There’s a West LA gym called Sirens and Titans run by a very special coach named Jacques LeVore. This coach isn’t the only reason to attend the gym—its entire staff is incredible and impressive—but he is the main reason I decided to invest. He devised a form of strength training for endurance athletes called Maximum Sustained Power Training, or MSP Training. I included it in my Primal Endurance book from several years back as a great way for dedicated endurance athletes to not just incorporate strength training without impeding their endurance performance but to actively improve it.
MSP training is an effective way to train for anyone who wants to get stronger and generate more power for longer. If you want to play with your kids and keep up with them, bouncing on the trampoline and playing hide and seek and tag and tossing them up in the air, MSP can help you sustain your intensity. If you want to play pickup basketball or rec league sports, MSP will keep you going til the end. And yes, if you want to dominate the local 10k or run a marathon or complete a triathlon, you have to strength train, and maximum sustained power training is a great way to do it.
Aerobic workouts are gentle training sessions where the predominate form of energy being utilized is fat—mostly body fat. They’re easy, some would say “too easy,” but that’s the entire point. Aerobic workouts slowly build mitochondrial density and teach your body to burn fat. They’re essential, and they aren’t what I talk about when I talk about “chronic cardio,” which is the kind of unsustainable moderate-to-high intensity, high volume training that breaks you down and damages your health. Aerobic training is long, slow, easy, gentle, and most of all productive. If you want to be a fat-burning beast, if you want to become metabolically flexible, if you want your baseline capacity for aerobic activity, you have to do aerobic workouts.
But not everyone wants to do running, cycling, or swimming. So today I’m going to give you some different options for aerobic workouts.
The Primal Blueprint is all about maximizing the efficiency of training to reduce the time spent working and increase the time spent playing. If I can figure out the minimum effective dose and get 80% of the benefits in 20% of the time, I’m all for that. It leaves me extra time to spend with my loved ones, play outdoors, go for hikes, or buckle down and get some work done. Especially if I don’t cut any corners or shortchange myself. This is why I love microworkouts, where instead of spending hours in the gym I just do movements and exercises throughout the day—have “exercise snacks”—and accrue a large training load without feeling like I spent all day in the gym.
But microworkouts aren’t the only path to make exercise more efficient, or at least feel that way. There’s also something called rest pause training, or myo rep training.
People fear the deadlift. For one, the name itself has the word “dead” in it. Two, they’ve been told for years—often by medical experts—that deadlifts are terrible for your back. “Oh, you might look/feel good now, but just you wait. One day you’ll regret it.”
But they’re wrong. The basic idea of a deadlift is sound and the movement is a foundational human one. If you look at a kid pick something off the ground, they hinge at the hips, maintain a flat back, and pick it up by extending the hips (bringing them forward). Now, there are certainly wrong ways to perform a deadlift. Dangerous ways, methods that can (some might say will) damage your back and put your future health and basic ability to function at risk. The back and all it contains, including but not limited to the spine, is a foundational human structure. It connects to and connects every other part of the body to each other. It’s riddled with nerve endings that start along the spine and run down to every muscle in the body. You ruin your back and you compromise your ability to move through the world. So deadlift, but deadlift properly.
Today, I’m going to lay out proper deadlift form and highlight some common mistakes you might be making when performing it. That way you can safely and effectively integrate the deadlift into your training regimen.
The plank feels like the simplest movement. Heck, it’s not even a movement, really: it’s holding a still position without movement. It expressly forbids movement. And yet it’s the simple exercises where things can really go wrong.
The plank is simple but not easy. When you’re in the plank position, every fiber of your being is resisting the pull of gravity. You must engage and tighten every inch of musculature in your body to resist collapse. To maintain coherence throughout the line your body forms. During a plank, you are quite literally holding the line against the most omnipresent force in the known universe.
At least in a push-up, you’re moving. You have something else to focus on. For a plank, a lot of the difficulty is mental. You’re just there in the same position, getting more and more tired with each passing moment. You have to sit with the pain.
Okay, so what’s the basic plank form?
The pull-up might be the best measure of overall strength and fitness. As a simple measure of strength, it’s unmatched; you’re actually lifting and moving through space and time an entire human body. It targets almost every muscle in the upper body, and more than you’d think in the lower body. If you want to build muscle or lose body or just get fitter and stronger, there’s no getting around doing a pull-up or two or ten. If I had to choose one upper body exercise to do for the rest of my life, it would be the pull-up.
