I look at lifting weights and exercising the same way I look at my diet, I do what makes sense.
It doesn’t make sense to eat exactly like a caveman, but rather to mimic their habits and eat natural foods as they would have back in the day.
In a similar fashion, a paleo workout doesn’t mean you have to jump over rocks or climb trees to get the “perfect” exercise. When it comes down to science, the “perfect” workout is the one that will create an adaptive response in regards to cellular repair.
Understand Your Workout
The perfect workout is the equivalent of a perfectly even wrestling match where the wrestlers gave 100% effort. By working out to the point of muscular fatigue, your body is tricked into thinking you literally almost died. Think about it, if you were in a fight with a bear, and you struggled to the point where you couldn't move your muscles anymore, you obviously barely survived that encounter.
Your body responds to this extreme stressor by rebuilding your muscles even stronger so that the next time a bear comes around you will win the fight with less effort and damage taken.
The key to the perfect workout is putting as much stress on the body as possible while allowing enough time to properly recover.
Obviously, exercise is the best way to not only build muscle and burn fat, but also increase your cardiovascular health. This is because your cells require oxygen for energy, and when you restrict oxygen from your cells (like jogging), they must work harder in order to produce enough output and that’s why you lose weight. This is your aerobic metabolism doing what it does best and what’s commonly referred to as “cardio”.
Super-Charge Your Workout
In reality, your aerobic metabolism relies on the anaerobic system in order to spin and provide energy. When lifting weights with high intensity, the anaerobic system pumps faster and creates more energy than the aerobic cycle can use for energy and this keeps your cells pumping for hours after your workout ends.
After understanding the importance of anaerobic activity, or weight lifting, it’s important to be able to design a workout that will build the most muscle as possible. After all, more muscle = less fat. When you have more muscle than fat, the nutrients you eat have more parking spots in your muscle cells as oppose to fat cells.
Creating a workout plan that will go along with your paleo-style diet is easy – all you have to do is follow the easy template provided below.
Your Paleo workout should focus on 2 major movements; pushing and pulling (and twist for your core). If you think about it, every movement you can possibly make falls under one of these categories. Focusing on those movements also makes it easier to design your workout. You have upper/lower pressing and upper/lower pulling days or a mixture – you can even mess around with horizontal and vertical push/pull days.
Each workout you perform should contain at least one of the big 4 movements – or a close variation. The big 4 are compound exercises meaning they work multiple muscles at once, as oppose to isolation and assistance movements.
The big 4 are of course; the Squat, Press (Overhead), Deadlift, and a Pull Movement (Chin/Pull-up or Rowing Variation).
These exercises are very taxing on the body and your workouts will be build around them.
Simple Paleo-Style Workout Template
2. Blood Pump
3. Compound Movement
4. Assistance Work (2-5 Exercises)
5. Conditioning (if necessary)
The blood pump is to warm up the muscles that you'll be using for your compound lift. This pre-fatigue will require you take some weight off the bar for the big lift, it's safer and you'll get a better squeeze anyway. You'll also be stretched properly and warmed up. You haven't lived until you squat after a hard 4 sets of leg curls!
Conditioning will only be done for one of two reasons; either to increase appetite for muscle gain or when focusing on fat loss. Do not go overboard with the cardio, your six-pack will come with a clean, paleo-style diet.
At this point, you’re probably getting bored and want to see what a solid workout looks like.
Well here it is, with a emphasis on the Chest muscles.
T Push-ups, lunge/twists, leg swings, etc.
An elevated, fast walk on the treadmill is also a great warm up. Should last 5-10 minutes.
This time should be used to visualize and start thinking about which muscles you are about to start firing.
The video to the right demonstrates the T push-ups. Weights are not needed for the warm up.
Incline Dumbbell Press – 3x8-10
2-3 warms up sets.
Pick a weight that you can get a hard 8-10 but without grinding. You are not going to failure here.
Pause at the top and get a good squeeze.
Don't rush the set!
Overhead Press – 4x6 or 6x4.
Superset with band pull-overs (link to video and cable)
Advanced lifters; superset with DB shrugs after each set. Go for 10 reps or so
The video to the right demonstrates how to overhead press by the King of the Press; Jim Wendler AKA the Beast!
Machine Press. 1 set of hard 10 (no grinding). On 2nd set, Increase weight by 10% or so and go for 8-10 reps. Right before failure, drop some weight and go for another 8-10. The second set should be hellish.
Cable Fly. 2 x 8-10. Slow and steady, squeezing you’re chest the entire time. On the 3rd and final set, do a double drop-set to annihilate your muscles. To be clear, on the 3rd set you will do another hard set of 8-10, drop weight for another 8, and finally drop a little more weight and go to failure. At this point, you will want to go home.
Prowler Push – 4 Laps (down and back) 20-40 yards depending on conditioning.
Pushing the sled is a great way to increase the workload of your workout without developing a lot of fatigue.
While it's a lot of fun, after a few passes you'll be huffing for more air! These are also great for calve work and can be used for pulling movements with rope or TRX bands.
Workouts like these are taxing on the muscles and take longer to repair. A good workout schedule could look something like this;
Monday - Upper Body Pressing/Pulling
Tuesday - Lower Body Pressing
Wednesday - **Light Ab Work at home
Thursday - Upper Body Pressing/Pulling
Friday - Lower Body Pressing
Saturday - Off
Sunday - Off
Other workouts suggest working the muscles two or even three times each week, but the volume for each workout would be less.
Time to Build Your Own Program
The difference is that while you might be able to 600 calories on a 45 minute run, this anaerobic workout will keep your metabolism jacked up for hours after your workout ends, ultimately burning more calories but also building muscle!
Running will help you lose weight, sure, but what about your muscles? The paleo diet is priming your muscles for nutrient absorption – take advantage!