The 7 Primal Movements Explained

7 primal movements

Primal movement patterns are the foundational way humans move. Performing these exercises can help build strength, increase flexibility, and improve posture. In this article I’ll list the 7 primal movements, and discuss how they can enhance your performance with everyday tasks.

7 primal movements

1 – Squat

For a bodyweight squat, begin by placing your hands behind your head, or directly in front of you. It’s important to keep your chest tall and eyes looking straight ahead. Next, drop the hips down to the floor, while keeping the weight on your heels. Once you’re in this squat position, press your heels to the floor and return back to the upright position.

The squat works the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, calves, and abdominal muscles. It can be done as a bodyweight exercise (as I mentioned above) with a barbell, dumbbells, or a kettlebell. Squats are a functional exercise that can help with routine tasks like sitting down, or picking an object up off the floor.

Tips for the Squat

Keep your feet about shoulder width apart during this movement. Some people will have a naturally wider stance than others. Keep your feet slightly pointed outwards, so that the upper thighs point in the exact same position when squatting. This will help keep the weight on your heels, as you want to avoid going forward on your toes.

2 – Lunge

For a forward lunge, begin by taking one step forward. Then drop down the back knee straight to the ground. Just be aware that doing this too hard will hurt your knee and you can always leave it hovering above the ground. Drive the front heel to the floor and step back, in order to return to the starting position. Reverse this movement for the reverse lunge.

The forward and reverse lunge targets the quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, glutes, and abdominal muscles. It can be done as a bodyweight exercise, with a barbell, dumbbells, or kettlebells. Lunges will improve your balance and help you perform better when walking, running, and jumping.

Tips for the Lunge

The lunge may feel like an awkward exercise when doing it for the first time. Many beginners often feel unbalanced when stepping forwards, or backwards. Try keeping your knees inline during this movement and avoid them from collapsing inward. You can also take larger steps if your have weak knees to better target the muscles.

3 – Hinge

For the hinge, begin by sticking your glutes out behind you, with a slight bend in the knees. With the hips back, you can then drop the chest down nice and slow while keeping the weight on your heels. Finally, drive forward and bring your chest back up, while squeezing the glutes at the top of the movement.

The hinge targets the glutes, hamstrings, and lat muscles (during the initial pull). It’s a is a very useful movement that represents the traditional deadlift exercise. The deadlift can be preformed with a barbell, dumbbells, or kettlebells. Hinges will improve stability, make your legs stronger, increase core strength, and can help improve posture.

Tips for the Hinge

It’s important to place the weight on your heels and keep your toes down during the hinge. You want to avoid falling forward when picking up any kind of weight in front of you. It’s also critical to engage the core and keep your arms straight during the movement. Having bent arms increases the risk of injury to your biceps and elbows.

4 – Push

The push is one of the 7 primal movements with many different variations. A vertical push will extend your arms straight up over your head, before bringing them back down. Then there is a horizontal push, which can be done as a push-up, or bench press. This movement uses your arms to push weight away from your chest.

A vertical push targets the shoulder muscles and core, while the horizontal push uses the pectoralis major and triceps. Both of these movements can be done with a barbell or dumbbells. The push is a natural movement the mimics pushing something (or someone) away from you, or pressing an object above your head.

Tips for the Push

When doing a vertical pushing movement, it’s important to engage your core and keep your glutes tight. These additional muscles will keep your body straight and help you press the weight overhead. With a horizontal push it helps to retract your scapula. This will keep your upper body tight during the movement and prevent excess strain on your shoulders.

5 – Row

Similar to the press, the row includes a vertical and horizontal variation. A vertical row is most commonly referred to as a pull-up. But you can also do a vertical row on an exercise machine by pulling down. A horizontal row is when you pull yourself towards something (this can also be described as the opposite of a push-up).

Both of the vertical and horizontal rows targets the back muscles. Individual muscle groups vary depending on hand placement. A row can be done with a barbell, dumbbells, a machine, or TRX system. The vertical and horizontal row can strengthen the back, arms, and shoulder muscles, as well as improve overall grip strength.

Tips for the Row

When doing a vertical row such as the pull-up, try to squeeze your shoulder blades together as you bring your chin over the bar. When lowering yourself down from the bar, always fully straighten your arms at the bottom of the movement. This is considered a full rep and it will bring you the most strength benefits.

6 – Rotation

There are many different ways to do the rotation, but the most popular involves a resistance band. Begin by securely placing one end of the resistance band to the rack. Next, stand shoulder width apart and place your hands in front of your body. Hold the resistance band in both hands, while you’re rotating the hips from one side to the other.

This twisting motion is the main movement of the rotation. It targets most of the core muscles in the body. The rotation can be done with a resistance band, holding a pull-up bar, or as a bodyweight exercise. Torso rotation can help build the oblique muscles and add power to compound movements, like the squat, bench, and deadlift.

Tips for the Rotation

If you have trouble with flexibility, it’s best to start off slow with the torso rotation. If using the resistance band for example, try bringing the arms closer to your chest. This will limit the range of motion in the twist and it can help prevent injury. You can always increase the range of motion as you become more comfortable with the movement.

7 – Gait

Gait is the final primal movement on this list. It’s a very general term that is defined as running, walking, sprinting, or even jogging in place. The idea behind the gait is to keep moving forward, while using the momentum of your arms and legs. Humans have been performing this movement for hundreds of thousands of years.

Movement through exercises strengthens the leg and arm muscles, but it also improves cardiovascular health. Cardio is a great way to burn calories and speed up metabolism. A combination of strength training and cardio exercises (or gait) is the ideal choice for weight loss and maintaining a healthy body.

Tips for the Gait

The most important thing when it comes to cardio is switching up your routine. It’s easy to get burned out doing the same thing each day. You can sprint, hike, bike, swim, row, or even jump rope. There’s so many different ways to get your cardio in. That’s why it’s important to switch things up so you can see what you like best.

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