Primal Movements

Primal Movements

Train like a cave man

A couple of years ago I had the good fortune of meeting one of the fitness industries most controversial and lateral thinking experts. Paul Chek has the arrogance of a 100 metre sprinter but there’s no doubt he’s a pioneer. A great memoir of his thoughts and beliefs on health are contained in his excellent book ‘How to eat, move and be healthy’ (C.H.E.K. Institute, 2004, available from

While I don’t necessarily agree with all his theories or the cult like following of some of his Chek accredited trainers (go to any fitness first and you’ll find a couple), an hour with him definitely changed my way of thinking about training.

One of his most brilliantly basic ideas is his theory of primal movement patterns. In a nutshell he’s talking about the training movements that would have helped the caveman, by that I mean the movements that humans have done since the dawn of time.

The antithesis of this form of training is machine training. Machine training, in general, makes you stronger at machine training. Primal movement training makes you stronger at just about any movement you’ll tackle in life.

So, if you want to use your brain when considering your training program and actually use your brain when you train (i.e. your brain/muscle connection needs to work harder when the movement is more complicated) then plan every workout around these basic yet integral movements.

Here are the movements

• Squat

Our ancestors: Had to squat to move heavy objects, build shelter, and eat.

Modern times: Squat to sit, and to get in and out of car. Many of us squat and lift at work, home or gym.

Example – Overhead squat

• Bend

Our ancestors: Built shelter, prepared food and lifted.

Modern times: Examples are construction workers, nurses, parents picking up kids and golfers addressing the ball.

Example – Deadlift

• Lunge

Our ancestors: Traversing rough terrain.

Modern times: Throwing, sports, bushwalking, to prevent falling and in the workplace.

Example – Walking Lunge

• Push

Our ancestors: Moving heavy objects, clearing land, fighting.

Modern times: On farms. Pushing shopping trolley, stroller, wheelie bin.

Example – Swiss Ball Push-Up

• Pull

Our ancestors: Dragging the kill home for dinner, climbing, rowing.

Modern times: Sport, construction, housework.

Example – Band Pull


Our ancestors: Usually with other patterns. Important in throwing, so fundamental to hunting and fighting.

Modern times: Nearly all functional movements incorporate twisting.

Example – Swiss Ball Russian Twist

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