What is Primal Movement?

When it comes to moving, the human body is almost limesless in ways in which we have evolved to move. However, with time and generally after childhood, we find ourselves doing similar movement patterns – we walk forwards, run, sit, squat, look down etc etc. Moving better is something which I love working on so I spent the afternoon with my mate John (a primal movement training specialist) training and fired a few questions at him, in a Q and A style…:


First of all, what is primal movement?

The human body is capable of incredibly diverse and complex movements, but modern day living rarely has us do much beyond sitting, walking and standing.

We go from bed to car seat, to desk, to dinner table, back to bed. Primal movement is basically moving in ways that we have evolved to; reclaiming our innate ability to move.

With mobility, ‘use it’ or ‘lose it’ is a very true statement.

If you watch a toddler crawl, stand, squat – they are completely unrestricted in there movement. This natural freedom of movement that we are born with is eroded and sometimes lost as we age, simply because we didn’t move!

What are the primal movement patterns?

Traditionally, the ‘primal movement’ patterns are:

Push. Pull. Hinge. Twist. Squat. Locomotion (gait ie running walking etc). Lunge

I think categorising movement like this, although useful in some ways, can be limiting. The true power of the approach comes from losing the structure and returning to movement as not just a fun part but an essential part of every day living.

Having said this, making sure that you are training with all 7 helps the mental transition away from the traditional ‘isolated’ approach to movement towards a more holistic one.

How can primal movements benefit you?

Breaking away from the idea that movement is only effective if it burns calories or builds muscle can have a profound effect on the body.

Primal movement will not only improve strength, mobility, posture and fitness but also your capacity to move with balance and coordination. To move with less effort and tension – it literally develops your central nervous system to ‘move better’.

This is why it translates so well into sporting performance, as well as lifestyle training.

How can I introduce primal movement into my training?

Start with some more basic moves ‘Half Hindus’ (seen in Yoga) or ‘Kick Sits’ for example. Instead of thinking in terms of reps and sets; aim for rythm and fluidity of movements for a timed period.

‘Get your body moving as one piece’

Then try hanging up from bars, or simply resting/ reading/ working in a deep squat position. It is amazing what these simple additions can do for your day to day mobility.

At our primal sessions at Breathe – clients are always surprised how quickly they can progress towards more advanced movements like branchiating (swinging like a monkey) but it’s nothing new – just regaining what we have lost and did in the playground!

How did you get into this style of training?

My background was rugby. Back then, training consisted of lifting heavy, eating big and the occasional speed session. My mobility wasn’t great and eventually, an injury had me take a step back from the sport. I then discovered grappling and BJJ (Brazilian jiu-jitsu) – where mobility and movement skill are just as important, if not more important than how much you can bench press.

The training and rolling led me to discover callisthenics. I also did a lot of travelling so training ‘gym free’ became the only option.

Using my body weight and complex movement made me leaner, stronger, more mobile and I also lost a lot of the aches and pains I picked up from playing rugby.

I still enjoy pushing myself, in terms of performance and fitness; but I now also train for balance, movement, logevity and ultimately quality of life. Being a father of 2, I want my body to stay strong, mobile and capable into old age.!

Bodyweight training, combined with primal movement – balanced with restorative stretching and a good diet is effective, efficient and above all a sustainable way to train. Not just for aesthetics and performance.. But for quality of life!

I hope you enjoyed the read, I had a great afternoon practicing with John who I met a few weeks ago.

 Since meeting, I have taken a lot from his work and philosophy and will certainly be incorporating more primal training into my routine.

As always let me know if you have any feedback!


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