Author Topic: Best weightlifting routine to maximize caveman abilities?  (Read 8851 times)

Offline dman

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Best weightlifting routine to maximize caveman abilities?
« on: March 29, 2012, 06:26:38 PM »
I'm trying to come up with the best possible lifting routine to mimic caveman skills.  I want to work out at home, and I don't have a ton of money, space, or time, so I'm trying to keep it as simple as possible, while covering all of the major caveman strength abilities.

Here are the exercises I'm thinking of incorporating into my routine, along with the matching caveman skills:

  • carrying heavy objects (boulders, logs, carcasses, etc.) --> farmer's walk (i.e., deadlift plus walking)
  • lifting or throwing heavy objects (rocks, etc.) above my head --> clean and jerk
  • pushing heavy objects (boulders, logs, carcasses, etc.) --> dragging weights on the floor with a rope and my arms in front of me (does this have a name?)
  • pulling heavy objects (boulders, logs, carcasses, etc.) behind me --> dragging weights on the floor with a rope and my arms behind me (does this have a name?)
  • pulling heavy objects (boulders, logs, carcasses, etc.) that I'm facing --> dragging weights that I'm facing on the floor with a rope (does this have a name?)
  • climbing --> pull-ups / muscle-ups (i.e., pull-up plus upward half of dip)

Am I missing any major caveman strength abilities?

Any other suggestions?

FYI, here's the equipment I've purchased, which should arrive soon:
  • PowerBlock XXXL Heavyweight adjustable dumbbell set, which varies in 2.5-5 pound increments from 10 to 125 pounds per hand (expandable to 175 pounds if necessary); note that I do not have room for barbells or machines in my apartment
  • flat bench
  • weightlifting shoes
  • Starting Strength book by Mark Rippetoe (for deadlift and bench press)
  • Olympic Weightlifting book (for clean and jerk) by Greg Everett
  • Olympic Weightlifting DVD (for clean and jerk) by Greg Everett
  • automobile towing rope threaded through a metal pipe to drag dumbbells along carpet (not yet purchased, but thinking about it)
« Last Edit: March 30, 2012, 10:30:54 AM by dman »

Offline stuward

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Re: Best weightlifting routine to maximize caveman abilities?
« Reply #1 on: March 30, 2012, 03:18:09 AM »
If you have powerblocks, the exercises I would prioritize are:

DB Snatch
Turkish get ups
Farmers walk

Dragging stuff would be very good. You'll probably have to build something.  Just a rope, tied to an implement (maybe a rugged wodden box) with a piece of carpet on the bottom.  Pile your powerblocks on them and drag or push it it down the hall.

The exercises you have listed are all good.  Do them too.


Offline dman

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Re: Best weightlifting routine to maximize caveman abilities?
« Reply #2 on: March 30, 2012, 07:42:24 AM »
If you have powerblocks, the exercises I would prioritize are:

DB Snatch
Turkish get ups
Farmers walk

Dragging stuff would be very good. You'll probably have to build something.  Just a rope, tied to an implement (maybe a rugged wodden box) with a piece of carpet on the bottom.  Pile your powerblocks on them and drag or push it it down the hall.

The exercises you have listed are all good.  Do them too.

Your suggestion of the farmer's walk is brilliant.  I think I'll do that instead of the deadlift.

Your suggestion of the dragging exercise is also brilliant.  Thank you.  My floor is carpeted, so I don't think I'd actually need to use a carpeted box, as you suggest.  And PowerBlocks should be perfect for this, since they don't roll like conventional dumbbells.  I think all I'd need would be an automobile towing rope threaded through a metal pipe.

A couple of questions about your other suggestions:

What caveman skill is the Turkish get up supposed to simulate?  I can't imagine a situation in which a caveman would have to lift something heavy from lying down.

Also, why would I want to do the snatch if I'm doing the clean and jerk?  Olympic weightlifters consistently lift more weight with the clean and jerk than with the snatch.  The weights end up in the same position.  Since my goal is to lift as much weight as high as possible, I don't see any point in snatching if I can lift more weight with the clean and jerk.  Of course, Olympic weightlifters use barbells instead of dumbbells, but I'm guessing that it's even easier to clean and jerk as opposed to snatching dumbbells when compared to barbells.  Why?  Because I'm guessing that it's more difficult to balance/stabilize dumbbells in the squat position while snatching as compared to barbells.  Racking dumbbells at the end of the clean presents its own challenges, as compared to barbells, but I still imagine that I could get more weight up that way than snatching.  What do you think?

