Get Full-body Strength with These Seven General Movements

These seven general movements will make a significant difference in your quest for full-body strength.

Most beginners, and even many veterans, in bodybuilding believe that getting better full-body strength is about performing specific exercises on each part of the body, such as the shoulders, chest, and arms.  But this is not so since you are selling yourself short with this line of thinking!

Instead, you should start thinking in terms of movement patterns – where your body is situated in space (i.e., spatially). This means that a pull-up will be a vertical pull while a push-up will be a horizontal push, for example, which will allow for meaningful changes in the range of motion, weight-to-limb ratio, and leverage, among other factors.

Overhead Press

This movement pattern includes bodyweight exercises like handstands, military press, handstand push-ups, and Arnold press, among others. You are basically pressing away from your body in a vertical plane, thus, engaging your shoulders, trapezoids, and triceps, which are essential for upper body strength.

Emphasis must be made that there will be differences in the groups of muscles being engaged in each type of exercise classified as overhead press. For example, a seated dumbbell press and a wall pike have the same overall movement patterns and similar yields but the former requires less core stability than the latter.  

Overhead Pull

This pattern of movement includes lat pull-downs, chin-ups, and pull-ups, to name a few, but all of these exercises engage the biceps and lats, your pressing muscles’ antagonists. You have plenty of room for experimentation with these overhead pull exercises, such as changing the angles, grips, and hand placements.  

The overhead pull category is a must since a balanced, symmetrical and strong back is a must for overall body strength. After all, when you have an imbalance of pushes and pulls, you will likely have an imbalance in symmetry and strength, too.

Horizontal Push

This movement pattern involves pushing the arms out in front of the chest and, hence, away from the body. You should include bench presses and push-ups, the gold standards for the horizontal push category, but be sure to experiment with the grip and angle. For example, experiment with a wide grip and a narrow grip as well as an incline and decline to maximize muscle development in your chest and triceps.

Since these exercises also require the use of your shoulders, abs, glutes, and lats, you are also getting a full body workout than you previously thought (e.g. single-arm push-up). You have to combine free weight and bodyweight training, too.  

Horizontal Pull

This movement category includes suspension strap pulls, dumbbell rows, Australian pull-ups, bent-over rows, and seated cable row as well as the front level pull-up for advanced levels. Your medial back muscles will be put to work with these exercises that, in turn, benefits the entire body. Your failure to include these exercises in your training program can mean that your postural muscles will be weak, which will require other muscles to compensate – and you will be having trouble with injuries down the road.  

With regular and proper execution, horizontal pull movements will make your spine erectors and rhomboids, among other medial back muscles, better and stronger.


This category engage the anterior and posterior of the legs such that the hamstrings, quadriceps, tibialis, and glutes are maximized. Squats are also, indeed, among the best in terms of full body movement since these also require the use of the spine erectors, hip flexors, and abdominals, among others.

While you may have been the master of squats in your younger years, your advancing years may mean more limited range of motion in your ankles, knees, and hips. Fortunately, you can overcome the challenges that come with it through correct execution of the wide range of squats, such as bodyweight squats, walking lunges, back squats, front squats, and split-squat.  

Forward Flexion

These exercises under this category involve the bending forward of the body, which emphasizes the abdominal muscles. Just keep in mind, too, that many of the exercises included here also recruit other muscles for proper execution, such as the shoulders, arms, and lats.

You should include the numerous variations of sit-ups, twisting knee raises, hanging leg raises, and jackknife crunches as well as exercises on weighted crunch machines. Your target: The abdominal and core muscles, which serve as the anchor of strength for your entire body.  


This group includes exercises that improve the symmetry and strength of your posterior (i.e., back) muscles as against the abs and chest, thus, deadlifts, kettlebell swings, and back bridging exercises fall under it.  You have to remember that without a functionally strong and sound posterior, you will not only increase your risks for injuries but also decrease your muscular strength.  

Keep in mind that these seven movement patterns are generalizations but therein lies their beauty – you can experiment with each pattern to suit your own needs and wants in full-body strength.  You can also experiment with your actual training program but you have to ensure that each movement pattern is included in it.  You can also work with a personal trainer at Gold’s Gym, which has several certified personal trainers on board to choose from, to ensure it.

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