WOW: The Climb

25 Minute Climb

Variations on this WOW are encouraged. See the “How-to” and “Variations” sections below.


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

Rather than just train the muscles and movements that prepare us for actual, real-world skills, today we’re going to cut out the middle man and just do the real thing. Today is about skill work. There are no pullups, only climbing. There will be no sets or reps, just actions carried out until completion. The goal is not to beat your time or lift more weight; the goal is to be in the moment, aware of it as it occurs.

First, find something you can climb. Something tall, preferably. For the sake of safety I recommend a climbing gym. I can vouch for Hangar 18 here in Los Angeles. Google “rock climbing gym {city}” to find a gym in your hometown.

If you don’t have access to a climbing wall, feel very confident in your climbing skills, and are sure of the climbing terrain, climbing something that was forged by nature is also a good option. It might be a massive boulder with serendipitously placed handholds and niches for feet. It could be a cliff face, if you know what you’re doing and have the right equipment. Tall trees work well, too. For the fit, ropes or poles can also be climbed. I sometimes climb a flag pole but stop short of the top due to excessive wobbling. Whatever you choose, make sure all precautions are taken to avoid injury.

Next, climb. Keep your body close to the object you’re climbing in order to make the ascent more efficient, make sure the branch or foothold or toehold is enough to support your weight before committing to it, don’t forget about using your legs, and go as high as you can. It might get a bit harrowing, but a little derring-do is good for us. Just be safe and smart about it. Your inherent sense of self-preservation will always win out.

Finally, climb down. This might be the toughest part for some folks, since you’re leading with your feet and not your face. I recommend going barefoot for the increased grip and tactility, because you’re going to need it. Let your sensitive bare feet be your eyes (on top of using your actual eyes, too).

Repeat until 25 minutes have elapsed.

Make it harder:

  • Wear a weight vest or a backpack.
  • Take a random item along for the climb, like a rock, a small kettlebell, or even a stick. It doesn’t have to be heavy, necessarily; the simple act of carrying another object makes the climb a little more involved than normal.
  • Pick the more difficult route. Every climbable object will have multiple routes for its ascent. Some might force you to use your arms exclusively for one section, while others might offer fewer handholds.

Make it easier:

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.

Reader-Submitted WOW Pics:

A big thanks to Mark’s Daily Apple reader and PBFer Tab for submitting these WOW pics. Grok on!


We have been doing a variation of todays workout of the week over here in Afghanistan for quite a while now. Granted it’s a little different than a regular climbing gym, rather it’s very unique!! Our Canadian contingent has built a climbing gym inside of two twenty foot storage containers. There are multiple routes going both ways and also routes that put you upside down on the ceiling of the container! On face value you would think there wouldn’t be much of a workout…you would be wrong! Doing one route called the “Tatas”, green…um somewhat anatomically correct holds, is an incredible workout that hits all areas of the body and requires an exceptional amount of hand strength and completely fries your arms. Doing these routes backwards steps up the challenge as well. Granted the fall danger is pretty low, only a max of 4 feet (if your on the ceiling), but there are pads to cushion the blow. Don’t have access to video unfortunately but please take the attached photos as a substitute for the Workout of the Week.


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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24 thoughts on “WOW: The Climb”

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  1. I don’t get into town much. I live way out in nowhere but we do live on a ridge so to get down to the street, or down to the chicken and goat pens, I have to descend then climb so thanks for the reminder. I’ll try to do it more.

    New follower here. R.L.

    1. I’m surprised that this is the first climbing-related workout I’ve seen on this site. Climbers are some of the leanest, strongest, most coordinated people I know. Plus, climbing is a lot more primal than farting around in a gym with Katy Perry blaring in your ears. I expect to see more on climbing!

  2. Mark,

    I think you have more exlpaining to do. I read your book and I think you have great points. Leveling out the body’s insulin response seems like a worthy goal. What you don’t explain so well is why we need to elimnate ALL grains to accomplish this. On your plan we’re allowed to eat other foods that cause insulin levels to spike.

    I don’t see why simply keeping your carb count at 100-150 or less doesn’t suffice. Why can’t I have a slice of bread as long as I keep the carb/GI load down? I know grains are a recent introduction and that our increasing unhealthiness is probably do to consuming EXCESSIVE levels of carbs but why not just cut back the carb count?

