The Primal Stance on Exercise Equipment

Personal GymPrimal living in today’s decidedly post-Paleo world requires making at least a few concessions. We simply cannot live in exact accord with the ways of Primal man. For most of us, it’s just not feasible to live completely off the land (too many humans and their developments getting in the way). And besides, even if we could revert to total hunter-gatherer mode, would we? As much as we try to follow the Primal Blueprint, we have grown accustomed to the benefits (yes, there are some!) of living in the modern world. Plus, there are certain creature comforts – like evolutionary knowledge, nutritional science,  and developments in kinesiology – that rely on modern science and inform, drive, and continually legitimize the fundamentals of the Primal Blueprint. After all, Grok lived the way he did because of necessity; we attempt to emulate his lifestyle as a personal choice.

So what does all this have to do with workout gear? Well, workout gear – weights, protective gear, equipment – can be a boon to anyone trying to follow the Primal Blueprint – even if Grok never had access to any of it. That’s not to suggest that getting a good Primal workout absolutely requires top of the line equipment and workout gear; on the contrary, there are viable fitness options for the Primal Blueprinter without access to expensive workout equipment. And if you do decide you need the equipment, don’t feel pressured to buy the top of the line, boutique stuff. You’re in this for health and Primal fitness, not to continue the consumer culture that so often opposes the Primal way.

Oftentimes, we’ve been so conditioned to think we need special equipment to work up a decent sweat (the endless barrage of gym commercials, ridiculous exercise equipment infomercials starring Chuck Norris and Suzanne Somers, and sexy high- production value Nike commercials certainly don’t help) that we find ourselves making excuses for laziness if we don’t have the right gear. When we rely on external sources for our fitness, it becomes a whole lot easier to plop down on that couch and complain about the ten minute drive to the gym. We’ve outlined plenty of equipment-free fitness options in the past: the Prison Workout, a video on outdoor exercises, the call to “get back to nature.” These are all totally viable gear-less workouts, but they’re not the end all, be all.

So what else can we do without equipment?

Because many of us can’t even fathom exercise without equipment, a good way to think about new ways to exercise is to come up with replacements. Just like we often think about “grain alternatives” or “Primal pasta substitutes,” try thinking about alternatives for the exercises you normally perform with equipment.

You don’t need an ab roller. You don’t need some crazy contraption that administers slight electric shocks to your abdominals while you sit and watch “The View.” And you certainly don’t need any equipment being hawked by a washed-up, mustachioed action star or a former “Three’s Company” starlet. Okay, maybe those things work. Maybe using these silly total-body workouts in a box will do something for you (we’re not convinced, but I suppose those hot infomercial bods don’t lie!). But why fork over three easy payments of $49.95 for something you could just as easily replicate at the local jungle gym – for free? Want to work out your abs? Hang from a bar and touch your elbows with your knees. Thinking about getting that $200 tangle of cables and ropes to work your lats? Do some pull-ups with various grips instead. Repeat after us: you don’t need to drop money on a redundant piece of gimmicky equipment that’ll probably just end up collecting dust anyway.

You can get creative and find your own, inexpensive (or even free) equipment in this great big world, anyway. Just look around. Those body weight squats and pushups getting a little too easy for you? Try carrying your dog while you squat, or giving your kids a ride on your back for push-ups (we would suggest you only do this with your own kids). Keep your eyes peeled for sandbags. Construction companies often leave them lying around or discarded, and they provide a great, pliable weight for just about any exercise (we suggest squat thrusters: performing a squat and then tossing the sandbag in the air at the peak… kills the quads and shoulders). Because they flop around, you’re forced to adjust and use your stabilizer muscles. Plus, you can adjust the weight by adding more sand or even getting the bag wet.

Despite the advantages of equipment-less exercise, certain traditional exercise equipment can make for an optimum Primal fitness experience. We have the luxury of combining proven evolutionary practices with modern technology, but nowadays, with the purse strings tightening, we’re often left wondering just how to afford Olympic weight sets, running shoes, and other equipment to take advantage of our opportunities. Well, we have a few suggestions.



Seriously, guys – before you buy any exercise equipment at retail prices (or even from eBay), do a search for the item on Craigslist. Some people balk at the thought of buying big ticket stuff without a guarantee, but with basic exercise equipment you really don’t need to worry. Weights are weights – they don’t break. And you’ll get the best prices, because Craigslist is full of people trying to sell stuff quickly (plus, there’s no user fee). You don’t pay for shipping, and you’ll get to see the item in person before you hand over any money.

Pro Tip: check the “Free” section.

Thrift Shops/Garage Sales

Garage Sale Sign

The real life Craigslist. Again, used exercise equipment is fairly safe to buy. Think about it: this stuff is designed to withstand constant use and wear and tear. Garage sales are all about cleaning house, and that means low prices. You might have a husband who grew up with these kettlebells, but the nagging wife is sick of them cluttering up the house. Which is he going to choose? All you married Blueprinters know the answer. Tough luck for the seller, great opportunity for the buyer.

Same with thrift shops – these places don’t specialize in any one area. They sell books, clothes, old videos, and analog televisions. Do you think they’ll be aware of the current market price for Olympic weight sets? No way. They get this stuff for cut rate prices (or completely free) and they’re just interested in making room for new wares.

Play It Again Sports

For you Primal Blueprinters who like the name-brand, high-end fitness gear, try your local Play It Again Sports location. Essentially thrift shops that focus on fitness equipment, Play It Again Sports franchises carry all the top brands at inexpensive prices. There are roughly 800 locations nationwide, so check out the online store locator to see if there’s a location near you.

Share your thoughts and tips in the comment boards!

InfoMofo, salomon88, hrtmnstrfr, lantzilla Flickr Photos (CC)

Further Reading:

The Prison Workout

Getting Back to Nature

Video Proof You Can Exercise Outdoors

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