Tuesday, December 30, 2008

New Year's Resolution Workout Challenge!

I enjoy celebrating holidays and the milestones of my life, such as birthdays and New Year's, with special workout challenges. I like arduous challenges, not only are they uplifting but I use them as bio-markers, to see where I'm at in this great biological adventure known as the aging process.

One of the most grueling and gut checking exercises I can think of is the 6-Count Burpee, known in the military as the 6-Count Body Builder. It's a tremendous, results-producing, fat-burning exercise which exploits every muscle from head to toe and drives the cardio system like few things else. Like other whole-body exercises of its kind, it instigates a considerable HGH surge, similar to sprint protocols. Something singular to the Burpee is the athleticism and coordination involved: there's a level change and a strong core component, mixed with upper body pushing then followed by an explosive leap from the low squat position. Regularly working Burpees into your routine develops athletic attributes,
such as agility and coordination, not typically covered in fitness programs.

I've corresponded with prison inmates of various and sundry US penitentiaries and many prisons have removed virtually all exercise equipment, save perhaps pull-up and dip bars, and in some cases, the guys haven't even any access to these. Those among these men who have a keen interest in remaining fit while doing their time are ingenious at using their body weight to perform all sorts of movements and one of their staples, or so I've been told, is the 6-Count Burpee. It's not unusual for some guys to do up to 1500 reps during their outdoor yard time. The jailhouse physiques some of these men display are amazing and all this on the most crappy, institutionalized diet imaginable. It shows you how efficient--and results producing--body weight exercise can be.

The Hindu wrestlers (whom I frequently mention, I know!) had their own version of the 6-Count Burpee, wherein instead of the flat-foot squat and plank-style push-up, they combined a Hindu Squat, done on the toes, with a Hindu Push-Up. This makes a nice variation. Any way you do it, it's hard work!

The element missing from the otherwise complete 6-Count Burpee is an upper body pulling movement. I've found that by integrating Pull-Ups with the 6-Count Burpee, you have a complete, full-body exercise. I originated a sequence I refer to as The Maxercist, which is essentially a Squat Thrust, followed by a jump up to a high pull-up bar, followed by a Pull-Up. I have more than ten variations of this movement, several of which are shown in my body weight training certifications and workshops. The difficulty with this approach is you must have proximity to a high pull-up bar to make it happen. People residing in northern climates who prefer to work out in their home gyms may be forced to use a doorway pull-up system, which isn't conducive to the Squat-Thrust-Pull-Up combinations.

Then, there are our weaker and more rotund brethren, who may be pull-up challenged. For them, this sequence can be discouraging at best! So, I've come up with a plan of super-sets of ten 6-Count Burpees chased with 5 Pull-Ups. To make things a little more interesting (and to break out the proverbial lash--the better to whip the body into a fat-burning frenzy enough to equal or better the feeding frenzy you may have fallen prey to!) I've added a pronounced cardio element par excellence! (If you're picking up on the SM tendencies, you may recall my initials, which I always tell myself stand for Super Man but reminds others of the Marquis de Sade!)

One thing about your Old Coach, he doesn't expect his charges to undertake anything he hasn't himself done or is unwilling to do. Thus, on a cold and windswept night, beneath a crescent of silver moon overhanging Oyster Bay, your coach stood before a rusted pull-up bar, his trusted Lifeline Weighted Speed Rope in hand and his Nike Free trainers laced tight!

There, witnessed only by the heavenly bodies above, he field tested this tasty pain delight. Reminiscent of the wrestling workouts my own old coach put us through back in the sixties. I remember doing reps until us kids were puke-faced, lying spent in our own pooled body fluids... and here I am, at 56, now my own coach, still keeping on, keeping on, to the beat of that distant drummer. Knowing that if I can just survive one more set, I'll be a better man for it.

The workout goes like this:

A1) Rope Skip x 100 jumps
Lifeline Heavy Seed Rope (green)
*this is a SPRINT, so do your rope skipping as hard and fast as possible
*if you don't have a Lifeline rope, use a regular rope but do 200 jumps, which is about equal
*if you can't jump rope, or haven't got a jump rope, perform 50 Jumping Jacks aka Side-Straddle Hops

A2) 6-Count Burpee x 10
this is NOT one of those cheap, bend-over-at-the-waist-barely-bend-your-knee

Here are the directions for a properly conducted 6-count Burpee:
from the standing position:
1) Perform a full, ass-to-the-floor SQUAT w/ arms between the knees, palms and heels flat

2) JUMP back to an upper Push-Up positon, arms straight, abs and core engaged

3) LOWER down smoothly until the sternum grazes the floor between the hands

4) PUSH back up into the plank position, with arms locked, abs and core tight, elbows tucked into the ribs

5) JUMP back to a full Squat, butt to the floor, knees completely bent w/ knee caps tracked over toes, arms between knees and heels flat

6) from the low Squat, explode and LEAP high into the air, landing softly upon the feet

Immediately go into the next rep.

When performed like this, the 6-Count Burpee will increase mobility in the hips and work the abs and hip flexors extremely hard.

