7 Primal Movement Exercises for a Wild Workout

primal movement exercises and workout (1)-min

Primal movement exercises are on the rise.

From TikTok to local gyms, you’ll see people ditching the dumbbells and moving like inchworms, flying squirrels, bears and apparently, ancient man.

The hook? Tap into foundational moves our ancestors aced long before gyms were a thing.

Sounds simple enough… and in theory, makes sense.

But, with any fitness trend, science and fiction have merged and there’s a lot of misconceptions about how the human body *should* move.

This article will guide you through what primal movements are, offer seven key exercises to awaken your inner caveman, how these movements compare to traditional gym routines, and even dish out a beginner’s workout plan to help you get started.

What are Primal Movements?

Picture this… a world before treadmills, dumbbells, or Zumba classes.

Our ancestors thrived in such a setting, mastering movements essential for survival.

Primal movements hark back to these very foundations, focusing on natural human locomotion.

These are the squatting, lunging, hinging, twisting, walking, pushing, and pulling actions our forefathers performed daily, whether hunting, gathering or building shelters.

But why the sudden surge in its popularity?

Modern fitness trends are increasingly recognizing the benefits of these exercises, from enhanced mobility to functional strength. They align our body closer to its intended mechanics, often reducing risk of injury.

Recent studies even tout the neurological benefits, suggesting these movements can improve brain-body coordination.

For us, there’s definitely clear benefits of the movement towards primal movements… spending most of your time in the gym doing bicep curls isn’t really the what fitness is about (we know *that* guy).

7 Primal Movement Exercises to Try

We’ve cut through the jungle noise and got 7 CPT-approved exercises that require natural movement patterns. You can do bodyweight versions or hold additional weight to increase the challenge.

Hinge – Single Leg RDLs (Romanian Deadlifts)

  • How to perform – Stand on one leg, keeping the other straight and off the ground. Keep your back straight, hinge at your hips, and lower your hands toward the ground.
  • Muscles Worked – Hamstrings, glutes, lower back.
  • Modern Life Benefit – Enhances posterior chain strength, important for activities like lifting objects. Helps counteract the negative impacts of prolonged sitting.

(Check out our guide on single leg RDLs, including benefits).

Squat – Bodyweight Squats

  • How to perform – Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Lower your body, pushing your butt back, as if you’re sitting in a chair, then rise back up.
  • Muscles Worked – Quads, hamstrings, glutes, calves.
  • Modern Life Benefit – Improves leg strength, essential for everyday tasks like standing from a seated position or picking up items.

Lunge – Deficit Reverse Lunge

  • How to perform – Stand on a raised surface, step one foot backward onto a lower surface and drop that knee towards the ground, then push back to the start.
  • Muscles Worked – Quads, hamstrings, glutes, calves.
  • Modern Life Benefit – Enhances stability and balance, useful when navigating uneven terrains or climbing stairs.

(Check out our guide on how to do the deficit reverse lunge properly).

Push – Push Up

  • How to perform – Begin in a plank position with your hands under your shoulders. Lower your body until your chest nearly touches the floor. Push through your hands to return to the starting position.
  • Muscles Worked – Chest, triceps, shoulders.
  • Modern Life Benefit – Builds upper body strength, aiding activities like pushing doors, lifting items, or playing with kids.

(There are so many types of push ups, including pike, close grip, and decline).

Pull – Pull Up

  • How to perform – Grip a bar overhead, pull yourself up until your chin passes the bar, then lower yourself back down.
  • Muscles Worked – Lats, biceps, upper back, core.
  • Modern Life Benefit – Develops back and arm muscles, counteracting “tech-neck” and poor posture from computer use.

(If you’re struggling with pull ups, we’ve got this guide on why you can’t do a pull up, as well as how to use the pull up assisted machine).

Twist – Russian Twists

  • How to perform – Sit on the ground, lean back slightly, lift your feet, and rotate your torso side to side, tapping the ground with your hands.
  • Muscles Worked – Obliques, abdominal muscles.
  • Modern Life Benefit – Strengthens core and enhances rotational ability, great for sports and turning to grab items without straining your back.

Gait – Hill Sprints

  • How to perform – On a slope or hill, sprint up with full intensity for a short duration, then walk back down to recover.
  • Muscles Worked – Quads, hamstrings, calves, glutes, cardiovascular system.
  • Modern Life Benefit – Boosts cardiovascular health, leg power, and metabolic rate. Perfect for those looking to shed calories or for those who like short HIIT workouts.

(Check out our guide on how to do hill sprints).

Primal Movement Workout Plan for Beginners

Starting with primal movements? Here’s a beginner-friendly workout plan to immerse yourself into the world of ancient athleticism.

You could do this once, twice or three times a week, depending on your fitness level and goals.

