10 Primal Plyos for the Upper Body

As a follow-up to last week’s 10 Primal Plyos to Make You Fitter, Faster, Stronger that focused on the lower body, we present 10 explosive exercises for your upper body. Thanks to reader dusty for the suggestion!

Plyo Push-ups:

Plyo Push-Ups

Animation via Sports Fitness Advisor

You’ll love this explosive twist on the classic push up. To do, assume standard push-up position, with feet together and hands under shoulders. Dip down as if doing a standard push up, but forcibly push yourself up so that your hands come up off the floor. Catch yourself with your hands and then go straight back down into the push up position.


As with all exercises, but specifically this one, if you have any type of shoulder injury, please do not do this exercise. Perform a headstand, resting the heels lightly against the wall with hands just slightly closer than shoulder-width apart. Bend your elbows slightly and then explode up into a headstand. Push feet off wall and on to floor and then reset into headstand.

Incline Push-up Depth Jump:

Push Up Depth Jump

Image from brianmac.co.uk

To perform this drill, you’ll need two mats or boxes, 3-4 inches thick, placed shoulder width apart and a 8-12 inch box to elevate your feet above your shoulders when in the push up position. With feet on box, assume the push up position between the mats, push off the ground and aim to land with one hand on each mat. Push off the mats and land in your starting position.

Overhead Throws:

For the following exercise, you will need a medicine ball weighted at no more than 5lbs. If you don’t have one readily available, a basketball or dodgeball is a good substitute.

Overhead Throws

Animation via Sports Fitness Advisor

Stand facing a wall – preferably with no windows or other breakable elements – with feet about hip width apart, one foot slightly in front of the other. Raise medicine ball over and behind the head and then forcefully throw it at the wall. Aim to catch the ball as it rebounds off the floor in front of the wall. Bring the ball back over the head and repeat.

Vertical Scoop Toss:

Stand in front of the wall, feet slightly wider than shoulder width apart and facing forward. Grasping medicine ball, scoop down so that ball comes between the knees and then forcefully throw the ball up and forward. Catch the ball as it rebounds off the floor in front of wall, draw back between the knees and repeat.

Side Throws:

Side Throws

Animation via Sports Fitness Advisor

Stand sideways to the wall, feet hip width apart with the leg closest to the wall approximately one foot in front of the other foot. Hold the medicine ball with both hands, arms slightly bent. Bring medicine ball back towards hip farthest from the wall and forcefully throw the ball towards the wall using an underhand toss. For maximum force, engage your core by keeping your stomach muscles pulled in. Catch the ball as it rebounds off the floor in front of the wall, draw back to the hip and repeat.


Stand with feet shoulder width apart, feet parallel and knees slightly bent. Pull the medicine ball back behind your head and then forcefully throw down on to the floor. Aim to catch the ball as it rebounds up from the floor and then pull back over the head and repeat.

Medicine Ball Punch:

Stand in a fighting position. With your back hand holding a small medicine ball throw an explosive straight punch. At the end of the punch release the medicine against a punching bag or wall. Catch the ball and repeat.

Squat Throws:

Squat Throw

Image from NSCA.com

This one throws some lower body into the mix as well and is similar to the Vertical Scoop Toss above. Again, stand with feet hip width apart, feet parallel and facing forward. Hold medicine ball at chest level and then squat down until upper thighs are parallel to the floor. Explode up and jump as high as you can while simultaneously throwing the ball as high as you can over your head. When completing this exercise, aim to minimize the amount of time spent in the squat position so that it takes on a more fluid, constant motion

Explosive Start Throws:

Explosive Start Throws

Stand with feet shoulder width apart in a semi-squat position with your hands atop the medicine ball resting on the floor. Shift your weight to your legs, bring medicine ball up to your chest, and forcefully throw it. After the ball has been released, sprint forward a few steps. Retrieve the ball, crouch down again and repeat.

Animation via Sports Fitness Advisor

Share your favorite explosive upper body workouts in the comment boards!

Further Reading:

10 Ways to “Get Primal”

Extreme Exercise

15 Minute Workout

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18 thoughts on “10 Primal Plyos for the Upper Body”

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  1. The Vertical Scoop Toss reminds of me kettlebell swings.

    Explosiveness is important for every day life. My little 30 pound dog was attacked yesterday by a 80 pound dog. I essentially scooped the attacking dog up until my dog was safe inside. Not sure if it was the “PC” thing to do, but glad I had the ability in real life to save my dog.

  2. The explosive start throws looks like something that would be great for an athlete looking to increase speed and explosive “first step” stuff. And wall ups are just insane. I would like to see a post from anyone on here that can do these wall ups

  3. I once tried to do a wall up and darn near popped my wrists off. I would not suggest doing these in the house because it leaves shoe-scrape marks on the wall.

    As for the explosive medicine ball stuff. Seems like many of these exercises could be achieved all at once by playing an hour of basketball.

  4. I am not in the greatest shape and I have no trouble doing wall-ups. Don’t get me wrong. They ain’t easy, but not as difficult as you guys are making them out to be. I suppose it has a lot to do with how much you weigh. This is a cool list. I am going to be throwing a couple into my workout tonight to give em a try. Thanks!

  5. A caution on the slam balls. Many medicine balls are quite bouncy. If you use one of these for slams, you’re likely to catch it in the face if you’re unprepared. You could literally need dental work if you catch a bouncy, 5-20 lb’er in the chops. CrossFit recommends “D-Ball” brand medicine balls for ball slams. These barely bounce, so you’ll need to catch them with a scooping motion. Great list, though.

  6. Why don’t you just get a job digging ditches? You can get your “workout” and get paid for it then.

  7. Awesome exercises!! Another one that i like to do is sit ups combined with a medicine ball toss. With a partner standing near your feet, you hold the med ball against your chest and do a sit up…as you come back up you thrust the med ball up and your partner catches it. They toss it back to you, you catch it and go down for another sit up. Repeat…3 sets of 10.

  8. Hey Mark,

    Thanks for pointing me back to this post!! It looks like I’m gonna be busy having fun and throwing stuff around for quite some time!!

    All the Best,

    Andrew R

  9. swing a kettlebell- nothing is better. See a RKC (many on YouTube) for proper instruction. The swing is a lower body hip snap. The arms do not lift the kettlebell- it may only go waist high depending on the weight of the bell and power of the hip thrust. kettlebells change my health in a few weeks. half a year later- I’m a new man.

  10. I’ve got another one for the list that I picked up from my martial arts instructor. You do a plyometric push up, and at the moment that you push lift your hands, you also squeeze your butt to lift your legs up as well, so your entire body is in the air. Do as many of those as you can, and you’ll feel it everywhere.

  11. That is a pretty funny cartoon character you designed. You should make it into a short. Create a story with this guy.