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,