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Purposeful Primitive Book Review

Always appreciative of those who read and get the Marty Gallagher's Purposeful Primitive. Below is a review by Kevin Gulliver sent to Dated February 13, 2019.  Please feel free to leave any comments on your experience reading the Purposeful Primitive.

Dear Mr. Gallagher,

I recently finished reading The Purposeful Primitive.  As a student of the humanities and a health and fitness dilettante, I felt impelled to capture the force of this inspiration in writing. I want to express my appreciation to you for opening the doors to the annals of the history of powerlifting to the common person. Your approach to sports psychology is is unique and comprehensive. I applaud the consummate artistry that you have delivered your teachings and expect to study them for years to come.

With Gratitude,

Kevin Gulliver

For the breadth of the history provided, the specificity of detail of its subject matter, and the efficacy that the fundamentals of training are instilled to the uninitiated, Marty Gallagher’s The Purposeful Primitive is the powerlifting equivalent of Dr. Timothy Noakes’s Lore of Running. The same myth-making methodology that inspired the recreational jogger to try their hand at interval training after introduction to the exploits of Emil Zapotek, and spurred denizens of the weekend 5k onto the grueling path of the marathon compliments Yiannis Kouros’s example is at in the “Iron Masters” portion of this book.

The ascetic discipline of the “Iron Monk” Dorian “The Diesel” Yates; the purity of heart of the Furnas brothers, the inner peace and wisdom cultivated by bodybuilding forefather Bill Pearl, the grit and precision of Ed Coan and Kirk Karwoski. In the pursuit of athletic glory, these men came to embody distinct virtues that represent the high point of character in civilization: self-sacrifice, prudence, loyalty, resilience. These “Hero’s Journeys” will undoubtedly capture the hearts and minds of countless fitness novitiates.

The tales of redemption, determination, transformation, and on occasion, tragedy are physical allegories capturing the arc the human spirit travels in its efforts of self-overcoming. In the first instance, as the soul seeks to transcend the material constraints imposed upon it by the laws of physics and the legacy of evolution; subsequently, the effort made manifest in the spiritual realm as the project to surpass the limitations placed upon the soul by society and culture. The work of the Iron Masters is both a protest against materialism and an act of refusal—a wholesale rejection of the path of least resistance as a historical trend running through the annals of civilization and the complacency of the status quo as a norm governing human societies.

The Purposeful Primitive emerges at an uncanny chronological juncture. This book combines elements of Classicism and Romanticism. Gallagher insists in his Purposeful Primitive manifesto that the book is a harkening back. And it is. This is the work’s Classical aspect. The Purposeful Primitive reaches back to the channel the strength and capture the glory of the primordial father, the King Alpha, the Ur-Chief—a quintessentially Classical gesture. Here we find feats of strength enshrined in the highest tiers of the social hierarchy, symbolized by the archetype of the Warrior King. Samson and Goliath, Hector and Odysseus—all held high court.

The Purposeful Primitive also contains a forward looking promise, a faith in what Ernst Bloch called the “not-yet-become.” This is the Romantic strain.  In contrast to the Primitive Patriarch, the unique path pursued by each of the Iron Masters is thoroughly subjective, totally individual, and ultimately existential. From all cultural backgrounds and social classes—neither constrained by genetics nor upbringing—each master comes into his own, in large part, through a sheer and prolonged act of will. The Iron Master shares a strong kinship with Nietzsche’s Zarathustra, Frankenstein’s Monster,  and  Goethe’s Faust, and would readily quote Coleridge who in “Dejection” sought  “Haply by abstruse research to steal/From my own nature all the natural man.” Yes: The Purposeful Primitive falls squarely within the tradition of Romanticism. 

Like a good Classicist, Gallagher fondly quotes Plato’s formula for beauty as symmetry plus proportion. This is beauty classically defined as the imitation of archetypal form. The spirit of physical transformation Gallagher emphasizes with equal force requires a contemporary counterpoint such is found in Post-Structuralist Gilles Deleuze’s claim that “We do not know what are bodies are capable.” That is to say, the transcendence of all pre-established forms, patterns, and definitions in the accomplishment of the hitherto unimaginable—Romanticism at its finest.

