The 7 Primal Movements

Master The Primal Movement Patterns That Have Ensured Our Survival Since The Stoneage!

The term “7 Primal Movement Patterns” is gaining some popularity nowadays in the fitness circuit. However, before I get into what it is and why it is vital from a fitness perspective, let me set something straight. Most people tend to confuse the term Primal Movements with exercises or movements that are named after animals like “Rabbit”, “Monkey”, “Gorilla”, etc. However, the correct term for this type of movement exercise is “Quadrupedal Movements.”

Quad means 4, and drupal indicates how we traverse or move across land. Hence the term Quadrupedal Movements for movement exercises that imitate “Monkeys”, “Rabbits”, etc. So, in essence, it’s supposed only to imitate animals that move around on 4 limbs. But now, the meaning seems to have extended to other animals like Crab, Spider, Scorpion, Caterpillar, Worm etc., which doesn’t even have any legs!

Personally, going by the evolution of our species, I can understand how the Monkey and Gorilla can be considered “Primal”. But the rest of the animal? Actually, I believe it is a result of when Calisthenics became trendy and exploded on the internet with the help of genetically gifted people with symmetrical bodies. These guys had no fitness education and probably never even read a book in their life, but they did have a massive following on their Instagram or Youtube channels. They used these platforms to spread a lot of misinformation.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I think Quadrupedal movements are fun to do, and I like them! I even use some of them as part of my warm-ups and mobility drills in my fitness class. However, calling these quadrupedal movement exercises Primal Movements is completely wrong. Primal movements don’t imitate other animals but are part of our innate movement patterns that has ensured our survival in the wild before the advancement of civilisation. In case you’re new to this term and had the wrong idea about it, then let us first take a look at what precisely are Primal movements.

What Are Primal Movement Patterns?

As part of our evolution, our species developed several natural movement patterns over time, which we now refer to as Primal movements. These primal movements were essential for our survival. Sure, in this day and age of technology, mobile phones, supermarkets, cars and other luxuries, it may not seem critical. However, back in the day, the cavemen and women managed in very different and challenging circumstances. 

Whether walking long distances to migrate to warmer climates or chase and hunt food, we developed movement patterns that best suited our physiology. But, of course, then there was the angle of escaping from predators and not becoming the food of some other beast. Thus, over thousands of years of evolution, we developed a specific set of primal movement patterns that has helped us survive to this day. 

Even though things have changed drastically, these primal movements are still as important to us as they were to our primal ancestors. Therefore, ensuring you are fit enough to perform the primal movement patterns is beneficial aesthetically and functionally. Incorporating the primal movement patterns into your fitness routine is one way to ensure you can perform complex and even simple physical tasks with relative ease. 

Research has narrowed it down to mainly 7 primal movements. So continue reading if you are looking to improve your functional fitness and are curious to find out more about using these primal movement patterns.

What Are The 7 Primal Movements?

The 7 primal movements are the fundamental movement patterns we humans have developed over many years of evolution. These patterns are so ingrained in our DNA that we actually begin developing and working on them right from the time we take birth! So without creating any more suspense, our 7 primal movements are – Twist, Push, Pull, Bend, Squat, Lunge, and Gait.

Let us look at each of the 7 Primal Movements in more detail and see how you can incorporate them into your fitness routine.

Twist

Twisting is perhaps the most basic and innate of all 7 primal movements. We start using this movement pattern even before infancy! When in the womb, we already begin to twist and turn around. Such rotational motion helps to develop our neuromuscular system that will be much needed in the world outside the womb.

All through our life, twisting is a motion we perform multiple times every day. It is, in fact, a huge handicap to not be able to twist. Therefore, exercises that help you work on this movement pattern will also help improve your overall range of motion and build your core strength.

Examples of exercises that help you Twist are – Palloff Press, Cable Wood Chops, Rotational Or Seated Medicine Ball Toss etc.

Push

We first learn to Push when, as an infant, we attempt to push our body off the floor. Push is any movement pattern where we use strength to move the weight away from our body or vice versa. For example, when we need to push the table to a more convenient location or to push start our car. This movement pattern helps build strength in the anterior upper body and define shoulders, triceps and chest muscles.

