goblet squats and front squats are the most common. The more practiced strength students can perform pistols (weighted or unweighted).
  5. Loaded Carry: According to Dan John, this one’s a game changer. Farmers carries, racked carries, waiter’s walk (overhead carries).
  6. Rotation: Russian twist, ribbons, overhead rotation (kettlbell locked out overhead and rotate from your spine, not hips).
  7. Counter-rotation: One-sided suitcase deadlifts, one sided floor presses, renegade rows, one-arm swings, alternating swings.
You have the tool, now here’s a plan for using it.

Sample Workout With the Seven Basic Human Movements

So here is an example for a basic kettlebell class or solo training at home:

Joint Mobility:

  • 4 TGUs each side
  • 2 laps farmers carries, 2 laps racked carries

30 seconds work with 30 seconds rest for 3 rounds (0:30/0:30 x 3):

  1. Alternating Swings (ballistic, hinge, counter-rotation)
  2. Military Press Left (grind, push)
  3. Military Press Right
  4. Row Left (grind, pull)
  5. Row Right
  6. Snatch Left (ballistic, hinge, counter-rotation)
  7. Snatch Right
  8. Russian Twist (rotation)
  9. Goblet Squat (squat)

That is the secret. Every class could be programmed this way: pretty much the same, but different. Same plan, different tactic. The specifics can change day to day without becoming “random acts of variety.” Using the seven basic human movements provides a template we can follow to get maximal strength, mobility, stability, and fat-loss results. Enjoy!

Delaine Ross
Delaine Ross got her Russian Kettlebell Certification (RKC) in September 2006, where she won the form and technique challenge. Soon after, she moved back to Atlanta and opened Condition Kettlebell Gym.

Delaine got her RKC Level 2 certification in June of 2008 and in March 2010 was promoted to RKC Team Leader by Chief Instructor Pavel Tsatsouline. When Pavel created StrongFirst, she accepted a Senior Instructor position in the new organization. She is excited to continue to use her experience and expertise to spread kettlebell training and its benefits teaching both newbies and instructor level courses.

14 thoughts on “The Seven Basic Human Movements

  • what do you think of the lunge as a fundamental movement? can it be included? or is it a variation of some exercise?

  • Would this workout be consistent with Strongfirst / Easy Strength programming principles?

    Warm up: TGU L, R (24), L, R (40)
    20 swings (24)

    Main workout

    3 rep set of LCCJs (36)
    20 swings (24)
    3 rung ladder of pull ups (unweighted)
    20 swings (24)
    3 rung ladder of weighted pistols (16)
    20 swings (24)

    Repeat the main workout 2 more times

    Closer: TGU L, R (32), L, R (36)

  • My movements only deal with a gym setting. If you ever actually trained with me or my people, you would see running, sprinting and everything else. But, for most S and C coaches, it doesn’t help to include it.

    I’ve coached Track and Field since 1979. There is a small chance I include “locomotion” in my training. I have my hurdlers locomote over ten hurdles, my sprinters locomote….enough.

    Also, I am in agreement with smarter people than me than anti rotation is the key to sport, NOT rotation. We need to train NOT to keep rotating to accelerate things. And the best way? Push, Pull, HInge, Squat and LC. I will put something together to explain this.

    Delaine, great work here. I remember about 500 years ago walking into the Sistine Chapel and hearing someone yell up to the guy on the scaffold “More Blue!” You made a great point….no need for “more blue.”

    • I first read about Dan John’s 5 basic movements about a year ago and it makes for a great basic template for planning a workout. Starting from those 5 Delaine has added two and it sounds like that is working for her. I don’t train others, only myself, but I have added a different two to the starting 5. I call them “core” and “bounce.” I think everybody knows what I mean by “core” but what I call “bounce” is an effort to maintain the elasticity of the Achilles tendon. Following the concept of Dan’s that the true game changer is doing the thing that you are not doing, I found that I kept pulling my calves because I was not working my calves ballistically on a consistent basis. So as I walk around the crowded gym assembling a workout on the fly I repeat the mantra “push, pull, hinge, squat, carry, core, bounce.” I may not cover all in a single session but I get all done at least once every two days and that works for me.

  • Great stuff. Apologies in advice, I geek out.

    “Does the get up falls into rotation category or counter-rotation?”


    Also, there can be an added distinction between rotation/anti-rotation (a one arm pushup or TGU) and lateral flexion/anti-lateral flexion (a one arm farmer’s carry…and a pistol squat). First is obliques, second is QL/quadratus lumborum.

  • I always wonder where running fits in. No one can argue for any more basic movement than locomotion, yet Dan John has excluded it.

    I look to Herschel Walker’s pushups, situps, pullups, and sprints, and wonder where the holes in such a routine are in terms of the ‘basic human movements,’ provided you’re doing variations of them such as twisting situps, and that you also crosstrain in sports (Herschel has done everything from ballet to MMA conditioning circuits).

    • Seth,

      I hope my response help you. What I learned about locomotion is very different from you, or running is very advanced. By that, I learned the most basic locomotion is the rolling, which you can refer that in human neurological development, FMS, SFMA, and so on. After rolling, we have to acquire other locomotion forms, such as crawling,creeping, and so on. Also, before we acquire how to move in the asymmetrical stance, which is asymmetrical tall kneeling, half kneeling, etc. After we are able to do walk, gallop, many numerous things, we are ready to run “competently”. I believe we do not have to go through all the stages, but these missing stages will appear as injury risks later in our physical endeavor. I hope my response cleared your questions even a little bit. And, I want to say I am sorry in advance if I confuse you more.

  • Delaine awesome stuff lady. Thank you for sharing your knowledge. I especially appreciate this after opening my gym 3 weeks ago. My desire is to deliver the safest, most effective and fun kettlebell program to my general clientele so that they spread the love and share with their friends how amazing this piece of iron can be!

  • Great look at what is really necessary when planning your own training or the training of others. Favorite line, start with TGU’s then fill in the blanks.

    The one arm floor press is really piquing my interest lately as a strength exercise and a diagnostic.

    Nicely put together Delaine

This article is now closed for comments, but please visit our forum, where you may start a thread for your comments and questions or participate in an existing one.

Thank you.