Considerations of aesthetic influence and cultural import aside, The Purposeful Primitive is above all else an allegory for what Eastern traditions of philosophy have designated “The Way”; this, made articulate through the triumphs and tribulations required by the practice of resistance training. Archery has historically been the discipline of choice to accompany the spiritual apparatus of Zen practitioners, but Gallagher points the way to iron induced Samadhi. We come to learn that accomplished feats of strength are only valuable insofar as the same focus, concentration, and discipline that allow for a record lift can be applied to the tasks, conflicts and challenges of everyday life. Gallagher quotes Krishnamurti’s counsel to him to “Carry this [flow state, enlightenment, Samadhi, etc. experienced during training] into to day to day life.” Training is thus integrative and holistic. The purposeful primitive transcends mind-body dualisms in good Spinozist fashion by placing the mind in the body and the body in the mind. Accomplishments in one realm are contingent upon and compound gains on those attained in the other.

While this review has focused on the more literary aspects of Gallagher’s enterprise, there is no denying the work’s merit as a blueprint for physical transformation. The three pillars of strength training, cardiovascular exercise, and nutrition are introduced with an admirable depth and clarity. Gallagher defines the principle of “Creeping Incrementalism” and staggers progress for his readers by providing beginner, intermediate, and advanced periodization programs that integrate the three pillars. The options for attaining optimal fitness as outlined in the book are vast. The possibilities for experimentation made available by the vast sweep of the various modalities ensures that those committed to physical transformation will remain engaged, excited, and enthusiastic in their training.

As in all great works of literature, The Purposeful Primitive instigates introspection into the inner reaches of the soul. Nietzsche claimed that if you look long enough into an abyss, the abyss will start looking into you. The same can be said of any great work of literature: the ability of a work to transform any one individual is contingent upon the intensity and focus that person brings to comprehending its meaning and applying its insights. Primitive Prophet, Gallagher has sown the seeds of physical transformation in each person’s heart, whether the wisdom is squandered on paths of stone or reaped in abundance in fertile fields falls to the conscience of each individual who has learned the good news.

Check out the link below to learn more!

Life Force

Life Force Personified – The Benefits of Strength Training

Marty Gallagher’s lifting career has spanned over 50 years.  He is a testament to a life long commitment to the benefits of strength training.  He started lifting weights when he was 12 years old studying Strength and Health magazines for training routines.  His dad purchased him a rickety weight set and set it up in the basement.  By the time he was 17 he won his first National title in Olympic lifting.

Marty grew up watching and learning from the Worlds best lifters of the day creating a foundation for the basic functional strength training strategies that he espouses and represents today.  His early training strengthened not only his muscles but his ligaments and tendons as well.  This formative training established a solid structure that made his body stronger and more resistant to injury.

As he evolved in his lifting and coaching he discovered the universal truth that these basic functional strength training strategies can help both the average and elite trainee to gain strength and become more injury resistant.  He has proven this theory over and over again with trainees that range from the morbidly obese to the elite spec ops community.  At 67 years old he continues to challenge himself physically understanding that as we age we must fight the tide of physical degradation.

Marty Gallagher is life force personified.  See video of barbell squats – 255 x 10 – 67 years old.

Life Force

Extend Your Life Force – The Benefits of Strength Training

Our modern society has become increasingly more sedentary. With this evolution average people have lost connection with their bodies. The benefits of strength training are to increase muscle mass which in turn increases the metabolism and overall vitality. The dilemma is obtaining important bio-motor attributes of strength, speed, endurance, agility and flexibility without having to devote an inordinate amount of time to obtaining strength and stamina.

