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Full Range of Motion Exercise: Part 2

By Stephanie Vuolo, B.A.
November 18, 2014
Full Range of Motion Exercise: Part 2 image

Did you miss Full Range of Motion: Part 1? Read it HERE

In part one, we discussed how critical it is to perform multi-joint, functional movements that mimic the physical requirements of our hunter-gatherer ancestors. Functional movements increase and preserve both joint mobility and flexibility, and support strong muscles and overall physical fitness. Even though our modern lifestyle doesn’t demand the same, we shouldn’t shy away from regularly engaging in the three basic functional patterns typical of the Paleolithic man.

Contrary to popular belief, while exercising for an hour a day is good for our health,1 it doesn’t make up for being sedentary the rest of the time. We need to resist our natural urge to conserve energy to avoid the metabolic and long-term health consequences of too much sitting and not enough physical exertion.2 Get started by incorporating three basic movements, even when you aren’t in the gym.

Get squatting

Imagine what your life would be like if you didn’t have any furniture. You would be sitting cross-legged or kneeling to take a break from standing. If we look to cultures outside of western society, we see individuals spending hours squatting in their day-to-day activities, especially when first world amenities are not available.3 Characteristically, the squat is considered a comfortable resting position.4

Let’s put it into practice. See how long you can rest, with a straight back and your feet on the ground in a squat position. Then begin to squat for various intervals through the day. In the privacy of your own office while you’re on a conference call? Squat. Playing with your kiddo? Squat.

Pick up heavy things

Dead lifting is the practice of picking something heavy off the ground to a full standing position. It’s widely accepted by strength coaches as one of the top exercises to develop total body strength, including the hip and knee extensors, spinal erectors, quadratus lumborum, core abdominals, as well as the back and forearm muscles.5 Hunter-gathers didn’t have baby strollers, grocery carts, or more complex equipment like forklifts to move and lift the heaviest objects. All things were moved by manpower.6

Challenge your body by picking up heavy things regularly. Keep a traditional weight, like a kettlebell, next to your desk to use throughout the day. Make a conscious effort to lift other objects that you come across, like the extra-large bag of dog food. My favorite thing to pick up repeatedly? My toddler! The laughs alone are worth it.

Carry heavy loads

Anthropologists estimate that the typical hunter-gatherer mother carried her child until about age 4, covering upwards of 4,800 km with the child in her arms over this period of time.7

Moreover, our ancestors carried heavy loads to transport drinking water, killed game, and bundles of gathered foods.8 Now these activities seem to physically demanding for modern day. Carrying heavy backpacks has been attributed to nonspecific back pain in over 50% of teenagers by the time they are 16 years old.The solution isn’t to avoid carrying heavy things, but rather to learn how to do so safely by gradually building the necessary total body strength.

If you’re a hiker, snowshoe, or cross country ski, load a couple of extra water bottles in your backpack. If it gets too heavy you can simply empty the water. As you gain strength and endurance, add a couple rocks or weights. For everyday activities, carry two grocery baskets while shopping and if you’re child is walking, leave the stroller at home and opt instead to hold them if they get too tired.


[1] Fletcher, Gerald F., et al. "Statement on exercise: Benefits and recommendations for physical activity programs for all Americans a statement for health professionals by the committee on exercise and cardiac rehabilitation of the council on clinical cardiology, American heart association." Circulation 94.4 (1996): 857-862.

[2] Katzmarzyk, Peter T., et al. "Sitting time and mortality from all causes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer." Med Sci Sports Exerc 41.5 (2009): 998-1005.

[3] Done, What Is To Be. "Using a Squat Toilet: Aging in a Developing Country." Journal of gerontological nursing 39.7 (2013): 2-3.

[4] Hewes, Gordon W. "World Distribution of Certain Postural Habits*." American Anthropologist 57.2 (1955): 231-244.

[5] Bird, Stephen, and Benjamin Barrington-Higgs. "Exploring the deadlift." Strength & Conditioning Journal 32.2 (2010): 46-51.

[6] O'Keefe, James H., et al. "Exercise like a hunter-gatherer: a prescription for organic physical fitness." Progress in cardiovascular diseases 53.6 (2011): 471-479.

[7] Panter-Brick, C. Sexual division of labor: energetic and evolutionary scenarios. Am J Hum Biol. 2002; 14: 627–640.

[8] Cordain, L. and Friel, J. The Paleo Diet for Athletes: A Nutritional Formula for Peak Athletic Performance. Rodale Books, New York; 2005

[9] Sheir-Neiss, Geraldine I., et al. "The association of backpack use and back pain in adolescents." Spine 28.9 (2003): 922-930.

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