Category Archives: Conditioning

What is Functional Fitness?

Functional fitness. That’s the buzz-term that was popularized years ago and still gets thrown around and bastardized today by trainers, coaches, and gyms across the world.

Functional fitness sounds great doesn’t it? I mean, who wouldn’t want to be “functional” and “fit”. The idea that your training will carry over to some sort of function is a good thing.

But does your training really fall into functional fitness?

Continue reading What is Functional Fitness?

What I Learned From Winning Strongman

This past weekend I took home first place in my weight class (lightweights under 200) at the River City Strongman in Richmond, Virginia.

It was a great but grueling day of lifting and competing. I met some awesome people, had overwhelming support from friends and family, made a few mistakes, but most importantly, overcame and battled throughout the day to bring home the win for Primal Strength Gym. I was also honored to compete with another Primal member who took home third in the heavyweight class.

Continue reading What I Learned From Winning Strongman

Training Finishers for Fat Loss and Muscle Gain

Want to boost fat loss, improve your conditioning, build some extra muscle, and increase your mental toughness, all in less than 20 minutes?

Adding training finishers to the end of your workouts is an extremely effective way to do all of the above.

Most of the time Primal finishers take the form of either high-intensity cardio, a hard hitting bodyweight circuit, or a strength movement with a conditioning component built around improving mental toughness.

Since finishers are meant to be high-intensity, you only need to do them a few times a week and are not meant to be done after every training session. Doing finishers too often will jeopardize your recovery times and strain your central nervous system (CNS), and if you are working your ass off during the main components of your training sessions, they just aren’t necessary all of the time. Keep your finishers to 20 minutes in duration or less.

battle rope finishers

High-Intensity Cardio Finishers

Primal conditioning philosophy centers around high-intensity cardio and using finishers in this fashion is a perfect opportunity to burn some extra fat. High-intensity cardio burns more fat calories in a shorter period of time than steady state cardio like jogging or the stair climber, and it will have a long lasting metabolic effect, boosting fat loss for up to 24 hours after you have left the gym.

Here are some examples of high-intensity cardio finishers:

  1. Battle Rope Finisher: 3-4 rounds of battle rope for intervals of 30 seconds to 90 seconds or more. Non-stop movement of the ropes switching between rope slams (single and double arm variations), rope jumping jacks, and shoulder rotations. Rest 1-2 minutes between rounds.
  2. Hill Sprints: This is the most classic and effective fat burning cardio you can do. 5 – 10 sprints with 1-2 minutes rest in between rounds will do the trick. Your rest period includes time spent walking back down the hill.
  3. Sled and Prowler Work: Weighted sled pulls and sprints, and loaded prowler pushes make for brutal conditioning finishers. Pulls/pushes for 50 feet or more with short breaks in between movements work best.

Bodyweight Circuits

Bodyweight circuits are one of my favorite finishers to not only boost fat loss, but also build muscle and throw in some extra volume to my training sessions. You can do circuits with light resistance as well, but if you worked hard enough during the core of your training session it probably isn’t necessary. Bodyweight yields a good training effect while minimizing wear and tear on your body that increases recovery times. Using a circuit that recruits the entire body will boost the effectiveness of the finisher.

An example would be:

1a) Pushups x 10
1b) Recline Rows x 10
1c) Jump Squats x 10

Perform each exercise consecutively without rest in between. Completing all 3 constitutes one round. Rest 30 seconds to 2 minutes after each round. Perform 3-5 rounds.

Strength and Mental Toughness Finishers

These are my favorite finishers to use. I like leaving the gym knowing I gave it everything I had and really testing yourself at the end of a training session is a sure-fire way to end on a high note. The strength component of this finisher should involve heavy weight but with a movement that has little risk for technical error or injury. With this in mind, I often turn to heavy farmers carries or carrying odd objects like kegs, sandbags, or stones.

You will get a strength, muscle building, conditioning, and mental toughness training effect with this kind of finisher. I also like combining this type of finisher with high-intensity cardio as a form of contrast training.

