Training Movements Instead of Muscles


Well-Known Member
4 Jun 2011
It’s hard to escape the idea of training muscles when you work out. If you use weight machines at the gym, they will have clever illustrations denoting the muscle groups which will get worked by operating that piece of equipment.

Most of the well known exercises like arm curls or leg extensions are geared towards working very specific muscles, like the biceps and quadriceps respectively.

But primarily, the concept is promulgated by most people’s desire for superficial changes in their physical appearance. Guys want bigger arms and ladies want tighter butts. If they work hard enough, they’ll probably get what they’re after (in a cosmetic sense) but what do they gain from a capability stand point?

Probably very little.

Targeting specific muscles to achieve changes in appearance seems to me like a very inefficient process. You have to perform a host of exercises each geared towards hitting specific muscles, in order to escape the common fate of having an unbalanced physique. Think chicken legs, or men that only work their upper body at the gym. I always get a good chuckle when I see guys like that.

Even from a capability stand point, if your desire is to gain strength, muscle isolation and targeting still feels like an inefficient process to me. Is it that you just want to be inside a gym for three hours every day?

People who really want to build strength in the most effective manner possible will use compound lifts and presses like deadlifting, bench pressing, and squatting. These types of exercises activate more than one muscle through its range of motion and will sometimes even work the entire body. While many will still think of these exercises in terms of the muscle groups they work, intrinsically they are training movements.

The muscles that are being worked by these movements are certainly important and obviously factor into what you are doing and what you want to accomplish – but what you are ultimately doing is training your body to perform work through the full range of natural movement.

Training a movement is what people should really focus on because in the real world that is what your body performs. Whether in response to a daily chore, a dangerous threat, or rambunctious play time, your body maneuvers through it’s environment by way of a series of natural movements.

Instead of focusing on making one’s biceps as big as possible, it would be more useful and liberating to be able to effortlessly execute a chin up. From training chin ups your arms will likely get bigger and stronger, but you’re working them within the context of an inherently useful and natural movement.

Being able to do 20 body weight chin ups in rapid fashion tells me much more about your physical capabilities than knowing that you can arm curl 50 pounds on each arm for a set of 10 reps.

Train movements, not muscles.

source: Training Movements Instead of Muscles | Naturally Engineered


Well-Known Member
20 Jul 2011
There's no one out there who deadlifts and has small arms. There's no one out there who bench presses and has no pecs. There's no one out there who does pull-ups like a monster and pretends he has air lats.