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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 30, 2010

WOW: Easy As 1, 2, 3

By Mark Sisson
117 Comments

Max cycles in 20 minutes of:

1 Pullup/Chinup
2 Pushups
3 Full Squats

Warmup: A couple rotations of the Grok Squat and Grok Hang.

How-to: Execute 1 pullup. Drop down and perfom 2 pushups. Get up and do 3 full squats (bringing your hips to below your knees). That’s one cycle. Repeat, but this time do a chinup instead of a pullup.

Variations: If you can’t do a proper pullup/chinup, pushup or full squat substitute movements from Levels 1-3 of Primal Blueprint Fitness Lift Heavy Things (chapter 3).

Hat Tip: This workout is a favorite of mine. It’s a minor variation on a workout that is part of the SimpleFit protocol.

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 Video

A big thanks to Mark’s Daily Apple reader and PBFer Todd from PrimalToad.com for submitting this WOW video. Grok on!

P.S. I’d like to see Primal Toad going a little deeper in his squats, and making sure he starts his pullups/chinups from a dead hang.

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117 Comments on "WOW: Easy As 1, 2, 3"

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jess
jess
6 years 28 days ago
Mark, this certainly looks like a simple and effective workout. The challenge of this 20 minute workout will be as much mental as it is physical for me. This workout brought up an interesting question [for me at least]. What should i expect as far as improvements in cardiovascular conditioning by doing workouts like this? For instance, let’s say I do this workout a few times over the next several weeks and i am able to do more rounds each time i do it. I would assume that i have, as a result, improved my ability to run a 5K… Read more »
PrimalOnahill
PrimalOnahill
6 years 28 days ago

I too am wondering about this. The few times lately that I’ve run for distance (not long distance, trust me)I feel stronger and less winded, yet I am not doing this type of training.

I’m continually amazed at the holistic effects of living/eating Primally.

Kelda
6 years 28 days ago

Aha, one that doesn’t involve running :-), I shall have a go at this one! I think my arms might grow a few inches by the end LOL!

JC
JC
6 years 28 days ago

A bad ankle really limits the running stuff so I’m glad to see a WOW without that component. I’m sure it will still kick my 55 yr old heinie though. I’m wondering, do you think agressive kettlebell swings would count as a sprint type exercise? They sure cause an elevated heart rate and shortage of breath.

PS – I’m grateful to have discovered MDA and Primal Blueprint. It’s good to know that not only am I not alone in my thinking regarding fitness and nutrition, but there’s a whole clan of tribemates out there! Woot! Grok on!

Kris
Kris
6 years 28 days ago

Mark, can you post some workouts that are focused on building strength as well? This one seems more like a lactic acid inducing workout for fat loss, which is great. But most of your workout recommendations seem to revolve around circuits. You would not expect someone to squat 405, bench 315, pull ups with an extra 55lb dumbell using this approach, would you? Thanks.

Arthur
Arthur
6 years 28 days ago

Try one arm pushups, plyometric pullups and pistol squats as substitutes…

SLS
SLS
6 years 28 days ago

This will be pretty boring. Would rather do some dreaded cardio running than stare at the wall and the floor for 20 minutes. A good HIIT workout can be had in 10-15 with much more variation and still be in keeping with simplistic exercises.

Arthur
Arthur
6 years 28 days ago

It’s over in 20 min… suck it up 😀

jus
jus
6 years 28 days ago
Neil
Neil
6 years 28 days ago

You could also do this one outside using a tree, avoiding all walls and floors.

Primal Toad
6 years 28 days ago

Do it outside!!!!!!!

SLS
SLS
6 years 28 days ago

Seriously? In no way am I complaining that it’s too hard. I’m saying that 3 exercises over and over, regardless of inside or out, is boring, repetitive, completely unsporadic, and against, what I thought, to be a foundation of “primal fitness”- that work outs vary in tempo, intensity and activity so as to train neuromusclar connection and metabolic head room.

Fine, you all enjoy your 20 minutes of cardio-grind-esque repetition. I’ll enjoy my 15 minutes of 3 sets of 6-9 different exhausting exercises.

