You know what kills me?  When we get shocked about overweight people, injured athletes, or when I hear about another study trying to figure out why we aren’t living as long. I'll be the first to state that there is way more we don’t understand, than what we do about the human body. But, let’s not make it so complex that things sitting right under our noses seem so mysterious.

I believe that if we look at training and health through an "evolutionary lens," we can get an instant perspective of where we're at as a species, and where we're going if we don’t straighten out most of our “anti-human” behavior.


It all starts with a simple rule of mine.

Spit in the face of Mother Nature and something bad is bound to happen.


There are things you are currently doing that you're just not designed for. Keep it up and problems are going to happen.

I know what you want. You want to increase your muscle mass, be a badass athlete, get lean, or score with more members of the opposite sex. I know this because you're human. Everyone has those "desires" to "take over the tribe by force and spread your genes." It's in your DNA. We've all been designed to think this way. Unfortunately, as you will see from this article, our current generation is doing almost everything in its power to counteract these urges (as evidenced by the fact most of us are not ripped, jacked and chick magnets).  And as you'll see, besides not meeting our immediate desires, it just might be killing us.

Interesting? Well, if you're one of the few that still want the strong body and attractive mate, the easiest way to get any of these is to hop in your time-traveling Delorean, go back to the right date, and choose your parents wisely. I say this because the current group of parents may just be wiping out our future.

Today parents tell their kids to eat everything on their plate, drink all of their juice, stop running around and to put on shoes before they sit down to play their video games. And often, instead of forcing adaptations that we're designed to have, we create crutches like clothes, medicine, shoes and calculators that make our lives easier, but make us physically and mentally soft. Call me environmentally conscious, but when I hear an overweight mom or dad tell their equally overweight kid to clean their plate, I only want to clean their clock. To kill two birds with one stone, a good way to do this would be to take a copy of Charles Darwin's work over the top of their ever-softening dome.


This year is the 200th anniversary of Darwin’s birth and 150th of the first edition of his landmark book, On the Origin of Species. You may know Darwin's main theory: that species will evolve through genetic variation and natural selection.

What he meant is that there will be a number of different presentations of a species, so that there will be the best chance of a species' survival in any environment. The ones best suited for survival make it, while the others are weeded out. Translation: If you are as tough as nails, you get to eat. If you get to eat, you get the chicks. If you get the chicks, your genes (and the genetic variations that led to the favorable traits that got you the food and girl) get passed on. Also known as: Survival of the Fittest.

I like Darwin’s work, not only because it's provocative, but also because his concept of natural selection is applied in so many industries today (like business and science). My goal is to apply it to training and the human body. Then, I'll explain in evolutionary terms a lot of things that we see today that we are missing or just making way too complicated.

So, let’s take a step back and use the old concept of evolution to create a new revolution about our training, diet and future.


How Do You Feel About Evolution?


Before I go any further, I must say I never want to offend anyone's beliefs. Evolution is still a racy topic and in its teaching in certain school systems across the US, some see it as undermining religion. I don't want that in any way to be the focus of this article. That's not my belief and definitely not my intention.

If this is a topic you haven't thought much about, however, I will say that the more you ignore the information and stay spellbound, the more trouble you'll be in.


What I'd like to do is reach a consensus by asking a few questions:

  • Can we agree that humans have been on this planet for a long time? The fossil record goes back two to five million years.
  • Can we agree that the appendix is a suspected organ that's now dormant? You can take it out and not have problems. What was it for?
  • Can we agree there is a fight or flight response? This ancient protective mechanism is now causing new evolutionary problems like Road Rage, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and more...
  • Can we agree that the reproductive cycle in women is getting longer and the sperm count in men shrinking?  If you didn't know it, they are…GULP!
  • Can we agree that cancer rates, obesity, diabetes, heart disease and infertility are at an all-time high? We are also passing genes for these problems on to our children.

If we can start to agree on these things, it shows us something very interesting: we're changing from what we were. These statements above and the prediction that our pinky toe will eventually evolve away is what I call contemporary evolution. If you're into the caveman diet, eat/train “Paleo,” or think it might just be true that “grass fed” meat instead of hormones loaded is healthier, maybe you're into this idea more than you think!

