Primal Fitness: How To Get It Without Going To A Gym (Or Fleeing A Woolly Mammoth)

by Brian Cormack Carr on April 4, 2012 · 0 comments

in Health & Fitness

Post image for Primal Fitness: How To Get It Without Going To A Gym (Or Fleeing A Woolly Mammoth)

 Not what we mean by ‘primal fitness’! Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Primal fitness is all about moving your body in the ways that nature intended it to be moved, so that you can build strength, stamina, and flexibility.  Although some basic equipment can be used, it’s possible (and desirable) to do a whole lot just using your own body weight.  I subscribe to the workout principles of Mark Sisson (of Primal Blueprint fame) who advises constructing a fitness program around three components:

The Primal Blueprint Fitness Pyramid, courtesy of

Of course, for many people, the thought of constructing any fitness program is scary – particularly if, like me, you have painful memories of horrendous P.E. classes as school which left you feeling like an uncoordinated, unfit lummox and taught you absolutely nothing about how to get fitter.

So I’ve devised a simple three-stage plan – Your Primal Fitness Plan – which will take you from a standing start to super fit.  There’s no set length of time required for each stage.  Start slow, build your fitness level gradually, and increase your level of intensity within each stage whenever you feel like you need more of a challenge.  Stick with that stage until you feel comfortable with moving on to the next, then apply the same principle – start slow, increase gradually, then decide when to move on.

And remember – the goal is never to act like you’re already super fit, if you’re not.  Don’t worry if you have to slow down at any point, or do fewer repetitions than are suggested.  Some days you’ll have less energy and will have to work at a lower level of intensity; other days you’ll have more and will surprise yourself at how much you can do.  It’s all good.  The goal is to feel like you’re challenging yourself a bit, so that your fitness level builds – never to beat yourself up.

Let’s get started!


STAGE ONE – The 12 Minute Break-In Plan

This stage incorporates the first two elements of the Fitness Pyramid into one workout (we’re leaving sprinting until you’ve built a basic fitness level), and it will only take 12 minutes to complete.  Do this workout every other day and take a brisk walk on alternate days, and you’ll be amazed at how much you can do and at how quickly your fitness level will build.


The session is made up of two six-minute sections. The first section focuses on resistance exercises for the upper body. The second six minutes are designed to strength-train the legs and provide a brief aerobic workout. Google to find out the form and technique for the suggested exercises.

a) The First Six Minutes

Don’t forget to warm up (marching or jogging lightly on the spot for a minute or two will help warm your body up and get the blood pumping).  Then, using your dumbbells or resistance band, do as many repetitions of each exercise as you can within one minute. Start with light weights and a light pace, and gradually increase these as your strength improves.  Needless to say, you shouldn’t start with weights that are so heavy that you risk injury.  You should be able to complete all the repetitions – just.

Minute 1 – Chest. Pick an exercise you like e.g. press-ups, or chest presses or flys using dumbbells.
Minute 2 – Back. Again, pick a back exercise that works for you, such as one or two-arm rows using dumbbells.
Minute 3 – Shoulders. Shoulder presses.
Minute 4 – Biceps. Biceps curls using dumbbells or a resistance band.
Minute 5 – Triceps. Triceps kick-backs with dumbbells or band, or triceps dips on a chair.
Minute 6 – Abdominals.  Sit-ups, crunches, whatever works.

b) The Second Six Minutes

Start jogging or marching on the spot at a pace that works for you.  After one-and-a-half minutes, perform as many squats as you can in 30 sec0nds. Then jog/march for another one-and-a-half minutes. Then squat for 30 seconds. Then jog/march for another one-and-a-half minutes. Then squat.  Finish with some basic stretches – and you’re done!


STAGE TWO – Primal Blueprint Fitness

This stage will take you – at your own pace – to as high a fitness level as you want to get.  In fact, you never have to move beyond this stage, unless you want to.  By increasing your level of intensity within each movement – sprinting faster; doing your body-weight exercises faster or with added resistance; challenging yourself more during aerobic activities by varying what you do on a daily basis – you’ll never get bored, and never get complacent.  This stage covers all three elements of the Fitness Pyramid.

a) Move Frequently At A Slow Pace

For this element, you can carry on walking, or start adding in some more basic aerobic activity – biking, hiking, swimming, step class – whatever you like.  Try to incorporate some aerobic activity into most days, but remember to avoid falling into the trap of “chronic cardio” which can do you more harm than good.  So no marathons are necessary – either on the road, or the treadmill!

b) Lift Heavy Things

To build this element, you’re going to start using your own body-weight in a series of four essential movements: the press-up; the pull-up; the squat; and the plank.  In the videos below, Mark Sisson guides you through how to progress in each movement.  Start at a level that challenges you without making you feel like you’re going to die, and progress in the ways suggested.

You should do a session of these movements three times a week.  You can find out more about Mark’s rationale for these movements here.





c) Sprint

Occasional sprinting is a great way to build cardiovascular fitness and stimulate fat-burning and muscle-building hormones.  It also mimics the kind of movement our ancestors would have had to make in dangerous circumstances (here’s where a hairy mammoth or sabre-toothed tiger would have come in handy).

Sprinting only needs to be incorporated into your weekly routine once – twice at most – but it will have a significant impact on your fitness level and fat-burning capacity.  You can add sprints in to almost any aerobic workout.

Here – again from Mark Sisson – is how to do it:

Sprint & Stretch


STAGE THREE – Maximum Capacity!

This is strictly for people who’ve already built a fitness level, and who want a bit of a challenge.  I suggest you head on over to Max Capacity Training, where you’ll find a full 12-week workout programme, which is designed to be done three times a week (they have a book available, too).  Each routine takes 16 minutes to complete, and comprises of a series of body-weight exercises done at a fast pace, with minimum resting.

Each routine is accompanied by drawings of how to do each move (example above) and a handy video workout timer which you can use to help you keep pace as the workout progresses.  You’re also told how often to do each move during the allotted time.  As an example, day one involves:

  • Doing as many squats as you can in 50 seconds
  • Resting for 10 seconds
  • Doing as many push-ups as you can in 50 seconds
  • Resting for 10 seconds
  • Doing as many lunges as you can in 50 seconds
  • Resting for 10 seconds
  • Doing as many plank bridges as you can in 50 seconds
  • Resting for 10 seconds
  • Repeating the whole routine 3 more times.

Phew!  I’m breaking a sweat just thinking about it – and each day gets progressively more challenging.  It’s fun to have such a well-constructed body-weight routine available, since you don’t have to spend any time figuring out which exercises to do, or how to “balance” them – it’s all done for you.  But again, I emphasise – it’s probably best not to jump into stage three unless you’re already relatively fit.

But once you are fit – and you soon will be with Your Primal Fitness Plan – knock yourself out!  Well, perhaps not literally…

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Thanks for visiting! You can find more of my writing in my Amazon bestselling self-help guides How To Find Your Vital Vocation and Real Food Revival Plan both of which are available worldwide in e-book and paperback formats. Find out more here.

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