Earlier this week I blogged about the Paleo Diet, and mentioned how it is more of a lifestyle than a diet. Today I am going to discuss another aspect of the stone-age movement, caveman workouts.
One of the pioneers in this field is Aurthur De Vany. He is Professor Emeritus of the University of California, and the creator of Evolutionary Fitness. A life-long student of exercise and metabolism, he certainly seems to be doing something right. At 6′ 1″, 205 pounds, and less than 8% body fat, he certainly looks better than most 72 year-olds you’ll see.
The Paleo Diet espouses that we evolved over millions of years and our bodies are designed to only eat foods that were avaiable during that period. Evolutionary Fitness makes the arguement that our exercise programs should more closely match the rigors that our hunter-gatherer ancestors experienced over those many years. De Vany believes that training at various levels that include high intensity bursts mimics how our ancestors lived. He claims that this helps us retain our metabolic fitness and retards aging.
Some folks today are taking these principles quite literally. Rather than participating in traditional exercise programs, they have chosen to return to the daily activities that kept our cave-dwelling cousins fit eons ago. They walk almost everywhere they go, often barefoot, and sometimes return to the forests to scramble over, under, and around the natural landscape. They stay agile and limber by crawling through the brush, and build their strength by throwing rocks.
Those who live in more urban environments might work out at a fitness center, but you won’t see them lounging on the inner thigh machine. They will be doing bodyweight exercises and multi-chain lifts that more closely approximate movements in the everyday world. They will be climbing ropes and performing routines that increase agility, strength and endurance. Unlike the modern man who builds muscle solely for the way it looks in the mirror, the caveman seeks functional fitness that will aid in his survival and keep him at the top of the food chain.
The fitness industry has shifted in this direction as well. Gone are the days of putting everyone through a circuit of Nautilus equipment. Many fitness trainers now avoid the machines entirely if they can. Suspension systems, kettlebells, and a return to free weights are body-weight exercises have taken their place. Boot-camp style classes have also become much more popular. Check out one of HealthQuest’s Blast Classes if you want to see the latest in functional fitness training.
Both intuitively and scientifically it seems to me that this is a more natural and efficient way to train the body. It’s up to each of us to decide how far in this direction we want to go. We could all benefit from adding some functionality to our exercise programs. I started to write “you’re not going to see me out throwing rocks anytime soon”, but then realized I’ve been out throwing the shot put lately. I guess maybe I’m more of a caveman than I realized!