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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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August 15 2011

WOW: Steep Climb

By Mark Sisson
25 Comments

Complete 10 cycles for time, using 10 meters of the steepest hill you can find:

Sprint
Grok Crawl Up and Down

How-to:

Warmup: 30 second Grok Squat, lateral, forward, and backward leg swings (10 each leg). Three light sprints up the hill at 60% intensity.

This one is quick and dirty, but it does require a very specific piece of equipment: the steepest hill you can find. I’m talking something with a grade between 25-30 degrees, or more if you can find it. Go as steep as you can, because you’re not running for distance here. You’re only doing ten meters at a time. These are all out sprints, both running and crawling.

You know how to Grok crawl, I’m sure. Just be careful on the way down and go deliberately. Since your shoulders will be accepting the brunt of the force, if you have existing shoulder injuries, I would advise that you simply walk to back, rather than crawl it back.

A few things to remember:

  • You may find yourself going slowly even as you push as hard as you can. This is normal when running steep hills.
  • Stay upright. Try not to lean forward when running uphill. Keep that tall torso.
  • Grok crawl sprints are most effective when you keep those hips low. Don’t form an upside down V with the ground and try to be conscious of using your arms (pulling yourself as well as pushing), along with your legs. Don’t make it all legs, which is often the instinct. Keep it balanced.

Variations:

  • Even better than a steep hill? A steep sand dune. Here’s a video of the Pepperdine University men’s basketball team doing sand dune sprints on a hill just a few miles from my home. It’s steeper (and tougher) than it looks.
  • If you can’t find a steep enough hill, double the distance to make up for the lost gradient.

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.

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25 thoughts on “WOW: Steep Climb”

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  1. Not many hills where I am, but I like the idea. My vacations are usually in the mountains, so this will be a good travel workout for me.

  2. I really appreciate these posts, Mark. If I were to do an exercise post on my blog each week, it would get a little redundant: Get off your ass, turn off the tv, don’t drive so much, play with your kids, and you’ll be fit as a fiddle.

    1. Haha…I’d read a blog post like that every week. It’s almost word for word what I tell people almost every day.

  3. Always love a good sprinting workout! I agree with Peggy though too, just get active people. It will work wonders!

  4. For added work, if the hill’s not too steep, you could carry something up it. The other day I had a popped tire on my bike and had to carry it home about 10km, which basically killed me, especially when I decided to leave the boring road and take a short cut through a field up a big hill and go barefoot for part of it, which ended up not being a shortcut at all.
    I basically do this WOW already in a park/forest trail area in my town, but recently explored farther back in the fields, valleys, forests etc. behind my house than I ever had before and found a high, steep incline that would be perfect (couldn’t do it last time, my legs hurt), and better yet, there’s a huge pond right near it, and it’s in a valley on top of a hill, kind of volcano style, so I bet there’s minimal runoff if any from the farm fields in the area and clean water. I guess I better take advantage of this awesome landscape while I still can, since my parents want to kick me out for no reason for the (I’ve lost count) time.. later today in fact. Dirt broke, scavenging and occasionally taking risks to get food, and constantly living in different places like a nomad has pretty much been my life the last couple years. I guess that’s fairly primal!

    1. I either underestimated the hill or overestimated myself. It wasn’t actually something I could run up, except maybe the bottom third or so if I had shoes – I only had sandles and they didn’t fit well so I opted to go bare foot and to avoid hurting my feet on all the stones and thorny and spiky plants I only did the crawling, which was slow and precarious, but good exercise nonetheless. I had to grab at the bumps and grooves caused by erosion, which weren’t very stable. Rocks I was holding on to were coming out of the dirt and a number of times I had to desperately dig in with my toes and fingers to avoid sliding and/or falling back down, and one time I slid a good few meters down when I was trying to climb down doing a crabwalk. I went up and down the hill a few times and then across it and back. I felt jealous of my dog. Somehow as I was turtling my way up this hill that I didn’t think she’d actually be able to tread on she was sprinting up and down and back and forth with seemingly little effort, kicking up clouds of dust and making landslides, and at one point as she sped past she bumped into me and I’m pretty sure it was on purpose.
      The pond turned out to be so deep I couldn’t touch the bottom before getting to the middle and didn’t have any seaweed or algae or stuff floating around (which sketches/grosses me out) so I had a nice relaxing swim, and a phone call for an upcoming job interview saved me from getting kicked out of the house. Maybe I’ll finally start making money again and be able to afford Mark’s supplements, plus a bulk order of ginseng extract and bee pollen, and a bunch of one of the best teas ever, Yogi Egyptian Licorice Mint.

    2. I went back today and did this WOW with shoes. It was a blast. For all the sprints but one I ran straight up the hill as far as I could go and the exception was when I ran diagonally because I wanted to make it to the top without stopping. I got down the hill by doing a Grok squat and sliding, then turning the slide into a bit of a run at the bottom to keep moving with my momentum. After each one I had a big smile on my face. It was more of a game than a workout. I plan to do this a lot.

  5. I live in Florida and immediately started thinking about how this exercise cannot fit my location… Then watched the sand dune workout. WOW! Gotta try and get to the beach and give that a shot this weekend.

    1. Same here, Dave. I am in a pretty flat riverside town in New Zealand’s North Island and was thinking ‘hmmm, no really steep hills round here’. Then it hit me – I am two miles from the beach and all those blustery dunes looking out at the Tasman Sea. Fantastic suggestion, Mark.

  6. Awesome! Heading to a nearby lake soon to to this. I can’t wait to have everyone in the parking lot staring at me: means I’m having fun.

    1. I got stopped by a police patrol boat doing something like this along the edge of a lake. There was a big stretch of the shore where a whole bunch of big rocks / boulders had been dumped. I left my backpack, shoes, shirt and towel at one spot, went swimming for a while, and then couldn’t find my stuff. I was going to walk along the rocks to find it but I was too tipsy/dizzy and couldn’t keep my balance (swimming was easier) so I ended up crawling back and forth along the rocks for what seemed like 45 minutes until the hovercraft showed up and they asked what I was doing. I didn’t want to admit to being inebriated and not being able to find my stuff so I just yelled, “Exercise!” One asked, “For what?” I looked at him like he was an idiot and he asked, “In general?” so I said yes and then they left me alone.

  7. Love me some hill sprints–easier on the joints and always feel like I get a better workout than with flat sprints. Great WOW!

  8. One question — is one “cycle” sprint up the hill, sprint down the hill, GrokCrawl up the hill, GrokCrawl down the hill?

    Then repeat that 10 times?

    The listing of just plain “Sprint” makes it a little unclear to me.

  9. i sprinted yesterday….and there were some little hills i kept thinking I would run over and up a couple times,never made it over but will definatly the next round!! such a great idea! thx….

  10. I only wish I lived near sand dunes. Was vacationing in North Carolina’s Outer Banks and used the opportunity to sprint up dunes. Some of the best fun I’ve ever had in a workout.

  11. I randomly did this last week before this got posted! Crazy! For those of you in the SF Bay Area, 22nd street in between Church and Sanchez is killer!

    1. And by a week before it was posted, I mean a week before I read it. 🙂