Why Functional Movement Matters – Bend & Lift

I believe in a minimal approach to fitness. That doesn’t mean boring or ineffective; it means I believe in fitness grounded in the basics, and that you don’t need a ton of fancy equipment or moves to maximize your quality of life. One of the main reasons I’m a personal trainer is because I believe so strongly in exercise that promotes proper movement; these fundamentals can drastically improve our ability to comfortably participate in even the most routine tasks in our daily lives.

Don’t get me wrong, I love LOVE a hard, sweaty, high impact workout, but the ability to complete those workouts is dependent on proper functional movement. Why? Mostly injury prevention, but also to get the most out of your workout. That’s why the foundation – these basics – are so important regardless of your current fitness level. Plus, knowledge is power, and I know there have been a number of times where the only thing that’s motivated me to stay active is knowing that, at the very least, it will make my daily life easier.


There are five primary movement patterns that we use in every day life – also known as functional movement – which are mimicked in all workout moves either singularly or in combination.

  1. Bend & Lift
  2. Single-Sided
  3. Push
  4. Pull
  5. Rotate

Training with a focus based in functional movement means honing in on these primary movement patterns so our brains can remind our bodies HOW to properly move. Did you know every single movement of ours is first initiated in the brain (proprioception – a post for another time)? When your brain begins to reprogram your body to move properly, you don’t have to see progress in the mirror to experience these physical changes that are happening in your brain. So cool, right? And even if you DO move properly already, maintaining a focus on these basics, even in an advanced workout, will help ensure things don’t veer off course.

Things that can affect our body’s ability to move properly are poor posture, repetitive movements (think clicking that computer mouse), ignored nagging injuries, stress, breathing improperly, pregnancy, weight gain/loss, age, etc. So basically, LIFE.

So in this series, I want to go a little more in depth with one of these movement patterns each week and how they support us in every day life. My belief is that at the end of the day, this is why we stay active; this is why we stay strong. Yes, it’s great to see physical progress, but let’s not discount the freedom that comes with the ability to handle routine daily tasks and enjoy quality, actively engaged time with our friends and family without unnecessarily risking injury. And let’s also not discount all the changes our bodies can make to support us that we may never see in the mirror. I find one of the best ways to stay committed to my health goals is to focus on growth in areas I cannot physically see.

Without further ado, today is all about the bend & lift, which most of us know as a squat or deadlift. First thing’s first: the “lift” in bend & lift, at its very core, refers to lifting yourself. Once you bend down, your body must have the ability to support itself on the way back up, which is the lift. Now, you can most certainly add resistance and make that lift harder, get your upper body more involved, etc., but at its very foundation, the lift doesn’t refer to anything more complicated than yourself!


  • Protects lumbar spine
    • Lifting improperly likely means a lack of hip hinge and/or core engagement, which results in bending & lifting from the torso rather than an engaged lower half of the body. This causes a lot of strain on the lower back and can lead to reduced range of motion in the hips and a forward-hunching torso from the improper repetitive motions.
  • Promotes scapulothoracic stability (counters toddler torso iykyk)
    • Keeping the shoulders packed and tight when bending & lifting is a form of strengthening the back if being done properly. This will help counter the tendency for the shoulders to roll forward from bad posture, repetitive motions, children excitedly pulling you down to their level, etc., and will protect your shoulders, which are your only joints that rely entirely on muscles for stabilization!
  • Increases posterior chain stability – our life line
    • The back of the body is your protector by providing the foundation to protect your spine. Protecting the spine means protecting the rest of the body because the spine is connected to your nervous system, which ultimately controls everything.
    • A natural byproduct of a strong posterior chain is good posture. Standing up straight is about SO MUCH MORE than the way it looks; it’s about what it means is happening on the inside. Next time you see amazing posture, compliment that person on their ability to protect their central nervous system. This is probably also a lesson in how not to make friends.
  • Promotes increases in range of motion for hips
    • Improper bending & lifting can result in relatively weaker glute strength from lack of activation/engagement, which also generally presents with tighter hips and hamstrings since the upper half of the body has been doing the movement rather than the hip flexors during the hinge. Getting deeper and deeper into squats and deadlifts, in proper hinge form with the glutes engaged, will help to alleviate these concurrent issues.


  • Picking up your grandkids/kids/pets’ stuff.
  • Picking up your grandkids/kids/pets, period.
  • Laundry. Always so much laundry.
  • Loading and unloading the never-ending dishwasher.
  • Vacuuming. Every nook and cranny.
  • Getting in and out of your bed, car, chair, etc.
  • Even using the restroom.


  • Squats (all variations)
  • Deadlifts (all variations)
  • Good mornings
  • Yoga poses like forward folds, chair pose, downdog and many, many more

Last, please do not discount bodyweight exercises. Yes, you can get much more substantive results out of added resistance if that’s your cup of tea (or coffee, or water – hey, you make the decisions), but bodyweight exercises challenge the body enough to help alleviate the standard muscle loss we all face as we age. It’s great if you can/want to add resistance and go hard! But you don’t have to do that to be able to get an amazing, effective workout that will help you properly and comfortably bend over well into those golden years.

I’m going to do a post later this week to give some in depth tips on form for squats and deadlifts based on where you are personally, so I’ll show you how to evaluate your own movement and then what to do to improve for your specific issue(s) if need be.

And with that, happy bending & lifting.

About shauna@reyoutotalhealth.com