A couple examples of this type of finisher would look like:

  1. Kettlebell farmers carries for 150 feet.
  2. Heavy object carries for 150 feet in a variety of positions (zercher, shouldered, cleaned, overhead). Keep in mind risk for technical error and increasing the difficulty with different positions since you are already fatigued from your entire training session.
  3. Farmers carries for 50 – 150 feet followed immediately by a hill sprint.

farmers carry finishers

Wrapping Up

  • Finishers are a great way to boost fat loss, improve conditioning, increase muscle mass, and build mental toughness.
  • The best finishers can be high-intensity cardio, bodyweight circuits, and strength and mental toughness movements.
  • Do not perform finishers after every training session because they can jeopardize your recovery times and increase CNS fatigue.

— Tank

Implementing a Full Body or Upper Lower Split

The only two training splits I recommend are either full body or an upper lower split.

Body part splits and bodybuilding style training has its place for supplemental programming, but it’s ill-suited (as a primary focus) for the average gym rat or athlete who wants to get both strong and huge. Training full body or with an upper lower split recruits far more muscle, allows you to train much more frequently than body part splits, and will build both size and strength concurrently.

If you want a more detailed look into why I advocate against body part splits for the average gym rat, read this: Ditch the Body Part Split

upper lower split

I favor an upper lower split personally because I think it has a few advantages over full body training, but I’ll give you examples of both just so you can decide for yourself what suits your needs and schedule more.

Full Body

For a full body split, it’s pretty straightforward. You train your entire body each training session so no movement is off limits.

The disadvantage to full body training is that your training sessions will typically be longer than normal and your recovery times increased. You may also be hard pressed to fit everything you’d like to do in a single training session.

As a general rule, no matter what the split, I train my biggest/heaviest lifts first and follow that with assistance work and specialty training such as plyometrics and explosive movements. Several days a week, I will end with 20 minutes of high-intensity cardio.

Here is an example full body training plan:

  1. Big Lift (Bench, squat, overhead press, deadlift)
  2. Assistance (row variations, tricep and bicep work, hamstring and posterior chain movements, floor presses, squat variations, single-leg exercises, etc.)
  3. More Assistance (different movement from your 1st assistance exercise)
  4. Bodyweight or Explosive Movement (push-up and pull-up variations, dips, kettlebell cleans and snatches, barbell hang cleans, heavy push presses, plyometrics)
  5. Core Work and/or Conditioning (sprints, hanging leg raises, medicine ball throws, kettlebell swings, battle rope, weighted crunches, farmers carries)

* For some of your explosive work, if it’s really taxing, you may perform that as your second movement to reduce the possibility of technical errors and injury, as well as increase the actual training effect of the exercise. *

Training hard with a full body approach, you only need to train 3 days a week (Monday, Wednesday, Friday for example), with some light to moderate active recovery sessions on your off days.

34f18_ORIG-friday_59_

Upper Lower Split

Upper lower splits are a progression from full body training and are what I typically use in my own training and with my clients. Your training sessions are split into upper body days and lower body days.

The upper lower split is more flexible than a full body split and allows you to hit your entire upper/lower body within a reasonable time frame (a typical training session would be about an hour). It also allows you to train more frequently, several times a week for both your upper and lower body.

Sticking with some of the considerations I laid out above (heaviest lift first, etc.) an upper lower split would look something like this.

Upper Body

  1. Big Lift (bench, or overhead press)
  2. Upper Body Assistance
  3. Upper Body Assistance
  4. Bodyweight or Explosive Movement
  5. Core Work and/or Conditioning

Lower Body

  1. Big Lift (squat, deadlift)
  2. Lower Body Assistance
  3. Lower Body Assistance
  4. Bodyweight or Explosive Movement
  5. Core Work and/or Conditioning

For an upper lower split, I take a 2 days on 1 day off approach. A sample schedule would be something like this:

Monday – Upper
Tuesday – Lower
Wednesday – Off Day/Active Recovery
Thursday – Upper
Friday – Lower
Saturday – Off Day/Active Recovery
Sunday – Off Day/Active Recovery

If you are looking for some set and rep guidelines for both full body and upper lower split programs, check out these two articles:

How Many Sets To Build Muscle?

