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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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November 15, 2010

WOW: Explosion Complex

By Mark Sisson
16 Comments

5 cycles of:

10 Russian Lunges (5 each leg)
8 Explosive Clapping Pushups
5 Explosive Pullups
5 Weight Tosses

How-to:

Warmup: 30 second Grok Squat, 10 straight leg swings (each leg, each direction: forward/back/lateral).

In today’s elite athletes, explosive power makes the difference. Running sprints, either as the main event or in a basketball or football game, requires power. A successful shot put is a hip-centric power move. A devastating uppercut only devastates if there’s significant power behind it. But these men and women fusing strength and speed together aren’t doing anything new; the capacity for explosiveness is millions of years old. It’s encoded in all of our DNA. You don’t have to be an elite athlete to focus on both strength and speed.

Today’s WOW is all about explosiveness. You’ll be moving weight (be it bodyweight, or supplementary weight held in your hands or strapped to your back) as quickly and cleanly as possible. Think throwing a spear to make the kill. Think heaving the carcass up to your shoulder. You don’t do that slowly and laboriously, do you?

When you do the Russian lunges (VIDEO), it’s important to keep your torso vertical. Don’t lean forward when you land; this will put too much shearing stress on your knees. Keep the weight on your heels and explode through them. Your quads will get a great workout as is, but consciously thinking about pushing through the heels will also engage your glutes and hamstrings (the all-important posterior chain which figures prominently in explosive moves). This is a good thing.

When you toss the rock, I recommend holding the weight between your legs like a kettlebell (heck, you could even use a kettlebell) and using a powerful hip extension to launch it. Keep the weight on your heels, keep a tight torso, keep a slight bend in the knees, and keep your arms straight – you aren’t throwing with the arms or the shoulders. It’s all in the hips. You could throw it forward or backward over your head, but the source of the power remains the same.

For the explosive pullups, throw yourself up off the bar at the top of each rep. If you can’t do an explosive pullup, perform jumping pullups and use the upward momentum to carry you over the bar. Since jumping pullups force you to break up the set into singles, do eight reps instead of five to make up for the added rest.

If you can’t do clapping pushups, switch to the knees. The important thing is that you generate power.

If you decide to add weight, be careful. You want to struggle and push yourself, but you do not want your form to suffer. And when you’re doing explosive movements like these, the room for error is reduced. Pick a weight that makes you strain and grunt and dig deep. It could be bodyweight for some, could be a railroad tie for others. The point is making the effort using whatever means you have at your disposal, geared toward your individual capacity.

Variations:

Break up the cycle and keep the exercises separate. This will make the workout longer, but you’ll be able to focus on the individual movements and potentially generate even more power. If you go this route, you’ll probably be in a better place to add weight to the movements. If you want to try this but you’re unfamiliar with the exercises, I’d recommend doing a couple cycles at bodyweight to get a feel for them first.

If you can’t do an explosive pullups, pushups or lunges substitute movements from Levels 1-3 of Primal Blueprint Fitness Lift Heavy Things (chapter 3).

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 WOWsreplace 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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16 Comments on "WOW: Explosion Complex"

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JB
JB
5 years 10 months ago

With the Russian lunges it one lunge the jump part or the bounce part?

Robert
5 years 10 months ago

Sounds awesome, another indoor workout is great as we got our first snow flurries this weekend. thanks Mark

Brash
5 years 10 months ago

i agree this If you decide to add weight, be careful. You want to struggle and push yourself, but you do not want your form to suffer

Jaques
Jaques
5 years 10 months ago

cool, but how many times per week? If more than 2, it is over training.

Jeff
5 years 10 months ago

Is there a point to the bouncing (in the russian squat video) besides preparation and balance?

jacques devore
5 years 10 months ago
The science behind explosive/ballastic exercises is based on the stretch/shortening of the muscle. When you do an explosive exercise the eccentric load is increased and the opposing muscle used in the exercise is stretched and then the resulting power in the concentric phase is increased. Hence the bouncing. If you are just starting these exercises you can adjust the angle of the exercise to reduce the intensity. Ex. exploive push ups on a bench instead of flat reduce the amount of intensity. You could go as far as doing them against a wall and have minimal intensity. If you want… Read more »
Nathan
5 years 10 months ago

Bouncing will make you more athletic by teaching your body to instantly react and apply explosive force.

This is a smart workout. When I used to do Thai Boxing we did a lot of drills like this and it is a great way to build both strength and speed.

Dawn
5 years 10 months ago

After reading that – I now feel totally inadequate! I’m still doing push-ups from my knees!

Still, I haven’t done push-ups for years so it is progress.

Lars1000
5 years 10 months ago

Hmm, can’t throw weights at the office gym, but am thinking of subbing something for that. Looking forward to doing this!

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[…] WOW: Explosion Complex […]

sandyravage
sandyravage
5 years 10 months ago

what’s the rest period between each cycle?

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[…] trying to take down a rival city-state here, but it uses deliberate, labored movement followed by explosiveness to great […]

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[…] trying to take down a rival city-state here, but it uses deliberate, labored movement followed by explosiveness to great […]

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[…] Try complexes. Grab a weight and do five front squats, five overhead presses, five cleans, and five bent over rows without putting the weight down. That’s one complex. Do five more. Here’s another type of complex. […]

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