Friday, August 30, 2013

Primal Exercises Everyone Should Do

These aren't "invented exercises" these are movements that we all are called up to do everyday in our activities of daily life.

Primal Movement Concept

Lets look at what you would have been doing, say 10,00 years ago in your daily life:
Walking long distances to find food and water.
Running to catch prey or running to avoid being prey.
Chopping down, splitting and moving wood.
Building things, with your hands and basic tools

All of which are multi-joint compound movements.

This model is different from what the typical globo-gym/big box goer does today.  His life is primarily sedentary with occasional, lets say 3 gym visits per week. When he does go to the gym he sits on machines that guide and help move the weight for him. Think about the guys doing bench presses and curls (every Monday, which seems to be National Bench Press Day) his muscles tend to be imbalanced due to too much pressing and not enough pulling.  His legs are underdeveloped (remember squats are hard).  Or think about the runner who does nothing but run, or the cardio queen who puts in hours on the elliptical.

Our bodies are an amazingly complex web of interconnected muscles, joints, fascia, ligaments, tendons, bones, and other tissues and organs that work synchronously and seamlessly. When we are lean and fit, every cubic centimeter of our bodies has a purpose, a function to help us survive and thrive.

So, if the body is this interconnected web that’s really more like one unit, one muscle, why would we 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. At Functional Fitness and Performance we believe you should focus on movement patterns, not muscle groups, when exercising to develop a functionally strong body. At its core, exercise is all about movement.

We’re laying out the 7 basic, primal movement patterns you should use at least once per week and that form the foundation of the workouts & exercise programs we develop.

Movement Pattern #1: Squat

A squat is a movement pattern where you plant both feet on the ground, then bend your legs to lower your body down while keeping your chest up and lower back straight. We use squats in our daily life such as squatting in and out of a chair. As we age, an inability to squat can very negatively affect our quality of life.

As an exercise, you can provide resistance to a squat from the front of your body (like holding a dumbbell or kettlebell, called a goblet squat), on your back with a barbell, from the sides holding dumbbells, or on the entire upper body by wearing a weighted vest. With each method of resistance, the lower back and abs must contract to keep the body upright as the body is lowered down. The most common reason why people have trouble squatting is because of tight hip flexors or tight calves.

Squat Exercise Examples:

Air Squat
Goblet Squat
Back Squat
Front Squats - Upcoming in the Squat Series Squats Part 6, for now look at this link

Primal Movement Pattern #2: Push

A pushing exercise requires pushing external weight away from your body, or your center of mass away from the ground, like in a push up. Pushing yourself off the ground to get up, or pushing a toolbox overhead to put it away in a cabinet, are both pushing movements used in our daily life.

There are two primary types of pushing movements (1) vertical push and (2) horizontal push.2 A vertical push is a DB shoulder press where you press a dumbbell vertically over your head. A horizontal push is pushing a weight away from your horizontally, like in a DB Chest Press as you lay back on a bench. A vertical press tends to emphasize your shoulder muscles while engaging the back of the arms (triceps) while a horizontal press emphasizes the chest, while engaging the shoulders and the back of the arms.

Exercise Examples:

Push Ups
Barbell Shoulder Press
DB Incline Press

Primal Movement Pattern #3: Pull

A pulling motion is the opposite of a pushing motion, in that you are pulling a weight towards your body, or pulling your center of mass toward an object, like in a pull up. From pulling down a branch to reaching for an apple, to starting that old boat motor, pulling is a movement we use our daily lives.

There are two primary pulling movements, a (1) vertical pull and (2) horizontal pull. An example of a vertical pull is a pull up, which is a classic exercise that develops strength in your back, shoulders, biceps, and even core. An example of a horizontal pulling motion is a single arm dumbbell row.

Exercise Examples:

Pull Ups
TRX Body Row
Single Arm DB Row

Movement Pattern #4: Twist

Of all the exercises listed so far, they are completed in two planes of movement, either forward, or to the side (saggital and frontal planes). But there is a third plane of motion which makes exercise much more functional – the transverse plane, or twisting motion.

If you think about lunging down and reaching across your body, or throwing a ball, running, or even walking, most human movement has some element of a rotation involved. The problem, however, is that most exercises we do in the gym have no rotational component.

There are two primary types of twisting, or rotational movements: (1) rotational and (2) anti-rotational. Rotational movements are the basic twisting exercises, such as twisting to throw a ball. Anti-rotation are exercises where the rotational movement is prevented, like in a paloff press, or a single arm DB row.

Exercise Examples:

Cable Wood Chops
Palloff Press
Medicine Ball Throws (standing sideways against a wall)

Movement Pattern #5: Bend

Bending is a movement pattern where you bend your torso by hinging your hips. A very common movement, we use it in our daily lives by picking up a baby off the ground to trying to lift that heavy suit case.

Bearing the brunt of the weight on your hips, glutes, and legs is the key to lifting weight in a bent over position. This is done by keeping your low back in a neutral, to slightly arched position, as you bend over to lift an object off the ground. If you round your back, significant pressure can be put on your intervertabral disks, which may cause a disk herniation.

Exercise Examples:

Kettlebell Deadlift
DB Clean and Press
DB Stiff Legged Deadlifts

Movement Pattern #6: Gait / Combination

Walking, jogging, or sprinting is called a gait, which requires pulling, lunging, and twisting motions to propel the body forward. Whether you are sprinting to catch the train, or walking in the park, gait is the most frequently used of all the movement patterns in our daily lives. This last movement pattern is a catch all for dynamic human movement and combinations of movements. For example, jumping, cutting, crawling, and other movements and combinations of movements can be added to this category.

Exercise Examples:


I hope this was a helpful overview that will help you think about exercise in terms of movement patterns, not just muscle groups. Your body will thank you as it becomes stronger, leaner, and better balanced.

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