We have a transformative template that includes progressive resistance training, cardiovascular conditioning, nutritional awareness and psychological fortitude. Progressive resistance builds and strengthens the body's guide wire system. Cardiovascular training improves stamina and endurance. Nutritional awareness helps to support the muscle building process. Psychological fortitude is the willpower it takes to stay connected to strength training goals. This comprehensive approach is designed to fundamentally transform the human body while simultaneously improving human performance by strengthening the body's guide wire system.

benefits of strength training

Intensity Is the Force Multiplier

Time is our most precious commodity. We all understand the need to be strong, fit, lean, capable and healthy – but who has the time to spend ten hours a week in the gym? Exercise takes time and time is precious. Optimally we seek maximum training bang for minimal time investment.

The degree of pure physical effort needed to trigger the adaptive response dictates that training sessions need to be short. It isn’t a choice, it’s a reality: train as hard as we recommend and sessions are short because they have to be. Our system utilizes two separate training modalities: resistance training and cardiovascular training. In both exercise disciplines we are exercise minimalists and champion a strategy of doing fewer things better but doing them more intensely. We narrow the exercise selections and narrow our focus.

Our approach to training is purposefully minimalistic. Short, extremely intense and highly focused training sessions are done in such a way that there is no degradation of results. The force multiplier is training intensity. What makes the short sessions effective is the amount of intensity, the degree of pure physical effort exerted, generated during these short sessions.

The Transformative Template

Progressive resistance training has many benefits. It builds functional, usable muscle that equates to more raw strength allowing strength to be maintained late into life. This means that we can retard the detrimental degradation of aging and retain function and mobility far later into life if diligient in our practice. The use of full range-of-motion movements strengthens tendons, ligaments and muscle insertion points to make the trainee more injury resistant and thickens and strengthens bone, fighting osteoporosis.

Cardiovascular conditioning improves and increases stamina, endurance, vitality and favorably alters body composition. We need train our “internal plumbing” with the same regularity and intensity we use to train our external musculature. Targeted training of these internal muscles strengthens and improves their functionality while increasing organ capacities and capabilities. To obtain results from our cardiovascular training efforts sessions need generate a degree of pure physical effort sufficient enough to trigger the adaptive response: only when the adaptive response is triggered do we reap any physiological benefit.

Nutritional awareness supports the physcial recovery and building processes of the body. Our goal is to establish critical thinking as it relates to nutrition. Our approach puts the science back into eating and relates a collective consensus of nutritional modes and methods used by professional athletes, elite spec ops, MMA fighters and competitive bodybuilders to accelerate workout recovery and muscular growth.

Psychological fortitude is the sustained psyche used to artificially induce the "fight or flight" response.  By subjecting the body to intense physical effort a trainee can trigger the "fight or flight" response. The body awakens in order to cope with the severity of the training effort. This state can be achieved with astounding regularity using high intensity progressive resistance and cardiovascular training.

Practical Programming

The competent programmer creates training regimens designed to increase power and strength and stamina while preventing or rehabilitating injury. The first duty of the able and facile programmer is to determine the trainees exact needs. After absorbing the facts, data and idiosyncratic differentiations, the programmer constructs a training template, one that will enable the trainee to morph from what they are into what the seek to become. We do so incrementally and methodically; “creeping incremental-ism” deposits the athlete at the predetermined goal at the end of the allotted periodized timeframe – essentially transformed.

No one trains, diets, performs cardio or goes to the trouble to plan and periodize in order to stay the same: we train because we want to improve our physique and we want to improve our performance. One sure-fire way to improve performance is to improve the body. When we become stronger with increased stamina, when we are leaner and more muscular, performance in any and all athletic benchmarks automatically improves. When we look at the individual athlete, there are questions that need to be posed….

  What is the goal?
  Is that goal realistic?
  How much time do we have?
 What needs to be maintained, improved or corrected?

All elite athletes periodize: periodization sets goals into a timeframe then works backwards to a starting point. The periodized athlete ‘reverse engineers’ a plan based on the intended result and the amount of time allotted. To understand periodization we start by quantifying time….

  Macrocycle is the overall length of the periodized cycle.
  Mesocycle is for a single month.
  Microcycle is for a week.