So, if we can agree that the last handful of years demonstrate that evolution is taking place, let's have some fun with it. Go way back and try to come up with an explanation as to why we may be doing ourselves more harm than good when it comes to our training and diet.


Human Development and Exercise


The brain essentially developed while working out. Research shows activity is essential to brain development and learning. A million years ago we were on the move approximately 6 - 10 miles per day. That's how we were designed and where we learn best. We had to remember what was trying to kill us. When hunting and moving, we needed to remember how to hunt again and also what not to do again. These are pitfalls like quicksand, bad berries, etc. I find it funny how we ignore our senses today and poison ourselves, just because there are a bunch of zeros on the label.

A big brain and its ability to remember things separates us from all od the other species on the planet. To remember is to survive. We have forgotten all the things we're supposed to do, like eat right, exercise, etc. We've also forgotten how to listen to our bodies. Perhaps our brain has gotten too big and now we're weeding ourselves out. To find these humans suffering from evolution amnesia, just go to your local supermarket. Anyone of these zombies that you see solely roaming the inner isles of the store hunting for the next bag of cocoa crappies or sugar coated poison crisps is your target.

When you put an animal in zoo, give it a steady stream of food without the necessity of exercise, three things happen:

1. It goes nuts.

2. It stops reproducing.

3. It gets fat.

In a way, it might be nature's way of making sure that animal doesn't live on. Well, we're in the zoo and since there aren't any bars, we just don't know it. But we do know all three problems are starting to plague us. Just sit in an airport for a few hours and "people watch" to see just how shallow the gene pool is actually getting.

Are We Making Athletes Worse?


Now I know people train hard. Why else would you be on this site? But here's something we never really stop to consider: are we making ourselves worse through certain types of training?

I think we are.

In some cases, I think the human species hasn't evolved fast enough for the stress we're currently trying to endure.

Sports - and most exercise for that matter - are contrived. Let me say that again,  sports - and most exercise for that matter - are contrived. We did not evolve on it. Sports are the last 50-100 years out of 8 million. Most fitness “crazes” are even less. As a result, we aren't ready for a lot of it. Actually, almost all of the injuries that confuse many doctors today like ACL, concussions, sports hernias, patellofemorals, etc., could be confusing them because they - for the most part - never existed!

Let's cut the confusion, and give some easy explanations:

  • Concussion: The human head is not designed to speed at 30 to 90 mph and then come crashing into something head on...and it won’t be anytime soon that it will.
  • ACL: We were meant to run straight ahead, just faster than the other guy that gets eaten. Now sports need us to cut, land, rotate, pivot, etc...and ACL’s happen. That one is just not going away, it is getting worse!
  • Sports Hernia:  The most common sport to see this in is hockey. The common number of our ancestors that skated - none.  Enough said.


Overuse injuries? How about we rename these injuries “inhuman repetitious irritants.” Tennis elbow? Jumper’s Knee? Carpal Tunnel? Thrower’s Shoulder? Golfer’s Low Back? Yeah, I don’t think prehistoric men worried about that. He was more worried about something called Sabre Tooth Puncture.

According to the fact this generation will live less than their parents, we could make a case that we are De-evolving.  I think we're just naturally selecting ourselves out of things, but we don’t even know it. Darwin’s theory was that things who could not survive the conditions were weeded out. When new things were added to some species, they couldn't adapt.

I'm pretty sure it's going to be a long time before our ligaments are either very vascular, or so strong they don’t break. It will be a while before our skulls can handle full-collisions on the football field, and that kids are born with the motor program to skate instead of walk. Until then, the problems are going to continue to happen. We have more training than ever, more education than ever...and more injuries than ever. We're simply doing things we aren't designed for, and instead of protecting ourselves, or lessening the eventual injury, we actually increase both the chances and severity.

Need an example?


Let's say I take you and make your quads and glutes stronger, but neglect your adductors and abductors so they're not as strong. We've created an imbalance, which is potentially a problem. You weren't designed to have some muscles completely able to overpower other smaller muscles and take the force. You can now actually tear a muscle off.

So now I've made your primary movers bigger, but your stabilizers are still weak. Now I tell you to run as fast as you can, even though you're not built for slowing down because your ancestors for a million years never had this skill imprinted into their genetic code. You don't have a natural motor program for it because you didn’t have to score a touchdown or cut to make a layup a million years ago. Do you see how this could be disastrous? For the person not into the evolution idea, but is still reading for kicks, just think bigger engine, same car, no breaks. All sports demand a change of direction and slowing down, but we haven't been built for it.

