Building a Movement Foundation

Building a FoundationOver the past couple of years, I’ve had the pleasure of mentoring Steve Long and Jared Woolever. Together, they are known as “Smart Group Training,” and they are helping make large group exercise more personalized, fun and effective.

While we often talk about building a foundation, I don’t think it’s always clear exactly what we mean.

In this post, Steve will talk about how he and Jared go about building a foundation, along with providing you the exact milestones and exercises they use in their programming.

Now here’s Steve….


I’ve been passionate about a lot of different subjects since I got started in the fitness industry 10 years ago. If you know me, you understand that if I get passionate about something, I get super focused and almost obsessed.

Ok, not almost, I get obsessed.

Over the last few years I’ve realized what I’m most passionate about in the fitness and performance field. It’s teaching trainers, coaches, clients, athletes, and patients about building a solid training foundation and not skipping steps.

I’m excited to be able to share with you why I care so much about this, and even more importantly, why you should care so much about building a solid training foundation.

And while I’m at it I’ll explain what building a foundation actually means, and how to do it.

What? Why? How?

To put it very simply, building a foundation is making sure your body can handle your workouts before you smash it in the gym.

You see, most people skip steps in their training programs or never focus on the simple things in the first place.

This can cause a myriad of issues once you start doing more complex movements (compound lifts, running, jumping, etc), such as nagging pain, major injury, or just plain and simple….a lack of results!

Gray Cook said it best, “you can’t stack fitness on top of dysfunction,” and honestly, that’s what most of us do.

Even if you are legitimately trying to not skip steps, I still feel most people don’t understand the steps involved, so they don’t even realize they are skipping them!

The fact is you could be getting better results from your workouts, if you spend some time every once in a while starting over and re-building your machine.

Now let’s talk about how to accomplish that!

Start with Breathing

Breathing is the first thing we do in life, and is the foundation for solid posture and clean movement.

If breathing is dysfunctional, chances are something else is dysfunctional also.

There is also a good chance that you will never fix a movement dysfunction, at least not for very long, if there is a breathing dysfunction present. Breathing is the FIRST STEP, so if you are not focusing on good breathing, you are definitely skipping steps in the process of building a foundation for performance.

That is why we check breathing in each developmental position to ensure that breathing is functional in that position before we train movement in that position.  So make sure we have good breathing patterns in each developmental position to get the results you are after.

That leaves us with two things to cover: What is good breathing, and what is developmental sequencing.

Proper Breathing

This section is extremely controversial, but let’s hit the basics that I think we can all agree on.

I mean, it’s just breathing right?

That’s what I hear all of the time, but it’s so much more than that. Let’s agree on the following:

  • Your throat neck and traps should be minimally or not involved in breathing. We want breathing to come from trunk, not your face.
  • If you are using accessory muscles to breathe, they’re not being used to do whatever they are supposed to be doing
  • Proper breathing causes an autonomic shift towards a parasympathetic state. This will allow you to get better results from exercise, increased brain function, and more enjoyment out of life.
  • If you are holding a position, you should be able to take a deep breath and maintain that position without shaking, moving, or seeing anything move except for your belly and ribcage.
  • Breathing can help align your body into a good starting posture.

We want to see people achieve silent nasal breathing for 3-4 seconds in and 6-8 out for at least 5 or 6 breaths before we say they can breathe in that position.

Check out this video on Supine Silent Breathing from our resource Building a Foundation to learn more about what we are looking for in a proper breath.

Once breathing is dialed in we have our clients move a limb in that position while maintaining the breathing pattern to start to progress.

Before we get too much further into what we do in each position, let’s talk about the different positions we want to see competency in.

Developmental Sequencing

The next thing we need to talk about is developmental sequencing. We follow a similar progression to what you followed developing as a baby when we rebuild you for performance.  This means that we start from scratch, and make sure that you can breathe and move without compensation in each position before you earn the right to move to the next position of development.