Bodyweight Squats12-15 reps30 secondsKeep your chest up; go as deep as your flexibility allows.
Push Up (Modified if needed)8-10 reps30 secondsKeep a straight line from head to heels.
Russian Twists20 twists (10 each side)30 secondsEngage your core; move with control.
Single Leg RDLs8 reps per leg30 secondsFocus on balance; hold onto a wall if needed.
Pull Up (Assisted if needed)5-7 reps30 secondsPull with your elbows; engage your lats.
Deficit Reverse Lunge10 lunges per leg30 secondsEnsure your knee doesn’t go past your toes.
Hill Sprints3-5 sprints1-2 minutes rest between sprintsStart with shorter distances.
Push Up (Modified if needed)8-10 reps30 secondsConsistency over perfection.
Bodyweight Squats12-15 reps30 secondsDepth can increase as flexibility improves.

Primal Warm Up

Before you go full Tarzan (or Jane) with the primal movements, it’s important to get your body ready for action. And what better way than invoking the spirit of the animal kingdom?

This warm-up includes animal-inspired movements to ignite every muscle and get the heart rate up, ensuring you’re fully primed for the main workout.

As well as these exercises, we often use bear squats and burpee broad jumps for dynamic warm ups too.


How to perform – To do inchworms, stand tall, hinge at the hips, and touch the floor. Walk your hands forward until you’re in a plank position, then walk them back towards your feet and rise.
Duration – 1 minute
Benefits – Stretches hamstrings and calves, activates core and shoulders.

Bear Crawls

How to perform – Start on all fours, knees hovering off the ground. Move forward using your opposite hand and foot simultaneously. Think: left hand, right foot, then vice versa.
Duration – 1 minute
Benefits – Boosts coordination, warms up quads, shoulders, and core.

Frog Jumps

How to perform – Begin in a deep squat position. Propel yourself forward, leaping like our amphibious friends. Land softly and return to a deep squat.
Duration – 45 seconds
Benefits – Fires up the lower body, improves explosive power.

Crab Walks

How to perform – Sit with hands behind you and feet flat in front. Lift your hips, and ‘walk’ backwards using your hands and feet.
Duration – 1 minute
Benefits – Activates triceps, shoulders, and glutes; stretches hip flexors.

Ape Hops

How to perform – Squat down, place your hands to the left of your feet. Push off and hop to the left, landing back in a squat. Alternate sides.
Duration – 1 minute
Benefits – Engages obliques, quads, and shoulders; boosts lateral agility.

Control, Balance and Mobility

Something you’ll notice with all primal/animal exercises is that they require good body control, balance and mobility… as well as strength. This is one of the reasons why they’re so effective, because they help improve overall movement.

Primal Movement Benefits

Venturing back to our roots through primal movements isn’t just a nostalgic romp in the ancestral park… it comes packed with modern-day perks.

Here’s why channelling your inner caveperson can do wonders for your 21st-century self.

Full Body Muscle Engagement

Unlike isolated gym exercises that target specific muscles, primal movements engage multiple muscle groups simultaneously. It means a more efficient workout and the holistic strengthening of your body, mirroring daily functional tasks.

Improved Mobility & Flexibility

Ever noticed how children and animals move with such ease? Emulating their movements can enhance joint mobility and muscle flexibility, preventing stiffness and injuries. Say goodbye to that robotic, desk-induced rigidity!

Enhanced Core Strength

Almost all primal movements require a strong core engagement. Whether you’re twisting, hinging or squatting, your midsection is getting a thorough workout. This can lead to better posture, reduced back pain, and that coveted abdominal definition.

Boosted Coordination & Balance

Navigating these exercises demands harmony between various body parts, sharpening your proprioception… the sense of where your body is in space.

Over time, you might find yourself less clumsy, avoiding those pesky toe stubs and missteps.

Mental Engagement & Fun

Primal movements challenge not only your body but also your brain, creating an engaging, playful experience.

Rekindling that childlike joy in movement can rejuvenate your relationship with exercise, making it less of a chore and more of a game.

Things to Consider about Primal Workouts

Hold up! Before we swing from the vines proclaiming the supremacy of primal movements, it’s only fair to discuss some reservations. No exercise regimen, however ancient, is a one-size-fits-all.

For starters, while these exercises aim to align our body in its natural state, it might not feel “natural” to everyone initially. Modern lifestyles, marked by long hours of sitting and technology use, have altered our postures.

Jumping into primal movements without proper guidance might feel awkward or even strain unconditioned muscles.

Also, it’s essential to remember that fitness isn’t just about mimicking our ancestors. While they moved a certain way out of necessity, we have a plethora of exercise options today, each with its own set of benefits.

Do you really need to crawl like an inchworm or swing like an ape?

Not necessarily, unless it aligns with your fitness goals and feels right. You may find primal movement workouts are exactly what you’ve been looking for, or you may find you prefer using gym machines… there’s no one-size-fits-all recommendation.

Lastly, while primal movements tout benefits, they aren’t a magic bullet. Like any fitness regimen, consistency, proper form, and a balanced approach are important. It’s all about finding what resonates with your body and goals.

Bottom Line

Delving into primal movement exercises is more than just a fitness fad… it’s a holistic embrace of our ancestral roots.

As we’ve explored, these exercises not only strengthen and condition our bodies but also revitalize our minds, blending the best of ancient wisdom with modern benefits.

So, next time you’re looking to shake up your fitness routine, remember: sometimes, the old ways are worth revisiting.

Here’s to moving like it’s 10,000 BC!

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