Also, now that you gave me a good way to drag weights, I'm thinking of returning the bench and just dragging the weights instead.  When I think about the motion involved in pushing a boulder, the motion is in the legs, not the arms.  The arms are, for the most part, kept stationary, whether the elbows are bent or straight.  So dragging weights—with the arms beside or in front of the body—seems to approximate this motion much better than the bench press.  The only caveman skill I can imagine the bench press approximating is lifting your toddler for play while laying on your back, which may be fun, but doesn't seem to be nearly as practical as being able to push boulders :)

In addition, I've been thinking about climbing skills.  To climb a branch or top of a cliff, one needs not only to get one's chin above the branch/cliff edge, but also to pull oneself up onto the top of the branch or cliff edge.  So I'm thinking of mounting the chin-up bar only about half-way up my door frame, so I can pull myself all the way up, so that my arms are locked (and possibly even climb over it).  Does anyone know if this exercise has a formal name?

Finally, most real-world branches and cliffs are not as easy to grip as a pull-up bar.  Therefore, I'm thinking of mounting a pair of Metolius Rock Rings 3D Training Holds onto the bar to build finger strength as well.
« Last Edit: March 30, 2012, 09:46:23 AM by dman »

Offline stuward

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Re: Best weightlifting routine to maximize caveman abilities?
« Reply #3 on: March 30, 2012, 12:37:21 PM »
I generally try to get one of those exercises into every workout.  If I'm pressed for time, I pick 1 of those exercises and just do that.  These are what I call integrative exercises in that the integrate all the other movements.

DB snatch and turkish get ups are full body exercises that require your body to work together in a seamless motion.  I'm not disparaging C&J here, I just like these better.  The snatch is the fastest lift and is great for generating power.  The TGU requires stability and mobility throughout the body. If there is a weak area, you will find it.  They may not represent caveman like movements but if you can do these with substantial weight, you can be certain that you have functional strength.

Here are a couple of good articles on the DB snatch:
http://gubernatrix.co.uk/2007/11/one-arm-dumbbell-snatch/
http://www.staleytraining.com/articles/other/2009/one-arm-dumbell-snatch.htm

Here's the TGU.
http://robertsontrainingsystems.com/blog/turkish-get-ups-step-by-step/
Also, look for Gray Cook's video on youtube.


« Last Edit: March 30, 2012, 12:39:24 PM by stuward »

Destor

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Re: Best weightlifting routine to maximize caveman abilities?
« Reply #4 on: March 30, 2012, 12:54:51 PM »
Putting a lot of emphasis on emulating "caveman" movements is a bit much IMHO.  Focus on getting strong, developing a balanced physique and staying lean.


Offline dman

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Re: Best weightlifting routine to maximize caveman abilities?
« Reply #5 on: March 30, 2012, 05:27:28 PM »
Putting a lot of emphasis on emulating "caveman" movements is a bit much IMHO.  Focus on getting strong, developing a balanced physique and staying lean.

There are lots of ways to get strong, develop a balanced physique, and stay lean, I imagine.  I guess I just have an unusually high level of respect for evolution, and thus am interested in utilizing the lessons we can learn from evolution as much as possible (hence my participation in the caveman forum).

Also, if the Apocalypse ever comes, or I get stranded in the wilderness, I'd like to be as prepared to contend with boulders, logs, and carcasses as possible :)

Destor

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Re: Best weightlifting routine to maximize caveman abilities?
« Reply #6 on: March 30, 2012, 09:16:10 PM »
Despite this being the "Caveman" forum I haven't seen much on here in the way of lifting boulders and logs in hopes of emulating a prehistoric workout, at least not with beginners.  Functional strength developed via more conventional movements will translate to these anyways.  I'm also slightly skeptical that cavemen were ever physical specimens on the level you see today.  Some earlier hominids were likely much stronger due to basic neurological differences but I doubt many cavemen were walking around with massively hypertrophied muscles or able to squat 3x their bodyweight etc.  Perhaps I'm wrong...

What you've listed sounds awesome.  I'm just not sure if it's going to be as ideal as a gym full of equipment (a squat rack + heavy squats being a big component I'm seeing missing here) and variety when it comes to building the foundations of functional strength.  If that's just not feasible though, more power to you.

As I understand it, Olympic Weightlifting movements should also really be taught by a coach.  A DVD isn't going to cut it, and most of the good coaches I've seen will have the trainees doing thousands of reps with an empty bar while analyzing and tweaking form before adding weight.  Oly lifts are not to be trifled with especially as a beginner, the snatch and c&j are highly technical lifts that you can really injure yourself attempting.

