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  • Writer's pictureBrad Cunningham

Primal Movement Basics

So back in cavemen times, when the men used to go round clubbing saber tooth tigers as well as each other, we as humans operated in a multitude of ways. When not clubbing things round the head, we built shelter, searched and hunted foot, cut down trees and a whole host of other things that were necessary to survive. Not like now, where we get out of bed, sit in the car, walk to our desk, sat at our desk, leave the desk, back in the car, get home, sit on the couch then go to bed. My point is we humans were built to do so much more. We have a function and we are built for purpose. So, I hear you ask, what should we do? Bicep curls?? Err… no, not exactly. What we are trying to do is exercise in a functional manner, a manner that is fit for purpose, and that will help us become functionally strong. What we've got to remember is that exercise is all about movement, and specifically we should be focusing on the following 7 primal movements.

1. SQUAT: As we know we squat every single day, hell, we've got to get out of that chair somehow! Exercises: front squat, back Squat, Goblet Squat, and Sumo squat

2. LUNGE: If you've ever played any sport in your life, you've probably lunged at one point or another, be it forwards, backwards or to the side. Tennis players anyone? And back when you were throwing spears in your bearskin vest, guess what you were doing . A single-leg exercise that requires one leg to step forward and bend whilst the other stays stationary.

3. PUSH: When that car breaks down, you push it to the side of the road, when you’re down Coles, that trolley doesn't move itself. You push, push and push. Now drop down and give me twenty! Exercises: Bench press, push up, and shoulder press

4. PULL: Believe it or not, you pull a lot more than just a guy/gal (delete as appropriate) down the local discotheque you know. The opposite to the push, we need it to not only counterbalance all that pushing we do, but to throw that spear, and then drag its sorry corpse home. Exercises: Pull up, Body row, single arm DB row

5. BEND: “Let me just pick this up off the floor… Oh, bugger, me backs gone!” Developing the correct form daily life. And it can save us a whole heap of heartache, as well as dollars in Oesteo fees if we strengthen that. Exercises: KB deadlift, Romanian Deadlift, good mornings

6. TWIST: By performing rotational (Side on med ball throws) and anti-rotational movements (Paloff press) we will build up the core strength. Ever walked anywhere? You’re twisting. Ran? You’re twisting. Danced to chubby checker, you’re twisting, just like you did last summer. Exercises: Russian twists, cable woodchops, Paloff press, med ball throws side-on.

7. GAIT: Or walking, jogging, sprinting. Now that car’s broke down, best you run for that train. Some people would also include jumping, crawling and any other dynamic movement. Exercises: Walking, jogging, sprinting.


When we are developing these primal movements, we must not also forget that there are different directions to move. Our tendency is to operate in a forward and backwards direction, which means we are only moving in one plan of motion. Now, please stay with me here, and keep your head off that desk, YES..! That means you asleep at the back.

Our 3 planes of motion are as follows:

1. Sagittal – A line that divides body down the centre, splitting us between left and right

2. Frontal – A line that divides us through the centre, splitting us from front to back

3. Transverse – A line that cuts us through the middle at our hips, splitting us from top to bottom

Now this is where I could lose you, so bear with me. Quite simply, to know what plane we are moving in, we must follow the direction of that plane. So the...

Sagittal Plane Motion would include forward and backward motions, like sit-ups, squats, biceps curls. The sagittal plane cuts through the centre of the body, so the motion is front to back or back to front, including straightforward running.

Frontal Plane Motion would include leaning from left to right as in side bends, lateral raises, military press or lateral lunges. Jumping jacks are a very simple way to picture working through this motion.

Transverse Plane Motion is the hardest to picture because the plane is horizontal as it divides the top from the bottom, but this is a ROTATING ACTION. An example of a transverse plane exercise would be floor to overhead diagonals with a medicine ball, and a transverse activity might be swinging a golf club.

So why am I telling you this?

Firstly, what’s most important about the planes is to know they exist and to make sure our training programs include exercises along each.

Secondly, it is important to work in all planes, and to include some frontal plane and transverse plane exercises to bring up your built-in injury prevention. That’s what’s going to help ensure good balance in your muscular body. Training only on one plane will pretty much do the opposite.

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