Pulling your entire weight is hard, though. The vast majority of average people walking around in this world are unable to do a single unassisted, high-quality pull-up. And half of those who think they’re doing pull-ups are doing them completely wrong, setting them up not just for suboptimal results but life altering injuries.
Today, I’m going to tell you why your pull-ups aren’t working and how you can improve them.
Everyone needs to squat.
The squat is a foundational human movement pattern and resting position. Watch a young child study the ant trail on the ground, and they don’t bend over to gawk at it. They squat down and sit in that squat position comfortably for as long as it takes. Watch Hadza tribesmen cook and share meat around the fire. They aren’t sitting on camp chairs. They aren’t standing awkwardly. They’re sitting in a squat, comfortable as can be. Go to many Asian countries and you’ll see regular people, even elderly people, sitting in a full squat as they wait for the bus or visit with friends.
To squat is to be human. It is to explore and inhabit the full range of our body’s motion. It is to remain mobile, agile, and effectively young. If you can achieve and sit in a full squat at age 70, you’ll be in the 99th percentile and, hopefully, avoid most of aging’s physical ravages and functionality degenerations.
Squatting is also an incredible exercise that targets every muscle in the body, particularly when you do so with added weight. Glutes, hamstrings, quads. Core, lumbar, traps. For that reason, squatting is incredibly anabolic, meaning it provides a total-body hypertrophic stimulus. Anecdotally, people report growing muscle everywhere after picking up a regular squatting habit, even those muscles that aren’t directly involved.
But whether you’re squatting just to maintain the ability to move into that position or squatting to train, you need to do it with proper form.
I remember back in the day, you’d see all the bodybuilders at the gym sipping on purple water from those clear shaker bottles. They were drinking water spiked with BCAAs, or branched chain amino acids, the idea being the BCAAs provide your body a steady drip of amino acids to maximize muscle hypertrophy and stay anabolic all day long. Heck, even I sipped the purple water when I was trying to gain mass. In more recent years, BCAAs have fallen out of favor, or at least become less “vital” a supplement for people interested in gaining muscle.
However, branched chain amino acids are still among the most crucial amino acids for human health, metabolism, immunity, and hypertrophy. Without adequate intake of the BCAAs leucine, isoleucine, and valine, we won’t be able to activate all the metabolic pathways we need to generate energy and utilize macronutrients. Our intestinal health suffers. Our immune system grows sluggish. And, most importantly, without BCAAs we won’t be able to trigger the mTOR pathway necessary for muscle building and repair.
That’s what everyone cares about when they talk about BCAA supplementation: muscle growth and recovery. That’s why the purple water was so common. So, what’s the deal? Do BCAAs work for muscle growth and recovery?
I’m a huge fan of fasted training. It feels right, it feels “Primal.” And it jibes with my sense of how life was back in the hunting and gathering days: if you wanted to eat, you had to go hunt, and you had to hunt on an empty stomach (because you didn’t have much food laying around, let alone a refrigerator full of it). This is the natural state of animal life in the wild—get hungry, perform physical tasks to obtain food, eat—and it always made intuitive sense that following that pattern when working out as a modern human would confer special benefits. Our big disconnect nowadays is that food is separate from physical labor. You no longer earn your meal on a visceral, physical level. There are social benefits to this new setup, but there are also metabolic, health, and fitness consequences.
Fasted training could be a way to correct that disconnect and restore the ancient relationship between food and movement. It’s plausible. But what does the research say?
I’ll admit, the first time I heard about blood flow restriction (BFR) training, it sounded like a hack to me. BFR training promises that you can do relatively easy workouts and get the same results as if you crushed a hard workout at the gym. Too good to be true, right?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about less is more: Spend 30 minutes in the gym instead of an hour and a half. Go for a long walk instead of a long, grueling run in the black hole. Simplify your diet. However, I’ve seen fitness trends come and go, so I’m inherently skeptical until I see the evidence for myself.
Once I started to dig into the research, though, it became clear that BFR isn’t just a “get swole quick” gimmick. It’s a well-researched, validated training method used by physical therapists, rehabilitation specialists, and personal trainers to help patients and clients gain strength with minimal musculoskeletal stress. In some situations, it might be the best—or only—option to help someone maintain or gain muscle safely.
BFR was formalized as a training method in the 1970s and 80s by scientist Yoshiaki Sato, who called his technique KAATSU (“ka”=additional, “atsu”=pressure). Research interest has really picked up in the past decade, with a significant spike in the number of publications in the past three years.
I’m pretty sold on the potential benefits, but since you are restricting blood flow, you obviously want to be smart about trying it for yourself.