What Rep Range To Build Muscle?

If you want an 8 week program centered around an upper lower split, check out Uncaging Your Primal Strength. You can download it from my programs page. It comes complete with an exercise list, rep and set guidelines, and built-in printable training worksheets.

Since its release, people from all over the world have been crushing the program, breaking strength plateaus, building muscle mass, and shredding body fat.

I also have a ridiculous deal going on for 3 of my eBooks, where you can get Uncaging, The Primal Mind, and Primal Strength Nutrition for a 30% discount. Don’t miss out before I come to my senses and raise the price back to face value!

If you want something even more dynamic and personalized, check out my online coaching portal: Primal Online Coaching.

By investing in online coaching, you will get 8 weeks of personalized programming, video critiques of your lifts, and a lot of interaction with me. Why not invest in the same training that is producing the nationally ranked athletes and record holders from the Primal Strength Gym?

Online Coaching Sign Up

— Tank

Plyometrics Training For Strength and Explosiveness

You’ve heard me mention plyometrics before here and here.

They are key at developing explosiveness and athleticism and should be an important component of a well balanced strength training program.  You will need this explosiveness when trying to build strength for the heavy barbell lifts like the bench and deadlifts.  Plus they are vital in developing general physical preparedness and work capacity that will allow you to increase your training volume as you progress.

There are a ton of jump variations you can do, but for most of you these 3 will do the trick.

#1: Box Jumps

Most gyms have some sort of box you can jump on.  Nothing complicated here.  Just jump onto the box.  Jump higher and higher as you progress.

[tube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WPMqixXXsIA[/tube]

#2: Hurdle Jumps

This simply means jumping over things.  In a standard gym sitting, you can jump over benches or boxes.  If you are training outside, this is where park benches and other objects come into play.

#3: Long Jumps

These are the most advanced because they require a great deal of explosiveness and athleticism already.  You have to be very careful on cushioning your landings, and be aware of the pounding your joints, knees, and legs take in the process.  I do not recommend this for beginners, but as you progress, you can work these in.  Make sure your technique is sound and you have a strong core before doing these.

Knowing you need to focus on these 3, how do you incorporate them into your training?

Programming Considerations

I’d treat them just as any other exercise.  They count towards your overall training volume and the higher/further you jump counts towards your training intensity.  The higher/further you jump, the less reps per set you should perform.  Fifteen or less total reps split up among 3-5 sets would work.

Daria+Klishina+2013+European+Athletics+Indoor+lSjZNVWNHMnx

I tend to work my jumps in at the end of my workouts or after my big compound lift.  If I’m jumping for a low vertical, I’ll use them as a conditioning finisher.  If I’m going for high verticals, I’ll make them a focal point of my training after heavy squatting for example.  One thing you can do to work in jumps mid-training is superset heavy squats with box jumps to really build up your explosiveness and leg strength.

One important distinction here is to not treat jumps as high-intensity cardio alone.  While they do make a kick ass conditioning exercise, you also need to treat them as a way to develop explosiveness.  The more explosive you are, the better you will perform on your big lifts.  That’s why it’s important to test yourself and continually try to jump higher and further, not just for reps and time.

As far as frequency goes, you could jump a couple of times a week.  Work in your plyos on the same days you are training lower body if you can.  If you must jump the day after lifting heavy squats or deadlifts, crank your intensity (height/distance) down to no more than 75% of your max effort.  Just like lifting weights, jumping for prolonged periods at 100% max effort can be stressful on your central nervous system (CNS).

Evolve!!

— Tank

How to Program Your High-Intensity Cardio

Conditioning is a vital component of being strong and able to perform.  Not only do you need it to stay lean and mean, but building up your work capacity is the only way to push yourself in the gym on a continual basis and amp up your volume.  If you are out of shape, you cannot progress.  Bottom line.

For many people, they fear conditioning will take away from their gains and they are unsure of how to fit it into their programming.  Have no fear.  If you are training the right way, and not running yourself into the ground, you will shed some fat and build some muscle at the same time.

First of all, you should know what kind of cardio to limit yourself to.  Read this: Cardio For Getting Shredded

Sprinters
Now, as far as programming goes, you have a number of options.