Examples of exercises that help you Push are – incline bench press, push-ups, dumbbell shoulder press etc.

Pull

Pulling, again, is one of the 7 primal movements that we practise right from infancy. Once we can Push our body up, the next thing any child attempts is to Pull its body to begin crawling. Pulling is any movement pattern where an external weight is pulled towards the body. This movement pattern is excellent for building strength in the posterior upper body. It also helps define the back and biceps.

Examples of exercises that help you Pull are – Lat pulldown, pull-ups, dumbbell rows,  TRX body row etc. If you find the TRX to be expensive, then no need to worry. Here are some excellent TRX Alternatives.

Bend

The next thing a child attempts to do after learning to crawl is to get up on its feet. To do so, the child has to learn to bend. As it gets into position, the child bends at the hip before pushing the body up. Bending also is a way to prevent itself from falling over.  This motion helps improve balance as well as builds strength in the core, lower back and hamstrings.

Examples of exercises that help you Bend are – Single-Leg Romanian deadlift, Dumbbell stiff-legged deadlift, Back extensions etc.

    Squat

    After learning to Bend, a child learns to Squat before it can stand upright. Squatting requires one to bend at the ankles, hip and knees in the correct posture, causing your butt to lower towards the ground. Ideally, you should keep your back straight and chest out to maintain. Although, as a child, we instinctively Squat for accomplishing such motion, over time, the only place most people Squat is in the gym!

    Well, Squatting is additional work, and just bending at getting up seems so much easier, right? But avoiding squatting completely will eventually lead to poor posture and weaker balance, and lower body strength. On the other hand, Squatting helps strengthen your quads, calves, glutes and hamstrings.

    Examples of exercises that help you Squat are –  Goblet squats, dumbbell squats, Barbell squats, front Squat etc.

    Lunge

    Our early ancestors probably found the Lunge motion very useful, especially when throwing the spear to hunt down prey. Although we may not face such scenarios nowadays, the lunge motion is still crucial in maintaining balance while moving and preventing injuries. This motion occurs when we bend one leg and step forward while keeping the other one stationary. In addition, doing Lunges will help strengthen your calves, glutes, quads and hamstrings.

    Examples of exercises that help you Lunge are – Side lunges, barbell alternating lunges, reverse lune, Bench step-up, Dumbbell step-up etc.

    Gait

    And finally, we come to the last of the 7 primal movements, and perhaps the most used one, i.e. Gait or Walking. This primal movement pattern is a combination of Pull, Twist & Lunge. Gait is probably the most obvious one irrespective of age as it helps improve balance and strengthen the core, upper body and lower body.

    Examples of exercises that help you Gait are – Running, Walking, plyometric jumps etc.

    Choose Primal Movement Patterns For High Functional Fitness!

    To achieve complete fitness, we must work out all 3 planes of motion, i.e. the Traversal, Coronal and Sagittal planes. This is important not just to improve performance but also to prevent injuries in the gym and while performing daily activities. That is why nature has ingrained the 7 primal movements as part of our DNA. Therefore, as soon as we are born, we start developing the 7 primal movements mentioned in this article.

    If the goal of your fitness routine is to improve the efficiency of your movements and daily physical activities, you should be sure to include these movement patterns. That is where having a Good Personal Trainer comes in handy. They can help create a fitness routine that includes exercises that work on the primal movement. Most importantly, a good trainer will make sure you are doing the exercises right and not injuring yourself. After all, the main reason you hit the gym regularly is to be fit & healthy, right? And when it comes to functional fitness, there is no substitute for the 7 primal movement patterns.

    Krix Luther

    Author/CEO

    Krix Luther is a Health and Fitness Specialist and one of Asia’s leading Personal Trainers. He is an Ex Professional Muay Thai fighter and Avid Free Diver. At the same time as being a very active person he also has a passion for gaming and has his own Twitch stream. If you have any questions for him, you can contact him via his Instagram.

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