    Also, what do you suggest for those of us that hate salad? Seriously, everyone on here is like “hooray salad, it’s awesome, I can’t wait, I love the primal blueprint” but what about the rest of us?

    Also, why does everyone here pretend like this lifestyle is all rainbows and care bears? While I agree that eating healthy has its own merits and that being healthy feels good, can we at least acknowledge that cookies and pizza taste awesome and that we’re not insane to miss them. I see so many posts where people are like, ‘I don’t get those junk addicts’ but I do. I made almond flour pancakes yesterday and they were bland and not all that good. I made banana almond pancakes and almost gagged because I just don’t like bananas all that much. I also have oral allergy syndrome so my selection of fresh fruits and veggies (thus why I’m not big on salads) gets even smaller. My mouth begins to itch when I eat apples, raw veggies, watermelons and canteloupe.

    I know I’m ranting here, but I think there isn’t enough perspective on this site sometimes. Is the Primal Blueprint lifestyle healthy for you? From eevrything I’ve been reading the answer would seem to be yes. Does that mean your insane if you don’t miss a lifestyle where you could at least have bread on occassion? Absolutely not. Also, bread is GOOD. I see so many people acting like the only bread out there is blue bunny white sliced bread. Sure that’s bland, but what about banana nut bread? Blueberry muffins? Garlic bread?

    I am impressed by those of you who have made tehse sacrifices to attain your health goals but I wish you guys would stop making people feel guilty who don’t think that changing over is ‘effortless’ as the book says. You guys do have support for those of us transitioning but it almost feels like with an attitude of, ‘for those of you not strong enough to just let go of an entire food group that was a mainstay of your diet.’ I think Mark seems prety supportive, but I think it would be nice to see more acknowledge that it isn’t easy and to start with for most people it won’t be effortless in the least.

    1. Are you sure you read the book thoroughly? And have you been over every post on the site? How about the scientific literature? No?

      Also, the fact that bread is good, according to you, is exactly that. It’s your opinion. However, nutrition isn’t an opinion, it’s science. Read the scientific literature and then form an educated opinion.

      I think you have some reading to do! Good thing the holidays are coming up. Take some time off and read some more.

  3. I like this week’s workout. Pity the subzero temps and ground covering. This may be the first WOW I skip? till spring at least.

    1. I’m sympathetic, here in the UP (n. Michigan). I am thinking about finding a nice, climbable snow burm, though. I imagine that a short but intense sub-zero scramble would have its own special benefits. Don’t worry, I will make sure they know where to start digging to find me.

  4. Please, Erik, he’s legitimately annoyed until proven otherwise.
    I, for one, choose to eat junk foods sometimes, and I think this is a very nice site. Not much condemnation or condescention around. But I also believe that the theory is very sound, and that grains are not good for me or anyone, so I can’t blame people for being enthusiastic. Some have lost a lot of weight and become much healthier overall.
    If the paleo diet is not right for you, by all means let it be.

  5. If you guys know something I’m not getting, please explain. That’s why I posted. Also, I never said bread was good for you becasue it tastes good. I said let’s not pretend it tastes bad. I also agree that taste is an opinion, not science and never claimed otherwise. As stated in my post, I think salad tastes bad which is an opinion, and I have allergies to raw vegetables which is a fact.

    All of those articles tell me why a spiked insulin response is bad for you but none of them really explain why grains need to be elimnated entirely. Perhaps that’s why we have the 80/20 rule because it won’t end everything if you have a cookie occassionally. Also, I love how anyone that questions this methodology is a troll. I think Mark appreciates questions, in fact, I think he thrives on questioning things instead of just accepting them, or how else would he have found this path outside the CW?

    1. I think your question is very valid, I too have had this question. I strongly suggest Robb Wolfs new book the Paleo Solution. Where as DR. Loren Cordains book spelled it out very well, Robb’s book makes it enjoyable to learn. This is something you need to find, there are wonderful ways of learning the grain interaction with the gut. It is obvious that grain and such do not effect your body as it does others like myself. The major point to the Primal Blueprint and other iterations of the Paleo diet is a healthy energetic lifestyle. Unprocessed and good. As Robb Wolf puts it, eating this way makes me feel good and look good, so that’s good enough.

    2. For awesome info on why wheat/grains are not good for you i recommend Wheat Belly by William Davis, MD. Its information overload but well worth the read or listen.

