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.


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!


— Tank


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