Primal movements: it’s all good and fine to ignore them, that is, until the moment you need them most.
And that’s precisely where most traditional gym-style workouts fail. They don’t prepare you for those real-world moments where your strength and skill will really be put to the test.
When shit hits the fan, will you be ready? Will your body be capable of handling the challenge, or will you collapse?
These are the movements you never learned in P.E., and that you certainly won’t find in a men’s fitness magazine. But they’re all critical, foundational primal movements every man should master.
When you get solid on these fundamentals, you can progress them to higher levels of difficulty and skill.
But for now, let’s focus on building your base. The more you conquer the basics, the stronger your foundation becomes and the easier time you’ll have advancing these movements.
1. Fall Without Fear, So You Can Always Get Back Up
When you fear falling, you end up stiff and overly protective.
Your body shuts down easily and is afraid of taking any risks. A lot of us became afraid of falling because our parents overreacted any time we took a spill. But for most of us, we just never actually learned how to fall properly.
When you do learn how to fall with skill and control, you’ll be much more confident in your movement. Knowing how to take a fall, literally and figuratively, makes you stronger.
But to start off, we need to inoculate our fear of falling and failure.
A great way to do this is with a warmup to your training sessions. Just practice falling a few time from a squat or seating position. Grass or a mat can help pad your fall at first, so you overcome the fear. Gradually, you’ll want to build up to harder surfaces, and falling from standing or off of an object.
Eventually, you can practice dive rolling and even consciously fall while you’re doing different movements to gain mastery in falling from any situation.
2. Clear Any Obstacle in Your Path
Obstacles and obstructions are not a probability, they are an inevitability. Sooner or later there will be a fence, a log, or some form of obstacle in your path that your must overcome.
You can always look for a way around it, but what if you don’t have that luxury? In the event of a chase, or needing to assist someone in danger, the most direct path will always be the fastest. Greater confidence and skill in overcoming the obstacles in your way could mean the difference between life or death.
The most basic technique for clearing a mid-sized obstacle is the step-vault. Once you master this skill you’ll begin seeing opportunities for all sorts of ways you can apply this movement in your life and training.
Who needs a gate when you can just vault over it, anyway?
3. Learn to Throw a Debilitating Punch
All men should know how to throw at minimum, a clean jab. It’s the most basic punch, and where everyone should start with primal combat movements.
The basic jab helps you keep range, and in a seriously dangerous situation, can be modified as an eye jab to completely disarm an attacker.
The straight lead punch is also the longest range weapon in the upper body, which makes it great for creating distance and disengaging. Being the most simple strike, it should be first everyone learns.
When you master this basic strike, you can move on to the rear cross, hooks, kicks and other weapons. But as Bruce Lee once said:
“I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 strikes once. I fear the man who has practiced one strike 10,000 times.”
4. Build an Iron Grip
“Get a grip, man.” We’ve all heard this saying before. But one day, we might literally need to get a grip. When we do, will ours be strong enough?
We never know when we might need a strong grip. We might have to climb our way out of a burning building, ascend a tree to rescue an old lady’s cat, or lift someone up off a dangerous ledge.
Hell, we might just want a stronger grip to have more fun climbing trees.
A strong, powerful grip makes you a better grappler as well. If you need to take someone down or submit them, whoever has the stronger grip can often get the upper hand.
Not only that, but a firm grip is often the first impression we make when offering our handshake to other men. No one wants to be perceived as weak or insincere simply because they never made strength a priority.
Hanging is the best way I’ve found to build a strong, unbreakable grip. I recommend getting a doorway pull-up bar and practice hanging for 20-30 seconds every time you pass through.
Eventually you can progress to one arm hangs after mastering a solid 90 second hang. Beyond that, you’ll want to explore different widths of holds and shapes. You can find these training tools in any standard rock climbing or bouldering gym.
5. Master Your Breath For Calm and Focus in Any Situation
Have you ever noticed that when you’re anxious or stressed, your breath tends to be very shallow and constricted?
The mere act of breathing deeper can give you greater calm and a feeling of control. I saved the breath for last because I want to drill home the importance of breathing deeply throughout each of these movements. The deeper we breathe, the more we signal to our body “I’ve got this.”
It’s impossible to breathe deeply and not be present and attentive. Our presence as men is the first signal for trust. No one can trust a man that is not at the very least, fully here.
Breath can be a practice in and of itself. I recommend using your rest periods in between exercises to practice your breathing. It will not only make you feel more calm and confident, but it also helps with faster recovery. Deep, belly breathing helps fully oxygenate your blood, bringing much needed recovery to tired muscles.
Next time you reach for a cup of coffee in the afternoon, you might try breathing instead.
Recommendations for Getting Started With Primal Movements
These five movements can be put into a circuit style training workout. Here’s what that might look like:
- Squat to Fall – 10 repetitions each side
- Step Vault – 10 repetitions each side
- Jab – 25 repetitions each side
- Hanging – 30-60 seconds
- Horse Stance Meditation – Focus on breath and recovery for 1-2 minutes
To make it even easier, I created a workout video you can follow along with. Check it out the primal foundations workout here.
What do You Want to be Prepared For?
Are there any primal movements that you feel weak or deficient in? What situations can you imagine that you’d want to be absolutely prepared for?
We don’t have to be ruled by our fears. By consciously looking at them and assessing them, we can use them to become stronger and ready for anything life might throw our way.