Offline dman

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Re: Best weightlifting routine to maximize caveman abilities?
« Reply #7 on: March 30, 2012, 10:55:13 PM »
Despite this being the "Caveman" forum I haven't seen much on here in the way of lifting boulders and logs in hopes of emulating a prehistoric workout, at least not with beginners.

I suppose I'm more of a paleo purist/fanatic than most.  I currently subsist on a diet of 99% meat and fruit, so as you can see, I enjoy taking things to their extremes :)

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Functional strength developed via more conventional movements will translate to these anyways.
 

To some extent, I'm sure that's true.  But I can't imagine a better way to cultivate certain abilities than to practice those very abilities as closely as possible.


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I'm also slightly skeptical that cavemen were ever physical specimens on the level you see today.  Some earlier hominids were likely much stronger due to basic neurological differences but I doubt many cavemen were walking around with massively hypertrophied muscles or able to squat 3x their bodyweight etc.  Perhaps I'm wrong...

To me, that's beside the point.  I'm not going for looks or numbers here.  I'm going for practical strength—practical for caveman living (I was serious about preparing for the Apocalypse  or being stranded in the wilderness—really), which, I would argue, generally (but not always) translates to ideal health. :)

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What you've listed sounds awesome.

Thanks!

Quote
I'm just not sure if it's going to be as ideal as a gym full of equipment (a squat rack + heavy squats being a big component I'm seeing missing here) and variety when it comes to building the foundations of functional strength.  If that's just not feasible though, more power to you.

I know how highly esteemed squats are in the functional strength school of weightlifting.  However, I don't really see a great translation from squats to caveman skills.  Why would a caveman ever put a heavy thing on his shoulders, squat down, and then stand back up again?  Besides, the squat component of the clean and jerk, for example, strikes me as much more practical than a conventional squat.

As for variety, I'm all for variety, but only to the extent that it helps me cultivate practical skills.  I have trouble seeing, for example, how even the bench press or the bicep curl would translate into practical skills that the exercises I've listed here wouldn't already cover.

Quote
As I understand it, Olympic Weightlifting movements should also really be taught by a coach.  A DVD isn't going to cut it, and most of the good coaches I've seen will have the trainees doing thousands of reps with an empty bar while analyzing and tweaking form before adding weight.  Oly lifts are not to be trifled with especially as a beginner, the snatch and c&j are highly technical lifts that you can really injure yourself attempting.

I appreciate your concern.  Seriously, I do.  However, I'm not just planning to watch a DVD.  I'm also planning to read at least one 400-page book on the subject of Olympic lifting.  I already read Rippetoe's book on functional strength, a few years ago, and though I wouldn't call myself an expert on, for example, the clean and press, I got enough from the book that I'm able to do it (plus the deadlift, bench press, and squat) just fine without injury.  Call me presumptuous (I imagine you will), but I find that I tend to learn most things better on my own, anyway.  I have a black belt in Tae Kwon Do and used to compete and teach as well.  I learned a lot from coaches, but their advice often did more harm than good, and I learned at least as much on my own as I learned from them.  If I have problems, injuries, or feel I'm in over my head, I'll certainly seek out a professional coach for help, but in the meantime, I'm looking forward to experimenting on my own.  Also, I could be wrong, but I get the sense that dumbbells are generally safer than barbells: no danger of dropping a bar on your head or shoulders, and dumbbells seem much more likely to fall to one's side if dropped.

Offline Warren Dew

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Re: Best weightlifting routine to maximize caveman abilities?
« Reply #8 on: March 30, 2012, 11:49:10 PM »
I'd note that measurements on homo erectus and neanderthal bone cross sections and muscle attachment points suggest that they were at least as athletic as modern atheletes, so I suspect they could squat 3x body weight.  6x body weight, maybe not.

As for loading stuff on someone's shoulders, I could definitely imagine a hunting team loading a carcass on the strongest member's shoulders so he could carry it back to camp.

Offline stuward

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Re: Best weightlifting routine to maximize caveman abilities?
« Reply #9 on: March 31, 2012, 04:39:46 AM »
Dman, trust your own instincts on this.  I think you're on the right path.  You are absolutely right that you will get a lot of benefit from DB C&J and snatch and you don't need professional coaching to do these.   You will get most of the benefit even if it may no help your performance in the next Olympics.  It's about movement, stabilty, mobility and stamina.  Unless you're attempting to become a powerlifter/bodybuilder/weightlifter/strongman you don't need to train like one, but their methods are tools that you can use to achieve your aims.  Take the best and leave the rest.  A good attitude and an open mind are your best assets.

