Ready For a 7-Week Spartan Pull-Up Challenge?

Ready For a 7-Week Spartan Pull-Up Challenge?
Presented by Spartan Training®

Hey Team! This is a Sept 20, 2018 update:

Thanks again for joining our group of people who apparently love burpees and/or want to get a first strict pull-up or set a PR with them.

Suggested Pre-Tests:

  1. Strict Pull-Ups Max Reps for 1 set.
  2. Burpee/Run Workout for Time:

30 Burpees/400-meter run -- 4 rounds. (Feel free to scale to your needs of course!)

3. And set a 7-Week Burpee Goal. (500, 1000, 5000, a zillion. I suggest a number you believe is doable but also makes you a little nervous)

And by the way: I you only want or have time to do just one of the above, super! Adapt this to your needs and situation.

To join the Facebook group (if you haven't already) here is the link.

Thanks for all the great posts you're putting up. And thanks for being positive and welcoming and into the spirit of this which is really about training together as a global group of Spartans representing all abilities, ages, etc.

I think it's fair to say that when you form a group with people who want to do a lot of burpees, you don't have to worry about jerks. Or egos. Sort of a self-selecting process.

And a gift to all of you--an article that will be officially published in the future on how to go from 0 to 30 Pull-Ups that I think is very strong and has some great ideas for exercises we can use to develop our pull-up abilities.

Special thanks to one of our team, Jolene De Zeeu for suggesting the Get Fit Fast Plan as a solid way to make improvements across the board in this 7-Week Challenge.

One final article I'd like to mention: I wrote about my inner journey in a burpee workout. I can tell you honestly that the only way that I developed the habit of doing daily burpee workouts was because of our community. Thanks for showing up then and thanks for showing up now and keeping me on path.

See you in the FB group! TJ

This is the September 11 update on the Spartan Pull-Up Challenge, a largely informal event that is a fun way to either take up a new training program or add some serious sizzle to what you've got going.

To get an idea of what we did this past summer, read this story.

And in the coming days, I'll update this page with new info and an FAQ to help those who want to join in ready to go.

What This Is

A Pull-Up Challenge that consists of a  7-Week blitz on pull-ups and burpees. And if you want to kick in some running work and nutrition work, those options are part of the plan if you want them.

You will probably have your own unique goals and reasons for doing this, but many of us who did the summer challenge surprised themselves by how much fitness and stamina was gained. I burned off about 10 pounds and was surprised at the fitness gain. But more importantly, I think the underlying goal is to improve discipline, reboot it or get it for the first time.

Amanda Mueller averaged 200 burpees per day for 30 days and had a fan the whole way.

Main Targets

By doing daily pull-up and burpee work, how many burpees can you do in 7 weeks?

And what kind of personal record can you set for a single set of pull-ups?

An Example

As an example, this is what I’m aiming for:

Burpees: 12,000

Max strict pull-ups: 20

I’ve set the 12,000 as a way to push myself beyond what I did in the July Burpee Challenge (which was 200/day for 30 days equals 6000). So this will require me to do 250 per day for 49 days.

My Pull-Up Challenge pull-up goal: Right now I think I am in the range of being able to do 6 pull-ups. In 2012 I set my PR of 12. But I’ve never really focused on it. I was going to write down 15 but I thought: What the hell? It sure would be cool to be able to do 20 pull-ups. So as you’ll infer from below, that’s why I’m going to add a nutrition element to the 7 weeks.

And if you're new to fitness, I just want to say that our most inspiring and amazing participants in the July Burpee Challenge were those who had committed to 30 or so burpees per day. To go from zero exercise to collecting 1000 burpees is like going to Pluto and back, so I just want to emphasize that this is not about how advanced folks are, but rather how diligent. That's where the wow factor was.

So no matter what your level, Spartan fitness is for everyone. Full stop. You are welcome and wanted.

Challenge Dates

First Day: Challenge starts on Sunday, September 23, 2018

Last Day: November 10, 2018

From the summer challenge: Lara De Carvalho, left, doing a burpee war cry.


