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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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May 09, 2011

WOW: Asymmetry

By Mark Sisson
16 Comments

Complete 5 cycles:

7 Single-Leg Crossbody Deadlifts (each leg)
20 Meter Single-Leg Hops (each leg)
50 Meter Single-Shoulder Weighted Carry (switch shoulders halfway through)
30-second Single-Arm/Leg Plank (each side)

How-to:

Warmup: 30 second Grok Squat, ten air squats, and lateral, forward, and backward leg swings (10 each leg).

Life is not a well-stocked weight room. It doesn’t hew to your specifications. It catches you off guard, and it rarely allows you enough advance warning to set up in the perfect position and take your sweet time. As such, it’s helpful to train for asymmetrical situations – when we can’t quite grasp the barbell with both hands, or perhaps when there’s no barbell at all.

Today, you’ll need some equipment, but not much: two reasonably heavy objects. One must be graspable with one hand and light enough to be single-leg deadlifted, while the other should be heavy enough so that, when it’s placed on one shoulder, you have to struggle to stay upright with a neutral spine. The first, single-hand object could be a dumbbell, a kettlebell, a weighted backpack, a big waterjug. Get creative here. The second object should be heavier, and the shape isn’t as important. This could be a railroad tie, a heavy kettlebell, a sandbag, a heavy bag, a big rock, or just about anything that you can support on one shoulder.

If you’ve never done deadlifts, let alone single leg deadlifts, just check out this fantastic video by Gray Cook, where he explains how to perform both a kettlebell deadlift and a single leg kettlebell deadlift. He gets to the single leg stuff about 2/3 of the way through. The movement boils down to keeping your spine neutral, keeping the weight close to your center of gravity the entire time, keeping the weight on your heel, using your off leg as a “kickstand,” and driving the hips forward by engaging your glute. This is a good movement, not just because it builds strength, but because it forces your body to resist collapsing to one side. You don’t have that other leg providing a stable, symmetrical base, so you have to work even harder from a compromised position – just like in life, right?

Single leg hops and single shoulder weighted carries don’t require explanation. They’re pretty basic. Just make sure you gather yourself in between hops. Make sure you’re balanced before hopping again. For the weighted carries, resist the impulse to sag over toward your offside. This doesn’t just put your spine into potentially stressful lateral flexion; it also means you’re resting on your vertebral joints, rather than resisting and getting stronger by filling the gaps with muscle.

For the single arm and leg planks, assume the normal plank position: forearms on the ground, elbows directly under your shoulders, toes on the ground, entire body tense, glutes engaged, neck neutral. Then, once you’re ready, raise your left leg off the ground and reach out as far as you can with your right arm so that it too is no longer touching the ground. Count to 30, and switch to the other arm and leg. Count to 30 again. Be sure to keep the lifted leg and straight (engage those glutes to help). Here’s a video to help you.

A few things to remember:

  • With asymmetrical exercises, a strong core is everything. You must keep tight and neutral, or else you’re missing the point. Now, staying neutral should be a real struggle, because that’s where the work gets done, but it shouldn’t be so hard that you fail.
  • When single leg hopping, land on the balls of your feet and then bring the rest of the foot down. Those heels are no good as initial shock absorbers. Don’t believe me? Try hopping just one inch and landing on your heels.
  • If you find your spine neutrality lapsing into blatant bias either way, drop the weight.

Variations:

Throw on a weighted vest for the hops and the planks.

What Are WOWs?

  • Workouts of the Week (WOWs) are an optional component of Primal Blueprint Fitness that add a fractal and often fun and playful quality to the basic PBF protocol.
  • In most cases WOWs should only be completed by those that have mastered Level 4 of each Lift Heavy Things Essential Movement. Also, it’s recommended that WOWs replace one or both Lift Heavy Things workouts or the Sprint workout (depending on the WOW) each week instead of being done in addition to the Lift Heavy Things and Sprint workouts.
  • Learn more about WOWs and Primal Blueprint Fitness by getting the free eBook. And access all Workouts of the Week in the WOW Archive.

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15 Comments on "WOW: Asymmetry"

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Nutritionator
5 years 6 months ago

I’d love to see a gym started that’s founded on primal principles like these. Grab something heavy, do something with it that’s hard a few times and repeat until you’re tired. Focusing on my core has made me a better everything, thanks for the tips!

Primal Toad
5 years 6 months ago

That’s a brilliant idea. CrossFit is great but…

Why not Primal Gyms? WOW’s can be a big part of it…

Peggy
5 years 6 months ago

And the gyms would be outdoor, and we’d lift those heavy things a few times barefoot…

Dualhammers
Dualhammers
5 years 6 months ago

It better be cheap, though. It’s dumb enough to pay $50 a month to go to a building where they have actual machines that took time and energy to build but if I had to pay $50 a month to lift some rocks or kettleballs at a park? Dumber still.

Gene
Gene
5 years 6 months ago

Build your own. What could be more primal?

Nutritionator
5 years 6 months ago

I’m a total DIY addict but there’s something about working out with other like minded individuals that’s so appealing and motivating which is why I still partake in trail races on the occasional weekend.

The startup cost might sting a little but not a whole lot of maintenance would be needed at a place where giant ropes and tires are the focal points of the workout. I can’t see a gym like that costing too much to maintain which would mean less dues needed from patrons…much less expensive than maintaining actual machinery.

Suzy Fabian
Suzy Fabian
5 years 6 months ago

check out anvilathletics.wordpress.com and spokaneprimal.com for that gym you were looking for and the food you need to live! Great reading and posts on both sites, even if you are not in the Spokane area!

PrettyPauline
5 years 6 months ago

*THANK YOU!* and I LOVE THIS!!!!

Harry
Harry
5 years 6 months ago

I remember watching a news segment about primal living, and it showed a gym in New York (I think) which was set up as a primal gym.

Katherine
Katherine
5 years 6 months ago

This one was harder than it looked! But the single leg dead lifts are good to add to the repertoire.

I looked like a complete doofus hauling a kettlebell over to the indoor track, but what are you going to do?

Gary Deagle
5 years 6 months ago

The single leg hops sound like nothing, but man do they wear you out!

Sexy Beast
5 years 6 months ago

I just did this one on an overcast, 50 degree day here in Nebraska, and I feel great! Sweat is dripping off me right now. Sorry ‘puter. I wake up every day feeling miserable and I have to do something like this to kickstart my body. I deadlifted with my toolbox and did the walks with railroad ties in my backyard. Good times. Now – wakey wakey, eggs and bakey!

Paleo Josh
5 years 6 months ago

Looks intense. Last week I did single body part maxes and Tabata. This week saving my energy for the south swell about to hit socal.

Mark
5 years 6 months ago

This is an awesome workout!

The single arm and single leg plank are very hard for me. I will keep on working on them.

Eddie
4 years 5 months ago

It’s a good workout, I like the cross body deadlifts.

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