This is a Whole9 guest post by Peter Hirsh, a nationally certified personal trainer and kettlebell instructor who has been teaching and training with kettlebells for over ten years.
I recently wrote a post that talked about The Seven Primal Movements and how they are the basis for all human interaction with the world. The bend, squat, lunge, twist, pull, push and gait are infinitely combined to move your body in the physical world and to manipulate objects of all description. The beauty of using this concept in your physical exercise is that it will have an immediate and direct impact on the way that you interact with the physical world.
With that in mind, there are some other major benefits of using this mentality when you exercise. For example, when training with these movements you train every muscle in your body evenly. This means that you will never develop leg or upper body strength that your deep inner unit of your core cannot handle. “You can’t fire a cannon from a canoe,” is the analogy my mentor uses to describe this principle. This concept is especially important for people who experience joint pain or bad posture from their exercise or activity. Using the seven primal movements will provide you with a pathway to normal, natural and pain free movement.
Another benefit of strength training your body this way is that it creates strength on four levels; mind, flexibility, muscle tension and cardiovascular strength. People commonly go to the gym and spend an entire hour training just muscle tension, another half an hour training just cardiovascular exercise and they may even spend some time stretching or foam rolling for flexibility. None of these activities will connect your mind to your body with functional motor patterns unless one of the seven primal movements is used. This means you end up spending two to four times longer ‘working out’ than you would with a functional practice and still don’t accomplish as much!
In this post I’ll show you how to progress beyond the seven primal movements to help you constantly see results for the time you are spending. There are many progressions of these movements, here are some examples:
First and foremost it should be the progression of combinations. All of the seven primal movements can be combined with other movements, and usually are in your daily interactions with the physical world.
When you are considering the combinations of exercises it’s important to remember that for maximum safety and efficiency some combinations work better than others. For example, if you attempt to combine a bend to extend with a shoulder press, the forward lean necessary to counterbalance the bend movement will make anything at shoulder level or above feel extremely heavy. For this reason, your pushing (especially when working with free weights, pulley, cables and bands) should be combined with a squat movement that has little to no forward lean. If you were pulling something heavy off the ground, a bend movement is excellent in allowing the powerful glutes and hamstrings to provide a great deal of assistance to the smaller upper back muscles and biceps that do the pulling.
Another progression is balance. Balance is very important in your life as people are often stepping up, over, through, under and on various obstacles. Incidentally, this is also an area where many injuries can occur, especially as you age.
Stability can also be added as a progression of the primal movements. This is your ability to hold something that is a little wobbly, or maybe unevenly weighted. Stability usually requires recruitment of the smaller muscles in the joint. Transitioning from a barbell in two hands (closed chain) to a free weight in each hand (open chain) and then even back to a barbell in one hand is a fantastic way to advance your stability training.
This progression means moving from strength to power, think walking vs running, or throwing vs moving/lifting. My favorite progression is moving from the strength phase into the power phase, maybe this is why kettlebell training has always appealed to me so much. Strength to power phase is the final phase of muscle adaptation and will demand more from your muscles and the core that supports it than anything else. Going back to the cannon/canoe analogy, that cannon is definitely working in the power phase. This is why the kettlebell swing is one of the best core strength building exercises out there.
The power phase is vital in the real world and if you are unable to perform it properly, injury can occur from minor daily activities. When people throw out their back it’s usually from a very simple movement such as trying to decelerate their own weight as it falls from loss of balance. Entering into the power phase with your exercise requires an acceleration of weight and a deceleration of weight. Both of these are also extremely important for safe and efficient interaction with the physical world. A game of catch is just that, a series of accelerations and decelerations of weight. In the gym, a medicine ball toss is one of the most basic ways to develop this kind of strength.
Another common progression is volume, from either weight or repetition. Often, this is the primary progression people make in their strength training. Unfortunately it’s sometimes the only progression people make!
Training the seven primal movements and using many of the different variations from each movement will help you add variety and change to your workouts. Performing movements you are not adapted to will also provide you with excellent results in your workouts. Motivation is often the biggest obstacle people face when it comes to working out and enjoying themselves. Seeing results is the ultimate motivation and using the primal movements in your workouts will help you quickly see results. Another obstacle people face is not having enough time in the day. As I mentioned before, you will get far more done in much less time when you train this way.
Below is a video workout I created with these progressions in mind, building off of the previous seven primal movements workouts. If you didn’t get a chance to try the first workout, please take your time to practice that one first. The strength in all four areas (mind, flexibility, muscle and cardiovascular) that you developed in the first workout, will be the basis for this more challenging workout. Here I use progressions of combinations, balance, stability and phase. I will leave rep count and weight increases for you to modify as you get stronger. I will also show you how to use the combinations that work best together for the most efficient real world functionality. Once you get a sense for what I am showing you, you will be limited by only your imagination. Always remember that using excellent technique is the most important part of it all.
Peter Hirsh is a nationally certified personal trainer and kettlebell instructor who has been teaching and training with kettlebells for over ten years. Peter has dedicated his life to the enrichment and well being of others and currently owns Peter’s Personal Training where he teaches classes and trains students one on one in San Diego, California. Wanting to reach a larger number of people with his teachings, Peter started Kettlebell Movement, a website dedicated to maintaining the authentic teachings of kettlebell training and promoting a simple and effective holistic lifestyle anyone can follow. Connect with Peter on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube or Instagram.
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