Replace Glory Gains with these 5 Vital Movements

The internet is saturated with advice on how to manicure your body and finetune it like a microchip — washboard abs, Madonna arms, digestive purges, leg day, chest day, back sculpting, squat thrusts, etc.

In the noise, you may find yourself confused about where to start and what’s important.

The truth is, being active and healthy is a lifestyle. That means it should be a part of your behavior all day, every day. 

Our primal ancestors didn’t sit nearly as much as we do… and it made them much more fit. They connected to the contours and ridges of the ground with their bare feet, improving their posture. They stood, ran, and sweated all day long without choosing to consciously. They engaged their cores during almost every physical activity they engaged in. 

And we don’t.

Now, that makes sense. Since becoming an agrarian society, humanity has tried to make our lives safer, less physically demanding, more relaxing, and worry-free. Which has largely made us sedentary, incapable creatures.

With very busy lives. Most of us have 40, or more, hour work weeks, expensive gym subscriptions, kids who’ve got school, dinners to make, cleaning to catch up on, ad nauseum.

So it’s helpful to know which core groups not to let suffer…

Because your brain doesn’t register muscle groups so much as it thinks about movement patterns. 

Pushing, pulling, bending, squatting, and planking. 


Pushing’s primal aspect: pressing something away from you, or pressing yourself away from something.

What you should do about it: You could go with the classic — push-ups. But the bench press is typically more effective.

All you need is a barbell and a bench (or flat surface you can lay down on). When you’re lying on the bench, hold the barbell to your mid-chest, with your hands shoulder-width apart, and your elbows at your sides. 

Push the barbell away from you… hold it there… and return the barbell to your chest. 


Pulling’s primal aspect: drawing yourself towards something, or drawing something to your body.

What you should do about it: If you can, do pull-ups. If you can’t, do laying pull-ups until you can do regular pull-ups.

A laying pull-up involves lying on the ground beneath a bench, bar, chair, or whatever you’ve got handy, and rising to the level of the flat surface with just your torso.

To complete a pull-up, you’ll need a sturdy horizontal bar high off the ground. Hang from it with your palms facing outward and your knees bent. Then, pull your chest towards the bar, bending your elbows. 


Bending’s primal aspect: hinging from the hips.

What you should do about it: The best way to work this muscle group is through deadlifts — which aren’t as scary as they sound. Deadlifts improve balance as well as strengthening the upper and lower back, glutes, and hamstrings.

Here’s what you do: set a barbell on the floor in front of you. Bend at the hips, pushing your hips back, and grab the barbell by the handles, hands shoulder-width apart and palms facing you. Stare straight ahead and try to keep your back level and straight, like a table. As you lift the bar, your hips will naturally come forward as you hold the barbell at the tops of your thighs.


Squatting’s primal aspect: flexing and bending your knees.

What you should do about it: You guessed it — squats.

You can do plain and simple squats, standing feet shoulder-width apart and arms outstretched before you. With your back straight, you sink down as low and as slow as you can go, and hold. Then push up through your feet to return to standing position.


Planking’s primal aspect: engaging and stabilizing your core.

What you should do about it: Plank — get into a push-up position, with your feet close together and your back flat, but lay your forearms where you would have set your hands. Clasp your hands together and stay there for as long as you can. 

But if you absolutely hate planking, try the Farmer’s Walk. With a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing towards you, stand up straight.

Walk forward 30 feet. Turn around and walk 30 feet back. Do that for a while. 

Being healthy and fit requires constant vigilance — two weeks in the gym until you burn out doesn’t count. But having a repertoire of five exercises deeply rooted in our success as a species can help.

Find ways to incorporate these movements into your every day! 

Challenge yourself. And after a while you’ll start to notice that everything you do, every move you make, is a relative of one of these five movements.

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Dr. Pedram Shojai

NY Times Best Selling author and film maker. Taoist Abbot and Qigong master. Husband and dad. I’m here to help you find your way and be healthy and happy. I don’t want to be your guru…just someone who’ll help point the way. If you’re looking for a real person who’s done the work, I’m your guy. I can light the path and walk along it with you but can’t walk for you.