After completing the tenth rep, walk to your pull-up bar and perform...

A3) Pull-Up x 5
from a perfect dead hang, pull the throat over the bar
*if pull-ups are too hard for you, substitute Chin-Ups, which are about 20% easier
*if you haven't a pull-up bar at home and you'd still like to participate in this New Year's workout challenge, you can do door Pull-Ups:

a) open a door, and wedge some type of shim beneath the door so as not to strain the hinges. Use a door stop to prevent the door from swaying and closing on your fingers

b) place a towel across the top of the door

c) grab the top of the door and ull yourself up, dragging the belly and thighs along the surface of the door

You can also step up on a chair and get into the top position, then slowly lower yourself down to perform the negative protion of the exercise

*another option is to use Jungle Gym body weight Rows as the pulling element. in this case, double the reps to ten, since the Rows are a good deal easier than Pull-Ups or Chin-Ups.

Your goal is to get 12 rounds (one for every month of the year!) of this circuit in as long as it takes to perform all the exercises.

If you can get 12 rounds in 30 min or less, consider yourself in top physical condition, but DON'T sacrifice the form and start cheating for the sake of improving time--HELL no!

For those of you who like to wear heart rate monitors, you'll definitely hit your max heart rate, probably about the fourth or fifth round!

Happy New Year and let me know your results!

Yours in Strength & Health,

Coach Steve


David Swanson said...

Man, Steve you are such an inspirational writer...this post had me thinking about my old Judo coach who would push us until my fingers were raw and where literally talking was painful.
I'm giving this one a go Thursday morning when I know many of my training partners and friends will be nursing headaches and cradling rubbish filled bellies.

David Swanson

Steve Maxwell said...

Thanks for writing, David! Let us all know how it goes! - Steve

Dom77mu said...

Thanks for the workouts steve. Its great to find new ideas for working out at your site. As always routine is the enemy!


zevenesh said...

steve, this is a beastly workout bruddah! I actually visited east jersey state prison, aka rahway - same place they filmed 'lock up' w/stallone.

I spoke w/the former boxing team, the guys still did 5 x 50 push ups every morning and then did all their pull ups, dips and sit ups through the day.

Sly actually payed for a 400 meter track to be built in the back and they told me how some dudes did partner wheel barrow hand walks around the track as well.

These guys were solid! And you're right, the food available was shit!

happy New Year brother,


Joe Pavel said...

Thank you for the inspirational writing. You've outdone yourself again!
This routine is the perfect combination for any wrestler/ grappler.
I can't wait to try it out myself.
Have a Great New Year!

Super-Trainer said...

Excellent writing - And that last jump on the burpee will get ya!!

Gudjon said...

Just what I needed, a challenge for Jan 1! Did it this morning in sunny/rainy Barbados, took me over an hour, but I did 200 reps with the jump rope as it is a normal one, not a heavy one. Vala, having some sort of flue, could not resist the temptation when she saw me training, so she went through the whole thing as well with style! And my sister, who is on a visit from Australia, joined her and did well. Thanks for the inspiration and challenge, feels great, great, great to start the new year in this way - Gudjon

Steve Maxwell said...

Zach! Thanks for stopping in and your ever-insightful comments. I always liked the idea that I can work out anytime/anyplace...even if it comes down to a prison cell! As with everything, imagination and creativity are the only limits. Happy New Year, Zach! Thanks for your boundless good vibes and generosity. Let's get together when I'm in Philly mid-April. - Steve

Steve Maxwell said...

Joe, you're so right. When you get done with this one, you'll feel like you've wrestled a grizzly bear--but in a good way! - let us know how it goes! - Steve

Steve Maxwell said...

Super, You're right about the last Burpee. the jumps really amp up the activity and the explosive element. - Steve

Steve Maxwell said...

Gudj, YOU ARE THE MAN! A viking in Barbados! And that WIFE of yours! Queen of the Valkyries! Knowing she has a sister is almost overwhelming!
Happy New Year Gudjon and Vala and lovely sister! Best to the boyz!

I had the same experience as yourself, the pull-ups were the easiest part. - Steve

Kevin B said...

Thanks Steve... I think. :-)

Wildcard said...


It seems like half a century since we met and exchanged ideas at the RKC in April 06. I am enjoying your blog and wishing nothing but success and happiness for you in all of your endeavors. You're a true warrior so I know you will come out on top!
The workout was a total smoker, much tougher than I anticipated. I'm recovering from a shoulder injury so the burpees were slower than I would have liked. Total workout as prescribed: Just shy of 22 minutes. No puking either!
Happy New Year Bro!


Steve Maxwell said...

Tommy, I told my gf a real stud could get through it in under 30 min! Tommy, you are in incredible shape--great job! - Steve

Steve Maxwell said...

Kevin B, get out there and thank me (or curse me) later! - Steve

Norm Elliott said...

Coach, As usual, you come up with the best. I completed it New Year's morning and for each month thought about the good things 2009 is going to bring my family and myself. Thanks for the workout and Happy New Year!

Steve Maxwell said...

Great job, Norm! It's going to be a great year and you've started it with the right attitude, setting a fine precedent. - Steve

Aaron13 said...

