Athletic development specialists dedicated to the art and science of excellence in movement

Primal Move Fundamentals Course Review

Recently I had the opportunity to attend the Primal Move Fundamentals instructor workshop, taught by national instructor Paul Daniels (SFG Team Leader) and hosted by Danny Sawaya at Evolution Fitness here in Tucson.  With many others I highly respect having gotten involved in the system, I could not pass up the opportunity to learn with the course visiting locally. 

What is Primal Move? “Primal Move is an integrated movement system, where the goal is to create better movement, based on the primal and primitive movements we all once mastered as children.”

First, is this is a “doing” course.  There is time for lecture and explanation, but the foundation of this course is learning by doing.  And it is only fitting the course is presented this way, as that is how the young child learns movement…by doing (not watching on TV or getting lectured)!

That said, the course manuals and supporting videos are outstanding.  When you sign up for the course, you not only sign up for the course itself, you also gain over 135 pages of high quality manual and over an hour of video.  Not many systems offer this type of support, that’s for sure!

It becomes readily apparent throughout the day that the Primal Move system has many similarities to other highly regarded movement approaches…

FMS influence is quite clear, as each of the seven patterns is addressed through basic movement progressions.  In fact, the inclusion is quite seamless as you hardly get the feel of anything being “corrective.”

The most obvious parallel to SFG or RKC schools is with the Turkish getup, which takes the student from lying on the ground through standing just a young child uprights itself.  However, the similarities do not end there, as elements of the swing, squat, press, clean, and snatch are sprinkled throughout.    

The same strategies the young child uses to upright himself/herself and explore the world are the same strategies high level performers use to lift heavy things and run really fast.         

The similarity to DNS probably receives the most curiosity of all.  Ultimately, these are based on the exact same principles of developmental kinesiology, but simply delivered in different ways for different purposes.  

One way to explain Primal Move is within the “language” of movement.  A goal of Primal Move is to cultivate a broad movement vocabulary.  Whereas spoken language uses words and sounds to communicate, physical activity is another form of expression.  The same nervous system that controls language also controls physical movement.  

Think of a child learning to speak.  They learn sounds, words, sentences, then coordinate into meaningful language.  Primal Move does the same with physical expression, rather than verbal.

Each layer of movement builds upon on each other, though not in a strict linear fashion.  It should be no surprise that one visual aid to describe the Primal Movement system is the Tree of Growth, both literally (we gradually move vertical in development) but also figuratively (a tree serves as a flow chart to depict the interrelationships of the component exercises).  

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As a practitioner, the ability to expand your competencies along a movement continuum with complementary systems cannot be overstated.  Primal Move fills a gap between a competency approach to exercise and a capacity-based approach to exercise. 

Play is undoubtedly a major feature of Primal Move.  One common question is how does this differ from merely sending people out to play randomly?  Primal Move offers technical standards but without being overly restrictive.  It’s a delicate balance between too much and too little control, but the system achieves an effective balance.  Everyone begins with basics but has opportunities to advance.  That said, the basic movements are hardly sterile or boring, as there is plenty of fun to be had no matter your level!  Primal Move demands quality form but without intruding on spontaneity and freedom.  

For sport development, Primal Move is very complementary to the system at the Titleist Performance Institute Junior Performance Center in golf (not surprisingly, both are based on the work of Istvan Bayli).   

Though hand position is not covered in the same detail as in DNS, it is obvious that hand placement is crucial, both to exploit the sensory antennae of the hands, but also to encourage optimal upper extremity mechanics.  

Primal Move exploits different learning strategies.  For example, we had no verbal cues in the first workout of the day.  Mimicking is one of the first ways the child learns.  Naturally you don’t get everything right at the first time, but neither does the young child exploring something new.  Few would disagree that our young athletes are overcoached and lack spontaneous play.  Primal Move helps athletes of all ages reconnect the visual and motor systems.

Even teaching is used as a learning strategy, as the mimicking games require both a leader and a follower.

Guided discovery is a common theme….Give people ways to figure out the right answer, rather than giving them the answer directly.  This creates a more potent learning effect.  

Laughter….when the games begin, everyone starts laughing immediately… you know you are doing something right there!

To anyone who says “oh this is just silly play…I’m too good for that!”….you will find muscles that you didn’t realized could be sore and tired!

Primal Move does require a conceptual shift for many people.  Yes it is OK to train below max capacity. Yes it is OK to not have objective performance goals sometimes.  Ultimately, it is liberating to train skills and games, and deemphasize objective outputs.       

This is a highly versatile system: can be strength, conditioning, regeneration, movement literacy, corrective

Improvisation (mostly introduced at advanced levels, but still a part of the learning process and often overlooked).  There is no “right” or “wrong” progression, but the flow is naturally based on what each person can physically do.  

You appreciate how learning to fall and roll can be protective.  Fall prevention is a common topic in rehabilitation, and collision is a major consideration in collision sports.  But learning how to fall and land gracefully is an often overlooked skill.  Basic Primal Move skills lay the foundation for safe interaction with the ground!  

One way to view Primal Move: Sanitized parkour for mortals.

The course helps reconnect with my musical background.  The concept of the “flow state” resonates throughout the entire course, both in person and in the materials.  At its best, Primal Move is like a movement “jam session”.  Even a scripted primal move session is like a musical performance.  Ultimate goal is to move beyond the “notes on the page” and create something expressive.

Autonomous movement.  Everything comes back to autonomous movement, whether baby who progresses through developmental milestones automatically, to the elite performer who can’t get bogged down with technical thought, to the patient who just wants to move freely again.  Everything is rooted in movement autonomy.

Primal Move cares not just about the exercises themselves and doing them with technical proficiency.  HOW they are done matters too….Different tempos, loudness, softness, are all options.  Doing an exercise verryyyy slooowwww and doing it at a fast tempo serve different purposes.  Because these are bodyweight maneuvers and generally quite safe, you can experiment with these variations with low risk of injury.  However, these are also good options to have outside the Primal Move setting.  Again goes back to music/arts…notes on the page don’t change but different tempos, volumes, and articulation are common strategies to improve musical performance.     


I can’t say enough positive things about this course and the Primal Move system.  Primal Move is a wonderful complement to many realms from training and can even be an entire workout.  We look forward to continued learning as what we’ve covered thus far only scratches the potential!  


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