The main thing you need to realize is that you should treat your cardio as you would a lifting session.  What I mean is that you should base your programming around the effort you use for those conditioning sessions and the frequency and timing in which you do it.

So, to throw an example out there, you don’t want to go through a heavy squat workout and then go perform a 100% puke inducing hill sprint session the following day (or vice versa).

There are two simple ways to fit in your high-intensity cardio.

The first is to pair your conditioning sessions with your lifting.  Tack on an extra 20 minutes to your workout to get your hill sprints and sled work in.  Then give yourself a full 48 hours of rest before you tackle another conditioning session.  Some of you may have the discipline to do this. Others read this and probably say “F*ck!  The last thing I want to do after lifting my ass off is do a conditioning session.”

The remedy to this would be two-a-days.  Separate your sprinting from your lifting session by 6 hours or so.  Back in the day, I would jump and sprint at 10am, then go lift at 4pm.  For those of you really trying to cut the fat, hitting up your sprinting sessions first thing in the morning in a fasted state might help you burn more fat than you otherwise would later in the day. Just make sure you drink some coffee or caffeine to increase the thermogenic effect and take in about 10 grams of amino acids to prevent any form of muscle loss.  If you are keeping your sessions to 20 minutes or less and only a couple of times a week, you shouldn’t have too much to worry about anyway.

By doing either of the above, it ensures you are resting on your rest days instead of trying to fit a conditioning session in.

Shredded Girl 2

If you must run a day after lifting, you should tackle those sprints at 60-75% of your max effort instead of going 100% max effort.  A lot of times, these sprints may even help in your recovery after the previous day of hard lifting.  When running on off days just take into account what you did the day before and base your effort on that.

For most people, two 20 minute sessions a week will do the trick for staying lean and maintaining the ability to put on muscle mass.  If you are above 15% bodyfat, or fat loss is your main goal, you can tack on an additional session or perform a couple of high-intensity finishers at the end of your lifting workouts. Five minutes of things like battle ropes or medium height box jumps work really well here.

As a side note, I know I stress high-intensity cardio, and that should in fact be the focus of your conditioning.  But do not underestimate the power of a 30 minute walk upon waking.  Back in the golden age of bodybuilding, and even dating up to Arnold himself, walking on an empty stomach in the morning was mostly all they did to keep fat off.  Not to mention it does wonders for mental focus and your psyche to start the day.

Don’t make conditioning too complicated.  Vary your efforts and allow yourself enough rest so you don’t jeopardize what you are doing in the weight room.  Follow these rules and you will be well on the road to making gains and shredding fat.

Evolve!!

— Tank

Imperfection Training

Imperfection training is a big part of what Primal Strength Camp is all about.

I first read about the idea of this type of training in the book “Supertraining” by Yuri Verkhoshansky.  If you’ve never heard of this book and are serious about strength training and muscle building, you need to invest in it.

Consider this statement:

All-round sports training must include the capability of coping with unexpected and sub-optimal conditions. In certain sports where accidents or unexpected situations often occur, such as the martial arts, parachuting and motor racing, participants are taught how to cope with events that can have serious consequences. This type of preparation needs to be adopted far more extensively in all sports so that the athlete is able to anticipate threatening situations, react much more rapidly to unexpected circumstances, take action to avoid or minimise injury, and cope with sub-optimal conditions by practising with imperfectly executed movements.

When I first started training outside with odd-objects for fun as a way to break up the monotony of the gym, I immediately noticed that my gym strength didn’t translate to the real world.

The real world IS a “sub-optimal condition”.  Nothing is ever perfect.  But our bodies get so damn accustomed to moving so rigidly in the gym (almost always in a linear fashion) that we are ill-equipped to handle unexpected movements and uneven loads.  This is why I had trouble lifting kegs and sandbags when I first started.  I was already using imperfection training without even realizing it.

One thing I think we can all relate to is helping somebody move furniture.  You can bench 300 pounds and squat twice your bodyweight, but if you ever try to move some weird shaped couch or get a dresser up some stairs, I bet it kicks your ass.

