Laird Hamilton's Primal Workout

Credit: Photograph by Peter Bohler

Exercise doesn't have to be complicated. Simply focusing on everyday actions — pushing, pulling, squatting, bending, lunging, and rotating — is a time-tested way to get in great shape, fast. I think of those six movements as primal human motions, and I've found a certain joy in ditching elaborate routines and fancy gear, and basing my training around them instead. Hit all six and you'll boost flexibility, work every major muscle group, and strengthen the muscles that surround and protect the joints. Most important, you'll be reinforcing the motions that you do every day, not just working isolated muscles. Plus you can do them anywhere. Here are three of my go-to plans.

On the Road
This equipment-free routine provides a combo of strength and cardio. Perform each of the following six movements for one minute, notching as many reps as you can with good form, and immediately moving to the next exercise: push-ups, pull­-ups, jumping squats, good mornings (stand with hands behind head, knees soft, and slowly hinge forward at waist, keeping back flat as you push hips back until your hamstrings engage, then stand back up), walking lunges, and bicycle crunches. Rest one minute, and repeat the circuit two more times.


At the Gym
Perform 10 perfect reps of each of the following exercises, resting as needed between moves: Barbell overhead presses, dumbbell bent-over rows, goblet squats (hold a dumbbell at your chest, and squat as low as you can), kettlebell swings, step-ups to a box, and Russian twists. (Sit with knees bent, feet off the floor and hold a weighted ball at your chest. Tap it on the floor at one side of your hip, then the other.) Do the circuit three times.

If You've Got Only Five Minutes
Do the bear crawl. It combines the push, pull, squat, bend, lunge, and rotation together, and is one of my favorite primal exercises. Crouch on all fours, hips high, and neck neutral. Walk your hands and feet forward. Keep it up for 30 seconds, take a quick breather, and repeat for five minutes. When I want a quick burn, a few bear-crawl laps around my pool is all it takes.