Movement for Engineers


Until we get get to be chromed-up cyborgs, we’re stuck with our meat bodies, and like many things, they need regular maintenance. Here is a brief introduction to keeping your body moving as someone who spends a lot of time sitting down.

A screenshot collage from Bojack Horseman, with the captions of 'It gets easier. Every day, it gets a little easier. But you gotta do it every day. That's the hard part.', Copyright Netflix 2014

'Bojack Horseman', Copyright Netflix 2014

A Word On Nutrition

Exercise is an important part of this body maintenance, but eating is the rest of it. I am not an expert, and individual needs vary. The most I’ll say on it is echoing Michael Pollan on the subject:

Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

A Word On Safety

Consult a trusted physician before embarking on any exercise plan. I’m a big believer in easy strength - that is, doing the minimum amount of work to get the maximum amount of benefit (the Pareto frontier, natch), and that workout sessions shouldn’t leave you panting on the floor or dreading the next one.

The Core Movement Patterns

There are a few basic movement patterns that we should all be able to do, should we be sufficiently able to do so - disabled folks, I’m sorry, I don’t have the lived experience to map. These are:

Courtesy of Dan John. These are the core movement patterns that we use in our every day lives. Think about it - from bending over the pick up something from the floor (hinge, pull) to placing something on the shelf (carry, push) to sitting down (squat).

Fortunately, it doesn’t take very much equipment to proide adequare resistance to train these.

The Equipment

You’ll need:

The Method

This is not really a programme in the sense that there is progressive loading - this is solely about moving. The resistance sessions should take about 30-40 minutes, the cardio session should be about 30 minute to an hour.


The resistance sessions are simple - 3 sets of 5 reps for each movement pattern (except swings), regulating your rest between sets based on your breathing. If you can’t breathe with your mouth closed, keep resting. This follows an A-B-A pattern. We’ll go into the movements in more detail after.



Mobility Drills

These are a series of movements that are designed to get your joints moving and your muscles warm. They are:


On your “rest days”, you want to be doing Low Intensity, Steady State cardio - this means going for a walk, a jog, a swim, a cycle, or a row. The idea is to get your heart rate up to about 120-130bpm and keep it there for 30 minutes to an hour. This is not about getting a sweat on, it’s about getting your heart and lungs working. I typically go for a brisk walk or jog for 30 minutes 3 times a week, then a longer walk or jog for an hour on the weekend.

The Movements

There are lot of good resources on how to perform these movements safely, but my favouriete resource is Mark Wildman on YouTube.

Kettlebell Goblet Squat

This is a squat with a kettlebell held in front of you. The kettlebell should be held by the horns, with the handle pointing up. The kettlebell should be held close to your chest, with your elbows tucked in. The squat should be performed with your feet shoulder-width apart, with your toes pointing slightly outwards. The squat should be performed by pushing your hips back and down, keeping your chest up and your back straight. The squat should be performed until your hips are below your knees, then you should stand back up.

Kettlebell Clean and Press

This is a two-part movement. The first part is the clean, where you swing the kettlebell between your legs, then pull it up to your shoulder. The second part is the press, where you press the kettlebell overhead. This is a complex movement, and should be practiced carefully, following the video.

Kettlebell Suitcase Carry

This is a simple movement - pick up the kettlebell, gripping it by the handle like you would a suitcase, and walk with it. Keep your back straight, your chest up, and your shoulders back. Don’t lean to the side, and don’t let your shoulders roll forward. A rep should be a walk from one end of the room to the other - don’t worry about how big the room is (unless it’s more than 20 meters!)

Kettlebell Swing

Perhaps the most (in)famous movement with kettlebells. Correct form for this is essential, and it is harder than it perhaps seems at first - work up to the full 100. The swing is a hip-hinge movement, where you push your hips back and down, then snap them forward to swing the kettlebell up to shoulder height. The kettlebell should be held with both hands, with your arms straight, with your arms providing little-to-no assistance as the kettlebell rises. For more, see the video.

Kettlebell Bent-Over Row

This is a row performed with a kettlebell. The kettlebell should be held in one hand, with your other hand on your knee. Your back should be straight, and your chest up. The row should be performed by pulling the kettlebell up to your chest, then lowering it back down. For more, see the video.


Once you’ve been doing this for a while, consider shifting to double-kettlebell variations of these movements. This will increase the resistance, and make the movements more challenging. You can also consider increasing the weight of the kettlebells you’re using.

Further Reading

If you’d like to go further, please see the books written by the excellent Kelley Starrett:

and for more kettlebell-specific stuff, see:

and finally, my favourite “exercise book” of all time: