WOW: The Cave Bear

5 cycles of 4 reps:

Hang Clean to Right Shoulder
Left Leg Lunge
Right Shoulder Dominant Push Press
(Repeat sequence on left side to complete one rep)



Warmup: Pick two or three exercises from the hip mobility post. Finish with a 30 second Grok Squat.

Equipment: Something heavy that can rest on a single shoulder – think sandbag, heavy rock, heavy bag, slosh tube, kettlebell, dumbell.

Are you aware of the Bear?

The Bear is a popular, grueling complex of movements that attempts to – and, I think, succeeds at – provide an intense total body strength/conditioning workout using free weights. It’s not clear where or when it started, nor who came up with it, but I’m going to tweak it pretty hard for this week’s WOW. Typically performed using a barbell, the Bear puts you through the ringer: a clean to a front squat to a push press to a back squat to a behind-the-neck push press to a clean, and repeat. It’s tough, no doubt, and you’ll generally see it used as a conditioning exercise. A typical Bear complex might include five cycles of seven complete Bears. With one Bear containing five exercises that’s a total of 35 exercises per cycle, in case you’re counting. I love the time economy inherent to the Bear, but I’m not sure about that kind of volume: thirty-five full body, relatively complex “exercises” performed five times for speed. If you use a light enough weight, I suppose it’s a great for conditioning, but I prefer to bend toward the strength side of the spectrum.

The Cave Bear is different. Instead of five cycles of seven, it’s five cycles of four using a heavier weight. It plays with asymmetry, and it forces you to perform unilateral movements with one side of the body while balancing a heavy weight on the other side.

  1. Perform a hang clean (with two hands), bringing the weight to your right shoulder.
  2. With the weight at your right shoulder perform a left leg forward lunge.
  3. Then, with assistance from your left arm, perform a right shoulder dominant push press.
  4. Repeat this sequence of movements, this time with your left shoulder dominant (hang clean to left shoulder, right leg lunge, push press with left shoulder dominant), to complete one full rep.
  5. Complete four reps for one cycle. Rest up to two minutes between cycles.Perform five cycles to complete this WOW.

In case you aren’t familiar with hang cleans, here’s how you do one. Hold the weight down past your waist with straight arms. Keeping your torso tight and rigid, stick your butt back and slightly bend your knees until the weight sits just above them. Now you’ve got to clean the weight up to your right shoulder. A clean is not an arm or shoulder exercise; it’s a hip exercise. The power starts in your hips and is realized through an explosive hip extension. Keep that torso tight and explode up, like you’re jumping and extending your hips and thrusting them forward, pulling against the floor with your heels, and using your arms as passive bands to transfer the power of your hip extension into the weight as it travels up to your right shoulder. That’s a clean.

A push press is similar. The setup is similar to that of the clean – tight torso, butt back, slight knee bend – and it too draws its power from the hip snap. Keep the weight on your shoulder and once your hips and knees are fully extended and the power has moved upward, you push the weight up. Done correctly, your push press should be about 30% stronger than your strict overhead press.


Instead of doing left leg lunge/weight on right shoulder combinations, switch to a left leg lunge/weight on left shoulder focus. This will change the balancing dynamic of the exercise, so be careful. You can also go lighter for more reps. I prefer the strength focus, but you can certainly work on conditioning by using a lighter object and going for more volume. Done this way, the Cave Bear will be like a far more intense form of Cave Burpees.

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.

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 more than three decades 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 flavorful and delicious kitchen staples crafted with premium ingredients like avocado oil. With over 70 condiments, sauces, oils, and dressings in their lineup, Primal Kitchen makes it easy to prep mouthwatering meals that fit into your lifestyle.

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