VelocityRD
VelocityRD
6 years 28 days ago

By all means, don’t forget to take your arrogance with you.

SLS
SLS
6 years 28 days ago

Far be it for there ever to exit a nay.

Dave Fish
Dave Fish
6 years 28 days ago

There are a lot of different types of pull ups and push ups (and squats for that matter) so make a game of it. I’m going to.

axiom
axiom
6 years 28 days ago

…or just do the body by science workout 🙂

JG
JG
6 years 27 days ago

If you find this workout “boring” then you are not hitting it hard enough, you’re just going through the motions.

Mike
Mike
6 years 27 days ago

I agrre, a circut this short over and over and over does seem kinda boring… I like the movements but I’d rather do what I did the other day…
10 pull ups, 10 sit ups, 10 squats
9 pull ups, 9 sit ups, 9 squats
8
7
6
you get the idea. I had to sub push ups for pull ups past the 6th or 7th round or so. Finished it off with 3×60 plank and 3×30 side plank.

trackback

[…] Original post by Mark Sisson […]

Audry
Audry
6 years 28 days ago

ooh, this one looks great, can’t wait to try it 😀

Lars1000
6 years 28 days ago

Will give it a go on Tuesday. Ankle still tweaked… All those pull ups! Will be good for me to tackle my weak point (pull ups).

“Stay Hungry”

otto
otto
6 years 28 days ago

This is a fast paced workout, so when you preform this you go all out, so for you whiners complaining of boredom…you will get tired before you get bored, and will be thinking about breathing instead of missing your little circuit training routine that you have been doing all your life at your local hang out,I mean gym..

Ben
Ben
6 years 28 days ago

That’s a little harsh for someone who has a different perspective…don’t you think?

Nancy
Nancy
6 years 28 days ago

Didn’t go all out. Paced myself so I could last but finally, I stopped at 10 min. and 20 cycles. Couldn’t do another pull up, push ups were just fine and squats were easy (did 5 instead of 3)

Will work on doing better, longer, faster next time.

GH
GH
6 years 28 days ago

Thinking a good score on this would be 40-50 cycles.

cqp
cqp
6 years 28 days ago

Yes, please be nice to everyone here. Just because someone makes a comment or doesnt agree with you, there is no need to toss sarcasm or put someone down. I honestly stopped reading the forums because of the sarcasm and elitism that a lot of people had. No need to attack someone who doesnt agree, just discuss it.

Primal Toad
6 years 28 days ago

If you want to try this workout then try it and let everyone know how many cycles you did. Encourage others to try the workout and inspire them by posting your results.

If you do not want to try the workout then just leave it alone. Its not for all 6 billion people on this planet.

otto
otto
6 years 28 days ago

I have no sarcasm, the workout is the workout…either do it and enjoy it or don’t , theres nothing to discuss about it except how you performed, its not about it being a boring workout…. if your happy with the way you look then keep doing what works for you,or whats not working for you.and just comment if you have something positive for other readers…that’s all I’m saying.

Dozer
Dozer
6 years 28 days ago

This is very similar to a Crossfit WOD named “Cindy”. It’s a great workout and is very deceptive because the first rounds will make you believe you could do them all day long.

At 10 minutes your tune will change…

This WOW contains the same deceptive components.

GREAT JUMP OFF WOW!!

Nancy
Nancy
6 years 28 days ago

Ah ah ah … YEP , 10 min was exactly when my tune changed !!!

Trevor
Trevor
6 years 28 days ago
Yes, I was going to mention that. Cindy is 5 Pull Ups, 10 Push Ups and 15 Squats a round, where you do as many rounds as possible in 20 minutes. I think Mark came up with something that most people could do. If anyone thinks the round scheme is too easy you can always increase the number in each round, or do more difficult versions. Basically, this workout can be scaled to anyone’s level. I’ve done a few versions of this one now. And 10 minutes is when it gets harder. I always seem to do less work in… Read more »
kctex
kctex
6 years 28 days ago

I plan to do this with a 20 lb weighted vest tonight. It’s like a modified “cindy” (cf workout). nice!

