Building a Foundation for Complex Movements

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Building a Foundation for Complex Movements

Some movements frustrate us more than others. Often times they are the more complex movements like a snatch or a bar muscle up. We want so badly to master it, so we spend time on it, usually repetition of that movement, hoping that we’ll get better at it. This approach is a long road of frustration. Even more frustrating, in this scenario, we’re usually trying to build a movement on an incomplete foundation. You wouldn’t build the second or the third story of a house first so don’t get in the mindset that you can bypass key movement progressions in the road to getting better at the most complex movements.

Foundations are critical to many things including our physical fitness. Many complex movements have simpler, similar movements, that lay the foundation. If you find that you are having excessive trouble progressing certain exercises you may want to look at some of the simpler movements and decipher if you have a foundational issue or not. This trouble could come in the ability to link reps, you can do 1 but have a hell of a time trying to do a second. It can also come in the form of a weight plateau. Being stuck at a certain weight for years could be a sign that you’ve hit the limit of your movement pattern. In order to progress you may have to look at it from a different angle.

In the spirit of progressing, here are a few lists of movements that build upon another. Of course, some movements build in multiple ways. If you feel stuck on something, take a look at the movements prior to it, think deeply about them, and decide if any of them deserve more of your attention. My hope is that we all learn to understand ourselves a little better and can make better decisions each day regarding movement choice, speed and focus of repetition, and loading.


  • Air Squat
  • Goblet Squat
  • Back Squat
  • Front Squat
  • Overhead Squat


  • Banded Good Morning
  • 1-Leg RDL
  • Suitcase Deadlift
  • Rowing
  • Barbell Deadlift
  • Sumo Deadlift High Pull
  • Clean
  • Snatch


  • Split Squat
  • Back Step Lunge
  • Front Step Lunge
  • Box Step Up
  • Goblet Lunge
  • Pistol Squat
  • Back Rack Lunge
  • Front Rack Lunge
  • Overhead Lunge


  • Seated Pullup
  • Ring Row
  • Strict Pullup
  • Gymnastics Kipping Pullup
  • Strict Chest to Bar Pullup
  • Gymnastics Kipping Chest to Bar Pullup
  • Butterfly Kipping Pullup
  • Bar Muscle Up
  • Strict Ring Muscle Up
  • Ring Muscle Up


  • High Plank
  • Pushup
  • Bar Dip
  • Ring Support, Top & Bottom 15s+ each
  • Pike Pushup
  • Ring Dip
  • Strict Handstand Pushup
  • Kipping Handstand Pushup
  • Strict Ring Muscle Up
  • Ring Muscle Up


  • 1-arm Press
  • 2-arm DB Press
  • Barbell Press
  • Push Press
  • Push Jerk
  • Split Jerk


  • Deadlift
  • Barbell Good Morning
  • Front Squat
  • Overhead Squat
  • Overhead Lunge
  • Strict Press
  • Push Press
  • Snatch Balance
  • Medicine Ball Clean
  • Power Position
  • Mid-Hang Position
  • Below Knee Position
  • Squat Clean
  • Power Clean
  • Squat Snatch
  • Power Snatch

I hope these lists help you understand progression. In no way is this list designed to limit you, it is in fact designed to help build you up. When you get to the top of the movement chain you want to be confident in your body’s ability to handle what you’re giving it. Build mobility, then stability. Next, practice the simplest movements and perfect them. Move on to more complex movements at light loads as you add more load to the simpler ones you’re confident in. Progress yourself step by step. The joy is in the journey so don’t rush it.

-Coach Derrick

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