Nice workout! I finished it in 24:50 using 50 jumping jacks (I need to get a jump rope) and 10bodyweight rows (I also need to work on my pullups). Your blog is awesome, keep writing!

Steve Maxwell said...

Great job, Aaron! Way to get the new year going! - Steve

Steve Maxwell said...

You guys keep reading and I'll keep on writing! - Steve

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this and many other posts. I have recently started reading your blog and I have immense respect and admiration for your work. I want to subscribe to your posts by email (not G Reader, etc.) but couldn't find that widget. Care to insert that one?

Steve Maxwell said...

Thanks, rambodoc! My resourceful aide isn't able find a widget to add on the blog page, but there is an email list option to which your email can be added. send your email to maxercise@gmail.com and she'll add it. Thanks for reading. - Steve

Richard said...

I would like to use this workout to get back into shape. How many days per week can/should you do it?

Also any chance of an article on diet advice for losing fat and keeping/gaining muscle?

Your the best!

Steve Hopkins said...

That was a fun workout, just the way to bring in the new year! It took me about just shy of 40 minutes to get it done, so it bolster my new years resolve to keep hammering at the bit. :)

David Swanson said...

Did this workout yesterday. New Year's Day was for rest due to some very heavy moving at my parent's place the night before.
It took me 36:10. Pretty damn grueling especially after about the 8th set or so.
Thanks again and I look forward to bettering my time.
David Swanson

PS The burpee technique you demonstrate is awesome and it felt great when I did it that way.

Steve Maxwell said...

Well done, David and it's never too late to get in the workout! That WAS a good video, I'm glad you liked it. Good time and know that most people started gassing in the 6 & 7th rounds. - Steve

Sean Schniederjan RKC said...


I love this blog and have been sharing it with friends and family!

I've been using kettlebell/barbell mostly for the past couple of years but have been neglecting bodyweight exercises. I've been doing slow pushups and pistols in a doorway and I feel leaner and meaner from doing those than pushes and pulls with a KB/BB. I especially enjoy the unanchored situps you described. I feel a six pack coming on in the near future.

You'll see fat people lifting KBs and BBs, but not guys who can pump out high volume pushups, pullups, and pistols...its so obvious but I had never thought about that until hearing it from this blog...so many thanks for that!

I'll be getting back to the gym next semester and am anxious to see if this BW stuff will help me reach my goal of a 500lb DL. I have a feeling it will, especially the leg/glute strength from the pistols. Best,


Steve Maxwell said...

Sean, Thanks for writing, I'm glad you like the blog. BW training is indeed an extremely effective way to increase all parameters of fitness. AFA Pistols increasing the DL: they are 2 separate skills and in order to be good at either, you must practice each. Rarely does one exercise better another/different exercise. The way to get good at DL is to DL. The skills of DL and Pistol are very different. Pistols are a very good alternative to heavy BB Squats for overall leg development and strength. - Steve

Steve Maxwell said...

If you want to learn the Pistol and some cool variations, sign up for my Body Weight Trainers certification!

BamBam said...

Steve, Do you ever plan on coming to the Phoenix, Arizona area. I'd love to attnd 1 of your seminars

Sean Schniederjan RKC said...


I definitely agree, but I was thinking that all things being equal, the guy with stronger legs is going to be better at pulling weight off the ground because of the additional explosiveness that comes from pushing the legs strongly in to the ground to get the weight moving. Also having strong glutes and knowing how to activate them will not hurt for pulling heavy weight. I can't think of a better way to get to know one's glutes than slow butt to the ground pistols.

I guess I'll find out next week when my gym access returns for a new DL cycle.

Steve Maxwell said...

Bam Bam, I don't have anything coming up in PHX. Come to Sacramento 7 Feb. Airfare on Southwest is $110 each way. I keep telling you guys, Chip Conrad's gym, BodyTribe, is something very special. He's created something unique and it's going to be a great seminar. -Steve

Steve Maxwell said...

Sean, In the field of motor learning, there are 2 types of individuals: discriminators and non-discriminators. About 80% of the population are discriminators, while ~20% are non. Non-discriminators seemingly derive carry-over benefit from dissimilar exercises. They also can do partial-range movements and get strength throughout the full-range of the movement. You MAY be a non-discriminator and get benefit from the Pistol which carries over to your DL. The discriminator OTOH, which makes up the majority of the population, only gets very specific results. Dissimilar exercises won't benefit them, so for them, the Pistol would be one set of skills, and the DL quite another. They would see very little improvement without training both exercises. Write back and let us know your results! - Steve

raysugar said...

thanks steve i done 10 rounds in 30 mins and a bit the last session my form and mind went badly ( forgetting where i was up to with the 6 burpee counts) i wore my HRM and nearly all the time it was 150 to 161 !!!! thanks for work out coach

westsailor28 said...

just wondered if you think,the lifeline JUNGLE GYM,is as effective as thbe TRX suspension system.Are they both the same tool just different marketing concepts?

Steve Maxwell said...


I've used both. The JG is less complex than the TRX and I prefer it for that reason. - Steve