This example shows only three things we have to understand about the human organism to make sure we don't hurt ourselves: deceleration, eccentric control and muscular balance. But, when's the last time you thought of any of those when you decided to do your squat workout?

By taking this evolutionary approach, we obtain a starting point to base everything else. So, just for fun, let's take a few other stabs in the dark to see what we can uncover.

Functional Assessment?


Yeah, these are the popular thing now. Let's face it, the biggest dysfunction is obesity. This results from bad eating and the biggest dysfunctional behavior: living a sedentary lifestyle. Put those together and you got fat people that are all tight in the same places. In my mind, as people’s weight goes up, both their flexibility and assessment “scores” are going to keep going down. And the problems will be in all the same spots. The solution is not to foam roll your fat ass for an hour and then whack down a 1,000 calorie latte/protein shake either. The solution is simpler than that. Get up, close the hole under your nose and start moving around…a lot.

Over the last 17 years, I've watched assessments continue to “evolve.” It all started for me in 1993, when I started learning orthopedic assessment at the Medical University of South Carolina.  We've moved from muscle to muscle during this period getting deeper into anatomy, but unfortunately further from a remedy. First it was the tight pecs, which affected the shoulder. Then we got deep into the rotator cuff and how important that is. Then, it was the psoas and hammies. Then we got fancy and noticed the lats and the subscapularis. Then it was lower traps. Now, tight ankles are the new big thing. Who knows, maybe next year we'll be back to the same tight pecs which will lead to the 2011 Rotator Cuff Revolution.

Come on guys, we sleep 7 - 8 hours a day. Now, in a soft bed with the feet plantar flexed under our fluffy covers, the ankles are going to lock up a bit. Now, that might be ok if we were active and maybe took our shoes off as you will see later, but we don’t walk or move the feet very much. Then, we put on our tight fashionable shoes with a heel lift and wonder what the problem is. The tight soleus and gastrocs put more pressure on the knee and low and behold - we have patello-femoral syndrome to go with our plantar fascitis. Another couple of classic nebulous things no one seems to really understand.

Then, when we aren’t in the bed because our knees and feet are killing us, we're sitting hunched over watching our de-evolution marvel: the TV. This leads to our tight psoas and hammies. We, as a species spend more time sitting than ever. The entire process, our body is molding into the positions we spend the most time in. Tight pecs, lats, ankles and hip flexors…yeah I think we got it.

Then, when we want high performance a few hours a week in a contrived sport we are surprised by the injury that was bound to happen. Hey, I'm all for Assessment, but only when there's real execution behind it. So until we change the causes, don’t look for easy solutions, look for changes in behavior. If you can’t help a person make changes there, then does it matter if they know what to do but don’t ever do what they know? And behavior brings us right back to evolution now doesn’t it?

Evolutionary Answers to Interesting Questions

Why can't athletes accelerate properly?


Behavioral evolution is an interesting concept. People are inherently afraid of things that used to cause them hard. Think of why kids are afraid of snakes and spiders. They may not do too much damage now. Really, how many deadly spiders do we see on a daily basis? But a few hundred thousand years ago, they could kill you. Same thing with falling down while sprinting.

Speaking of sprinting, while training the NFL combine guys, the hardest thing to get them to do is to accelerate. To truly accelerate you have to almost fall on your face. To really hit it perfect where your center of gravity is far in front of your base of support so you can use gravity to your advantage, you have to go way past your comfort zone.

So why wouldn't my guys accelerate properly? Because they were scared of falling. But what kind of sense does that make?

What's the worse that would happen? You'd fall, everyone else in the tribe would pass you and you'd get eaten. People have a big fear of falling. We weeded out the guys who fell on their faces. If you wanted to run to avoid being dinner, you'd have to be really tall to maintain speed and be careful not to fall.

But it doesn't work like that on the 40-yard dash. If my guy wants to make 8 million bucks, he has to learn how to detrain that 8-million-year-old response.

So what do I do? I have him fall on his face. Over and over.

