New workouts are taking the fitness world by storm all the time, often using a unique hook to try and convince people that they are the best way to reach their physical peak.
However, no matter how different they may seem, most just use slight variations on the same tried and true methods.
There is one workout that has been gaining a great deal of popularity recently that does do things a little differently though, and that is the Primal Movement Workout.
Rather than using the same old exercises and styles of training, the Primal Movement Workout aims to shake things up, to help people get back to a place where working out is fun and exciting, while even encouraging people who have little to no interest in fitness to get involved and start exercising.
Can a fun filled workout aimed at getting the masses moving, as opposed to pushing fitness fanatics to the next level, really offer all of the benefits that the Primal Movement Workout claims though.
Well, let’s take a look at the evidence and decide for ourselves.
What is Primal Movement?
Primal Movement is a unique exercise routine that revolves around using the exercises and movements that our bodies are naturally designed to perform.
It centres around 7 core movements that are said to be at the centre of all of the actions we perform in daily life.
These actions are believed to be the basis of human movement and have been the areas we have needed to survive and thrive throughout history, which is where the “Primal” name comes from.
They are also believed to be the areas we need to keep our strength up, in to avoid becoming sedentary and all of the detrimental health effects that come with it.
While the different components for the Primal Movement Workout took decades to come together, the workout and style of training first started to properly take shape in 2017.
Through more than 2 decades of Olympic training, various martial arts, strength and kettlebell courses, and a then ground-breaking style of exercising known as the Ground Force Method, the Primal Movement Workout’s creator, Peter Lakatos, slowly began to put the pieces together.
He hoped to develop a routine that could simultaneously improve your mobility and energy, prevent injuries, enhance your coordination, make your muscle more pliable, boost your mental and physical skills, develop strength and flow, teach you how to warm up and cool down, and keep things fun.
With a clear set of core values he hoped to work around, he gradually expanded his knowledge and experiences, taking pieces from everything he tried, to add to a system that he continues to tweak to this day, to ensure it is one of the most fun, inclusive, and effective workouts possible.
Peter Lakatos is a master RKC (Russian Kettlebell Coach), Krav Maga instructor, and former mixed martial artist and professional athlete.
Born and raised in Hungary, he was selected at a young age to represent his country in both handball and swimming. He received extensive training sessions starting at age 4, with as many as 5 per week.
Peter accredits his success not only to the intensive style of the training he was put through, but also to the elegant methods of teaching that his instructor used, which is what he claims to be trying to replicate through the development of the Primal Movement Workout.
In these sessions, he says his instructor broke up intense physical development sessions with a range of different games.
This was used to not only keep the children engaged and entertained, but also to evaluate them on things like coordination, problem solving, and mental and physical strength.
He maintains that the ability to make workouts fun was what allowed him to dedicate himself to his training and become successful, as the sessions were enjoyable, rather than being a chore.
They also allowed him to excel and improve in not just the activities themselves but in other areas of daily life.
By modifying this theory, he developed Primal Movement, to try and help others use workouts to simultaneously improve both their health and fitness, as well as their enjoyment of physical activity
There are a number of core values that are fundamentally connected to the style and intent of the Primal Movement Workout.
Perhaps the most important is that the functional style of training used in the workouts allows you to directly transfer the improvements you make in your sessions to your day to day life and vice versa. This ensures that both workouts and daily tasks help you to progress as a person.
Another core value of primal movement is to ensure you enhance your health and fitness as a whole, instead of bit by bit.
Improvements in balance, calisthenic strength, core strength, flexibility, mobility and posture will make you physically stronger, while enhancing the health of your bones and joints.
Primal Movement is also rooted in the belief that workouts should be fun and entertaining, as well as able to be completed anywhere you choose.
There is also the belief that it should embrace diversity and be a style of training that is inclusive of people from all places and backgrounds.
The game like style of the Primal Movement Workout focuses on improving your mental health and wellbeing at the same time as enhancing your physical abilities.
By including exciting, enjoyable activities, it will make people want to work out, instead of need to, while encouraging people to get involved who would have otherwise not bothered exercising.
The belief is that, if it isn’t something you want to do in your free time, you won’t be successful.
The 7 Primal Movements
There are seven actions used in primal movement, which are the pull, push, squat, lunge, hinge, rotation, and gait.
Between them, they are said to incorporate all of the actions and movements that the body is naturally designed to do.
These are the actions that we have historically used as humans in our growth and day to day life, and followers of the Primal Movement Workout believe that they are still the most important mechanisms of our body to this day.
The idea behind the workout is that, by using just these movements, you will be able to work and exercise all of the important parts of the body.
This will allow you to develop strength and power where it is most needed, without wasting time on things that are deemed unnatural or unnecessary.
Pull movements revolve around the upper body and primarily use the back, biceps, forearms, and traps.
They involve pulling a weight in towards your core or supporting your weight while you pull your core towards a stationary object.
These movements are extremely important for your posture, as they develop the muscles that stop your shoulders from becoming rounded and help you to keep your head up straight. Some common examples of primal pulling movements include body rows, chin ups, pull ups, and levers.