Anyhow, if you are interested in possessing “real-world strength”, the concept of imperfection training and working it into your routines is a no-brainer.  This especially goes for athletes because nothing you ever do in a game situation is perfect.  Rarely are you moving in a linear fashion like most of your exercises in a gym (they may be dynamic like Olympic lifts or jumps, but are still not chaotic).

“Creating chaos” in an exercise form is not totally accomplishable.  There is only so much you can do and you will never be able to mimic the things you will encounter in real-life situations, but there are things you can do to help bridge the gap.

#1: Lifting Odd-Objects

Kegs, stones, slosh pipes, and sandbags are all good tools to use here.  Cleans, clean and presses, overhead presses, and sandbag shouldering are all examples of movements to perform.  None of these tools have evenly distributed weight, especially in the case of kegs (only partially filled) and sandbags.  The water and sand will continually shift making each and every rep of the movement different.

#2: Uneven Carries

Farmers carries are an awesome exercise, but rarely do you see variations in style.  Uneven carries require different sized loads to be carried in each arm.  For example, two different sized kettlebells.

At Primal, we like to take things a step further and carry two entirely different objects altogether.  In one hand we may have a 50 pound kettlebell, but we will have a 100 pound sandbag in a shouldered position in the other arm.  Or carrying the same sized object in two different carry positions; one at your side and one in a cleaned position is a good example.

Ever used a slosh pipe?  This is an uneven carry extreme and a Primal favorite.  A 10 foot pipe filled only partially with water, the water is constantly changing positions side to side, creating full body tension in an effort to keep the pipe upright and stabilized.

[tube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c93mGtzBhJs[/tube]


#3: Outside Sled Work

Most of the time you see sled work, trainers have their people pulling/pushing the sled on turf.  That’s good and all, but it certainly makes it a hell of a lot easier.

We train with our sleds outside in parks, often times in tall, dry grass or patchy fields at best.  It may go from fairly easy to impossible in a split second if you snag it on a dirt pile or high-patch of grass.  Doing it this way, you have to be very focused on keeping your legs churning and burning, similar to how you would see a running back trying to push the pile in a short yardage situation.

#4: Dynamic Throws

Heavy throws are a great way to build strength and total body power and explosiveness.  Aside from normal medicine ball work, kegs and sandbags and even stones are a great tool to use for these.

strength training
Keg tossing will develop some serious explosive power. This will help you off the ground with your other lifts too, like deadlifts and the clean and press.

If you are trying to build some “functionality” behind all of that gym muscle, imperfection training is something you need to consider for your training arsenal.  Use some of these ideas and run with them.  The beauty of this style is it allows you to be creative.  When you get so bogged down in traditional training, throwing a little chaos into your world can be a really rewarding and refreshing thing to do.  Training this way once or twice a week in addition to your normal routine should reap you some benefits.

Just do it responsibly and with some thought behind it, because just like sports, some of these movements can lead to injury.  You should be concentrating and focusing on moving efficiently during this training just like any other gym session.

Evolve!!

— Tank

Cardio For Getting Shredded

It kills me every time I walk into a gym and see 50% of the real estate covered in cardio machines.cardio

People churning away, reading magazines on a stationary bike, watching tv on the elliptical, chatting with their friends on the treadmill.  They are totally crushing the ‘fat burn program’ on that $3,000 heap of metal. They will be doing that for hours multiple times a week.

The problem is that there are far better ways to get shredded in much shorter amounts of time…

Steady State Cardio and the Fat Burn Zone Confusion

First, let’s clear up a misconception.  Word on the street is that you burn more fat during low intensity steady state cardio, such as walking or jogging.  Totally false.

While your body does burn a higher percentage of fat at lower intensities (50% of calories from fat) versus higher intensities (35% of calories from fat), at higher intensities you burn far more calories overall, ultimately leading to more fat calories (in a much shorter amount of time).

Confusing?  Let me put it this way.  If I walk on the treadmill for an hour and burn 250 calories, I may have burned about 125 calories from fat.  But let’s say I train Primal style and run several sets of hill sprints, followed by a high intensity finisher.  In about 20 minutes, I could burn 500-600 calories, with 210 calories from fat.  One-third of the time and far more fat burn…

Pretty eye opening right?

