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A Functional Bodybuilding Coach Shares How to Level Up 7 Basic Moves

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CrossFitter-turned-functional bodybuilding coach Marcus Filly has reframed much of his training around building sustainable strength and staying injury free, and he believes that the best way to do this is with a solid foundation. In a new video on his YouTube channel, he explains how adopting a “beginner’s mindset” and developing an understanding of movement mechanics can help you find focus and make progress in your training, and shares several simple moves that demonstrate exactly this.

“What happens when we don’t refine the basics? We compensate and develop bad habits under heavier loads,” he says.

Cyclist squat

Filly starts with the cyclist squat, a take on the goblet squat which deploys a greater range of motion to really targets the quads by elevating the heels. “Use a basic heel lift to stay very vertical and drive your knees out over your toes,” he says. “Get as low as you possibly can, and don’t load up heavier until you can confidently get your butt down to your heels.” He also advises slowing down the eccentric (downward) half of the movement, and pausing at the bottom end of each rep before driving upwards fast.

Front foot elevated split squat

“People tend to shrug off unilateral work and not include it as their primary focus,” says Filly. “When you pay attention to the details, this movement can teach you a ton about where you compensate when things get tough.” The aim here is to achieve a full knee-bend in the front-facing leg and a straight back leg.

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Strict pullup

Filly breaks down the proper form required to get the most out of this move, including using an overhand grip, pulling from the shoulders first, and keeping the core engaged and legs tight together. “This is going to put the primary stress on your upper back, and not your elbows and biceps,” he says. “Focus on driving the elbows down and back. Don’t get focused on getting your chin over the bar. The end of the range of motion is when you can’t drive your elbows down any further… Consider using a band as an easier option to help you develop your pullup technique.”

Side plank

“Isometric holds like the plank are terrific for training around injuries and getting blood flow to impacted areas, not to mention strengthening your lateral core” says Filly, who advises keeping the biggest gap possible between your hip and the floor.


Filly recommends filming yourself next time you do a set of pushups. It might not make for the most exciting gym post, but it will help you pinpoint what areas need work, like whether or not you’re reaching your full range of motion on each repetition, and loading up your chest and triceps correctly. He also suggests using a pair of plates or handles to enable you to achieve a full stretch in your shoulders and chest at the bottom of the pushup, and slowing your movement on the way down.

Barbell RDL

Filly describes the RDL as a “perfect movement to build off of for all hinging exercises,” meaning it’s an essential basic to include in your repertoire. He suggests trying the top-down variation to begin with, where you load up the exercise at the upper end of the movement by using a bench or squat rack. Brace your midsection, hinge by pushing your hips back, not by rounding your shoulders, and lower slowly.

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Half kneeling landmine press

“The beauty of this movement is that it will teach us how to press with a moving shoulder blade at the top,” says Filly. “Many exercises for pressing, like the bench press, are taught with a fixed shoulder blade. I’ve found that exercises which allow for shoulder movement have a great benefit to shoulder health.”

Headshot of Philip Ellis

Philip Ellis

Philip Ellis is a freelance writer and journalist from the United Kingdom covering pop culture, relationships and LGBTQ+ issues. His work has appeared in GQ, Teen Vogue, Man Repeller and MTV.

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