What is Primal Training?

Imagine doing no training at all but being in the same condition as an elite athlete. ?Sound like a fantasy?? When contemporary hunter-gatherers have been tested for strength and fitness, they have scored as well as elite athletes without ever having done a single ‘training’ session!

Of course, there are slight drawbacks to living a hunter-gatherer lifestyle – the risk of dying a violent death, for example, or the constant threat from wild animals, neighbouring tribes, disease, and famine.? But fortunately, we know enough about the movement and lifestyle patterns of our ancestors that we do not have to live exactly like them to enjoy the robust strength and fitness which they enjoyed.

For a start, we know that despite the rigours and dangers of the hunter-gatherer lifestyle, there were many days where activity was minimal.? What sustained our ancestors in such phenomenal condition were the irregular bouts of extremely intensive activity which would have occurred whilst carrying out activities like hunting, combat, and bearing loads.? Our bodies are designed for, and will thrive upon, the fundamental movement patterns required by these activities – climbing, jumping, sprinting, lifting, pushing, and throwing.? Almost without exception, the further we move away from these core movement patterns, by using machines for example, or by creating unnatural movement patterns, the less safe and the less effective the activity becomes.? The closer we stick to these movement patterns, the safer and more effective the activity becomes.

If training is so simple, then why are gyms filled with so much equipment?? The answer is partly to do with convenience and partly to do with commercial motives.

Treadmills are perhaps the most common piece of equipment you will see in gyms.? They make it more convenient for you to engage in a very primal movement pattern – running.? Treadmill manufacturers would also argue their products are safer than outdoor running because they can protect your knees from the hard impact you experience outdoors.? But ultimately, this is just not the case.

The major problem with running on a treadmill is that, unlike outdoor running, your upper body does not move forwards, your feet are moved backwards by the treadmill belt.? Runners will generally counteract this by leaning forwards at the waist in order to ‘keep up’ with the moving belt – but this places greater stress on the knees, hips, and back and, over time, can result in injury.? Ultimately, treadmills may be convenient and allow you to simultaneously watch a DVD whilst exercising, but this does not mean they are a better or safer option than outdoor running.

Resistance machines are also commonly found in gyms.? A significant proportion of these are ‘muscle isolation’ devices which allow you to target the exact area of the body you are looking to ‘tone up’.? Whilst this has an obvious marketing appeal, in reality, the effectiveness and safety of such devices are both questionable.

Compare, for example, a leg extension machine with a squat.? When you use a leg extension machine, you can effectively isolate your quadriceps muscles to the point where they feel like they are about to explode.? Leaving aside the issue of whether or not it is desirable to focus on just one part of your legs, this type of exercise puts the knee into a highly disadvantaged position due to the shear forces acting on the patella when your legs are at full extension.? Again, over time, if performed with heavy loads, this may lead to injury.

Squats, by contrast, engage the quadriceps together with all of the major muscles in the legs in a movement pattern which is completely natural.? Not only does this avoid the problem of placing the joints into awkward stress positions, but it is actually a more effective way to train the body.? In?2009, Spennewyn?conducted a study comparing functional training (movement patterns akin to those performed in our daily lives) to fixed-form training (resistance machines) and found that functional users had a 58% greater increase in strength over the fixed-form group and improvements in balance were 196% higher.

At Prime, you will not, therefore, find a lot of the useless machines which fill the floor space of most commercial gyms.? The only pieces of equipment we have are free weights which allow you to replicate the fundamental movement patterns of our ancestors under load.