Primal Essential Movements Workout (PEM)

by Helen Marshall

One of the main things I hear is that people don’t have the time to workout. With Primal Essential Movements Workout, this excuse is no longer valid!

What if you could do a workout that covered your FULL BODY and it only took TEN MINUTES!! You could do that right? I know you could!!  No fancy Lycra required, or full makeup.  I usually do these workouts in my PJs.

One of the liberating things about Primal fitness is that you can achieve maximum results in minimum time. Moving Primally gives you the strength and fitness you are looking for, without the exhaustion, hunger and burn out often associated with ‘chronic cardio’.

Primal fitness is based on three things:

  • Moving frequently at a slow pace
  • Lifting Heavy Things
  • Sprinting once in a while

If you think about our hunter-gatherer ancestors lifestyles, this is what they would have done.  We know that the clues to optimal gene expression are found in evolution (that means our ancestors were ripped, lean, fit, lived long and dropped dead – a far cry from society today).

This email is focusing on Lift Heavy Things (i.e. YOU!) which described in another way is ‘strength training’.  Primal Essential Movements Workout uses functional strength movements – exercises that use many muscles at the same time for efforts that have broad, real-world application.

This way we get to achieve and maintain maximum strength in minimal time.  The short bursts of workout time make doing strength training doable and sustainable.

There are four Primal Essential Movements (PEM).

  • Push-ups
  • Pull-ups
  • Squats
  • Planks

I am going to give you a brief description and illustration of each PEM, the progressions up to and beyond the baseline PEM.

All of the information here is all you need to build a personalised total body strength workout, whether you are super fit or just starting out – how cool and empowering is that?


  • 20 Pushups
  • 5 Pull-ups (overhand grip)
  • 50 Squats (thighs parallel to the ground)
  • Plank: 2 minutes holding forearm/feet position

These mastery levels represent one set of maximum effort.  If you fall short of any of these benchmarks, drop down to the appropriate progression exercise to build up your strength for a future attempt at reaching master numbers.


Primal Essential Movements Workout_Push-ups Baseline


Plank position, arms extended, shoulder width, hands forward.  Lower chest to the ground. Keep body straight, core and glutes tight, head and neck in line with the torso.  Elbows bend back at a 45-degree angle.

Primal Essential Movements Workout Push-ups finishing

Baseline Push Ups finishing position. Do 20.

Intermediate variation:

Incline Push up – Do Push-ups with hands resting on a bench, chair or other object elevated from the ground.  Do 25.

Advanced variation: 

If you can nail 20 Baseline push-ups do decline push ups with feet resting on a bench, chair or other object elevated from the ground.  Do as many reps as possible in one go.

Primal Essential Movements Workout Knee Push-up

Easiest – Knee Push-up:

Do push-ups on the ground, but assuming a plank position on your knees.

Lower your chest to the ground and push up again.

Primal Essential Movements Workout knee Push-up finishing

Knee Push Up Finishing Position.

Do 30.


Primal Essential Movements Workout Pull-ups

Easiest – Chair Assisted Pullup:

Start with your leg loosely positioned on a support chair underneath the pull-up bar.  Engage your upper body muscles and use just enough leg force to assist getting your chin over the bar.  You probably only need to use one leg (as pictured) but can use two if necessary.  Do 15.

We have a pull-up bar but you can do these on a door frame, on a kitchen table, on kids play equipment…anywhere you can pull yourself up.

Primal Essential Movements Workout pull-ups intermediate

Intermediate – Chin Up (not pictured).

Many find the chin up to be slightly easier than the pull-up, particularly if you have wrist, elbow or shoulder issues. Do 4.

Baseline Pullups – overhand grip

Elbows tight, chin tucked, shoulder blades in.  Lead with the chest up keeping the lower body still.  Raise your chin over the bar and gradually lower all the way down until your arms are straight. Do 5.


Primal Essential Movements Workout squats start

Baseline Squats:

Feet shoulder width apart, toes pointing forward, sit back as if you were going to sit in a chair, then stand back up again.  Make sure your knees stay behind your toes.

Primal Essential Movements Workout squats contd

Squats continued.

Do 50.

Easier Option – Assisted Squat

Hold a pole or support object while lowering and raising up from the squat position.  Use support object as little as possible.


Primal Essential Movements Workout plank easiest

Easiest – Forearm/Knee Plank:

Tense your core and glutes whilst holding this position.  Hold for 2 mins.

Primal Essential Movements Workout plank intermediate

Intermediate – Hand/Feet Plank:

Get into plank position as if you were about to do a push-up.  Hold for 2 mins.

Primal Essential Movements Workout plank baseline

Baseline – Forearm/Toes Plank:

Elbows on the ground, aligned with your shoulders.  Rise onto toes, keep the body in one line, don’t let bum drop.  Hold for 2 mins.  If you get bored bust out a side plank either side in-between!

Primal Essential Movements Workout done



A short Primal Essential Movements workout would be one round of each movement and a FULL Primal Essential Movements workout is two rounds.

How do you feel today?  Go with the flow…feeling energised? Go for it!!  How long did it take you? I would love to know!

Love, H xx

Ready to take it to the next level?  I am available for 1:1 Coaching sessions starting at $220 or maybe you would like to join my membership program Wellness Sistas for year round support.

Primal Essential Movements Workout_logo

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.