What are the Primal Movements and Compound Movements?


Are you familiar with the primal movements, compound movements or big lifts?  Check below which exercise movements you have been including in your routine.


Primal Movements

Our modern lifestyle makes us difficult to move around and leads us to suffer some body pains. Perhaps, you have seldom meaningful and challenging physical activity.


Due to the usual office work, most people spend their days sitting down in front of the computer. Sitting is not good for your body and your health.


Why? Because when you sit, you are forced into an unnatural position. Think about it. There were no chairs in the wild and you would never have made this movement.


When you sit at a desk, it forces your legs into a right angle. This then means that your hip flexors – the muscles that move your legs upward in front of you – will be shortened and tightened.

At the same time, your hip extensors found around the back will be stretched and elongated.


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In other words, you’re gradually destroying your joints and musculature.

And you sit like this for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week!

Then you come home and sit like it some more!

So how would you relax in the wild? Simple! You have to squat.


Squatting is the natural equivalent of sitting and it’s actually really good for you because it puts us in a full body stretch.


Today, a fair proportion of people are actually incapable of squatting at all. Try it yourself. Are you able to completely squat down while keeping your heel flat on the floor?



This is considered one of the basic, fundamental movements that all of us should be able to do. In fact, there are thought to be seven of these ‘primal movements’ which are:

  • Squatting
  • Lunging
  • Bending
  • Pushing
  • Pulling
  • Gait (walking or running)
  • Twisting

According to experts, these 7 moves form the natural basis for everything our bodies are designed to be able to do.


These are all the movements we would have used in the wild and they are all the movements that you should be able to perform easily and powerfully as a functional human being.

That’s then where you have to ask yourself, how comfortably can you squat right down to the ground?


The issue for many people is that squatting causes tension in the Achilles heel due to lack of practice. The result, they’ve lost basic mobility that they should have.

If you’re in the same boat, then you’re almost operating at a serious deficit.


If you can’t do these basic seven things, then chances are that you’re lacking in fitness, in flexibility, and in general health. And it will very likely lead to injury and other problems somewhere down the line.


So can you guess where we’re going to go with this? That’s right. These are the basic movements that a good training program should be made up of.

By training the 7 primal movements, you’re able to strengthen yourself through all the regular movements that you might face in daily life and you’re able to prevent injury in all of them.


If you incorporate these 7 movements into all your workouts, then you’ll be practicing these basic, essential move sets under heavy load.


The result for this. You’ll develop more power, strength, and mobility in every way that counts. You’ll feel more stable and you’ll move faster and better.



Compound Movements 

Perhaps, your average workout regime will involve a whole lot of bicep curls, tricep extensions and resistance machines, like chest press which mean, you’re going to be isolating the muscle group.


In turn, that means that you’re focussing on just that one muscle through a movement that only uses one ‘joint’ as the hinge.


When you curl a dumbbell – if you do it correctly – you are using only the bicep and nothing else. The same goes for performing bench press – this isolates the chest as much as possible.


On the other hand, were you to perform a regular bench press, you would actually be involving a ton of smaller supporting muscles as well as completely different muscle groups.

A bench press utilizes the pecs, the deltoids, the triceps, the core and more.


So, which is more functional do you think? Which is the more likely to be useful in the real world? Of course, it’s the bench press, which is the same movement you’d use if ever you were trapped under a boulder.


Or perhaps if you were playing with your kids by holding them over your head. What about the bench press? That would probably never be useful in real life.


Likewise, for the bicep curl, this movement is completely non-functional. When do you ever curl something in real life?


The closest you would come is carrying shopping but of course, you don’t curl your shopping bag! In reality, carrying shopping is much closer to a movement known as the ‘farmer’s walk’ which happens to be a more functional move.


Compound movements include things like bench press, squats, deadlift, pull ups, press ups – all things that use multiple muscles working together.


Why? Because that’s how you use your musculature in real life. You almost never isolate just a single muscle group.

If you want to train yourself to be more functional, you should aim to use as many muscles at once as possible.


Another point to consider is that when you train with these kinds of moves, you activate more of your body.

The result is that you burn more calories and your body produces more ‘anabolic hormones’ like testosterone and growth hormone – which leads to more muscle growth even once you’ve put the weights back down.


Of course, when you train with only big lifts like the bench press and the deadlift, the individual muscle groups don’t get as intense a workout.

Pull ups don’t hit the biceps as hard as pull ups and they don’t create as many micro tears more on that in a moment.


So in other words, you might not see the same bodybuilder type physique immediately if you use this more functional training.

But you will see more overall growth and you will be able to lift and push more weight in a real-world setting.


To reiterate again, compound movements  are your movements that utilize multiple major muscle groups at once in unison.

Examples of compound lifts include:

  • Squat
  • Deadlift
  • Bench press
  • Pull up
  • Press up
  • Overhead press
  • Kettlebell swing


What’s also cool about these movements, they actually lead to better fat loss and muscle gain. That’s because the body responds to us training our muscles by producing a variety of hormones called ‘anabolic hormones’.


These include growth hormone and testosterone, which in turn tell the body to start burning fat and building muscle tissue.


The more muscle you use, the more of these hormones get released.

So, as you can imagine, something like the squat that incorporates all of your biggest muscles into one powerful movement will really encourage your body to go into a muscle-building zone.


What’s also key to point out at this stage, is that compound movements also allow you to lift heavier weights. Why? Because when you go compound, you’re using more big muscle.


More big muscle means more power, means more weight! And as you might imagine, the more weight you move, the more intense the workout becomes for the body as a whole.


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Movements to Kick Off

So with that in mind, what are some compound movements that you can use to start targeting the seven primal movements?

Here are some examples.

  • Squatting – Squats, deadlifts, kettlebell swings
  • Lunging – Lunges, side squats
  • Bending – Deadlifts, sit ups, leg raises
  • Pushing – Bench press, overhead press, push up
  • Pulling – Pull up, row
  • Gait– Jogging, running, walking
  • Twisting – Heavy bag, twisting sit-ups, cable woodchop


Therefore, if you take these exercises and combine them into a workout, you’ll have performed a routine that targeted every important movement the human body is capable of.

That recruits a huge amount of muscle and that puts the body into a highly anabolic state.


Important: Before you try any of these movements, it’s important that you learn to do them properly. This is kind of the whole point.


If you don’t learn how to use the moves properly then you’ll actually just be rehearsing and learning bad movement patterns, which will in turn cause you to become increasingly injury prone.


Little mistakes like rounding the back during a squat can even lead to an immediate injury so make sure you find a trainer in the gym or someone who looks like they know what they’re doing and ask for help.


You can find plenty of instruction online but nothing beats actually speaking with someone who can see your form and correct it in person.

There’s way more to functional strength and fitness than that. Functional training comes down to flexibility, to diet, to running form and much more besides.

Chances are you’re not stretching the best way possible right now or training for the optimum cardio benefit.

Thus, if you want to learn how to make the very most of your body and to become the healthiest and most powerful you can be.







Images: gettyimages.com

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