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More Primitive Fitness Ruminations

June 17th, 2010 by Andrew Heffernan

Hilarious that the last blog entry I made, on June 2, was titled "Relentless Consistency." Also the key to a good blog, I realize. But as ever, duty elsewhere calls.

I spent the last few weeks researching and writing about what I'm calling a trend towards "Primitive Fitness"--fitness programs based around the movements and activities of our evolutionary ancestors. Different folks out there have different takes on it--there are varying degrees of recognizable exercises and implements involved in different iterations of the trend, but the point is to insert lots of variety into exercise, change things up, stop thinking so linearly, if that's a word.

In a word, I love this trend. One of the main driving forces behind it is to make exercise more playful, joyful, and spontaneous. The number one way to do that, it would seem, is to have the vast majority of your exercises be about moving your entire body through space. Jon Hinds of Monkey Bar Gym bases his clients' workouts around climbing, crawling, running and jumping--all of which have analogs in standard strength-training (pulling, pushing, knee-dominant lower body, hip dominant lower body)--while at the same time being very intuitively understandable in a way that "hip-dominant lower-body" isn't to most people.

Another way to think of "primitive" fitness is to choose exercises which use as much muscle mass at once as possible, and to make a movement more complex and varied whenever possible. Not exactly a novel idea--people have been touting the value of deadlifts, squats and the like over curls and machine exercises for decades. However, there are creative ways of upping the ante even further. For deadlifts, an already complex movement, you could perform the exercise with kettlebells, walk a set distance, put down the bells, and repeat, combining a deadlift with a farmer's walk. Or you could perform squats with a 90- or 180-degree jump turn between each rep. If you've got a training partner or coach, they can call out random directions to jump and turn to on each rep.

If you absolutely must do curls of some kind--and I've fallen into that category at times--try doing them walking. You can do the same with overhead presses. That forces your torso stabilizers to fire up in all kinds of new and interesting ways. Thus you're making a single-joint movement into a full-body proprioceptive challenge.

The concept of 'cheating', as I wrote about here, comes into this category too: assuming you don't have shoulder problems, I think snatching, clean and pressing, and overhead jerking is far more functional and useful than overhead presses; I like kip-ups, jump-chins (I like to call them "Peeping Toms"--do the exercise and you'll figure out why), and jump-chins with a grip change more than regular chins.  Below is a guy doing a side-jump chin, which is a more advanced version of the grip-change chin...the idea on both is that you give yourself enough of an explosive pull so that you can do...something...at the top of the move, rather like the upper-body pull equivalent of a clap pushup:

The overall point: get creative. Think outside the box, while staying within the guidelines of good form, progression, overload, and balance (including something for all four uber-basic movement patterns is a great place to start). Throw in lots of big, locomotive movement that uses both upper and lower body, "complexify" your exercises, and in all likelihood, your workouts will start to get a lot more fun.

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Tags: about running, all fitness, all muscle, all start fitness, at exercise, balance exercise, balance exercises, balance fitness, balance machine, balance problems, balance the body, basic exercises, basic workouts, being single, bells, Exercise, exercise and fitness, exercise fitness, exercise outside, Fitness

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