Get off the treadmill, crank up the intensity, and do work!

cardio

So what exactly do you do?

You have a number of options.

Hill Sprints or Sprint Intervals

Sprint hill.  Jog back down.  Repeat.

Sprint intervals are the same concept.  Sprint 20 seconds, rest for 20.  As you get better, increase the duration of the sprint and decrease your rest time.

Sled or Prowler Work

Load up the sled or prowler, strap yourself in and get to work.  Pull or push for distance.

Lately, I have been loading up a prowler with about 60% of my bodyweight and sprinting 40’s while pushing it. About 4 sprints with this is enough and a great finisher to heavy weight lifting.

MetCon (Metabolic Conditioning)

MetCon is really just a fancy word for interval training.  It is a short duration, fast paced workout designed to kick your metabolism into high gear and turn you into a fat burning machine for long after you have left the gym.  Under the MetCon realm, there are a number of options:

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

  1. You could lump hill sprints and sprint intervals into this, but when I think of HIIT, I use it with weights and different exercises.
  2. Weight circuits, where you pick 5 or so exercises, and perform them all consecutively for specified reps, with no rest in between.  That is one set.  Do several sets.
  3. Intervals, where you pick one exercise (say bodyweight squats), perform for a timed duration, then rest, and repeat is another.  Plyos work well here too.

Random Guidelines for High Intensity Training

women's cardio

  • Coupled with a 4 day a week weight lifting routine, 2 sessions a week should be enough.  Anything more and you are jeopardizing your recovery times.
  • Sessions should last roughly 20 minutes or so.  Anything more is overkill.
  • This is not meant for everyone.  If you cannot perform high intensity training initially, start with steady state cardio until you are capable.
  • High intensity is not an excuse for poor form.  Form trumps all.
  • Train outside when possible.
  • Metabolism is a function of muscle mass.  The more muscle you have, the better your metabolism is, and the more effective your training will be.

All the best!!

— Tank

Anatomy of a Kick Ass Training Session

A lot of people ask how I plan and organize my training sessions.

There are a million different ways to train out there; some good, some bad.  I don’t train the same way every day.  The key to breaking up the monotony and daily grind (as well as making permanent progress in general) is having a dynamic training schedule.  But there are rubrics you can use as the foundation for building your training program.

Let me break down one of my all-time favorite sessions for ya real quick.  I’ve found it is one of the best ways to get in the gym, move some serious weight, build some muscle and work capacity, and get the hell out, all in less than an hour and a half.  Anytime I need a “go-to” workout, this is it…

Phase 1:  The Warm Up (15 minutes)

The warm up should be fairly high paced and take about 15 minutes or so, depending on how strenuous you want to make it.

My warm ups usually only entail bodyweight, like several rounds of band stretches, bodyweight squats, walking lunges, high jumps, pushups, jogs and sprints, and lateral movements like shuffling.  Mix in some foam rolling to get everything loosened up and you should be good to go.

Have a plan, and execute it.  You should be concentrating during the warm up just as much as you would be if you were about to set a personal squat record.

This is also a great time to work on your weaknesses when you are fresh; and since you are warming up before every workout, you are attacking those weaknesses with much more frequency.  Weak on pushups?  Add an ample dose to your warm up.  If you want to be good at something, you should be doing it every day! 

big lift training session

Phase 2:  The Big Lift (30-45 minutes)

A lot of my workouts are focused on going heavy on one of the big lifts (squat, bench, overhead press, deadlift).  I’ll pick one big lift to do per training session and perform it immediately after the warm up.

Four to five warm up sets usually work for me, then I’ll perform 3 working sets according to whatever my training goal and program is at the time.  If I feel I didn’t get enough, I’ll throw in some drop sets to finish the lift off.

Phase 3:  Assistance Work (20-30 minutes)

After the big lift, I’ll focus on assistance work that is meant to add size and help me to pull more weight in one of the big lifts.  Three or four exercises here will do the trick, working sub-maximally (70-85% of 1 rep max) for 6-20 reps per set, depending on the exercise.  I’ll usually do 4-6 sets per exercise.

