Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
30 Aug

WOW: Easy As 1, 2, 3

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 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.

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. 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 in a shorter time period. I know there are a complex set of variables involved, but i was wondering what everyone thought of this. I hope it makes sense.

    P.S. I enjoy this site, keep up the good work.

    jess wrote on August 30th, 2010
    • 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.

      PrimalOnahill wrote on August 30th, 2010
  2. 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!

    Kelda wrote on August 30th, 2010
  3. 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!

    JC wrote on August 30th, 2010
  4. 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.

    Kris wrote on August 30th, 2010
  5. 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.

    SLS wrote on August 30th, 2010
    • It’s over in 20 min… suck it up 😀

      Arthur wrote on August 30th, 2010
    • You could also do this one outside using a tree, avoiding all walls and floors.

      Neil wrote on August 30th, 2010
    • Do it outside!!!!!!!

      Primal Toad wrote on August 30th, 2010
      • 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.

        SLS wrote on August 30th, 2010
        • By all means, don’t forget to take your arrogance with you.

          VelocityRD wrote on August 30th, 2010
        • Far be it for there ever to exit a nay.

          SLS wrote on August 30th, 2010
        • 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.

          Dave Fish wrote on August 30th, 2010
        • …or just do the body by science workout :-)

          axiom wrote on August 30th, 2010
        • If you find this workout “boring” then you are not hitting it hard enough, you’re just going through the motions.

          JG wrote on August 31st, 2010
        • 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
          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.

          Mike wrote on August 31st, 2010
  6. ooh, this one looks great, can’t wait to try it 😀

    Audry wrote on August 30th, 2010
  7. 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”

    Lars1000 wrote on August 30th, 2010
  8. 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..

    otto wrote on August 30th, 2010
    • That’s a little harsh for someone who has a different perspective…don’t you think?

      Ben wrote on August 30th, 2010
  9. Let’s keep things nice and civil, everyone!

    Grok on!

    Mark Sisson wrote on August 30th, 2010
  10. 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.

    Nancy wrote on August 30th, 2010
  11. Thinking a good score on this would be 40-50 cycles.

    GH wrote on August 30th, 2010
    • Yes, obviously it will depend on your fitness level and what if any variations on this workout you incorporate. As presented, a reasonably fit male should be able to do about 50 cycles. One of my associates did 63 last week.

      Mark Sisson wrote on August 30th, 2010
  12. 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.

    cqp wrote on August 30th, 2010
  13. 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.

    Primal Toad wrote on August 30th, 2010
  14. 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.

    otto wrote on August 30th, 2010
  15. 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.


    Dozer wrote on August 30th, 2010
    • Ah ah ah … YEP , 10 min was exactly when my tune changed !!!

      Nancy wrote on August 30th, 2010
    • 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 the second halve. I did a version of this on the TRX a couple weeks ago, and a month ago I did Cindy. The TRX version was a lot more challenging.

      Trevor wrote on August 30th, 2010
  16. I plan to do this with a 20 lb weighted vest tonight. It’s like a modified “cindy” (cf workout). nice!

    kctex wrote on August 30th, 2010
    • 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.

      Trevor wrote on August 30th, 2010
      • 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.

        kctex wrote on August 31st, 2010
  17. 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.

    Dana wrote on August 30th, 2010
  18. 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.

    Robert wrote on August 30th, 2010
  19. Great workout!!!
    Tried it out tonight and 10 minutes is definitely the turning point! Managed to get 39 reps in total!

    Cha Cha wrote on August 30th, 2010
  20. 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.

    Greg wrote on August 30th, 2010
    • Thanks Greg.

      Dana wrote on August 31st, 2010
  21. 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.

    Rob S. wrote on August 30th, 2010
  22. Good workout. It’s clear pullups are my weak exercise. Only 25 sets, but I guess it’s a starting point.

    Craig wrote on August 30th, 2010
  23. 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 builds form. The challenge is to maintain perfect form while increasing your speed.

