Primal movements

As modern society becomes increasingly more sedentary it is essential to integrate more basic movement into our lives. Even if you attend a class regularly or go to the gym a few times a week, it is not enough if you are sitting for the rest of your day. However this does not mean that you should be performing cardio exercises day in day out either as this can lead to fatigue and burn out.

Brief, intense exercise sessions, involving functional, full-body movements such as: squats, bending, pushing, pulling, lunging, twisting, gait movements are essential for building strong lean muscle tissue and healthy bones. Our ligaments and tendons also benefit from these kind of general movements and if we perform them regularly we should find ourselves fit, strong and healthy into our old age.

Let’s take a look at each primal move in a bit more detail:

Squats: These are (or should be!) used in every day life, movements such as sitting down in, and getting up from, a chair. Contemporary tribal people squat daily and perform tasks in this position. They have no problems continuing to squat into old age because they do this movement on a daily basis. We have the ability when we are very small but somehow seem to stop doing it so that even teenagers in our modern society have problems squatting. Exercises to help improve squats include, front squats, barbell squats, goblet squats, hunter-gatherer squat hold amongst many.

Push: pushing our bodyweight up off the ground should be a fairly simple and regular thing to do, however most people, unless they are performing push ups specifically tend to avoid this movement as it is seen as “too hard” or perhaps unnecessary. Pushing and lifting luggage up into an overhead cabin locker on board an aircraft, or putting groceries up into a high cupboard are another example of common pushing movements. Push ups engage more than just the arms, the whole core is involved, from the abdominals to the lower back and down through the glutes and legs. Examples of exercises include push ups, bench press, shoulder press.

Pull: We use pulling movements for something simple such as pulling ourselves up, pulling something down towards us for easier access, starting the lawn mower, or pulling a heavy object along. Pulling, like push ups engage the core muscles and help to build a strong back when performed properly. Learning to pull correctly can improve issues with back pain. Exercises to help with pulling include pull ups, suspension trainer body rows, inverted rows.

Lunge: We use a lunge when we are stepping up and down, and particularly when we are carrying a heavy object at the same time. We need our legs to be strong and this strength comes from the glutes, hamstrings, quads, calves and feet. People often complain that they are unable to lunge because of knee problems, however this is usually due to the fact that they are performing the lunge incorrectly. A lunge should have the knee placed over the ankle (not forward over the foot) and the back should be upright and not leaning forward, (which puts the bodyweight into the knee – thus putting strain on the knee.) Lunge exercises include forward and rear lunges, step up and down lunges, side lunges.

Twist: Rotational movements such as turning from the waist to reach for something, picking something up from the floor or throwing an object sideways all involve twisting motion. Twisting improves core strength and exercises to help include Russian twist, rotational rows, wall ball throws to the side.

Bend: Bending is a very common everyday movement. We bend to pick up small children and babies, we lift up heavy bags of shopping. Improper bending results in lower back pain and injuries and are unfortunately all too common today. Learning to bend properly, hinging from the hips and engaging the core muscles is crucial to good back health and can really help prevent these type of problems as we age. Exercises to improve bending include deadlifts, kettlebell swings, clean and press.

Gait: This includes any movement from crawling to walking to jogging to sprinting. This is incorporated into most other movement and is usually used in combination. Learning to walk barefoot is an important part of developing strength from the feet up. There are numerous bones, muscles, tendons and ligaments found in the feet and they all need to work properly to ensure good posture and to support the legs and spine. Improper footwear, or even shoes that “support” the feet, do not allow for the intricate movement necessary for flexibility and strength to develop. Exercises to improve your gait include bear crawls, walking barefoot, jogging, sprinting, jumping.

For more advice on key movements to improve your health and lifestyle or t book a retreat, please get in touch

James Allan