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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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January 24, 2011

WOW: The Phalanx

By Mark Sisson

Complete 10 cycles of:

50 Meter Walking Lunge with Spear Thrust
25 Meter Sprint


Warmup: Walk to the battlefield. Carry your equipment if you’re using any.

We can probably thank the ancient Hellenistic hoplite armies for coming up with the phalanx (although there’s evidence similar formations were used in Egypt and Sumeria), and Alexander the Great for perfecting its usage on the battlefield, but I think reader Jenn deserves credit for making it relevant again. She recently wrote in with a conceptual WOW drawing on the movement and function of the phalanx – so, thanks Jenn!

The phalanx presented a single, unified front to its opponents, a rectangle of interlocking (almost seamless) shields studded with spears. It moved deliberately and, until the last few paces, slowly in order to maintain the formation’s integrity and cohesion. The phalanx would speed things up at the end to hit the enemy with immense force, hopefully to throw the opposing phalanx (it was usually phalanx versus phalanx) into disarray. Today’s WOW isn’t an exact mirror of the classic phalanx, and we aren’t trying to take down a rival city-state here, but it uses deliberate, labored movement followed by explosiveness to great effect.

You know how to do regular walking lunges, right? Leading leg hits at least a 90 degree angle so the thigh is parallel with the floor, weight is on heel, torso is upright, back knee barely grazing floor, push through the heel to bring yourself up and over to the other leg. Easy enough to grasp. Today, we’re throwing in a little wrinkle: the spear thrust. You can do these two-handed Macedonian style (Alexander’s phalanx utilized heavy spears that required two hands) or single arm, but either way you’re thrusting from the same side as the back leg. So if your left leg leads, you thrust from the right side. Squeeze your glutes, push from the heel, and use your entire body to generate the thrust. Make sure to keep your torso tight and engaged; it will get quite a workout.

Once you’ve completed your last walking lunge, sprint with your equipment in hand and on your body! There’s no rest allowed (until after the sprint). This is war, and you’ve got to hit them on their heels. Take a good minute or two in between cycles, though, or even a bit longer if you need it. The focus should be on completing each cycle at full intensity, which necessitates enough rest in between each one.

Cool down: Victory dance (you did win, right?), walk home with your gear to a spit-roasted lamb celebration feast.


Real phalanxes used heavy spears and armor and big shields, which remain effective if not particularly realistic options for today’s workout. Even if you’re a LARPer or Ren Faire enthusiast and have plate mail and halberds at your disposal, I’d stick with something safer to replicate the spear and armor: broomsticks and light backpacks for beginners, weighted sticks and backpacks filled with water bottles for intermediates, sledgehammers and weighted vests or backpacks filled with rocks for the advanced. Even if you use just a two-pound stick that offers little to no resistance, the dynamic twisting and balance required for thrusting will make it worthwhile.

You can structure the workout in a slightly different manner. Instead of taking adequate rest in between cycles to allow maximum intensity/speed, you can minimize rest to focus on metabolic conditioning. It will make for a more unpleasant experience and I only recommend this to people with a decent baseline of fitness.

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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13 Comments on "WOW: The Phalanx"


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6 years 3 months ago

This is gonna be awesome!! Let’s see if I can get some friends to join me – all the more fun! 🙂 Thanks Mark!

6 years 3 months ago

Well, I’m not going to get any weird looks in the park today… Now where’s my sledge…

6 years 3 months ago

Robert, I’ll come up there just to give you dirty looks if it will make it feel more like a normal workout! lol

6 years 3 months ago

Ha, Ha you can give me dirty looks any day! Cause I know you’ll be right behind me doing the same thing.
This does actually sound fun in my typical field I work out in. The foot or more of snow will make the sprints look more like I am trying not to fall.
Lazy zoo humans be damned! A Grok’s gotta play!

6 years 3 months ago

I always wondered why my avatar never showed when it does for Carson above?
Gravatar make caveman mad!

6 years 2 months ago

yeah, whats up with that? threw me off…

6 years 3 months ago

Seriously tho, very awesome inspiration for a workout!

6 years 3 months ago

This movement is going to be awesome right now. We’ve got 3 feet of snow on the ground. Time to bundle up in my heavy boots and snowsuit. We will call this modification, “Eskimo Polar Bear Hunt”

6 years 3 months ago

I usually do a LHT and a Sprint on the same day(finish the strength WOW or LHT and then do a sprint). Would this WOW cover both, in your opinion? Also, is the spear thrust done from the full lunge position or do you step up out of the lunge as you thrust? In other words, lunge then thrust or is it lunge while thrusting?

Brian Kozmo
6 years 3 months ago

I don’t see how being a part of Greek civilization and going to war is primal.. Story would have been better with using spear to chase some animal.

Richard Gay
Richard Gay
6 years 3 months ago

Mark, it would be great to see a video of this WOW.

5 years 8 months ago

Phalanx training = training like a Spartan!
Though apparently the real historical ones ate mostly beans and as I’ve heard elsewhere, granola.

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3 years 10 months ago

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