The Primal Essential Movements

Mark Sisson

The mainstream prescription for exercise is ineffective, unsustainable, and downright unpleasant. Don’t believe me? Head down to your local gym and tell me what you see:

  • Men and women logging endless miles on a treadmill, slogging through their workouts with miserable looks on their faces and a perpetual spare tire around their waists – that never seems to go away.
  • Pencil-legged guys using machines to isolate individual arm muscles, staring in the mirror, and getting nowhere.
  • People trudging wearily across the gym parking lot, looking like they’re heading for an execution.

I don’t know about you, but that sounded like an awful way of exercising to me, so I decided to come up with my own program.

I call it Primal Blueprint Fitness, and it’s incredibly simple, to-the-point, and highly effective.

It requires minimum effort for maximum effect. Fitness, as I see it, should be about the basics. But to understand what the basics are, we have to go way, way back, just like we did with food in the previous few lessons.

It makes sense that our bodies might be primed for certain movements (foods), while performing (eating) other movements (foods) might not be so healthy or helpful. So, to identify those movements, I asked a few questions:

Which movements have humans been performing for millions of years?

Since the body is comprised of dozens of muscles, ligaments, joints, and bones all performing separate functions as a unified whole, which movements incorporate the most body parts at once?

Which movements are the body designed to perform?

And I kept coming back to the same answers:

Humans have been squatting, horizontal pressing, vertical pressing, climbing, and using their torsos to resist pushing and pulling forces for millions of years.

We’ve been running really quickly for millions of years. And we’ve been walking long distances at slow paces for millions of years.

Now, it’s the 21st century, and things have changed. We have chairs, we don’t need to squat. We rarely need to climb anything. We don’t do a lot of physical labor that might require pressing things overhead, and we tend to avoid physical conflicts that involve pushing and pulling.

But we still need to perform the movements. They are essential to our health and functionality. In fact, I call them the Four Essential Movements, and they are as follows:

The Primal Essential Movements:

You may have noticed a distinct lack of weights or other gym equipment. That was by design. While you could add weights to the movements if you want, I felt putting together an effective program using just bodyweight exercises was important. I wanted to make it so that anyone, anywhere could do the movements, whether they were at home or on the road. No gym memberships, no expensive exercise equipment required.

The Primal Blueprint Fitness program has three main components, summarized in the Primal Blueprint Fitness Pyramid:

Lift Heavy Things – Resistance training is the cornerstone of fitness. Stronger people live longer, survive hardships better, and are able to enjoy life more fully than weaker people. Two to three Lift Heavy Things workouts of 7-30 minutes each week, employing the Four Essential Movements.

Run Really Fast Every Once in Awhile – Sprinting is the biggest “bang for your buck” exercise. It’s brutally effective and highly efficient, promoting growth hormone release, fat burning, and lean mass building, but you know why I really like sprinting? It’s over in ten to fifteen minutes, and you only gotta do it once a week.

Move Frequently at a Slow Pace – Slow movement is the foundation of fitness. Walking, hiking, gentle cycling… these aren’t about burning calories, they’re about maintaining the movement and the ability to move. Three to five hours a week.

That’s about four to six hours a week total, with just about an hour of strength training, fifteen minutes of sprinting, and three to five hours of walking. You do that, and you’ll be in darn good shape.

A few hours out of your week to build muscle, improve bone density, get stronger, fitter, faster, and leaner—you won’t make a better investment in your lifetime.