Trevor
Trevor
6 years 28 days ago

Nice. I have to get myself a weighted vest at some point. I was thinking a homemade one. Basically, a back pack with bags of rice since I don’t eat rice any longer. lol Or something else I can think of.

kctex
kctex
6 years 28 days ago

With the 20 lb weighted vest, I completed 35 total rounds. I’ll post the video on youtube later and link here.

I splurged and recently bought one that goes up to 40 pounds with single one pound weights you slide into pockets. It was about $85 and worth it.

I do want to fill one of my grandfather’s old army bags with sand bags to make a big one to carry, throw, etc.

Dana
Dana
6 years 28 days ago

This one kicked my butt and I’d like to think I’m in good shape (former marathon runner). I was able to get through 26 reps. After 6th round I had to use a chair with one foot on the pullups. After about the 10th round I had to do push ups on one knee.

Which is more important on a WOW workout like this: speed or form? By the end, I was getting kind of sloppy because I was so tired but wanted to keep my heart rate up.

Robert
6 years 28 days ago

WOW, as easy as 1,2,3 ….What!

Concluded my 24 hour fast after this dooooozzzzzzyyyyy.
completed 51 sets in the 20 minutes. Didn’t feel the burn till the 30th?

Like the rest have said, try it before you decide it is too lame or not worth it. My hands are still shaking 20 minutes later.

Cha Cha
Cha Cha
6 years 28 days ago

Great workout!!!
Tried it out tonight and 10 minutes is definitely the turning point! Managed to get 39 reps in total!

Greg
Greg
6 years 28 days ago

Dana

Form is always more important. Without it you have a better chance of getting injured. Also if you learn the proper form you will get stronger and be able to get your speed up later on.

Dana
Dana
6 years 27 days ago

Thanks Greg.

Rob S.
Rob S.
6 years 28 days ago

This is a great workout. It takes about 20 min for my clothes washer to run. I have one of those pull-up bars in the door so I got a great workout waiting for my laundry and didn’t have to leave my house. Thx Mark.

Craig
Craig
6 years 28 days ago

Good workout. It’s clear pullups are my weak exercise. Only 25 sets, but I guess it’s a starting point.

goneprimal
goneprimal
6 years 28 days ago
71 reps. I used a bar that stands ~10cm above my upstretched fingertips when I’m standing. I had to jump to reach the bar, and this jump probably “helped” a bit on the chin ups, though I tried not to cheat. Went at a steady pace, not knowing what to expect. The intensity can really vary depending on your speed and explosiveness. I found that my form improved as I went – descending into a proper squat/crouch as I lowered for the push ups. Great workout – all the moving around from position to position adds much functional strength/fitness and… Read more »
Patrick Dale
6 years 28 days ago

Such low reps mean that you can really concentrate on quality of movement unlike say doing 5/10/15 or more reps poer exercise where, by the end of the workout, some people may be struggling to perform the exercises with good form. Nice twist on CrossFit/20 Minute Fitness Solution workouts. Thanks!

art
art
6 years 28 days ago

Only thing about these wows, I haven’t yet gotten to the green level on my regular LHT workouts, so I can’t join in yet, would realy like to do them all, but if I do one wow a week,once I’ve hit green, I won’t ever catch up, and if I stop the LHT workouts, in favor of wows, i’m afraid of losing my hard won pullup ability (I WILL be able to do pullups, eventualy.)
Are you SURE we couldn’t call one of these ‘play’ and do it instead of a Move Slowly day?

kctex
kctex
6 years 28 days ago

you know, as mark always say, the primal life and all of its guidelines are just that – guidelines. I’m not the expert, but if you want to do WOWs from time to time or even every week, do them. I can’t imagine it would impact your gains on the LHT workouts. And yea, do one on your move slowly day…maybe modify it, i.e. do this week’s wow for 10 minutes instead of 20…or sub knee-pushups instead of proper ones. Just keep moving and have fun…there’s no perfect formula to having a fulfilling life.