1. Get better at pull-ups. Not kipping or butterfly pull-ups. Simple, strict pull-ups will be the focus of our Pull-Up Challenge. Maybe you can do 20 now. Maybe 10. Maybe you can’t do one. The purpose of this challenge is to assess your starting point, set a goal for the max number of pull-ups you can do in a set, then work hard toward your goal for 7 weeks and see how much progress you can make toward your goal.

2.  Do lots of  burpees. Along the way, you’ll also chase a burpee goal (like we did in the summer burpee challenge). I’m setting a goal for 10,000 burpees for the 7 weeks, which is 200 per day. Burpees build the engine. I continue to be amazed at what burpees deliver and how useful they are when you have the job/kids/commute tangle that makes consistency a problem. Burpees are about as no-excuses as you get.

3. Optional Burpee/Run test. I noticed that a number of Spartans who participated in our July Burpee Challenge mixed their daily dose of burpees into their running workouts. Some did the burpees before one of their runs. Some after. And some mixed them in. So as an example of how this challenge is meant to be tailored to your level, running is my big problem right now. I have done some decent running in my life. I once ran a 2:38 marathon. But now because of a knee thing I can’t so much as break into a job without limping. So for me, the Burpee/Run test will be a way to help me push myself toward solving my knee problem.

I’m making a game out of it and playing the game with you guys, fellow Spartans who want to spend some time focusing their training on something that’s kind of hard and demands some breakthrough discipline.

Kenishia Perry and friend's take on the optimal post-burpee-workout-and-or-Spartan Race recovery drink.

So with this in mind, I invite you to join me in an additional Challenge pre-test and post-test workout:

For time:

30 burpees

400-meter run

30 burpees

400-meter run

30 burpees

400-meter run

30 burpees

400-meter run

In shorthand:

4 rounds of 30 burpees followed by a 400-meter run.

Pull-Up Challenge Pre-tests:

Suggested that you complete these the week of September 16 to September 22. But if you did these in the first week, no problem.

This Challenge is about what works best fo you, your goals, your training and your progress.

Pre-Test #1. Max number of strict pull-ups in one set.

Do as many pull-ups as you can in one set.

Here’s what will look at as a standard pull-up for this challenge:

Optional Pre-test #2.

For time: 4 rounds of 30 burpees & a 400-meter run. Total 120 burpees and one mile of running. 

Joe Pacheco's burpee team getting the job done.

Where this Challenge Will Live

As we did in the July Burpee Challenge, this isn't like the Whole Life Challenge or the CrossFit Open where they have pretty amazing scoreboards that help you tabulate your score. Rather, everyone chooses they're on way to record their daily work. I used paper. Some had some cool phone apps. Others used spreadsheets. It's up to you. What we do is share our efforts and support in a Facebook group. We had a nice dynamic this past summer and hope to see the same sort of positive and supportive atmosphere. For my part, I'll be posting stories and advice from coaches and experts to help people with their training and solve problems.

Ultimately, I think the Facebook Group helped us build a community that kept us focused and accountable. I know it helped me get better results than if I'd done it on my own.

So for those who have filled out the Challenge form (here) I'll be sending you a link to the FB group about a week from now (Sept 18 or so). Those who participated in the summer challenge probably have access, but if not, just fill out the form and I'll be using that to send out the link (as I've learned, you have to be careful with a FB group like this or the spammers slip in and start posting annoying ad things).

Debbie Byrd McMahan steadfast in her reliance on getting after it.

Advice on Setting Goals

One of the revelations we had in the summer challenge was just how much daily life surprises work to get in your way of trying to build a daily habit. The upshot was that I feel like a good number of us really built some new skills in navigating those challenges and getting it done. I found myself doing burpees in situations and times that I would not have done a few months ago. You get innovative--especially when the momentum kicks in.

