There is an epidemic of chronic lower back pain. It’s one of the leading causes of “Years Lived with Disability” (YLD), is responsible for over 7 million ER room visits each year, and costs us both time (hard to do much of anything when our lower back is hurting) and money (people with lower back pain end up spending thousands of dollars a year on average to treat it). I can’t think of anything that degrades overall quality of life more than persistent lower back pain.
And as is so often the case, our attempts to treat the condition often make it worse. What does the average person do when their back hurts?
Whenever I’m strapped for time and equipment and still need a solid workout, I turn to the burpee. Burpees are bodyweight exercises, and thus require no equipment or weights. They are full body movements that engage every muscle group, require only as much space as you need to do a pushup, and can be done anywhere. You can do them slowly and methodically, or quick for a sprint-like workout. If you’re ever outdoors and need to warm up fast, a quick set of 15-20 burpees will get your body temperature up faster than anything. The pros go on and on.
As great as back squats are for strength, general fitness, and body composition, sometimes they just don’t work for a person. Maybe they cause knee, shoulder, or wrist pain. Maybe someone’s body proportions aren’t conducive to proper back squatting. Maybe their legs are too long to achieve good depth without compromising position. While there are dozens of articles imploring you to mobilize this or that joint and work out the kinks in this or that muscle so that the back squat will work, and those can be very informative and helpful, some people just don’t want to back squat. For whatever reason, it doesn’t work for them.
Especially now, when gyms are closed and it’s difficult to get your hands on a barbell, you might be looking for alternatives to back squats that will keep your legs just as strong.
When you think about upper body workouts, there’s a good chance that heavy dumbbells and cable machines come to mind. Even though it’s not entirely feasible to step into the gym for a while, it’s still realistic to come out on the other side of quarantine with stronger biceps and triceps. In fact, you can get an incredible at-home arm workout without ever picking up a dumbbell or kettlebell.
The best part is, you can do a complete at-home arm workout in just 12 minutes.
People do not pay much attention to how to strengthen tendons and ligaments, until they suffer a tendon injury. Only then do you realize that training your tendons is just as important as working on muscle strength and endurance.
Our bodies “expect” a lifetime of constant, varied movement. From a very early age, most humans throughout history were constantly active. They weren’t exercising or training, per se, but they were doing all the little movements all the time that prepare the body and prime the tendons to handle heavier, more intense loads and movements: bending and squatting and walking and twisting and climbing and playing and building. It was a mechanical world. The human body was a well-oiled machine, lubed and limber from daily use and well-prepared for occasional herculean efforts.
When you ask most people what it takes to be fit, you get some pretty wild answers. Hours on the treadmill or pounding pavement every day. Hours in the weight room. Obsessing over how to turn every moment of the day into an opportunity for some kind of workout move.
I never liked what I heard, and after many decades of overtraining, I decided it was time to come up with a sane alternative—Primal Blueprint Fitness as I’ve called it over the years. It boils down to three logical steps all rooted in ancestral patterns people lived for hundreds of thousands of years:
Primal Blueprint Law #3: Move Frequently
Primal Blueprint Law #4: Lift Heavy Things
Primal Blueprint Law #5: Sprint Once in a While
All told, it’s a handful of hours a week, most of it moving frequently. In addition to those 4-5 hours a week of walking or other light movement, throw in an hour’s worth of strength training and 15 minutes of sprint time. There you go. Do that, and you’ll be in darn good shape.