Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Training different modes for different movements

Some more thoughts on training - particularly thinking within the Primal Blueprint or Art Devany's paradigm.

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.

Chek says:

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.

Just thoughts.


Keith Norris said...

I wholeheartedly agree. Our ancestors didn't do 3 sets of 10 dumbbell curls on a bosu ball. They engaged with the environment, daily, which called for intermittent bouts of extreme exertion and more frequent bouts of sub-maximal output. This is the template I think we'd all be better off endeavoring to emulate.

CSM said...

Interesting about the dragging carcasses. I got the biggest strength gain of my life by dragging sheets of tobacco and loading them on a conveyer belt for a week. (Think 10x10 sheet of burlap folded and knotted around 100-200 lbs of dried tobacco.)

That is, I did the equivalent of around a hundred sets of one rep of partial deadlifts and upright rows, along with the assorted dragging motions.

Prior to that week, I was never able to do even a single pullup. Ever since, I could (multiple).

Dan Hubbard, M.Ed., CSCS. said...

It is an interesting philosophy, but remember the body is extremely adaptable. Training can transform the body to handle (almost) any stress. These adaptations even occur at the gene level. So, if it is your thing to do 500 pushups or swim 500 meters, or 100 kettlebell snatches or even Bosu ball curls, the body will adapt to that movement/strength/metabolic demand. You will be better at that activity, but not necessarily survive a lion attack.

Chris said...

CSM - that is a really interesting testimony. Thanks

Chris said...


Thanks for the comment. I know that we can adapt to 100 snatches or 500 squats of whatever. But is it healthy?

I suppose I was thinking of whether that is something we are suited to as a species. Like I said, in the wild I can't think of such repetitive movements being practiced that often. Farmers might - lots of digging, ploughing, reaping etc, but hunter/gatherers? Surely there would be more intense, varied activity.

Marc said...


I've recently changed up my workout to more "frequency but less duration"
For example; this week I've worked out every day, for about 15 minutes combined with 20-30 minutes of walking or biking.
The HG's I'm sure had intense bursts every day.
As always proof is in the pudding, I feel real good from it and my muscular density is visibly increasing.


Chris said...

Marc - good point. I'm thinking about adding some really short but really intense things a bit more often.