Many consider pull movements to be the greatest test of strength and power. This is because they rely almost exclusively on the muscles being used, and there is very little opportunity for the force to be transferred by locking out limbs at the top of a movement.
They are also the movement that gives you perhaps the best control over your own body.
Push movements are the exact opposite of pull movements.
Pushing movements again revolve around the upper body and involve either pushing a weight away from your core or supporting the weight of your body while you push your core away from a stationary object.
Pushing movements will generally include the chest, shoulders, triceps, and, again, the forearms.
Some common examples of pushing primal movements include close grip dips, dips, diamond push ups, handstand push ups, and regular push ups.
Pushing movements are seen as one of the most historically important forms of primal movement, as they are vital for self-preservation.
They can enable you to move heavy objects out of your way, prevent you from becoming trapped, or even repel approaching dangers.
Push and pull movements are also intrinsically linked, as they are usually performed by muscles working in antagonistic pairs.
An antagonistic pair of muscles means that while one muscle is shortening, the other muscle is lengthening, and the two work in unison to complete a movement.
A squat is a type of movement that uses the entire leg, but focuses largely on the upper legs, particularly the quadriceps.
To perform a squat, you must try to keep your upper body straight, as you lower yourself towards the ground by bending at the knees.
The movement ends when you have lowered your butt as close to the ground as you can, based on your own mobility, flexibility, and range of motion.
You must then push yourself back to a standing position. Squatting movements are vital to maintaining correct posture and preserving spinal health.
As the quadriceps are such a large group of muscles, a squatting movement lets us lift extremely heavy weights from the ground to head height, without the need to put our back under any undue stress and risk injury.
A squat is another of the most historically important primal movements, as the position and muscles used help us to lift and support massive loads.
Aside from a regular squat, other examples of a squat used in primal movement include goblet squats, hack squats, one legged squats, and squat jumps.
Much like the squat, a lunge is another lower body exercise that works most of the muscles in the legs.
However, a lunge takes some of the stress off of the quads and places it on the hamstrings, glutes, and even the calves.
A lunging movement involves taking a step forward with one foot while the other leg trails behind.
You then lower yourself towards the ground, until there is roughly a 90 degree bend in the back of each knee.
From here, you can either perform the movement in reverse, to stand back up, before repeating it with the other leg, or step through, allowing you to travel forwards using lunges.
Lunges, static lunges, and walking lunges are the main forms of the move and all are included in primal movement.
Lunging movements develop the strength in the parts of the legs that move you forward, making it incredibly useful for enabling you to move while carrying heavy loads. While not as historically important as squats, they have still been vital for the evolution of our species.
A hinge is a bending movement that primarily revolves around the core, especially the lower back, as well as parts of the upper legs, such as the gluteals and hamstrings.
Hinges involve keeping the upper body still, straight, and steady, then bending forward at the waist to bring your upper body towards the ground.
Some of the current exercises in primal movement that use hinges include deadlifts, good mornings, hyperextensions, Romanian deadlifts, stiff leg deadlifts, and single leg versions of any type of deadlift.
Hinges have been historically important to maintain our posture, while also allowing us to pick lighter objects up off of the ground as easily as possible. Performing exercises that use hinges will strengthen our lower back, making it easier and safer to accomplish such tasks.
Rotations involve twisting movements that use the core and focus heavily on the abs and obliques, as well as the serratus and parts of the legs, such as the adductors and abductors.
Rotations can be performed from a number of different positions, but will always involve moving through the transverse plane of the body (i.e. bringing your right elbow towards your left knee or the other way around).
As rotations work your entire abdominal area and many of the surrounding muscles, they are a great way to maintain a strong core, which is important for both your posture and the health of your internal organs.
While not as important historically as some other primal movements, they make many other moves easier to complete and are vital for your flexibility. Some primal movement examples of rotations are elbow to knee crunches, rotating side planks, Russian twists, toe touches, and wood choppers.
A gait is one of the most basic yet important primal movements, historically and today, as it simply refers to the way a person walks.
If you have a strong gait, it will not only make it easy to move from place to place but also improves your posture and boosts the health of the joints in your lower body.
Exercises for your gait generally involve anything where you have to place one foot in front of the other and move your body either backwards or forwards.
Some example gait exercises used in primal movement include basic activities like jogging, running, and walking.
Primal Movement Workout
Now that you have a good idea of the sort of movements involved in the Primal Movement Workout, it is time to show you them used in practice, with a number of dedicated exercises.
These exercises will be moves most people have never seen and will take a bit of getting used to.
However, this is part of what makes the routine fun, as is the need to get good at coordinating your limbs and seeing how quickly you can improve your speed and skill on each move.
While you don’t need to push yourself too hard or to failure each time, you do need to work to a reasonable level.
Also, unlike traditional workouts, where there are standard numbers of reps and sets that need to be completed, you have much more freedom in the Primal Movement Workout.
