In previous posts I have discussed that we no longer move how we are designed to. Our modern daily lives are becoming less active, jobs are becoming more sedentary and daily chores are being progressively taken over by a new gadget to do it for you, Even gym goers who would be considered active are still using movements in a unnatural environment, doing many unnatural movements in single planes of movement.
So what do I suggest? That's what this post is all about i'm going to talk through 5 of my top functional and natural movements to help you on your way. This is no way a complete list and I found it hard to decide on these so a follow up post will probably come in due course. However these 5 movements will help you increase strength, endurance and mobility and you don't need any special equipment to do them.
This is probably the most primal of all movements, now i'm not talking about the exercise where you have a weighted bar over your shoulders and bend your knees to 90 degrees, i'm talking about a deep squat. This position would be used to sit and rest, forage for foods on the ground and also to defecate. The advent of chairs and toilets means that we very rarely deep squat anymore if at
With this in mind it is important to remember that if you haven't ever done this before you are most likely going to find it hard at first, limited range of movement, strength and balance can all inhibit your ability to perform this movement. I work with people in the fitness industry, and I mean trainers that can't do this correctly so don't be disheartened if you can't.
It starts in a standing position much like a traditional squat, feet comfortably spaced apart. From here you will bend the knees and flex at the hips with a target of getting your bottom to the back of your ankles. As you descend try and stay in complete control, at some point you may lose balance or find you just can't go any further that's fine just return to standing. With some hip, knee, and ankle mobility work you should be able to build up to a full depth squat.
Remember this should be thought of as a rest position so think about building up the time you can comfortably stay in the position. Only the most competent person should consider adding any extra weight to the movement. Another way of progressing is to change the foot positioning, go wide or even keep the heals together keep it varied but get the basic first.
If I asked myself would primal man ever do a press up? my answer would be no, not in the sense we think of it, he wouldn't have had any aesthetic goal in mind and just wouldn't waste his energy. However it is a great movement to gain upper body and core strength, and is a great precursor to crawling activities. (Coming up).
Lay face down on the floor place your hands palms down around shoulder width apart, pull your toes under so the balls of your feet are touching the floor. From here push through your hands to raise the body off the floor, trying to maintain a straight line from your shoulder hip knee and ankle. Once your arms are nearly straight bend again and return to the start position, try and stop at around 90 degrees in the elbows and push out again.
You can vary the position of the hands to mix thing up, as well as changing the depth you work to. If you find it too hard then you can do press ups from the knees but again try and keep the hips in line with the body.
For these you do need a place to hang from, a pull up bar is great but a tree branch does serve very well and is more natural if we are being picky. There are different versions of pull ups a dead hang and a kipping (I prefer the phase dynamic pull up). A dead hang is where you start from a hang position and just use the strength of your upper body to bring your chin to the bar. A dynamic pull up can be classed as cheating as you use your body to create momentum to get you to the top. I would argue that the dynamic pull up is the more functional, if you were being chased by an animal and to try and escape you get up a tree branch you would use every bit of momentum you can, you wouldn't jump hang and pull up in a straight line.
Both versions have their merits, a dead hang is really where you should start to build up a good base line strength not only in the musculature but more importantly the connective tissues, which have to take a lot of strain particularly when trying to perform a dynamic pull up for repetitions. I recommend you should be able to perform at least 8 good dead hang pull ups before trying dynamic. With either though change grip width and hand position, all help keep the training response different and using wider and uneven surfaces like branches and ledges also help strengthen grip and without a good grip strength you will find them hard. some people may have to start by just hanging off a bar for as long as they can.
If you really can't do a pull up from the bottom working the negative can be a good start point. Jump up to the top and slowly lower yourself down, jump up again and repeat. You can produce more force in the eccentric (Lengthening muscle)phase of a contraction than the concentric (Shortening) phase helping to build up your baseline strength without actually performing the movement.
With a lunge we are trying to replicated walking over uneven ground, having to take wide deep strides to overcome a large boulder for example. Again there are many different lunge variations but we will talk about a basic for now.
From a standing position take a long step forward and plant your foot, your rear heel will probably lift slightly. Trying to keep your body upright with shoulder back bend both legs targeting the floor with your rear knee. If your foot position is correct your knees should be bent to around 90 degrees the back leg may be a little less. If not adjust your position. Push through the legs to bring yourself back up with control. Think of this lunge as a vertical movement not a forwards one, it will help stop you bending too far over the front knee.
You can perform this movement in a static stance where you keep both feet planted in the same spot or you can step back each time you come up from the position and exchange legs each repetition, making it more dynamic.
Today I will discuss a basic bear crawl but a future post will cover other variations to add to your routines. From a kneeling position place your hands on the floor and take your weight onto your toes and palms, keep the chin slightly up but not pulled back. Move one hand forward at the same time as the opposite leg, then use the other hand and leg, alternating in this way will allow you to crawl forwards, try and coordinate the movement and don't rush until you have mastered it.
Crawling is great for mobility, full body strength and is great fun. We would have used varying crawls to get under low branches or stay low behind the undergrowth while stalking prey. It can be taxing on the wrist at first so build up the distance you travel for over time. Try going up and down hill as well, it makes things challenging if your are competent on the flat.
All of these movements represent some basics that I think everyone should have a least some degree of competency in, they have many variations but these are a good start. I prefer to think of them as movement rather than exercises, and try to do them regularly, little and often as opposed to 3 sets of 10. Use a deep squat to pick up a pen rather than bending over, be mindful of your movements and keep it as varied as possible.
I will expand on these in future posts as the list of possibilities is endless but for now practise these basics and bring out your Functional Animal.