What does a Primal Strength session actually consist of?
The first thing to bear in mind is that our program is about much more than the strength sessions our clients participate in 3-4 times a week. It encapsulates proper nutrition, sleep hygiene and stress management – a full program to ensure we look and feel the best that we possibly can.
Strength sessions last around an hour, and while programs are individualized each encompasses the following key stages:
The old training adage ‘if you don’t have time for a proper warm-up, you don’t have time to train’ holds true. Many injuries in the weights room can be traced back to a lack of a proper warm-up.
This isn’t tolerated at Primal. Before we ever touch a weight we loosen up cranky muscles by performing myofascial release techniques using implements such as foam rollers and lax balls. This is followed up with a mobility warm-up. Every single session.
Though mobility work is a priority, permanent improvements take time and occur at very different rates for everybody. Each of our members have a very different story to tell. Many spend long hours at an office desk, which can create postural issues. Some have had previous injuries, or biomechanical issues. Others have muscular imbalances resulting from the kind of poorly programmed strength sessions you’ll never see at Primal. (Bench day again anyone?)
Because everyone is so different it stands to reason that the exercise prescription must also be different. That’s why every one of our clients is screened using our structural balance system. We use this data to create an individualized program of corrective exercises, designed to improve posture and enhance performance while minimizing the risk of injury.
This is where we aim to shift some tin! We select the ‘bang for buck’ exercises here and go after increases in strength.
We use derivatives and adaptations of classic exercises such as the squat, deadlift, presses, rows and chin-ups. These are almost always multi-joint, compound exercises, which have been identified in scientific literature to bring about the greatest increases in strength and the most potent responses from the hormonal system.
What’s important to note here is that we see much faster results from members who are diligent with their mobility and corrective work. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, yet some people still warm-up with a few sets of bench presses and wonder why they plateau within a few months of training. This effect occurs because the body is very good at shutting movement down when it is perceived as a threat.
Bench presses are a good example – we often get asked for improvement tips for this. If you bench too much and neglect pulling strength it leads to muscular imbalances between the pressing muscles in the chest, anterior shoulder and triceps versus the often-neglected muscles of the mid/upper back and rotator cuff.
This imbalance leads to poor posture and instability while pressing, and tees us up nicely for injury. The body (quite rightly) perceives this as a threat and will limit neural drive during the exercise as a form of self-preservation.
And so the best tip for improving the bench press is often to stop bench pressing – or at least back off and focus on mobilizing the pec minor while strengthening the mid/upper back and rotator cuff. Ideally your bench press to row strength should be 1:1. If it isn’t then get rowing like your life depends on it. Your bench will improve and your shoulders will thank you.
For novices stages 1-3 offer sufficient challenge, but for more advanced members we end each session with metabolic ‘finishers’. These could be battle rope, prowler push, hand over hand sled pull…or just whatever we decide to throw at you!
And there you have it – the key stages for any Primal session. Of course, our mode of delivery is always evolving as we learn from other experts – and from each and every one of our clients. You’re all individuals, so there’s no such thing as ‘standard’ at Primal.