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.
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.
Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.