Functional Fitness, Caveman Style (Really)

caveman fitness

You might think that Paleo is just about noshing on those red meats. But a whole new way of exercising is on the rise, and it’s based on the ways our primitive hunter-gatherers, well, hunted and gathered.

Finding Functional Fitness
For proponents of caveman style workouts, the ideal sought is functional fitness, that is, moving in ways that have a direct relation to improving our daily lives.

Obstacle races have a radically different take on exercise. Gym programs are typically highly repetitious and are undertaken in a controlled environment. Proponents of the hunter-gatherer approach to fitness note that gym-bound routines don’t engage the mind (indeed, we often use music to help shut out the environment).

Primitive Man, Primitive Motion
Because our ancestors didn’t have treadmills, they had a different response to motion. As they ran after game they encountered uneven terrain and had to constantly take things like rocks, streams, trees and cave lions into account. Exercise for early man was fully in accord with how his body moved – which of course evolution had supplied in response to his needs. In contrast, studies have attempted to link modern forms of exercise with chronic disease1 and repetitive injuries2 to joints and muscles.

Mind And Body
Competing in obstacle course races requires a tremendous amount of strength and stamina because the entire body is affected during the event. Because the races involve tasks that must be solved, the mind becomes part of the workout. For advocates, this style of exercise taps into our deep human need to move for a purpose.

Man Is A Social Animal
In a gym setting we workout alone or with a trainer, and even in a group setting there is imitation and repetition rather than complex interaction and coordination. Obstacle races foster a social dimension to motion. Early man hunted in a group and required a high degree of cooperation in order to bring down that bison, process it, and get it home. CrossFit and Spartan Race try to replicate these activities to foster a community within the competition.

Channel Your Inner Caveperson
If a primitive twist to things floats your boat, there are races across the country devoted to the mental and physical challenges of the obstacle course.

If ancient man is truly well and dead in you, you can still learn a trick or two from him. Remember we evolved to move differently than the way we often exercise. There are benefits to mixing things up rather than stagnating in static routines. You can improve your fitness level by adding some hills to your run or bike ride. Try varying the sets and reps in your weight training. By incorporating the unexpected in your workout you can gain from the wisdom of the past.

Get That Protein
Primitive man had to get his protein the hard way. And wooly mammoth is tough to eat. You, however, are blessed to live in an era where getting the protein and carbs your body needs to support an active, saber tooth cat-free lifestyle. Promax has a bar to fit every level of workout performance. Easy to digest, gluten free, Promax is a tasty way to replenish and restore after a hard workout.


1. Chakravarthy, Manu V., and Frank W. Booth. “Eating, exercise, and “thrifty” genotypes: connecting the dots toward an evolutionary understanding of modern chronic diseases.” Journal of Applied Physiology 96.1 (2004): 3-10.
2. Carpenter, James E., et al. “The effects of overuse combined with intrinsic or extrinsic alterations in an animal model of rotator cuff tendinosis.” The American journal of sports medicine 26.6 (1998): 801-807.