You Should Be Training Outside the “Normal” Movement Patterns 
Written by Colin Diment

In my last article, I talked about why your mobility routine isn’t working. If you haven’t already read that one I suggest you go back and check it out, because it will help provide some context to what we’re going to talk about today. Ready? Let’s dive in! 

In short, we aim to show you how to build a better connection to your body, expand and improve your movement capacity, and become a more robust athlete. 

I’ll be honest, some of what you’ll see this post might look “weird” at first (at least, it looked weird to me when I was first exposed to it). That’s simply because we have a modern, culturally-ingrained idea of what “exercise” and “training” and “mobility drills” are supposed to look like. 

You can walk into a gym anywhere in the world, and you’ll see people doing more or less the same exercises and drills. The training tools might be a little different. Some people prefer barbells, or dumbbells, or kettlebells, but everyone generally trains the same basic movements. And I’ll just say it…

This modern approach to “exercise” and “training” isn’t compatible with how the body is actually designed. 

Modern Approach to Training
The modern approach to training asks you to use your body in the same way over and over and over. You develop a “squat pattern”, a “hinge pattern”, a “horizontal push/pull”, a “vertical push/pull”, or a “running gait”, and then you train those same movements every time you come to the gym. 

That’s one of the biggest reasons why injury rates among athletes have skyrocketed over the last few decades! 

The Result of the Current Training Paradigm
We’re developing people with incredible size and strength but very limited ranges of motion; People become incredibly strong and powerful, but only under very specific conditions, with a specific weight, a specific movement pattern, a specific warm-up, and everything going according to plan. But life doesn’t always go according to plan! All that size and strength that you develop in the “normal” movement patterns don’t automatically carry over to movements outside the pattern! 

Real Life Examples 
Lifting your kids, or your groceries, or your furniture requires you to use different muscles, different joint angles, and different neuromuscular coordination than you use when you’re lifting a barbell. Running through the airport when you’re about to miss a flight is a different challenge than running sprints on a track. Playing basketball, golf, tennis or jiu jitsu, or even just throwing a ball with your kids requires you to use your hips and shoulders and spine in a way that “standard” exercises never address. 

If all you do is train your spine to be stiff and “braced”, you’re going to lose spinal mobility. The spine has 24 different vertebrae for a reason — it’s meant to MOVE! If you only ever use your hips to squat and deadlift and clean, at best you’ll lose all of your hip mobility except for the exact ranges that you train in your squat and deadlift and clean. If you only use your shoulders to bench press and overhead press, you’re going to lose all the other functions of your shoulders. And I hate to tell you, but a few sets of pre-patterned hip/shoulder “prehab” exercises probably aren’t going to make up the difference. 

Moving Outside the “Normal” Training Patterns
So, the biggest reason to start moving outside the “normal” patterns is because we weren’t meant to move in patterns at all! With all of the patterned training that we do, we have to be intentional about making sure we don’t get stuck in those movement patterns. We have to be intentional about regularly using our body, and our joints, through their full capacity…because that’s the only way to stay healthy! 

Massive Improvements from Moving Ab-”Normally” 
Keeping your joints healthy should be plenty enough reason to buy in, but I’ve worked with enough professional athletes to know that’s not always the case. Competitive people will often gladly sacrifice their long term health for short term performance (and then regret it when they have to retire due to injury). So in case I haven’t already gotten your attention, let me convince you in another way…

Training outside the normal patterns leads to MASSIVE improvements in athleticism and coordination and will significantly improve performance within the normal movement patterns. 

Sports don’t function within normal patterns. And even the best CrossFitters in the world don’t execute every rep perfectly. If the only way you can catch a snatch is when everything goes perfectly, you’re setting yourself up for poor performance (and injuries). Because things aren’t always going to go perfectly! But if you’ve practiced using your shoulders outside the normal patterns, you’ll be better able to adapt when that snatch doesn’t go according to plan. 

Not only that, each individual muscle fiber has a limited ability to adapt. There’s only so much muscle mass and strength you can put on when you’re training the same lines of tissue every day. 

New Lines of Muscle Tissue = More Gainz
Most people hit plateaus in their lifts because they’ve literally maxed out their muscle tissue’s ability to adapt (and then they get hurt). But if you start training outside the normal patterns, you get to start exploring and loading NEW lines of muscle tissue (ie more #gainz). And that new muscle mass can then be used to generate more force, more strength, and more power when you do go back to the normal patterns. 

Put on more muscle, hit new PRs, and improve your mobility and joint health…all at the same time. Let’s get to work!

Keep an eye out for videos from Nick Hawkes for examples of exercises and drills to help you explore new movement patterns. In the meantime, feel free to reach out to Nick (@nicvictus), Benjamin (@benjamin.equilibrium) and me (@colindiment) on instagram…we would also love to work with you 1-on-1 and give you more customized versions of everything we share. It is all of our goal to help you build a better connection to your body and to help you optimize this human experience. 

About the Author: Colin is a Certified Athletic Trainer and performance therapist. He spent 4 years working for USA Track and Field at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, CA. In that time he traveled around the world helping over 75 Olympians optimize their health and performance (including numerous olympic gold medalists, world champions, and world and American record holders). He also worked for the Los Angeles Lakers organization, where he received a ring from their 2020 NBA Championship. He has worked with various sports teams at the University of Michigan and at Mississippi State University, and has consulted with professional athletes in a wide variety of sports, including the NFL, NBA, Rugby, Bobsled, and CrossFit.