I've been quite influenced over the years by the ideas of Paul Chek with respect to basic Primal Patterns. This is the idea that there are certain fundamental moves that are the foundation of all we do athletically and in everyday life. To operate well in life we need to be able to squat, lunge, push, pull, twist, bend and walk/jog/run.
To clarify what I mean by “primal standard”, consider that as developmental beings we had to squat, lunge, bend, push, pull, twist, walk, jog, and run efficiently and effectively to survive. If you couldn’t perform these essential primal patterns, you were a drain on your family or dead, one of the two!
I have read someone else expand on this and say that if you cannot squat (think sit down and stand up) it is not that you are not fit, you are actually disabled.
Anyway I thought also about how these different move lend themselves to different modes of exercise. The only one that I think is suited to endurance / high reps is "gait" - walking / jogging.
In the natural / wild environment we would need to walk lots maybe for many miles moving between camp / hunting or whatever. We walk or jog.
However for the other moves - pushing, pulling, squatting, etc - the demands would have been more limited. 50 rep squats or 30 rep chins would not have been on the agenda. Mark Sisson notes:
Lift heavy things.
The women carried their babies much of the time (hey, no babysitters in those days), as well as bundles of firewood, or whatever they had gathered, foraged or scavenged. The men carried heavy spears or other tools, they dragged heavy carcasses of animals they had hunted, and they moved large boulders or logs to build shelters. They also lifted themselves into trees or up onto higher ground when escaping from danger or to scout a new route. The biochemical signals created by these very brief but intense muscle contractions generated a slight surge in growth hormone and a reduction in myostatin gene expression, prompting an increase in muscle size and power; particularly fast twitch fibers.
So maybe we need to build around endurance for gait but limited and explosive work in the other primal patterns? So squats, deadlifts, snatches, presses would be primarily singles / doubles and explosive moves; then maybe climbing and crawls would be added but only for short sprints.