You can go for a traditional reps and sets approach if you so choose, while options like circuits, instead of straight sets, or setting time limits as opposed to target reps, can both be used.
This will allow you to keep things fresh, as will deciding how long each exercise or workout will last.
A primal squat is a static contraction and variation of a traditional squat. Begin with your feet roughly shoulder width apart, with your back straight and head up.
Slowly bend at the knees to lower your hips and buttocks towards the floor and keep going until your range of motion and mobility won’t let you go any further.
From here, make a conscious effort to push your chest out, shoulders back, and head up.
You will then proceed to hold this position for a pre-determined length of time.
Beginners should aim for between 15 to 30 seconds, while more experienced people, or those with greater length strength, mobility, or flexibility may choose to go for longer.
If required, you can place your hand on something like a wall or chair for support, although you should aim to eliminate the need for this as quickly as possible.
Upon reaching the time limit, slowly and carefully use your legs to drive you up, back to the starting position, while making sure to keep your back straight the whole time.
Again, you can use your hands to help you with this at first but should aim to eliminate the need as quickly as you can.
Rocking To X-Lift To Crawling
Rocking to x-lift to crawling is a combination of three exercises performed back to back in a smooth, flowing motion.
Begin on all fours, with your hands, knees, and toes on the floor, with your back straight and parallel to the ceiling.
Slowly push your buttocks towards the ground between your feet, while keeping your back straight, and get it as close to the ground as you can, then push back up to the starting position in the same manner.
Once you reach the starting position, slowly extend your left leg and right arm out at roughly a 45 degree angle from the centre point of your body, until they are on the same level as your torso and parallel with the ground.
Hold this position for a second before returning to the starting position and repeating with the other arm and leg.
Once the second arm and leg have touched back down, move the left leg and right arm forward around 6 to 12 inches and then immediately do the same with the other side to crawl your body forward slightly.
This entire sequence constitutes a single rep. You can then perform as many reps as you want or continue for a predetermined length of time.
Another option people have is to perform all of the rocking reps in a row, followed by all the x-lift reps, and then finally crawling. This helps the routine to have the freedom and flexibility that the Primal Movement Workout is known for.
Crawl Switch Under
The crawl switch under sees you start with your weight supported on your hands and toes, in a position similar to a push up, only you will be a little more upright, with a small bend in your waist.
Keeping your left hand and right foot in place, raise your right arm out in a lateral motion and start to twist your body.
As you get higher, begin to step your left foot through, to the right side of your right foot. Keep turning until you have completed almost a full circle with your right arm.
When you put your hand and foot back on the floor, you should now be in what is known as a yoga table pose.
You will be looking up at the ceiling, your upper body and upper legs completely parallel with the floor, and a 90 degree bend in your knees, so your hands and feet are flat on the ground.
After pausing for a second, perform the movement in the opposite direction, to take you back to the starting position, and then go in the other direction, moving your left hand and right foot, to ensure your whole body is worked equally. Repeat as many times as necessary or until your timer expires.
Crawling Kick Throughs
Crawling kick throughs begin with the set up to the crawl switch under and incorporate a number of other similar elements as well.
Start with your weight supported on your toes and hands, in a slightly elevated push up position.
Begin to crawl forward by moving your right arm and left leg forward 6 to 12 inches and then alternate and do the same on the other side.
On the fourth movement, rather than moving your leg forward in a straight line, kick it underneath you and across your body. Raise the opposite hand and twist your torso until you are at roughly the halfway point of a crawl switch under.
Immediately return to the starting position and continue crawling. Repeat the action on every third movement, so that it alternates the side you work each time, and continue until you hit your target time or desired number of reps.
Supine Cross Crawl
To begin the supine cross crawl, lay flat on your back, with your arms and legs extended straight out above and below you.
Begin by raising your right arm up, keeping it straight the whole time, while lifting your left leg by bending at both the knee and the hip.
Keep going until you achieve a 90 degree bend in both your knee and hip, then bring your hand the whole way to touch your knee, keeping your arm completely straight the entire time.
As soon as you touch your knee, return both your arm and leg to the ground in the same way that you lifted them.
Once they touch the ground, repeat the movement with the opposite arm and leg. Continue the process until you have completed the desired number of reps or length of time.
The Primal Movement Workout is a fabulous way to make working out fun and help people who normally live sedentary lives take part in exercise.
It can boost your core and calisthenic strength, improve your mobility and flexibility, and generally make you feel physically and mentally healthier.
Of course, this type of workout isn’t going to be right for everyone. Those who want to dramatically increase their strength, muscle mass, or fitness will likely need to find options that are more intense or explosive.
Similarly, those seeking to improve the mobility in a specific part of the body, such as the shoulders, may be better off trying a routine dedicated to that area instead.
However, for the vast majority of people, the Primal Movement Workout is a fun way to shake up your usual workout routine and see how the benefits it offers can transfer to your regular workouts.
At the very least, you have nothing to lose by giving it a try, especially considering how entertaining and engaging many of the routines can be.