Meet Mark

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...

Tell Me More
Stay Connected
May 16 2011

WOW: Max Efforts

By Mark Sisson


Max Pullups, 5 minutes
Max Pushups, 5 minutes
Max Squats, 5 minutes


Warmup: 60 second Grok Squat, 60 second Grok Hang.

This is a real simple workout, folks. Simple, to the point, basic, but incredibly tough just the same. I find the simple workouts usually work out to be the toughest. Funny how that happens. As such, I don’t need to expound on this workout beyond just a few words.

Pace yourself. You could go all out and just bang out as many reps right off the bat as you can, or you could plan your attack. If you know you can do 20 consecutive pullups, try doing your pullups in sets of eight.

I’m not sure I need to say much more. Get out there, time yourself, and give it your all. And post your totals in the comment board.

A few things to remember:

  • Each rep should be completed with excellent form. If you find your hips dipping toward the ground on the pushups, if your chin begins grazing the pullup bar, and if squats start morphing into quarter squats, stop. Recover and resume the lifts when you can do them right. Just because we’re using lighter weights, doing the exercises without regard for form will establish poor neuromuscular patterns, and when you do decide to throw on some extra weight, your performance will suffer and your risk of injury will increase.
  • Rest about two minutes after each five minute block.
  • If you can only manage a couple consecutive real pullups, drop down a level and do them with your foot supported. Choose the right progression level for your ability.


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

Serious lifters: Do your pushups with a weight vest, weights stacked on your back, or with resistance bands to increase the difficulty; do your pullups with a weight vest on, weights hung from a belt, or weights trapped between your ankles; do your squats with a barbell and weights totaling your own bodyweight (so, 185 lbers should squat with 2 45s and 2 25s on the 45 lb bar).

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.

If you'd like to add an avatar to all of your comments click here!

35 thoughts on “WOW: Max Efforts”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. I cannot do a pullup unassisted right now. I use a machine at the gym that helps you out with a counter weight. Do these things work? Will I eventually be able to do a pullup unassisted if I use less and less help from the machine?

    1. I think that they do work, but I think there are issues with them. If you can find some, use resistance bands instead. They give you more help when you need it most (at the bottom of the pullup) and less as you go up, making them much better and improving your strength. Took me about 3 weeks from being able to do one pull up poorly to many pull ups well. Good luck!

    2. Heck yeah it works! Keep increasing the weight and eventually you’ll build enough muscle to pull yourself up. You could also work on hanging at the top of a pull up. It’s petty hard to do at first but builds exactly the muscle you need to pull complete a pull up.

      Back in the day I couldn’t do a pull up either and now I can do plenty of them.

      1. I think they work, but I would also try some jumping or kipping (if you can do these) pullups. Also, one of my past trainers said that 5 sets of 5 on the assisted machine were best for increasing pullup strength. Set the resistance so that you can complete all reps of all 5 sets. You should get better and better at it.

    3. Yes you will. I couldn’t either when I first started… Now it comes easy.

      check out: for great tips.

    4. I my opinion that is exactly the right thing to do. Use the assisted machines and gradually (as you become stronger/more able) reduce the counter weight.

      Eventually, you may will find yourself doing one or two full body weight pull ups before having to use the assistance of the counter weight.

      Good luck and keep it Primal 😉

    1. I am guessing it would make it worse. You could always give it a try, though.

      I think I would drink some extra water first… and after.

    2. I have to think that working out with a hangover is a bad idea, especially for me personally, I’ve tried it. You’re dehydrated, lacking vitamins, and not getting proper bloodflow to places that need it. I’ve read stories of people that have good and bad experiences but I know when I have a marching band in my head, the last thing on my mind is breaking a sweat. The best way to know is giving it a try and see what happens though, everyone’s different.

    3. Neither most likely. The suffering from a hangover is due from the nasty bi-products of alcohol breakdown in your body along with a good dose of dehydration. If your head is already pounding then exercise is likely to make it pound more (temporarily), but I doubt it has any overall effect. I find that protein and rehydration are the best things you can do. Then again, I’ve also found that most of what I once thought were alcohol hangovers were actually caused by eating junk food along with the drinks and not the drinks themselves, but there you have it…

      1. There is quite possibly a junk food connection here. I was at a wine tasting event and ate cheese with what seems like hundreds of little tastes of wine (man how that adds up). I don’t eat dairy normally. It’s not good for me. Other than that, though, all I’ve had is meat and vegetable broth.

        Ok so experimentation got the best of me and I tried the workout. I made it as far as the 60 second Grok hang. I had been feeling quite a bit better as the day passed but the hang brought it all back. Gave me a big ol headache while I was doing it.

        Verdict: rest when you’re hungover.

  2. I love simple workouts. I will be doing this on Wednesday and will post my results then if I remember. Can’t wait!

  3. Man, this could be really intense. If I wasn’ focusing on weight training so much lately I would give it a shot. I may have to drop one of my lifting days so I can work in fun stuff like this.

  4. I’m a little confused – it says to post times, but isn’t the workout as many reps as possible in 5 minutes? Are we posting our rep results, or am I misunderstanding the timing aspect?

    1. I’m guessing it is a typo; just post your total reps completed in the 5 minutes allocated per exercise…

  5. I lost 17 pounds last month using a free weight loss guide I found at if anyone is interested…

  6. I recovered from that brutal hangover yesterday and gave the workout a try this morning.

    Now don’t laugh. I’m a girl and much more into snowboarding and bike riding than weightlifting. Here are my results:

    5 minutes per group in this order
    Squats: 100 (totally could have done more)
    Pull ups: 24 (maxed)
    Push ups: 33 (maxed)

  7. Ok, so I didn’t sleep well last night but wanted to give this one a try anyway. For only 15 min. of working out, this is pretty tough! Here’s my results:

    40 Pull-ups (varied grip/hand position every 5 reps)
    80 Push-ups (varied hand position every 5-10 reps)
    45 Squats (weighted with dumbbell in my hands)

    I wrote this down on a piece of paper and set it aside…I want to do this workout again in a few weeks and see if I improve. This seems like a great workout for benchmarking. Thanks Mark!

  8. Legs are so sore!

    103 squats with 45lb barbell
    83 push-ups
    41 chip-ups


  9. This is a great workout. Reminds me of some workouts my old Crossfit trainer used to do. Anyway, I just started a new job where I’m standing all day. Great for health, but I’m pretty tired on my days off from increasing the standing so much (from almost no standing at work to about 6 hours a day). Still, though, I feel pretty good about the results…the squats are just less than I anticipated.

    115 pushups
    148 squats
    27 pulls ups – alternating grip every 5 reps

    Male/132 lbs/23 yo

  10. Just did this today…

    29 pull-ups (15 with wide and 14 with close grip)
    64 Push-Ups
    87 Squats

    I loved this workout! I will be doing it again on… Thursday!

  11. I substituted chin ups for pull ups since the later tend to hurt my shoulder.

    35 chin ups
    58 push ups
    105 squats

    male/170lbs/26 yrs

  12. Pull ups: 46
    Push ups: 87
    Squats: 158


    Massive workout. Next week I’ll try to vary the routine to inverted rows, one hand clean and press and lunges

  13. Push-ups 70
    Mixed Pull-ups 39
    Air squats 114

    67kg male. 175cm. 29 years old.

  14. 62 pullups (alternating between wide and close grip every 8 reps)
    114 pushups (alternating between regular and knuckle)
    185 squats

    130 lb. Male, 5′ 8″, 14 years old.

    My legs are still sore from my workout on Saturday, so I could have done better on the squats.