The growth of the Paleo or ancestral movement has spanned all aspects of health and nutrition over the past couple of decades. Trends in fitness today slant towards high-intensity training and maximum overload on the body. It is true that these methods are very productive in maximizing fitness levels. These types of high intensity workouts, however, can lead to overuse injuries and can stop all progress. By incorporating a balanced approach to training, athletes and fitness enthusiasts alike can optimize their progress and reap the benefits all at the same time.
Scheduling functional, restorative, low-impact movement exercises in your workout week is key to preventing overuse injuries. In fact, according to the National Academy of Sports Medicine , it is recommended that only 20 percent of your total workouts should be high intensity or heavy workouts while 80 percent should be light to moderate intensity.
Although our society is becoming extremely technologically advanced, our physical lives are de-evolving. It has been said that humans today are less physically capable to succeed in a physical workout regimen than the average human 20 years ago. Physical education classes are also being phased out of schools, and more and more careers require sitting and being confined to a desk for at least eight hours a day. A recent statistic alarmingly quoted that 34 percent of American adults are obese. Another statistic showed that 80 percent of the population will experience lower back pain at some point in their lives. Therefore, it is crucial to properly program your workouts to promote a balanced approach to training and prevent injury.
An Unconventional Tool for Training
The mace is an ancestral tool that incorporates all four categories of restorative movement. Although the mace has a long history of war and destruction, we turn to this ancient weapon as a tool to forge a modern, primal fit body. The mace has been utilized as a restorative tool since 2006 when Jake Shannon revolutionized this weapon by inventing the Macebell. Made out of steel and weighing approximately 22 lb, the Macebell was primarily utilized as a tool for increasing grip strength and power for wrestling.
Over the last decade, the application and design of the mace has varied from lightweight wooden maces to a large array of weights to choose from. It has also found its way into other types of movement practices such as yoga and traditional strength training. The mace is a highly effective tool because of its long handle and offset weight distribution. It is a perfect tool to stimulate targeted muscles, elongate tense tissues, and mobilize stiff joints.
4 Categories of Movement to Forge a Primal Fit Body
Forging a primal fit body means developing optimal human movement. Optimal movement is achieved by balancing muscle synergies, correcting the axis of motion for each joint, and maintaining proper length of the soft tissue such as tendons, ligaments, and fascial tissues. These goals are accomplished by including four categories of movement into your daily workouts:
1. Inhibit: movements that inhibit overactive muscles and tissues, such as the chest muscles that are stiff from rounded shoulders and hip flexors that are stiff from sitting most of the day
2. Lengthen: movements that statically stretch tense muscles or neuromyofascial tissues
3. Activate: movements that activate sluggish or underactive muscles such as the glutes or back muscles that control posture
4. Integrate: movements that integrate or reinforce proper muscle synergies and restore the dynamic interrelated function of the human movement system
Here is a breakdown of the four categories of movement with the mace as the focal tool. You can apply these movements throughout the week to increase your resistance to injury.
Inhibit: The Bow and Arrow Lunge is highly effective to inhibit the overactive, stiff pectoral muscles, hamstrings, and adductors. Shifting your weight forward and back while applying a diverging or pulling force on the mace causes the stiff muscles to elongate and decrease in tension.
Hold your mace in a top diagonal and shift your weight to your front leg, return to standing, and shift your weight to the back leg. Perform 15 to 20 repetitions of slow, steady state movement with a 2-3 second hold on each pose.
Lengthen: The Shield is a powerful movement that impacts a wide array of muscles, joints, tendons, and connective tissue. It lengthens the often-tight hip flexors and quadriceps. It also stimulates your entire body and sharpens your balance and posture. Make sure the mace is vertical and parallel to your spine and back leg. By bringing your back heel up, you will also lengthen the plantar fascia and toe flexor tendons of your back foot.
Start in the Bow and Arrow position with your weight on your back leg, then pivot forward with your back leg lining up vertically with your spine under your center of gravity. As you pivot, drive the back hand at the pommel of the mace forward forming a vertical line with your mace fully extended away from your body. Hold this pose 2-3 seconds, then return to the Bow and Arrow position. Focus on keeping your abdominal muscles activated while you apply a converging force to the mace handle. Perform 15 to 20 repetitions of slow, steady-state movement with a 2-3 second hold on each pose.
Activate: The Rotated Upper Cut activates your sluggish posture muscles and forges a strong neuromuscular bond between the muscles of your back and shoulder blades. These muscles are typically in a deep sleep when sitting at a desk or on the phone with rounded shoulders. You can’t have a primal fit body with poor posture.
Begin with your mace placed at your side. The head of the mace is towards your back and you are holding your mace with both hands facing your body. Stand tall and step forward with the leg opposite the mace while driving your mace across to the opposite side of your body and up. The mace should land with your head perfectly centered in the mace handle and the mace in a horizontal position. Be sure to maintain the forward position of your pelvis to ignite the oblique muscles of your abdominals. Perform, on each side, 15 to 20 repetitions of slow, steady-state movement with a 2-3 second hold on each pose.
Integrate: The Tree Warrior integrates some of the most common muscle synergies that tend to become uncoordinated in our modern society of seated jobs and stiff shoes. This movement integrates our balance system, encourages ambidexterity, and utilizes a multitasking approach of a separate upper body and lower body movement combination. One of the largest contributors to overuse injuries and early functional degeneration is the loss of balance. Practice the Tree Warrior to combat this modern-day dysfunction!
Start in a side lunge with your mace in a bottom diagonal. Drive off the bent leg into a Tree Pose with your raised leg angled to your side at 45 degrees. Slide the mace up into a vertical position by sliding the hand closest to the globe down towards the pommel hand. Apply a squeezing force to the handle to increase control of your mace in the vertical position. Feel the integration of your foot, glutes, and abdominal muscles as you hold this epic pose. Return to the side lunge and slide the mace back into the starting position. On each side, perform 15 to 20 repetitions of slow, steady-state movement with a 2-3 second hold on each pose.
Forging a primal fit body will strengthen your resistance to injury, optimize your human movement system, and evolve your entire movement practice. By balancing your high-intensity, heavy workouts with restorative, low-intensity mace movements, you will create the ideal environment for healing with a legendary ancestral tool that complements your Paleo lifestyle!