The most basic form of periodization is linear periodization. The classical linear periodization model is a 12-week macrocycle that contains three, four-week mesocycles and twelve one-week microcycles. Categories are created and placed in vertical columns. Each week has replanned performance goals for exercises. Periodization tactics need not be confined to weight training.  In a nutshell, the way to periodize or “cycle” any lift is as follows….
  • Create a realistic goal
  • Establish a realistic timeframe
  • Reverse engineer: work backwards with a calendar
  • Place realistic goals within a specified timeframe
  • Work backwards to establish weekly benchmarks
  • Every 3-4 weeks alter the variables in anticipation of stagnation
  • When instituting changes, make change dramatic, not minor
  • Synergy = Longevity

    The synergy of these individual components creates human longevity. Our population is living longer and wanting a better quality of life later in life. Challenging ourselves to push against the tide of aging is the answer to improved functionality and happiness!

    About Functional Strength

    The goal of this site is to share with trainees tried and proven modes and methods, techniques and tactics passed along to us by our world champion mentors. These signature techniques were used by the very best in the World to become stronger and leaner and can help trainees to exercise critical thinking as it relates to physical training, nutrition and the subtle psychological aspects of the transformative process.  We have expropriated the methods used by these greats and utilize this information to transform clients all over the World. 

    Strength & Power

    Athletes new to our system routinely make verifiable strength and power gains of 20-50% in 90 days. This dramatic degree of strength and power increase is the norm, not the exception. Our system is time-compressed & minimalistic stressing training intensity over training volume. Because the degree of effort is so intense, maximal results, i.e. strength and muscle, can be attained with far less training. 

    Injury Resistance

    Hardcore power training is optimal for injury proofing the human body. Our strength training strategy has the additional benefit of dramatically reducing injuries. Hardcore strength training strengthens and thickens tendons and ligaments. Muscle insertion points become far more resistant to tearing and ripping. These techniques eliminate gaps of weakness by working muscles maximally over a full range-of-motion. 


    Strengthening the human body factually retards the aging process. The continued use of intense minimalistic strength training enables the retention of muscle function and power late into life. Strength is the last athletic attribute an athlete loses as they age.  Using our system can increase power & performance deep into your 40s, 50s & beyond maintaining the strength of a fit teen into your 70s.

    The exciting thing about our methods is that this system can transform anyone whether an elite or average person with a minimal amount of time commitment. These signature techniques increase raw strength and power to a significant degree in a relatively short time-frame. When enacted with the requisite intensity and exactitude, this simplistic yet sophisticated system of strength is without rival. When physical capabilities and capacities are improved trainees become more resistant to injury and retain function as they age. Our protocols provide increased strength and vitality while strengthening the human guide wire system in such a way as to reduce and prevent injury.

    By improving the five bio-motor benchmarks of strength, speed, endurance, agility and flexibility the trainee is made stronger, fitter and more capable, regardless the task. The dilemma is obtaining these important bio-motor attributes without having to devote an inordinate amount of time to obtaining strength and stamina. Is it possible to create a time-compressed fitness template that fits fitness into hectic lifestyles? Are there time-compressed strength training templates that deliver uncompromising results? The answer is YES!

    Cut Through The Training Confusion!

    Join Marty Gallagher's Purposefully Primitive Community!

    Learn how to create a Transformative Plan using our FREE Step-by-Step Training Guide. This E-Course gives you the tools to create your own personalized Transformative Template whether a new or experienced trainee merging your progressive resistance, cardio and nutrition goals!

    Purposeful Primitive
    Power Couple

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    Marty Gallagher and Stacy Gallagher were married in 1999 and moved to rural Waynesboro, PA. Marty walked away from his full-time job as a COO of a  major political fundraising firm to become a full-time writer and trainer. She left her position as an executive working for Arthur Andersen two years later to homeschool her learning disabled/hearing impaired daughter.

    The Gallagher’s home has been a rural destination for world champion athletes, elite tier 1 military spec ops fighters and many of the world’s leading fitness experts and authorities. They have been immersed in a monk-like fitness lifestyle for over 20 years focusing on the tools of what they call the transformative template.  Together the duo pursue what Gallagher labels, “The Tao of Fitness.”