WOW: Grip Work

Complete 4 cycles:

30 Meter Farmer’s Carry
8 Towel Pullups
20-second Door Pinches, each hand


Warmup: 30 second Grok Squat, 30 second Grok Hang.

Ever shake the knobby hand of an old farmer and marvel at how it inexplicably crushes yours with ease, despite muscular atrophy supposedly having set in twenty years prior to your meeting? Or what about the opposite – have you offered a firm handshake and received a limp, flaccid, moist thing in return? We all want the farmer’s grip, because it exudes confidence. Heck, you might say that hand strength is one indication of character. It may not be fair, and it may not always be accurate, but that’s how these things work.

So how do you develop your grip strength? You use your hands to carry, lift, support, and move heavy objects. Today, that’s what you’ll be doing.

Farmer’s carry you’ve done before. Just in case you haven’t, it involves carrying two heavy objects at your sides as you walk. Try to aim for objects of roughly equal weight, but if you can’t swing it, just switch hands halfway through each carry. Keep your shoulder blades back and down and your core tight for this exercise. Squeeze the grips and think farmer!

For a towel pullup, hang a towel over your pullup bar and grab both ends. Now do a pullup. Feel the difference? It’s working the same muscles – biceps, lats, the usual pullup stuff – while forcing you to focus and develop your grip. Pulling yourself up by gripping some bunched up towel is a far cry from hanging onto a bar specifically designed for pullups. Now do seven more pullups.

Door pinches sound odd, but they’re really not. You’ll need one thing: a door that happens to be ajar. Grab the side of the door with one hand, about knob-high, and pinch it between your thumb and the other four fingers. Really squeeze it. Slowly lean back and sit into a squat while holding onto the door. Don’t let your body fall. Keep that strong grip on the door with your single hand; that grip should be the only thing keeping you from toppling back onto your butt. Hold it for 20 seconds and switch hands.

How’s your hand feel? Wait til you see the other guy.

A few things to remember:

  • A strong grip doesn’t just send messages to other humans who encounter it; it also sends a message to your CNS. White knuckling something tells your nervous system to prepare for a heavy object. That means squeezing the heck out of a weight might allow you to lift more of it.
  • Watch where you’re walking during the farmer carry. If the objects you’re carrying are of sufficient weight, taking an easily avoided spill by hurrying or forgetting to watch where you’re going can result in injury.
  • Don’t let form go out the window during the towel pullups. You still need to keep your shoulder blades retracted and be wary of dead hangs; using a towel usually means your hands are closer together, which puts your shoulder in a potentially compromised position at a full dead hang.


Break each exercise up, rather than superset them. Use climbing rope instead of a towel (in fact, that may be better for your grip, depending on the thread count and size of the towel). Fingertip pullups also work grip, albeit a bit differently.

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.

About the Author

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.

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