Dan John: 5 Basic Human Movements

Dan John discusses the 5 basic human movements: Push, pull, hinge, squat and loaded carry and prioritizes their impact on strength training.

Excerpted from Dan John’s Intervention

Whenever someone calls me with a strength training question, I always ask, “So, what do you do in the weight room?”

And the guy is a guy . . . He will always say, “I bench 500 pounds.” That’s always the first statement because that’s what every guy thinks.

“Then I do three chin-ups.”

Then I’m waiting for everything else. It’s never forthcoming. I never hear about all five basic human movements.

I always hear about push first. I always hear about pull second. The third movement that you don’t hear very much is called hinge. The fourth movement is something I call a squat. (Now, I call it a squat and yet what I usually see is . . . not a squat. Knees out, hips stiff is not squatting. In fact, I don’t know how people can do that—that hurts my knee. The fifth basic human movement is what I call loaded carries.

In order, this is how I hear them: I always hear push. I almost always hear pull. Sometimes I hear a hinge movement—a deadlift or maybe a clean. Sometimes I hear a squat, though I usually hear, “It hurts my knees.” I never hear, “I do loaded carries,” which we will get to in just a minute.

If I were to put these in order as to how I can impact you overnight, the order would be like this:

1) Loaded carries— I can change your life in three weeks

2) Squat

3) Hinge

4) Pull

5) Push

I can guarantee that your kids—when they show up in the weight room—they want to bench press. They want to lay down and bench press. I know that because I worked with a Pac-12 bas­ketball player years ago and all he ever wanted to do was bench press—a 6’9″ guy who walked around hunched over and wanted to bench press.

Intervention number one is this: Getting you to do some kind of loaded carry. I get that done and three weeks later you call me up and you say, “Dan, you’re a genius.” I practice blushing often. I go, “Oh please. Genius is a true but overworked term, but, yes, keep talking. Is there more?”

Because if I can get you to just farmer walk—just the farmer walk—in three weeks you’re better. I taught the farmer walk to a ballet dancer and a basketball team and they both worked. Why? Because they weren’t doing them. What? What you will find, too, are the things they don’t do and you make them do it. I will have them do it and three weeks later, they are better.


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