Foundational Movement: Where Chiropractic Care Meets Exercise

The Foundation – Exercise is Preventative

As an elementary school kid, I would spend a fair bit of time at my dad’s practice, just watching how he interacted with patients, listening to what he told them, getting adjusted myself, and learning or asking questions about all of the things above.

I remember one time when I had a bad cold that my dad insisted that I get adjusted.

“What does an adjustment have to do with fixing my cold?” I asked him boldly.

He responded very simply, “Everything in your body works together. If one part of it has a problem, it can cause problems elsewhere too.”

Now that I’m older and understand a little bit more about chiropractic care (though I still have much to learn), I know the idea that our nervous system and immune system work in tandem.

My dad would always talk more about the “foundational movement” of the body and provide a strong base through which the entire body can sense, act, and react to the world around it and within it.

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While some aspects of medicine focus on underlying issues, he would show me that it is often more focused on the superficial characteristics of health, fixing symptoms instead of causes.

This is where chiropractic differs.

Chiropractic care aims to help build and maintain a healthy body instead of hiding the problems caused by an unhealthy body.

In my studies of exercise physiology, I found a very similar idea taught behind activity and nutrition.

While you can go somewhere else to find help with pain or symptoms, these result from an unhealthy lifestyle, and the effects will not last.

By helping to educate people on the foundational importance of daily exercise and proper nutrition, we can minimize the issues that we see in medicine today.

That’s why many of the most common illnesses today, such as cardiovascular disease and Type II diabetes, are called “preventable” diseases.

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With proper education and application, daily exercise in conjunction with chiropractic care can provide us with a fantastic foundation to build a healthy and happy lifestyle.

This sentiment is exciting, but the most significant issue from many people is the first issue…

Where do we start?

What is “Foundational Movement”?

Everything that we do during our daily lives consists of certain types of movements.

When you bend over to get the bag out of the trash can.

When you push and pull the vacuum cleaner – even when you roll out of bed in the morning.

These more complex activities (or simple) are various combinations of certain types of movements.

We call these “foundational movements.”

There are multiple ways to categorize foundational movements.

One way is to differentiate between “foundational” and “functional” movements.

Foundational and Functional Movements

Foundational movement is more related to the building blocks of movement (building a movement from the ground up).

In contrast, functional movement is more connected to the most common and most straightforward patterns of movement.

Let’s first discuss the foundational movement.

Foundational Movement

According to Hulteen et al., foundational movement can be separated into three different categories: locomotion, object control, and stability.

3 Categories of Foundational Movement
  1. Locomotion
  2. Object Control
  3. Stability


Locomotion is any type of foundational movement related to transportation.

Examples of locomotion would be walking and running, jumping, skipping, etc.

Foundational Movement: Locomotion
Foundational Movement: Locomotion

Movements such as squats and lunges are also included in this category, even though one does not necessarily engage in transportation during a squat or lunge.

This is because the movement done is still related to locomotive transportation; every step, stride, jump or skip that we engage in carries some aspect of a squat or lunge.

Another important thing to remember is that even though the locomotive movement is usually related to lower-body activities, the movement in the upper body is still considered when referring to locomotion.

For example, one will walk differently (and likely much less effectively) if they do not swing their arms than if they do.

The whole body is considered when speaking about locomotion.

Object Control

During our daily lives, we pick things up, set them down, throw them, catch them, kick them out of the way, and any number of other ways to manipulate objects.

This type of foundational movement is collectively referred to as object control.

Again, similar to locomotion, both the upper and lower body are included when considering object control.

Foundational Movement: Object Control
Foundational Movement: Object Control

Another important aspect of the movement is that more complex movements can be made up of multiple categories.

For example, dribbling a basketball up a court requires both a great deal of object control and the ability to control that object in locomotion.

Simply holding an item such as a box requires object control as well.

Too much pressure, and you’ll crumple the box.

Too little, and it will slip through your fingers.


Every single aspect of movement incorporates stability.

If we tried to walk without any stabilizer muscles, we would look like legs moving on the bottom and one of those inflatable funny men you see at used car lots on top.

Our arms and core would flail around without any way of keeping it in place.

That is why stability and core exercises are so important.

Foundational Movement: Stability
Foundational Movement: Stability

But stability is more even than just about our “midsection.” When we step forward, at least half, a dozen muscles are acting to stabilize the leg, ensuring that it does not cave inward or outward, aiding in the contraction necessary to keep our body upright, and preventing hyperextension.

The same is true when we push open a door, pick up a box, or lift our spoonful of cereal from our morning breakfast bowl.

Functional Movement: From Blocks to Patterns

When we take various foundational movements and put them into their most straightforward applications, we get what is called “functional movements.”

Think of foundational movements as the building blocks and functional movements as the most straightforward pattern a person can make with those blocks.

According to Okada et al. (2011) and Teyhen et al. (2012), six commonly accepted functional movements: push, pull, rotate, squat, lunge, and hinge.

6 Types of Functional Movement
  1. Push
  2. Pull
  3. Rotate
  4. Squat
  5. Lunge
  6. Hinge

These are much easier to picture in our minds than the foundational movements because they are things that we do every day in various forms and functions.

Pushing open a door, pulling a chair to sit down, bending over to pick up our crying toddler, and any number of other types of activities.

There is almost a “taxonomy” of how movements build upon each other.

In the body, cells build up tissues, tissues come together to form organs, and our organs together make up our body.

Cells, Tissues, Body Illustration
Foundational Movement and Functional Movement: A Comparison

In the same way, one could think of foundational movements coming together to make up functional movements, and functional movements in more complex interactions can create movements like a baseball pitch, a gymnastics vault, or even typing on a keyboard.

Foundational and Functional Movement Illustration
Foundational Movement and Functional Movement

When you really think about it, typing involves tiny muscles, but each of these muscles must work together to help your fingers push, rotate, and hinge on hitting a key.

There are aspects of locomotion (leaving and returning to the same place after each keystroke), object control (hitting the actual key), and stability (yes, even in muscles as small as the ones in our fingers) that allow us to create the documents that we read and write daily.

Exercise and Chiropractic Care are Vital for Movement

The intrinsic nature of movement to our daily lives means that our ability to go about our business effectively—and even our enjoyment and general mood—can be hindered if we cannot achieve different movements.

That is why both exercise and chiropractic care are so vital to our overall health.

The foundation of a building keeps it upright and functioning correctly, and chiropractic and exercise both aid in correcting and maintaining the foundation of our bodies so that we can move and live and enjoy life to the fullest.

Often we will neglect the simplest things to maintain because we do not see the benefits of them until they are gone.

We do not know how vital exercise is until we have difficulty standing up or walking up the stairs.

We do not realize our weekly or monthly chiropractic appointments to help us maintain our foundation until we can’t bend over to pick up a box or turn our heads to hear our kids playing in the backyard.

Taking care of ourselves is a daily walk.

One thing I remember my grandpa saying whenever we would talk about my plans in college or beyond, he would remind me that, “if you’re going to talk the talk, you’d better be able to walk the walk.”

So let’s finish the talk, and today, together, start “walking the walk” towards a happy and healthy lifestyle.

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