    Going barefoot helps with your agility as you shoot into the push up position.

    goneprimal wrote on August 30th, 2010
  24. 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!

    Patrick Dale wrote on August 30th, 2010
  25. 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?

    art wrote on August 30th, 2010
    • 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.

      kctex wrote on August 31st, 2010
  26. 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!


    Mike Wootini wrote on August 31st, 2010
  27. 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.

    balabushka wrote on August 31st, 2010
    • 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.

      kctex wrote on August 31st, 2010
      • 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.

        Nethru wrote on August 31st, 2010
      • Ok, did it this morning.

        => 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

        balabushka wrote on September 2nd, 2010
  28. 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?

    Jeff wrote on August 31st, 2010
    • Dips and pushups work very similar, imho no need for adding dips.

      balabushka wrote on August 31st, 2010
      • 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

        Jeff wrote on August 31st, 2010
    • 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.

      Blah wrote on March 24th, 2011
  29. I cant find my pullup bar but when I do I will be sure to try this.

    debbie_downer wrote on August 31st, 2010
  30. 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.”)

    Family Grokumentarian wrote on August 31st, 2010
  31. 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…

    Primal Toad wrote on August 31st, 2010
    • You need a taller door :)
      Ok.. off to do them now. Wish me luck.

      Lars1000 wrote on August 31st, 2010
  32. 20 minutes of this huh… Sounds like a fun workout to try out!

    Alex wrote on August 31st, 2010
  33. 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.

    MamaSofi wrote on August 31st, 2010
  34. 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.

    Lars1000 wrote on August 31st, 2010
  35. 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!

    Primal Toad wrote on August 31st, 2010
    • 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.

      Family Grokumentarian wrote on August 31st, 2010
      • 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!

        Primal Toad wrote on August 31st, 2010
  36. 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.

    Dan wrote on August 31st, 2010
    • 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 you to try the brussel sprouts before declaring you hated them?)
      4. See number 3 above.

      I find it hard to understand why people like to make these comments. Don’t find it a challenge, up to your snuff don’t do it. By all means not everyone is up to your caliber perhaps. This is not Dan’s WOW, but the Primal Fitness Communities WOW. Try and keep that in mind. These are Scalable work outs. meant to be expanded on by those individuals that need to expand on them. Add weight, reps, time any other of many things to expand on this. Just like the Primal Fitness outlined the different levels.
      I apologize, but I don’t normally lash out on these posts. I don’t mean to pick yours out of all the others. It seems silly to leave this comment. We don’t need to know that it is below your level. Allow the other 5,999,999,999 other primal fitness geeks bask in this WOW.

      Robert wrote on August 31st, 2010
      • 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 relative sense), his point is that it would be more effecient use of time to increase the number of reps.
        3. Smaller reps = easier work out, especially after taking the time to get down from pull up. 2 is really a low number. He didn’t say it wasn’t a challange at all, he said it would be more so if the reps were higher.
        4. Doing the same short round over and over for 20 min is boring. Just like jumping rope for 8 min is boring or jogging for 3mi is boring or any other repetative thing is boring. Read the same paragraph for 20 min, you’ll get bored, swim a 25m lap for 20 min, you’ll get bored. Tired? Maybe…probably… Bored? Yes!

        Mike wrote on September 1st, 2010
  37. 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!

    Lars1000 wrote on August 31st, 2010
  38. 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 your Grok out!” is one of the best one liners I’ve heard, primally speaking, in a long while.

    Keep it up and good work everyone!

    bemental wrote on August 31st, 2010
    • Thanks! I thought I invented the “Rock Out” one liner but a quick Google Search proved me wrong. sigh…

      73 cycles? Good flipping work!

      Lars1000 wrote on August 31st, 2010
      • 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!

        bemental wrote on August 31st, 2010
  39. 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.

    Chris wrote on August 31st, 2010

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