It's the only way to teach the proper position. After they realize they won't get hurt or eaten by a tiger, we back off the falling part by just a hair, and teach them how to explode out of that starting point. That's how looking at evolution has helped me produce over 150 of the fastest - and sometimes richest - guys in the NFL.


Are your shoes making you soft and weak?


For years people have been calling me "the barefoot guy" since I've been preaching about shoe-less training at every seminar I give. My athletes do their speed training, mobility, stretching, and lower-body strength exercises barefoot.

Here's why.

Hammer toes? Achilles Tendonitis? Corns? Bunyons? Plantar fascitis? Yeah, take off your shoes.

When I was working solely as a physical therapist, one of the areas I could never make a great impact with people was their feet.

In therapy, if you had shoulder surgery I wouldn't just put you in a sling. First, I'd get the range of motion back, start building strength and make a physical change. But with a foot, conventional wisdom was to just put you in a softer and softer shoe until eventually you'd wear a boot and then move to crutches. That's in the reverse direction!

After some research, I learned that roughly 25 percent of all the joints in your body are in your feet. If you look at the bone structure and how it's designed it's almost identical to your hand. Your feet should actually be fantastic sensors and just as mobile and capable as your hands! The heel pads are designed to get thickened like the sole of the shoe. Yet the prehensile ability and durability of the feet in adults is almost gone since their feet have been shoved in shoes all their lives.

Just look at babies when they're born; their feet are mobile and able to grip stuff. But I've had first-round draft picks that couldn't even pick up a pencil with their feet! Too bad the first thing we do is get kids a pair of Air Jordan’s cause "it’s so cute" and then bronze them and hang them in pride when they grow out of them!

By having my patients and athletes take their shoes off and strengthen their feet, they regained balance and proprioception and their pains virtually disappeared. Now that their feet could move, they had less foot, ankle, knee, hip, lower-back and shoulder problems!

The more you take away the mobility of the foot by taping them up and putting them in further taped up shoes and cleats, that's where the injuries occur. You might as well cut to the chase and put some cement shoes on and be done with it. You're not born with shoes on. We've been convinced that it's the shoe on the foot instead of the foot in the shoe that makes the difference. I don’t agree.

Our feet are like two dead animals on the end of our legs we don't use. If we change that, I think we'll see better performance and a lot less injuries.

A few simple solutions: whenever you can take your shoes off, do it. Do the alphabet at night with your toes and ankles. Pick your socks up off the floor with your toes. Learn to use your feet again.

Why is sprinting such a great exercise?


Most guys aren't doing any speed work and it's a shame. Lifting weights and then sitting on the couch doesn't make you healthy. It makes you half a human being since you're missing a vital part: running.

Sprinting used to be mandatory.

A long time ago, if you couldn't sprint it meant you'd be the first one who got chowed down on. You were the slowest one in the herd and you'd get weeded out.

Not only does sprinting get your nervous system fired up, it also releases endorphins and growth hormone, and activates muscle fibers that would otherwise be dormant. That means triggering muscle growth and burning fat, all while doing something you were always intended to do! So, I believe the longer you go without performing this activity, the closer you get to the big "dirt nap." Hey, it's not nasty, it's nature.

Why don't your muscles get sore after every workout?


A million people can tell me about delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) but no one can tell me why it happens. Not even one of the top scientists who studies it.

As he understands it, DOMS is microscopic tearing in the muscle fibers when they undergo stress that creates an inflammatory response that stimulates protein synthesis to create rebuilding of the muscle.

Need an example? Let's say you haven't benched in a year. You head to the gym and crush your upper body with a ton of volume on the bench press. How do you feel the next day? Horrible, right? And a few days after that? Still a bit sore. Now let’s say you wait a few more days until you're not sore anymore and then do the exact same workout. Will you be as destroyed when you finish? Probably not. Why does that happen?


My theory is that a hundred thousand years ago, when seasons and activity levels changed, the body had to be able to adapt to stresses on the fly and then not make us suffer again with repeated bouts of exercise. DOMS is a built-in protective mechanism.

Could you imagine sprinting or climbing for food and being sore as hell the next day when you had to sprint again? What good would that do you if you could never recover and adapt? Your performance would be decreased and you wouldn't be able to hunt, or get away from predators every day.