  6. Oh, one more thing. I’m not trying to say the whole community is bad. There are a lot of positive things overall about it, but I have noticed a lot of posts that kind of look down on people for not thinking dropping junk food is easy.

    1. This too is a very valid point. There is a lot said about cleaning out your pantry but the doing and cravings part is missed a lot of times. Speaking from someone who quit smoking and sugary processed foods at the same time! Go with the 80/20 rule or even less, better yet try a primal way for thirty days, really stick with it. That is the true measure of results. That will answer all of your questions more than a book ever will.

  7. Hi T!

    Welcome to the group! I started following the primal style of eating 3 months ago, after watching my best friend loose a bunch of weight and look AMAZING and healthy by eating this way over the past year. I was nearly a vegetarian and making the switch from lots of soy and grains to lots (well, to me) meats wasn’t that easy.

    I started out slowly, by reducing the number of carbs I ate a day and adding meat whenever I could. My two main goals were to “eliminate wheat gluten and added sugars”…the rest is a work in progress. I agree with you, it’s not easy to cut out huge chunks of your usual diet. However, I have noticed that my stomach is flatter these days and I just feel better than I used to.

    Whenever I want something that’s not in line with the Primal/Paleo diet, I just think about how crappy I will feel after I eat it. That usually works. The times when I do allow myself a cheat, sure enough, I usually feel sick or jittery after that.

    A cookie now and then won’t bring the World to a crashing halt, but if you give this method of eating a chance, you’ll be surprised at how those cookies start landing on the “meh, I could take or leave it” list, in favor of things that are better for you. Trust me, if you’d told me any of this 3 months ago, I would have laughed in your face. Turning down a cookie for some fresh fruit? Heck no!

    Anyway, welcome and I hope that your journey into this new style of eating and living is an enjoyable one!

  8. Thanks fr the responses guys! I will definitely check out the books suggested on here. I have heard about Paleo Solution and Dr. Loren Cordain but I haven’t read too much on them. Also, thanks to the guys that understand where I’m coming from. I like the idea of trying to build up very gradually (which I know Mark has suggested elsewhere on the site) since I used to be a very high carb eater. I think I could definitely work on adding more meat to my diet which will leave less room for the carbs. I guess I need to buckle down for 30 days and see if I really do feel good enough to forego grains entirely by the end of it (which I’m not so sure about yet). Those of you with positive responses have been a great example for this community and have definitely helped me with some of my frustration in trying out this lifestyle. Thank you!

    1. Again this is mostly for those with Celiac or other irritations, but keep in mind that the Gluten and other irritants can retain in your system for up to 15 days. The “Carb flu” is also worst around the second week. Maybe these go hand in hand. It is important to stick with it and you will see something. Worst part is 30 days with out things you like, best part could be 30 days with out things killing you slowly?

  9. thnks Mark it is really good to see that finally primal fitness includes rock climbing…it is one of the most fun exercise-play it is hard both physically-mentally…it is also like a chess game and teaches you a lot how to move your body tip; try to move with your legs and core and keep arms straight and start your moves by moving your hips..bend your knees a little and move your belly into the wall whihe the shoulders go out. that way you wont use your forearms too much, you will use your core and legs. and enjoy it more

  10. if anybody cant find climbing wall, they can try trees in the park, door jambs (little hard for beginners), scaffolds…

  11. I like the WOW this week! It is a little cold to be trying a cliff around these parts, but I know of a gym that has a climbing wall I have always wanted to try!

  12. Happy to finally see climbing in the WOW since I climb a couple times a week! Woo!

  13. Great post! I was wondering if I’d find anything on this site about climbing trees as it’s always been one of my favourite activities and also a very primal one. In the spring and summer I probably get just as much exercise fooling around in the forest than doing conventional workouts. Tree climbing is usually easy (depending on the tree.. you’ll always be able to find an easy one nearby) but decent exercise at the same time and once you climb up twice your height or so and keep going you just keep getting more adrenaline, which fuels the workout! One fun way to climb trees, which is also easier than it sounds/looks, is to find a lot of thin, bendable trees close together and climb up one like a pole maybe 10 feet or a bit higher, then lean so that the tree bends enough for you to grab on to another similar tree, then do it again and so on and see how many different trees you’re able to climb on before going back down to the ground. If there’s a dead thin tree you can climb up about the same height and then lean in any direction and ride the tree to the ground. This is really fun!