Mike Wootini
6 years 28 days ago

This is round one, day 1 of simplefit. If you think it’s too easy, follow Mark’s link to simplefit’s website and try level 4 or more (day 1).

Before Mark’s Fitness release, I had been doing Simplefit for a few months and I’m glad to see it in Primal Fitness. Now I can do both!

YAY!

balabushka
balabushka
6 years 28 days ago

I used to do CF Cindy (5 Pull Ups, 10 Push Ups and 15 Squats a round), but only for 10 minutes – that clearly killed me.

Looking forward to try this WOW tomorrow morning.

kctex
kctex
6 years 28 days ago

When I was doing crossfit, my PR in Cindy was 13 rounds…this doesn’t seem as bad, but I did it with a weighted vest and got the equivalent of 7 cindy rounds in 20 min. The extra 20 pounds is killer. Looking forward to hear how you did.

Nethru
Nethru
6 years 27 days ago

Wow i’m going to have to try this with a 20lb vest. I’ve done the 5/10/15 routine for 20 minutes based off simple fit highest level. With the vest probably super killer.

balabushka
balabushka
6 years 26 days ago

Ok, did it this morning.

43
=> after 10 rounds I thought this will go on for ever

=> after 20 rounds it started burning

=> after 30 rounds it hurted

=> 40-43 -> just do some more, you’ll never get the chance again to do it again

Jeff
Jeff
6 years 28 days ago

I have a dip bar attached to my pullup bar. What about throwing in a dip or two for good measure? What do you think Mark? How many and where should I fit them in?

balabushka
balabushka
6 years 27 days ago

Dips and pushups work very similar, imho no need for adding dips.

Jeff
Jeff
6 years 27 days ago

I agree somewhat, but it does seem like the dips work some additional muscles. I know from experience that I can do quite a few more pushups than dips

Blah
Blah
5 years 6 months ago

I would say either 1 or 2 dips. If your good at them do 2, if your like me and suck at them just do one. But I would add them to the work out instead of taking away anything.

debbie_downer
debbie_downer
6 years 27 days ago

I cant find my pullup bar but when I do I will be sure to try this.

Family Grokumentarian
6 years 27 days ago

Feeling rather wimpy…had to stop at 16:10, having done only 20 rounds (and that’s with modified “can’t do a real pullup yet” pullups).

Of course, there were several interventions between my preschooler and my baby throughout. (“Please don’t take your sister’s cheese.”)

Primal Toad
6 years 27 days ago

53 Cycles… BAM!

Although I noticed while watching the video I took that I did not do 100% squats…. damnit. I guess when you “rush” you comprise some things…

Lars1000
6 years 27 days ago

You need a taller door 🙂
Ok.. off to do them now. Wish me luck.

Alex
Alex
6 years 27 days ago

20 minutes of this huh… Sounds like a fun workout to try out!

MamaSofi
MamaSofi
6 years 27 days ago

48 cycles. Will do it again later in the week and shoot for more. I love the WOW b/c it gives me direction and keeps things changing.

Lars1000
6 years 27 days ago

45 sets.
First four pullups were unassisted. Then from 5-25 had 50lbs of assistance on the pull up assistance machine. 26-45 had 75lbs assistance. Still stoked on my results and more motivated than ever to work on my pull ups.

Got a little cocky on my last two or three cycles and did plyo pushups and jump squats.

Primal Toad
6 years 27 days ago

That is my video that Mark just posted. The note underneath is important…

I failed to do a complete squat as I was “rushing” it. And, as Mark mentioned I “cheated” a bit on the pull-ups. I did love the workout though and will probably be doing it again soon – properly this time!

Family Grokumentarian
6 years 27 days ago

Don’t worry, Todd – if there had been a camera trained on me this morning, the clip might have turned into an example of how ‘not’ to do pretty much all of it. Let’s just say that I’m still on the learning curve!

Glad you are documenting for everyone else’s benefit/encouragement.