With this in mind, I suggest setting goals that are:

  1. A little scary--as in you think about X number of burpees per day and you get a little nervous
  2. Aren't out of range. I think that if I had set a daily goal that was too much I would have missed the daily target enough that frustration would have set in and I would have said the hell with it.
  3. Are exciting. Set a number that keeps you fired up. 10,000 was my burpee goal for 30 days and it just sounded cool to me. So that little bit of energy went a long way and helped keep me motivated.
  4. Realistic. If you're busy--have kids, an 80-hour/week job etc--factor that in. Also, use common sense when it comes to what you think your body can handle. This Challenge is meant to help build up not break down.

By all means, work with a coach or mentor to help you set the right targets. I know my advice is limited.

And customize! There are no hard rules here. If you don't want to do the pull-ups, just do the burpees. Or vice-versa. Or add something else. Make it your own.

How to Train for Pull-Ups

Ok, so we'll be talking about this a lot in our Facebook group. And next week I'm posting a new article from a good SGX coach on how to get more pull-ups. We'll have articles on scaling pull-ups and using TRX to get pull-ups and mobility for pull-ups. It will be a grab bag.

So lots of bells and whistles. But in the end, it's about spending time every day (or most days) doing pull-ups or something pull-up like. Combined with the burpees, if you work 5 minutes a day on pull-ups and pursue a good burpee goal, it's likely you'll improve.

Optional Nutrition Turbo-Charger

So to get better at pull-ups, feel free to let it rip. As CrossFit’s Greg Glassman once put it in a lecture, improving your nutrition can lead to better pull-ups. “Lose five pounds of blubber and you’ll get more pull-ups,” is how he put it.

And of course that’s right. Build lean muscle and reduce excess bodyfat, and pulling your chin over a bar becomes easier.

So adding a simple nutrition guideline to the 7-week burpee onslaught will make a profound difference.

Something fundamental like eating less processed foods. Or not drinking beer. Or restricting calories to less than 100 grams per day.

I highly recommend anything Robb Wolf has to say on the subject of overhauling your nutrition. He has some free guides here.

Or you can really go all-in on this one and sign up for his Ketogenic Diet Masterclass.

But whether it’s just avoiding beer for 7 weeks or turning your kitchen inside-out, I recommend that you mark a starting point for this option too.

The simple option: Measure your waistline. This is a recommendation of Robb’s and is more about excess bodyfat. Better info than the scale considering how this is more about changing body composition rather than sheer weight loss.

The Channel-Tim-Ferris Option.

Get your bodyfat measured at the beginning and again at the end. DEXA scans are considered the gold standard. I recall years ago they were about $100 per scan pricing options.

But you’ll really know how much excess fat you have and kind of see it displayed in the scan. One cheaper option is an InBody Scan. I know this through SGX coach Rich Borgatti. Not sure how available it is but, for example, he has this at his gym and it costs $25.

You can always check around for the test where you submerge yourself under water, have someone yell at you to exhale every last molecule of breath you can from your lungs, and they take that info to calculate your body fat. I’ve done this too and it’s a pretty miserable experience. But hey, it works and it’s typically cheaper than Dexa.

And just saying: The tape measure works pretty well too.

So do body calipers. I once did a Dexa scan and my coach at the time measured my body fat with skin calipers and they were basically the same reading. Cost of the single Dexa scan: $100. The tape measure: Like $1.30 for unlimited measures forever.

So to wrap this section up: I just want to let you know I’m going to personally add a nutrition element to my challenge. I did 6000 burpees in 30 days and I definitely got fitter but I didn’t really worry about my nutrition. I just wanted to see what the burpees would do. I can’t shake the thought that if I’d coupled better nutrition to it I would have got a lot more out of all those burpees.

OK! That's it for now. I'll update this page and let everyone who signs up know that there's more info. Hope you're up for this and ready to join in.

Burpees for Vets

More info on this to come, but this challenge ends right before Veteran's Day. For those interested, we'll look into how we can contribute our burpee counts to Mark Divine's Burpees for Vets fundraiser.