Movement Patterns

Humans have seven primary movement patterns refined throughout life. Learn what these patterns are, and the implications of correcting these patterns for your exercise instruction.

The human brain is very efficient.  One of its aims is to record and recall movement patterns that make life easier allowing it more capacity to deal with life’s little anomalies.

For instance, your brain learns how to walk and continually refines that pattern in your first few years of life. This allows you to concentrate on everything else you are seeing while you’re walking along as an infant.

During your early years of life your brain records and refines several primary movement patterns that it will need again and again.  These patterns, once ingrained, allow your brain to quickly put them into action and modify them slightly as the environment dictates.

Using walking as an example, your brain recalls the basic pattern called ‘gait’. This could modify this to uphill or downhill or over uneven surfaces. The primary pattern being used is gait, with adjustments coming from other brain centres. This is based on what is happening in the environment.



The seven primary patterns of human movement are:


Walking, running, sprinting







How do we learn these movement patterns and when do we use them?


Because primary movement patterns are used in daily life they are often the focus of conditioning exercises in the gym as well.  Primary patterns are compound (use lots of joints and muscles), familiar to us, and necessary throughout life.


Once the brain has formed a pattern it will repeat it over and over in the same way. Changing the pattern once ingrained requires more work (it’s estimated that 10 times the initial number of repetitions must be performed in the new way to over-write the existing pattern) than establishing the pattern in the first place (it’s been estimated that it takes about 300 repetitions to ‘ingrain’ a new movement pattern depending on its complexity).  The implications of this are that spending time getting a pattern right early on saves a mountain of extra work later if you want to change a problematic pattern.


The primary patterns are used in many variations but to the brain, the primary pattern is always the same.  So a tennis serve and a badminton serve is replicas in the brain.  What changes are the speed at which they occur, the loading in the movement (due to the weight of the racket for example), and other minor refinements (where the target is and the timing of the start of the movement). Watch Yoga with Stacey Turner – Short Vinyasa for Feeling Movement HERE.

This allows us to ‘slow down’ and perfect a movement if someone is having trouble with it. When we speed the movement up again the improved movement should prevail.  This is one reason that getting it right is more important than getting it done. The purity of the movement greatly increases the forces that can eventually be produced and can significantly reduce the injury risk simultaneously.


Movement Tips


The more you speed up or load up an imperfect movement pattern the more the imperfections will show.  The more you speed up an imperfect movement pattern the more the imperfections will show.

Think you have your movement under control? Are you looking to perform better, lift heavier or increase your intensity? Look no further, let us design an individualised food plan for you that will catapult your fitness to the next level.




Nicole McDermott

I am passionate about working with people on a holistic level to balance hormones, improve mood, manage weight all whilst educating people on the benefits of a balanced whole foods diet. Follow more great advice from Nic here.