7 Primal Movements for a Well-Rounded Workout
In our last fitness blog post we discussed the planes of motion (sagittal, coronal, and transverse planes) and how incorporating multiplanar movements into your gym workout can help improve sports performance, prevent injury, and help you navigate life more safely.
Today we will discuss the 7 Primal Patterns® that should be systematically implemented into a well-designed fitness program. These patterns were founded and developed by Paul Chek of the C.H.E.K. Institute. You can explore these ideas in more detail by reading his book Movement That Matters.
What are primal movement patterns?
Primal movement patterns are the seven fundamental movements that develop in utero and continue through infancy: Twist, Push, Pull, Bend, Squat, Lunge, and Gait.
As a neonate in utero, we develop twist, arguably the most important primary movement pattern. This rotational movement skill is developed within the safe confines of the womb and helps to prepare our neuromuscular system for upcoming environmental challenges as we learn to navigate life.
Between months three through five, we begin to incorporate push and pull into our vocabulary of movement. The infant first attempts to push themselves off the floor. Once this movement is mastered, they integrate pull as the baby begins to crawl.
At months five through eight, the infant integrates bend into their movement skillset. As the child attempts to stand, the motion of bending at the hip is utilized as an initial protective mechanism when falling forward.
The final three patterns are found between months seven and twelve. The child learns to stand upright using the squat and is followed by the lunge to help stabilize the body. These two movements eventually prepare the child for walking (gait).
Why choose primal movement patterns?
The goal for human movement is to obtain as much efficiency and proficiency of movement as possible. These 7 fundamental primal movement patterns are essential for navigating life effectively.
Before we go any further, let’s define a couple of key terms.
Traditional Strength Training: Building strength in one muscle group at a time.
Examples are bicep curls using dumbells or a leg press to strengthen the quadriceps.
Functional Strength Training: Focuses on larger body movements that aim to move a variety of muscle groups, and helps to maintain balance and stabilization in other areas of the body through the engagement of the neuromuscular system and fascial communication. Functional strength training serves to better prepare the body for activities that occur in everyday life.
Examples of functional strength training exercises are jump squats and ski jumps. These exercises utilize the muscle groups surrounding the legs and require stability throughout the core to maintain balance when landing.
Let’s put this all together
Before the invention of the treadmill, elliptical, and the Smith machine, our ancestors had to rely on their bodies and the elements to survive. In today’s commercialized fitness industry, there is a fancy machine for everything.
Somewhere along the way, someone thought “Hey, let’s make a machine that only targets *insert muscle*.”
While these fancy machines may make one specific muscle group independently stronger, it neglects the whole in favor of a part.
Imagine our primitive ancestors. Would they be performing bicep curls holding boulders, or tricep kickbacks using bison bones? Unlikely. Their lifestyle would likely include multiplanar movements that incorporate the 7 primal movement patterns.
Daily living for our early ancestors involved squatting, bending, and pushing to pick up and move heavy boulders. To gather food, it was often necessary to pull their body weight to reach the tops of the trees.
The competitive nature of hunting and gathering required a strong gait, for movements such as running, walking, and sprinting and the ability to lunge was essential to navigate unsteady terrain.
To provide the momentum necessary to propel spears and chop wood, twisting motions were common in everyday living.
As you can see, there is a real-world application for incorporating these fundamental movements into your fitness program. Take a moment to watch Peter of Kettlebell Movements demonstrate the 7 Primal Patterns®, as he takes you through a progression utilizing each movement. Peter will demonstrate a beginner, intermediate and advanced sequence for all fitness levels.
*It is advised that you consult a certified fitness professional before you begin any exercise program to assure you are performing safely and effectively. It is also recommended that you consult your primary care practitioner before beginning any new fitness program.
Richard A. Lehman, LMT, CSCS
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