I've also found that this protective mechanism lasts about two weeks. So, if you do something new with your body, you will be sore for a few days, but then protected against that stimulus for the next couple of weeks. Since you may not have had to hunt or fight every day a million years ago, it was an advantage to have this protection for a few weeks. Interestingly, upon trying to understand why it is two weeks, I researched that a human can’t go without food for much over two weeks, so maybe that was all the time we needed. Again, interesting look at why we are the way we are and respond the way we do.

Why is it hard to activate the glutes?


When was the last time your glutes and lats were as crushed after a workout? If it has been a while, evolution can possibly help to explain why. While in an interesting conversation with "the glute guy" Bret Contreras in California, about the glutes, I realized that perhaps the difficulty in activating the glutes was not just a function of biomechanics, but also metabolic demand.  What I mean is that the glutes are the biggest muscles in body. They require, therefore, the most energy once they are lit up, as well as tons of energy to recover once they are beat up. Those facts would predispose an evolutionary thinker to suggest that a million years ago these muscles would only activate in times of highest needs - like escaping an attack or fighting for one's life.  Interestingly, sprinting has been found to be an incredible way to activate the glutes. This would be the activity described above as needed for fight or flight.


Why are kids so fat?


Another shocker! The fastest growing age demographic for obesity are ages 2 - 5. Not really a shocker when you look at evolution. Also, kids that would eat anything a parent gave them from infancy to two years old develop a profound choosiness with food at ages 2 - 3. This evolved finickiness is because these are the precise ages that a prehistoric child became mobile and started foraging for themselves. If they didn’t stick with the familiar, they would die off faster. The problem is that today, the familiar food for a three year old is hotdogs, nuggets and ten times the calories they would have gotten in the past. This is why that demographic is the fastest growing in obesity in the world! Kids won’t clean their plate if you don’t make them. Talk about adding in an “anti-human” habitual behavior.


Why is juice the downfall of man?


Ok, not that kind of juice. I am talking fruit juice, but I'm glad I got your attention. For millions of years, we never took in any calories from the liquids we consumed. So essentially, we're not designed to get calories from liquids. This design also dictates that we shouldn't feel satiated from our liquids either. So, today we are guzzling thousands of empty calories that don't fill us up.  As a result of the increased calories, we don’t feel full, throw down a bunch of food and get fatter.

Another theory I have about the fattening of man is that the human thirst response is slow. I keep hearing this, but does anyone ask "why"?  Maybe cause it was so damn hard to get water a million years ago. Can you imagine if you were thirsty as hell back then? It would have driven a man nuts to the point he would be paralyzed. Today, however, we don't rely on any response.  We just pound down our choice of colored sugar water and pack on the pounds.

A final piece on obesity and kids is sleep. Every other species on the planet sleeps when they are tired. Not us! We fill our day to tire ourselves out starting at a young age, then stay up until late at night stressing about what we did during the day and the fact that we have to get up earlier than we would like to do it again! I think perhaps one of the biggest technological and human damaging tools is not the fridge, the tv or the cell phone - although they might not be helping either - but the alarm clock! Just 15 to 30 minutes of sleep less a day, not only hurts our ability to recover, but it's also now being linked with decreased IQ and obesity! Wake up an hour earlier - like most of our kids today - and think about that one. Oh wait, you can’t because your IQ will be reduced. I know, let’s send them to school instead…..





I hope everyone has enjoyed this “manifesto.” I guess I just needed to get some of these things off my chest. I'm sure there's even an evolutionary explanation for that, as well as tons of things I left out from this article that need to be covered. The most important thing I wanted to achieve was not just to entertain you, but to make you think. As we evolved, our ability to think and adapt allowed us to take over every part of the planet. Now, we need to get back in touch with this ability and question just what we're doing with ourselves.

I know that this article won’t prevent injury, but perhaps better understanding it can help lead to less incidences. I know that this article won’t stop the obesity epidemic, but maybe everyone will get a little more in touch with their “inner caveperson.” I know you might not work on your flexibility and start sprinting barefooted, but know that you should. I also know some people might have a problem with the topics covered, but that is why our skin was made able to thicken with use.

We all know the saying “an apple a day keeps the doctor away,” yet most of us might not have had an apple in a while. So, just like the topics I have stated about evolution, “What are the consequences if they're true and we don’t do anything about it?”

The future of mankind starts with you.