Pushups, pull-ups, dumbbell push and pull variations, rows, good mornings, and dips are all examples of exercises to do here.  Pick exercises that will help build some muscle and will increase your ability to perform one of your big 4 lifts.

women's training session

Phase 4:  The Finisher (5 minutes)

This phase is built around conditioning and increasing your work capacity.  Heavy farmers walks, battle rope circuits, sled pulling, prowler pushing, and sprints all work well here.

Pick an exercise that isn’t necessarily strength focused, but will take some mental toughness and heart pumping effort to complete.  This phase is meant to be short and sweet, and help finish your workout with a bang.  Do not overdo this since it’s not meant to make you puke and keel over, but you should feel good and crushed when it’s over.

Wrap Up

There ya have it, a bad ass rubric for planning a complete muscle building training session! 

Sticking to this kind of template has never done me wrong, and if you are unsure of what you should be doing in the gym, this is a damn good place to start.  Now go out and crush it!

Evolve!!

— Tank

Train Movements, Not Muscles (Primal Movement Patterns)

Far too often we get overly focused on training our muscles.

Sounds crazy coming from a strength coach right?

Stick with me.

Focusing and planning your training sessions around certain body parts will limit the exercises you can do, limit the amount of muscle you recruit during training, and could lead to muscle imbalances.

Solution?

Train movements, not muscles.

Our bodies were made to be worked, made to move, designed for performance and survival.  Not to sit down on a lat-pulldown machine.

When I first founded Primal Strength Camp I was determined to take people back to the “old school” ways of building muscle.  I built my concept around the “7 Primal Movement Patterns” coined by the world renowned Paul Check.

primal movement patterns

What are the “7 Primal Movement Patterns”?

  • Squat
  • Lunge
  • Push
  • Pull
  • Bend
  • Twist
  • Gait

Back in caveman times, if you couldn’t perform these movements, you were a dead man!

Now, when I watch people in a typical gym setting, I notice these patterns are largely absent from how people train, and I cringe watching people waste their time on junk exercises.

After an hour of training Primal style with a heavy dosage of overhead presses, deadlifts, pull-ups, pushups, and farmers carries, I can still see the same joker sitting on his ass doing the same bicep curl exercises he was doing when I started.

(Now before you think I’m just bashing on people here, rest assured I was that guy once doing curls all day long that I just talked about.  Back in the day before I knew any better, I loved working on the guns and feeling the pump.  Not ashamed to admit it!  But now I am enlightened and make it my mission to not let people make the same mistakes I did!)

Anyway, the guy is so focused on training his biceps that he is spending an entire day on them, when he could be recruiting far more muscle in the same amount of time by training with the Primal Movement Patterns.  More muscle recruitment + higher frequency + heavier loads lead to muscle gain.

By planning your training around muscles, you could be setting yourself up for muscle imbalances as well.  For instance, you may end up training with too much pushing but not enough pulling, or too much squatting but not enough bending.  Training like this will lead to weaknesses and imbalances that will hinder your performance and force you to play catch up by training certain muscles more frequently than others.  Not the biggest setback in the world, we all have them, but why not do your best to avoid them in the first place?

Look back on your training log (if you don’t keep one, you better start) and see how many exercises you are doing where you are sitting down.  If you are going station to station sitting on one piece of equipment after another, you need to start incorporating some of these Primal Patterns.

Strength training is not sitting on your ass doing isolation exercises.  You should be moving!

primal movement patterns

I can guarantee you that you will be bigger, stronger, and more conditioned if you train the movements and not muscles. It forces you to plan better workouts, eliminate the crap and focus on compound lifts, and move in space.  It makes you get back to old school strength training roots and use your body in the way that it was designed for.

With the flood of information out there on training these days, it is easy to be distracted by the “Next Big Thing”, or to complicate things by straying from the methods that have worked since the beginning of man.

Despite our origins dating back over hundreds of thousands of years, our DNA really hasn’t changed that much.  So why should our training?  That’s what Primal Strength Camp is all about!

Evolve!!

— Tank