Man is more beautiful than all other objects, and the revelation of his inner nature is the highest aim of art.—Schopenhauer
If one were alive 8,000 years ago, how would one move? Movement is the way in which one expresses oneself in the physical plane. Movement can be beautiful, artistic, and or ugly, robotic, and weak. A body’s movement is closely tied to the body’s health and appearance. There is also a look that arises from primal movement patterns and behaviors. Usually that body is lean, strong and fit, well proportioned musculature. This is mans body in nature, a body that is molded from sprints, jumps, and squats.
Antiquity was a active state, only the elderly and sick were devoid of a life filled with movement and work. Our ancestors frequently walked over 5 miles per day, sprinting to chase animals for sustenance, cutting down trees, lifting rocks, building shelter, all of which would require one to use ones entire body. Life was movement and movement was life. There was no time for a strained back - weakness meant death.
The primal model of optimal human health and fitness is very different from the typical gym-goer who has a sedentary lifestyle and may barely move his body in the ways that nature intended during exercises. Most people who frequent the gym do very little activity outside of the gym, this is still better than most people, but it is limited and not the optimal way to live. As an example, think about that guy who has arms 2x bigger than his calves from doing arm exercises all the time, or the cyclist who does nothing else but cycle, or the runner who only runs. Typically dominance in one area leads to weakness in another. The bodybuilder has tight shoulders, that cyclist tight IT bands, and the runner has claves as tight as violin strings.
Our bodies are a complex web of interconnected muscles, joints, fascia, ligaments, tendons, bones, and other tissues and organs that work seamlessly and synchronously. When one is lean and fit, every inch of ones body serves a purpose, a function to help survive and thrive.
Wellbeing is attained by little and little, and nevertheless is no little thing itself. - Zeno
So, if the body is this interconnected web that’s really more like one unit, one muscle, why should one focus on only one muscle group during a workout or one type of exercise activity? The idea of focusing on only one muscle group in a workout is definitely not efficient, nor is it athletic. It is a marketing strategy that was adopted years ago to get people into gym settings.
No athlete in the world lives in one plane of motion. The bench press is great, but what about when one needs to bend to the side or pick up ones child? One should focus on movement patterns, not muscle groups, when exercising to develop a functionally strong body.
At its core, exercise is movement. Primal movement patterns should be practiced at least once per week. These movement patterns form the foundation of a healthy and fit body.
Primal movement patterns are the seven fundamental movements that develop in utero and continue through infancy: Twist, Push, Pull, Bend, Squat, Lunge, and Gait. These patterns are the foundation for any movement that occurs in the body. Therefore, they are great movements to include in workouts.
Has one every wondered why it is difficult to squat, impossible to perform a hang clean, or simply painful to deadlift? These athletic skills are some of the basic movements one should be able to perform at anytime - squat, jump, bend… Yet, for many these types of movements are either avoided altogether, approached with great caution, or done with terrible form.
The answer to squatting poorly is usually not to squat more. It may not even be as simple as being taught how to squat. The answer might be in the movement patterns developed in childhood.
Life begins on the ground. Ones first movements involve looking around to see what is happening. As one becomes attracted to voices, one starts looking for these people as eyesight begins to develop. Soon one is rolling over onto ones belly to initiate the process of crawling, which will eventually lead to grabbing hold of something and taking first steps. Once one has done that, it’s not long until one is running around like mad leaving parents and grandparents amazed by the amount of energy one possesses. Make it a goal to match the energy level of a toddler, it’s not for the faint of heart.
For the first few years of ones life one explores the environment with movement. And by sticking things in ones mouth… One moves towards things, squats down to inspect them further, and learns how to control ones body.
Then one goes to school and ruins most of the natural movement patterns developed in early childhood. From the moment one enters school to learn, while ones head is being filled with what can mostly only be called trivia, ones body is doing the physical equivalent of browsing the internet. For the rest of ones life, one spends ones day sitting and trying to focus. For most people this school type setting then extends to ones work environment as well. Sitting is pervasive and causes many muscle imbalances, that left unchecked, will lead to injury.
To counteract this one is encouraged to get involved in sports. Early on these sports are fun, mere games that include some more physical exploration of ones body and how one moves. But soon enough one is usually encouraged to go down a path of sport specialization and instead of learning new skills and moving more one ends up performing just a few things over and over. This is why repetitive use injuries are so common these days. The boy that used to play baseball, basketball, and football throughout the year now only plays baseball due to year around travel teams and increased competition.
To become the kind of athlete one sees online, one needs to have had the right parents and mentors. Parents and mentors are vital to ones development both physically and mentally. If someone is wise enough to lend advice from actual experience, then one can avoid many pitfalls of everyday life. If one grows up with parents that are not knowledgeable of the way the body works, or simply too busy, one will benefit most from playing as many different sports and games as possible. Diversity in movement leads to a resilient body.
It may seem odd to hear this from someone who spent half their life working with elite athletes, but elite performance is not free, it is physically and psychologically taxing. One of the things that is worrisome is that fact that society spends all of its time looking at the end of the spear, the very tip. By only looking at the final few percentage points – the plyometrics, the supplements, and the high intensity work one misses the foundational aspects of health and wellness that support a life of flourishing. Movement is key to a virile life.
Without good movement skills one cannot become athletic and without being athletic one will never be a great athlete or a fit adult.
The very first movements support everything else that one adds on top of them. Take crawling for instance. The crawl is a cross body pattern – one moves ones opposing hand and foot at the same time. If one rotates a crawling person ninety degrees and puts them into a standing position what one will notice is that walking and running are the same movement – just performed at different speeds.
So, if one can’t crawl well, what will one do when running? If one can’t crawl without ones hips sagging wildly from side to side, or with ones knees coming straight up instead of having to go out to the side, or if one lacks the ankle flexibility, what makes one think all of that has disappeared when one adds speed and load in standing?
The result is – is injury. So, what can you do about it? Adopt primal movements to ones exercise regime. Primal Movements make changes through playful, beautiful, and mindful movements. Through better movement one will be able to enjoy whatever one enjoys doing in life.
Active - warmup
Locomotion – Walking, Hiking, Running, Playing
Mobility - cool down
Primal Movement has taken the functional training world by storm for a very good reason. This somehow brand new, yet old school fitness trend will add to ones fitness in ways one never knew existed. Over time the fitness industry has started to value quantity over quality. Fitness influencers and workout templates preach the volume of reps over form and intent. If one wants the best results from primal movement pattern workout focus on the quality of movement. Slow down and make sure to have great form and that one is engaging the muscle.