If you want to explore the concept further, look into MovNat.  http://movnat.com/ A podcast is coming up with Robb Wolf.

I love this picture:

Will you be ready when you need to be?
« Last Edit: March 31, 2012, 04:50:54 AM by stuward »

Destor

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Re: Best weightlifting routine to maximize caveman abilities?
« Reply #10 on: March 31, 2012, 07:56:28 AM »
I'd note that measurements on homo erectus and neanderthal bone cross sections and muscle attachment points suggest that they were at least as athletic as modern atheletes, so I suspect they could squat 3x body weight.  6x body weight, maybe not.

As for loading stuff on someone's shoulders, I could definitely imagine a hunting team loading a carcass on the strongest member's shoulders so he could carry it back to camp.

6x bodyweight isn't even possible for a person of normal height/weight...  Can you link me some research regarding the muscular development of homo erectus?

Edit:  Actually, never mind.  I'm starting to realize how little the views on this forum align with my own and am going to bow out of this forum completely.  Good luck with your quest to build more strength!
« Last Edit: March 31, 2012, 08:09:35 AM by Destor »

Offline dman

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Re: Best weightlifting routine to maximize caveman abilities?
« Reply #11 on: March 31, 2012, 08:46:10 AM »
Dman, trust your own instincts on this.  I think you're on the right path.  You are absolutely right that you will get a lot of benefit from DB C&J and snatch and you don't need professional coaching to do these.   You will get most of the benefit even if it may no help your performance in the next Olympics.  It's about movement, stabilty, mobility and stamina.  Unless you're attempting to become a powerlifter/bodybuilder/weightlifter/strongman you don't need to train like one, but their methods are tools that you can use to achieve your aims.  Take the best and leave the rest.  A good attitude and an open mind are your best assets.

Thanks for your support, Stuward.  I appreciate it.  I've actually been reading about strongman competitions.  It seems that the strongman approach is pretty similar to what I'm interested in here.  I'm light years away from being able to compete in a strongman competition, and I'm not really interested in competition anyway, but watching strong men carry big rocks is certainly inspiring to me :)

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If you want to explore the concept further, look into MovNat.  http://movnat.com/ A podcast is coming up with Robb Wolf.

Thanks.  I just checked out the website and watched a video.  A lot of the movements look very natural.  Some, ironically, look quite unnatural, and seem to have no relation to the movements of our ancestors, but that's probably only 5% of the movements, and the other 95% look good.

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I love this picture:

Will you be ready when you need to be?

That is an awesome picture.  Thanks for sharing it.

Offline dman

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Re: Best weightlifting routine to maximize caveman abilities?
« Reply #12 on: March 31, 2012, 08:54:05 AM »
As for loading stuff on someone's shoulders, I could definitely imagine a hunting team loading a carcass on the strongest member's shoulders so he could carry it back to camp.

Good point.  That said, I wonder whether there's an exercise that better approximates carrying a carcass on one's shoulders than the squat.  The upwards movement of the squat does strike me as quite natural, but the downward movement of the squat always felt very unnatural to me—like the human body isn't really designed for it—and I have trouble seeing how the downward movement of the squat relates to any major ancestral skills.  The upward movement of the squat is already incorporated into the clean and jerk, to some extent, so I'm hoping that will be adequate.  I suppose that, eventually, I might want to invest in some sand bags and try walking around with them on my shoulders, unless someone has a better idea about how to approximate shoulder-carcass-carrying with weights :)

Offline dman

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Re: Best weightlifting routine to maximize caveman abilities?
« Reply #13 on: March 31, 2012, 08:56:57 AM »
Edit:  Actually, never mind.  I'm starting to realize how little the views on this forum align with my own and am going to bow out of this forum completely.  Good luck with your quest to build more strength!

I hope I didn't scare you off by disagreeing with some of your points, Destor.  Sorry to see you go!

Offline el cogollero

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Re: Best weightlifting routine to maximize caveman abilities?
« Reply #14 on: March 31, 2012, 09:31:55 AM »
I suppose that, eventually, I might want to invest in some sand bags and try walking around with them on my shoulders, unless someone has a better idea about how to approximate shoulder-carcass-carrying with weights :)

or get work as a builder's labourer.... I've got a builder working on my house at the moment and I'm doing the donkey work for him - saves me money and I get a workout.