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What Are Paleo Exercises?

Learn all about paleo exercises and get a sample paleo workout so you can exercise like a caveman.

By
Ben Greenfield,
March 22, 2011
Episode #044

It seems that there’s been quite a bit of talk about paleo diets and paleo nutrition lately.

What Is Paleo Eating?

The basic idea behind the paleo style of eating is that you avoid many modern agricultural foods, such as bread and cereal, and also avoid highly processed foods, artificial sweeteners, preservatives, and just about anything that our caveman ancestors wouldn’t have recognized as real food.

Though there are good arguments both for and against a paleo approach to eating, one important question for fitness enthusiasts is: if I’m going to eat like a caveman, how do I exercise like a caveman?

What Are Paleo Exercises?

Ancient man did not likely have access to Pilates reformer machines, fancy weight-lifting machines, or a posh gym membership. Although there are certainly advantages to these modern day fitness conveniences, it is possible to build a very impressive and fit body using a range of movements that are called “functional” or “multi-joint” exercises. These paleo exercises incorporate the same types of movements our primal ancestors would have had to perform in order to survive in an unpredictable environment, whether being chased by a lion, throwing a spear, moving heavy logs or rocks, or fighting.

How to Exercise Like a Caveman

Paleo exercises can be broken down into the following seven movements:

  • squatting,

  • bending,

  • lunging,

  • pushing,

  • pulling,

  • twisting, and

  • running (and other gait exercises).

Squatting: To squat, you simply bend at the knees and the hips, while keeping your back relatively straight. You can place a weight on your back or shoulders, hold a weight to your chest, or simply perform a body weight squat. Image a caveman squatting down to make a fire, lift a heavy rock, or use his legs to hoist up an object.

It is possible to build a very impressive and fit body using a range of movements that are called “functional” or “multi-joint” exercises.

Bending: In this case, bending refers to flexing and extending at the waist. And though most of us think of a crunch or sit-up as a bending movement, more common paleo-like bending movements would have involved bending down to lift or throw something overhead--such as tossing a heavy rock from a field.

Lunging: Lunging is the basic movement pattern that would have been involved in everything from throwing an object like a rock, to stepping over a log, to pushing an object like a spear, and it involves stepping forward with just one leg while bending at the knee.

Pushing: Since squatting and lunging are forms of lower-body “pushing,” in this case, pushing refers to using the arms, chest, or shoulders to move an object out and away from the body. Think of your paleo ancestor pushing a heavy rock or log overhead.

Pulling: As the opposite of pushing, pulling involves using the arms, chest, or shoulders to pull an object towards the body, such as pulling a game animal through the forest, drawing a bow, rowing a boat, or climbing a tree.

Twisting: Commonly combined with bending, pushing, or pulling, twisting involves rotating the torso to apply a force with the body, such as throwing a spear.

Running and other gait exercises: Just like it sounds, gait involves any form of running, walking, trekking, hiking, jumping, bounding or sprinting. But rather than simply doing these type of movements for hours on end, paleo ancestors would likely have interspersed gait with twisting, lunging, pushing or pulling. For example, hiking to track down game, sprinting to hunt it down, and then twisting, lunging and pushing to throw a spear are all examples of how our paleo ancestors would have done gait exercises.

A Sample Paleo Workout

So how can you combine the Paleo exercises movements of squatting, bending, lunging, pushing, pulling, twisting, and gait for an effective  workout? Here’s a perfect example: Simply move from one movement to the next, with little to no rest, and attempt to complete three to five circuits of the following:

Squatting: Hold a medicine ball or weight to your chest and complete 10 squats.

Bending: Hold two weights overhead or at your side and bend from side to side, 10 times to each side.

Lunging:  With a barbell on your back or weight held on your shoulders, step up onto a bench or chair 20 times, alternating between legs with each step.

Pushing: In a standing position, hold onto a cable or elastic band and push it forward in a punching motion 10 times with one arm, then switch arms and repeat.

Pulling: Repeat the same motion with each arm, with the cable or elastic band, but this time pull instead of push.

Twisting:  Now grab the cable or elastic band with both arms, hold the arms straight out and away from the body, and twist 10 times to each side.

Gait-related exercising: Get on a treadmill or use an open space and walk quickly for 30 seconds, then jog for 30 seconds, sprint for 30 seconds, then walk again for 30 seconds.

After you’ve tried this Paleo workout and the Paleo Diet, let me know how it felt! Head over to the Get-Fit Guy Facebook page to chat about workouts, exercises, fat loss and muscle gain tips, and more!

Caveman image courtesy of Shutterstock

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