Primal Toad
6 years 27 days ago

We are all learning 😉

Great blog by the way – I just added it to my forever growing primal blog list. You were the 100th blog added!

Dan
6 years 27 days ago

This is a good idea, love the simplicity and everything, but I have a few issues with this type of workout:

1) You need an abacus to count your rounds
2) You spend more time in transition that doing actual work
3) Muscular fatigue doesn’t make the very short rounds challenging. Compare to crossfit’s Cindy where the set of 10 pushups is excruciating by the end of 20 min. 2 pushups, notsomuch.
4) Seems like it gets boring pretty quickly

I think I’ll skip this one in favor of something more interesting and fun.

Robert
6 years 27 days ago
I tend to not reply to these posts but I feel i disagree with every note here. 1. When I count my reps, it is like this 10 pull up, 10 push up, 10 push up, 10 squat…etc… Motivation. (extra credit perhaps for GROK grunting the reps?) 2. Done as it should, or as you want it, there is very minimal down time. Until you actually need that down time. (i.e. rep 45, pushing myself to not take a break) 3. Try it before you feel it isn’t a challenge. ( I am sure like all other Mom’s, yours told… Read more »
Mike
Mike
6 years 26 days ago
I disagree, I think you’re over reacting. This is one of the better comments that actually listed the issues he takes with it. 1. If you’re in decent shape your rounds will be up there and it is tricky in the midst of it all to keep count. The number as many here have listed will be high. 2. The ‘down time’ is the time it takes to get from pull up position to push up, you will spend almost an equal amount of time pushing up as you would transitioning. That is a lot of down time (in a… Read more »
Lars1000
6 years 27 days ago

I thought this workout was great, and a bit humbling as it showed a glaring weakness in my “fitness profile”.

Found it easy to remember the cycle count as the Pull Ups were odd, and the chin up cycles were even counts. And I’m the guy that loses track of rep counting when doing 15 reps of a single exercise.

Rock out with your Grok out!

bemental
6 years 27 days ago
73 cycles. I’m a rather fit individual (US MARINE, I’d better hope to be in some sort of shape other then ROUND) and I found this workout acceptable. While not the hardest thing I’ve ever done I was definitely sweating by the end, and as other commenters have already said they and unlimited variations that can be achieved. Another workout I’ve done in the past is similar in setup, but goes along the lines of: 30 minutes, max cycles: 5 pull-ups, 10 pushups, 15 body-weight squats Should prove to be a doozy. Scale as necessary. —– And “Rock out with… Read more »
Lars1000
6 years 27 days ago

Thanks! I thought I invented the “Rock Out” one liner but a quick Google Search proved me wrong. sigh…

73 cycles? Good flipping work!

bemental
6 years 27 days ago

Thanks Lars!

Like I said, I’m paid to maintain some sort of physical fitness.

@Sean: I feel your pain with the tick marks. I managed to count up every five and make a mark in that manner instead.

@kctex: I hear you as well. Don’t forget to track the knees over (but not beyond) the toes as well!

Chris
Chris
6 years 27 days ago

The workout is pretty much like Crossfit’s Cindy, but rather 5 pull-ups, 10 push-ups, 15 squats. Pretty much the same.

My PR is 22.5 rounds in 20 minutes.

Sean
Sean
6 years 27 days ago

67.

And can I just say, OUCH. Last 3 minutes was tough… I had slowed in the middle a bit to pace myself, but think I could have eeked out a couple more.

Taking the time to make a tick mark after each set probably cost me at least 1! 🙂

thanks for the workout…

Sean
6 years 27 days ago

p.s. can I add that I think my upper body is still recovering from paddling 340 miles on the MR 340 last week? 🙂

bemental
6 years 27 days ago

You can, but we’ll still call you WEAK.

Seriously, 63? Come’on dude.

bemental
6 years 27 days ago

@sean: see what happens when you get all sarcastic and make fun of people? You screw up your numbers on postings you can’t edit!

Good job Sean, keep it up.

