Primal movements, also known as functional movements, are exercises that mimic the natural movements our bodies perform throughout the day. They are the foundation of functional fitness and can improve balance, stability, coordination, flexibility, and strength. These movements are not only beneficial for our physical health but also for our overall well-being. They can be used to train the body as a whole, not just isolated muscle groups.
Primal movements include squats, hinges, lunges, walking/running, pulling, pushing, and rotating. They cover all your bases, which is why they’re considered the foundation of functional fitness. Here are some of the best primal movements that you can incorporate into your workout routine:
Pushups are a fundamental exercise in any fitness regimen, renowned for their ability to work multiple muscle groups simultaneously. This primal movement primarily targets the pectoralis major (chest muscles), triceps brachii (back of the arms), and the anterior deltoids (shoulders). However, the benefits of pushups extend beyond these muscles.
When performed correctly, pushups engage the core muscles, including the rectus abdominis and the obliques. This engagement strengthens the core, enhancing stability and balance, which are crucial for overall physical performance. Additionally, the muscles in the lower back and legs are activated during pushups, making this exercise a near full-body workout.
Pushups also train your “push” muscles, which are used in everyday activities such as pushing doors open or lifting objects. By strengthening these muscles, pushups can enhance your functional fitness, making daily tasks easier to perform. Moreover, pushups can be modified to cater to different fitness levels and goals, making them a versatile addition to any workout routine.
Pullups are a challenging yet rewarding exercise that primarily targets the muscles in your upper body. They engage several muscle groups, including the latissimus dorsi (large muscles in the back), biceps brachii (front of the arms), rhomboids (upper back), and the brachialis (underneath the biceps).
In addition to these muscles, pullups also work the muscles in your shoulders, chest, and core to a lesser extent. This makes pullups a highly efficient exercise for developing upper body strength and muscular endurance.
Pullups also play a crucial role in improving grip strength. The act of holding onto the bar engages the muscles in your hands, fingers, and forearms. Enhanced grip strength can benefit daily activities that involve carrying, lifting, or holding objects.
Squats are a primal movement that is integral to human locomotion. They are a compound exercise, meaning they work multiple muscle groups at once. The primary muscles targeted during squats are the quadriceps (front of the thighs), hamstrings (back of the thighs), and the gluteus maximus (buttocks).
However, squats also engage the muscles in your core, lower back, calves, and even your upper body to some extent. This makes squats an effective exercise for developing lower body strength, power, and muscular endurance.
In addition to their muscle-building benefits, squats also enhance balance and coordination. The act of lowering and raising your body requires a certain level of stability, which over time, can improve your body’s proprioception (awareness of body position). This can enhance athletic performance and reduce the risk of falls and injuries in daily life.
Furthermore, squats mimic a natural human movement pattern (sitting down and standing up), making them a functional exercise that can improve your ability to perform everyday activities. They can be performed with just your body weight or with additional weights for increased resistance, making them adaptable to various fitness levels and goals.
Lunges are a versatile lower body exercise that targets several muscle groups simultaneously. They primarily work the quadriceps, but also engage the glutes, hamstrings, and calves. Additionally, lunges activate the muscles in your core, providing a balanced workout that promotes functional fitness.
One of the key benefits of lunges is their ability to improve balance and coordination. As a unilateral exercise (an exercise that works one side of your body at a time), lunges can help identify and correct imbalances between the left and right side of your body. This can lead to improved athletic performance and reduced risk of injury.
Lunges also offer a range of variations to target different muscle groups or add an extra challenge. These include reverse lunges, lateral lunges, and walking lunges, each offering unique benefits. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced athlete, lunges can be a valuable addition to your fitness routine.
Deadlifts are a powerful compound exercise that targets the muscles in your lower back and core, but they also work your glutes, hamstrings, and quads. This makes deadlifts one of the most effective exercises for building overall strength and power.
One of the key benefits of deadlifts is their impact on your posture. By strengthening the muscles in your back and core, deadlifts can help counteract the effects of prolonged sitting and poor posture. This can lead to improved spinal alignment, reduced back pain, and a taller, more confident stance.
In addition to their strength-building benefits, deadlifts also improve balance and stability. The act of lifting and lowering the weight requires a high degree of body control, which over time, can enhance your balance and coordination. This can be particularly beneficial in preventing falls and improving athletic performance.
Walking and running are fundamental human movements that offer a host of health benefits. They are primarily cardiovascular exercises, meaning they increase heart rate and respiration, improving the health of your heart and lungs over time.
In addition to their cardiovascular benefits, walking and running also strengthen the muscles in your legs and core. This includes the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and calf muscles, as well as the muscles in your abdomen and lower back. Regular walking or running can lead to stronger, more toned muscles, improved balance and coordination, and increased endurance.
Walking and running are also weight-bearing exercises, meaning they can help improve bone health. Regular weight-bearing exercise can increase bone density and reduce the risk of osteoporosis.
Finally, walking and running are accessible exercises that can be done anywhere, at any time. Whether you’re taking a leisurely walk in the park or running a marathon, these primal movements can help you maintain a healthy, active lifestyle.
Twists are an excellent exercise for strengthening your core and enhancing your flexibility. They primarily target the oblique muscles, which are located on the sides of your abdomen. These muscles play a crucial role in rotating the torso, maintaining posture, and stabilizing the spine.
In addition to strengthening your core, twists can significantly improve your flexibility, particularly in the spine and abdominal region. This increased flexibility can lead to improved posture, reduced back pain, and a greater range of motion in the torso.
Twists also enhance balance and coordination. The act of rotating the torso while maintaining stability engages multiple muscle groups and requires a high degree of body control. This can lead to improved balance and coordination, enhancing overall physical performance and reducing the risk of falls and injuries.
Crawling exercises, such as the bear crawl and the inchworm, are excellent for improving core stability, shoulder mobility, and upper body strength. These exercises mimic the natural crawling movement pattern, engaging multiple muscle groups and providing a full-body workout.
Crawling exercises strengthen the muscles in your core, arms, and shoulders, enhancing stability and upper body strength. They also improve shoulder mobility, which can lead to improved posture and reduced risk of shoulder injuries.
In addition to their physical benefits, crawling exercises can also enhance neural development and brain function. The cross-lateral movement pattern used in crawling exercises can improve neural connections in the brain, enhancing cognitive function and coordination.
Primal Movements and Mental Health
Primal movements are not only beneficial for your physical health but also for your mental health. Regular physical activity, such as performing primal movements, can help improve your mood and reduce stress. Exercise stimulates the production of endorphins, often known as “feel-good” hormones, which can enhance your mood and provide a sense of well-being.
Furthermore, exercise can improve sleep quality, enhance cognitive function, and boost self-esteem. It can also serve as a healthy coping mechanism for stress and anxiety, providing a natural and effective way to manage mental health.
In conclusion, primal movements offer a holistic approach to fitness, enhancing not only physical strength and flexibility but also mental well-being. Whether you’re a fitness novice or a seasoned athlete, incorporating primal movements into your workout routine can provide a host of health benefits. So, why not give them a try?