Why Primal Fitness Is Making A Comeback
What is primal movement?
When was the last time you stood up from your desk to stretch and twist your body? Or the last time you incorporated bear walks into a HIIT workout? Primal movement – aka primitive-inspired workouts – refers to exercise that supports how our bodies were designed to move. “Our ancestors used to lift rocks and logs, climb trees, sit in squats as a resting pose and walk and sprint to hunt for their food. A good way to think of primal movement is to think about natural human movement that takes us back to our evolutionary roots,” says Hannah Beadle, CEO and head coach at Wildfitness. “With our increasingly sedentary lives, primal movement is becoming increasingly popular as it focuses on going back to what naturally feels good,” she adds.
What are the benefits?
“Primal movement gives you freedom from injuries, better posture and a dynamic athleticism that will keep your body younger and stronger for longer,” says Miranda Fox, bodyweight movement specialist. And whatever level of fitness you’re at, incorporating primal movements into your routine will sculpt you into an all-round athlete: “There aren’t many disciplines that incorporate mobility, strength, agility, cardio and mindfulness in one. You’ll improve your posture, gain body and spatial awareness, all while getting stronger, fitter and faster. Rather than exercising muscles with single exercises like a bicep curl or forward lunge, primal movements encourage freedom of movement using multi-planes of motion, which brings endless benefits, especially to the average desk-based worker.”
What are the fundamental movements?
Primal movement is how we bend, rotate, push, pull and walk in the most intuitive way, Josh Davies, PT at Aimee Victoria Long, tells us. “When translated into exercise, primal movement patterns become a pull, push, squat, lunge, bend and twist. A push exercise could be a push-up; a row could be a TRX row; a squat and lunge can be developed into a sumo or pistol squat, or a reverse or curtsy lunge. A bend movement is essentially a hip-hinging exercise – like a deadlift – while twists tend to be core exercises like a woodchopper, rotating from low on one side of the body to high on the other.”
How best to get started?
Slow and steady is the best approach, Hannah advises. “If you’re not used to strength training, start small. Find ways to incorporate movement into your day – it could be climbing over a gate on a walk instead of opening it or sitting on the floor instead of the sofa. Look for opportunities throughout your day to move differently. If you love the gym, consider tackling a climbing wall or head to the pool to do some laps,” she says. “Introduce bodyweight movements or free weights into your routine – think jumping, squats, deadlifts and crawling. Another great way is to add five minutes of play at the start of your sessions: practise balancing, throwing and catching a tennis ball, and see how many times you can bounce the ball without stopping. When watching TV, get off the sofa and sit in a deep resting squat for five minutes, and when sat at a computer all day, try to move every hour – stand on one leg for a minute to improve your balance, or do ten star jumps or squats.”
How quickly will you see results?
It depends on your level of fitness, says Jessica Christensen, CEO and academy director of Mavericks Life. But even a keen gym goer won’t necessarily find primal movement easy. “At first, you might realise you’re not as good at moving as you think, especially if you’ve spent months – or even years – within a strictly structured training modality. If this is you, you’ll notice your body finds it difficult to move three-dimensionally, in a way that doesn’t follow a linear pattern. Don’t give up – the body is entirely capable of moving more intuitively, it just needs reminding. You’ll see immediate benefits even after your first session, while the long-term effects will start to emerge within three months of training."
And if you’re someone prone to aches and pains, you’ll soon notice these becoming less bothersome. “When you do these movements on a regular basis, you start to feel better from the top of your head to the tips of your toes,” says Cody Mooney, director of performance at Pliability. “Moving your body in a way that engages more muscles and moves the body as a whole – as opposed to isolated movements – is the perfect antidote to aches and pains.”
Any final advice?
Don’t let the simplicity of primal movement fool you. “It targets your full body, all while helping your body move more efficiently,” says Miranda. “It engages your entire body – there isn’t a second when the core isn’t switched on – which makes these moves challenging. Slow the movements down and move more intuitively and mindfully, increasing the time under tension to build strength, or mix it up and perform explosive movements that challenge your anaerobic energy system.” There’s no need to overcomplicate it either, adds Jessica. “It’s all about building a stronger body and enhancing mobility, flexibility, coordination and neuro-muscular plasticity. Essentially, you’re learning to move smarter, with a more balanced sense of strength, mobility and agility. Far from a new fitness fad, it doesn’t get more old-school than this.”
Where can you try it?
“There are a tonne of free resources available online,” says Miranda. “Head to YouTube or Instagram and search for beginner primal movements to get some guidance. When you first start, you may feel silly, but try to let that go. The benefits of primal movement are endless, but the biggest one is mastering your own bodyweight and feeling confident in your own skin.” SL recommends the Pliability app, where you can choose from a variety of guided mobility videos and flows that include primal movements. “The detailed videos allow you to approach primal movement in a non-intimidating way, making them a great place to start,” says Cody.
For more from the experts, visit Pliability.com, Wildfitness.com & TheMavericksWay.org. Follow @TheBodyweightBitch
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