Sean
6 years 27 days ago

It was 67! And I’m going for 74 next week to break the current record as recorded here in the comments!

(BTW, we did set a world record in the MR 340, so I have that going for me! 🙂 )

Race report at http://blog.2sparrows.org/2010/08/31/mr-340-part-ii-the-race/

kctex
kctex
6 years 27 days ago

Toad’s squats are awful! Full Range of Motion is crucial, everyone. Your hip crease has to get below your knee crease on the squat. Just like your chest should touch the deck on pushups and your chin should get above the bar on pull-ups. You’re only short-changing yourself by doing it half-way.

Primal Toad
6 years 27 days ago
Yes I agree with you 100% as I have said a few times already and mark pointed it out as well. I was “rushing” the squats as I was just trying to do as many cycles as I could. I am going to do this again on Friday more properly. When I do the 5 movements and don’t worry about time I do full squats no problem. I was just worrying about getting in as many cycles as possible. And, it was hard counting that many so I wasnt thinking about going down all the way… But they werent AWFUL…… Read more »
kctex
kctex
6 years 26 days ago

okay, sub-par. I retract my awful comment. And lord knows by about minute 15, my push-ups were sub-par, too.

Dave
Dave
6 years 26 days ago

Well thanks for having the courage to post your video for everyone to critique. 🙂

I just completed this workout and did 51 rounds in 20 minutes. Pull ups from a dead hang are a lot tougher. I need to work on my squats. Hard for me to go past parallel. The good news is I’m still sweating 15 minutes later.

kelle
kelle
6 years 27 days ago

52 cycles!!!! My goal was 40. And -yes…I modified it a little. I used my kids’ swing set and picnic table. I had to use the table (pushed a few feet away) to help with the pull-ups and chin-ups, I did push ups on my knees, and I held on the the leg of the swing set mostly for support on the squats… BUT I DID IT! Sure beats doing nothing with the excuse that I have 2 little kids in the house and can’t get out!

Sean
6 years 27 days ago

Heh, my kids were in my basement workout room, and they were trying to run on the treadmill. Half my attention was on them, hoping they weren’t going to get hurt! 🙂

bemental
6 years 27 days ago

Typical children. Being all adventurous, creative and potentially destructive to themselves and their environment.

If you think your kids are bad, imagine what Grok had to protect his from!

Analisa
Analisa
6 years 27 days ago

55 cycles this morning for 1st WOD – subbed burpees for push-ups, barefoot.

Fun quick hitter – while little like Cindy, short bursts are fun.

John F
John F
6 years 27 days ago

It was hard, but I liked this workout. I felt I could really push it without worry of injury … I lost count of how many rounds I did.

futureman
futureman
6 years 26 days ago

71 rounds in 19:58

kctex
kctex
6 years 26 days ago

why’d you quit early?

SteveiB
SteveiB
6 years 26 days ago
I did about 71 cycles give or take a few. I’m sure I miss counted a little. At first I thought that this was going to be too easy and was going to do more reps. Glad I didn’t. It wasn’t a killer but I did feel it when I was done. After I got a little warmed up I started throwing in the claps to the pushups and a jump with the squats. The important thing to remember here is that you need to mix up you workout routines. The WOW’s are a great way to build a library… Read more »
J.J. Valdivia
J.J. Valdivia
6 years 26 days ago

82.

Primal Toad
6 years 26 days ago

Seriously?

StevieB
StevieB
6 years 26 days ago

That’s nice. Gives us something to work toward.

ThePrimalBrett
ThePrimalBrett
6 years 26 days ago

Did it this afternoon; wide-grip pullups, explosive pushups and one-legged squats. fun, quick workout! Thanks for the suggestion, Mark.

Raj
6 years 26 days ago

86 rounds.

For the haters… try it before you hate it… seriously. I’ve done Cindy as well… and am generally able to do 20-22 rounds. I’m not saying Cindy is easier or anything… but this is a different animal.

The point of these timed workouts is to PUSH as hard as YOU can. If you did 50 rounds today… do it again in a month and aim for 60 rounds. You get the idea.

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