Here are all of the developmental positions and movements that we look at when re-building a client.

  • Supine position
  • Prone position
  • Rolling
  • Quadruped Position
  • Crawling
  • Prone 2 Position
  • Kneeling Position
  • Turkish Get Up
  • Standing (bi lateral, split, and stride stance)
  • Walking
  • Running

Breathe Well, Then Move Well

So I’ve established multiple times that you need to breathe well in each position and gave you some standards to look for in breathing. Now it’s the time to move in each position.

Here are the exact exercises we use in our Building a Foundation program. I’ve also included some video footage from each position so you can get a better idea of what I’m talking about.


    • Supine Breathing
    • 3-Month Breathing
    • Pelvic Tilt
    • Supine Cross Connecting
    • Leg Lowering 1
    • Leg Lowering 1.5
    • Dead Bug with Arms and Legs

  • Dead Bug with Cross Connect


    • Crocodile Breathing
    • Prone Pelvic Tilt
    • Prone Cross Connect
    • Prone “What’s That Back There?”


    • Rib Roll
    • Lower Body Rolling
    • Upper Body Rolling


    • Quadruped Breathing
    • Quadruped Pelvic Tilt
    • Quadruped Reachbacks
    • Bird Dog Arms
    • Bird Dog Legs
    • Bird Dog Cross Connect

  • Bear Position Arms
  • Bear Position Legs
  • Bear Position Cross Connect


    • Baby Crawling

  • Balance Beam Baby Crawling
  • Bear Crawl
  • Balance Beam Bear Crawl

Prone Pt. 2

    • Prone Pike

  • Pushup Complex
  • Band Assisted Push Up


    • Kneeling Breathing
    • Kneeling Pelvic Tilt
    • 1/2 Kneeling Narrow Base Hold

  • Kneeling Rotation
  • Kneeling Chop
  • Kneeling Lift
  • Kneeling Tennis Ball Throw
  • 1/2 Kneeling to Tall Kneeling Transitions

Turkish Get Up

    • Roll to Press
    • Roll to Elbow
    • Roll to Hand
    • Roll to High Bridge
    • Roll to Half Kneeling
    • Turkish Get Up


It’s human nature to want to do as much as possible in the gym to get the most results from your workouts, but doing as much as possible doesn’t have to mean doing the most difficult movements possible. Especially if you have a movement compensation that is causing complex movements to cause you more harm than good.

Working on proper breathing and clean baseline movement to accompany that breathing is essential to make sure each movement has a solid base to progress from.

“You can’t build a mansion on a shack foundation” and “you can’t shoot a cannon off of a canoe”

Those two quotes stuck in my mind like a dart hitting a bulls-eye. It just made sense to me, so I’ve spent a lot of time over the last few years learning about how to build that foundation for all of my clients to have better results.  I hope that this post has given you some deeper insight on the what, why, and how of building a foundation for better movement, so you can build a foundation for yourself and your clients to break through plateaus and get the best results of their lives.

Yours in health,

Steve Long


sgt_foundation_total_mockup-650-wide(Note from MR: If you’re a trainer or coach and want to learn more about the Building a Foundation product, Steve and Jared have offered to put it on sale through next Friday. Check it out today if you want to help your clients and athletes get even better results!)


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  1. Thumbs up on breathing.. we take for granted just how massive an effect improper breathing has on our physiology – muscle tone, posture, and even mood!

    So overlooked by most people, including coaches.. thanks for the article

  2. The difficulty is in the details. It takes a confident coach to take their athletes back to the basics. But those basics taught properly are the reasons why great coaches build better athletes. Keep it up guys, this stuff is gold and the future of our profession!

  3. This is an excellent post. I have actually been having a lot of questions about how to progress through the 4×4 Matrix and this answers a lot of questions. Do you guys have any videos on what the Supine and Prone Cross Connects are?

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