The 60 Day PLP Challenge: That Time I Did 2,440 Pull Ups

Wow.

This past Sunday, I finished up what was probably the most challenging workout plan I’ve ever attempted. I managed to stick with this plan, day after day, every day, for 61 straight days.

I honestly don’t think I have ever done ANYTHING 61 days in a row!

It wasn’t easy.  Over the past 61 days, I completed a total of 2,440 pull ups, 2,440 push ups, and 2,440 lunges, in addition to my regular workout plan of 3-4 days per week of heavy lifting (which included weighted pull up, heavy deadlifts, and ring work).

I thought I’d be running on fumes – or that my arms would fall off after the 61 days.   Actually, I feel stronger than ever – more invincible and more anti-fragile.  As I mentioned on my 6-Week challenge Thread, I feel like Wolverine (…which lead to this).

It shifted my perspective on training and what the human body is capable of.

So what am I talking about?

The PLP Program.

NOTE: This is NOT a beginner program, and should not be attempted unless you have been training consistently and can do multiple repetitions of pull ups and pushups with great form.

The PLP Program

Steve Pull Ups

Originally concocted by Chad Waterbury in 2011, and more recently introduced to me by my friend (and now coach) Anthony Mychal,  PLP is a progressive program in which you complete one additional rep of three exercises – Pull Ups, Lunges, and Push Ups – every day, for two months.  You do a set of each exercise and then repeat, circuit style.

There are two versions:

  • If you can do 10 straight pull ups: Start day 1 with 10 reps of each.
  • If you cannot do 10 straight pull ups: Start day 1 with 1 rep of each.

You complete this program for 60 days (though, because I’m a nerd and like round numbers I did 61 days to get 70 reps).  You do all of this in addition to your typical workout schedule.

Complete your required reps each day in as many sets as you need, whenever you need to.  The goal is to do it in as few sets as possible, but enough so that you can complete each rep with proper form.

I kept my reps per set in the 8-12 range.  For example:

  • PLP 24: I did 3 circuits of each: 8, 8, 8.
  • PLP 40: I did 4 circuits of 10, 10, 10, 10
  • PLP 70: I did 6 circuits of 12, 12, 12, 12, 11, 11

Do your PLP whenever it’s convenient for you.  During the first week or two, when the reps were low, I would do my PLP as a warm-up or a cool down after my workouts.  Then I started doing it first thing in the morning after waking up. Some nights, I did it last thing before bed.

Timing of the repetitions isn’t important. Take as long as you need between sets and circuits, but try to shorten that time as you go.  What IS important is that you complete your assigned reps, every day, sometime after you wake up and before you go to bed.

My Results

PLP

So, how did this every day style of training work for me? My ultimately my goal is to pack some more muscle. While PLP didn’t cause a drastic difference in this respect, as I’ll explain in a minute, I’m super proud of the results due to what happened during these two months.

Here’s me doing my last few reps of my pull ups on my Instagram Account (ah, I know I didn’t go to dead hang full lock out on the last ones.  The 2770 pull up excuse :P) :

We’re nerds, so let’s start with the numbers: I lost 1.5 inches off my waist, gained .5 inches on my chest, shoulders, arms, and thighs. My weight dropped four pounds, and my body fat percentage dropped approximately 2-3%.

All in all, GREAT changes for somebody playing the long game of slow muscle building and growth.  I’m not asking “am I there yet?” because I know this is a long journey.  I didn’t do something that was unsustainable, I didn’t make drastic changes I couldn’t live with. I found my new normal. And I like it.

Honestly, I didn’t think I would be capable of completing this challenge.  I had too many excuses lined up:  I had tried PLP in the past and aggravated a tendon that knocked me out on week 3.  I have a bad spine, shoulder, and elbow that I constantly used as an excuse as to why I always stall out on or hit walls.  I had a CRAZY travel schedule that took me to 10 states over those two months.

To be honest, since that diagnosis about 15 months ago, I felt fragile.

However, after going through PLP, I stopped feeling fragile and started to feel like my body was regenerating quicker. The other day, I hit a 2-year personal best on my deadlifts; later that evening I went and did my PLP 65 pull ups without my arms falling off 🙂

The day after that? I did a total of 105 pull ups for the day (PLP plus my regular workout plan)! The last time I did 100 pull ups in a day, I ended up with T-rex arms (explained in this article) for two weeks.

Before, I’d come up with excuses to skip days or miss workouts.  I was too busy, work was too important, I was too tired from traveling, etc. Now, I stopped accepting excuses.  Over the past two months, I’ve spent almost half of my days traveling (Las Vegas, Arizona, SXSW, etc.), spent 5 days on a boat in the Caribbean, and had to find and move into a new apartment.

Despite all of this chaos, I’m proud to say I didn’t miss a single day and crushed all of my workouts and PLP sessions.  In the past I would have missed a day or two or three for whatever reason.  This time, I decided, “Nope. Not gonna miss a single one.”

Yup, some days I was less than 100% (Las Vegas and The Rock Boat especially).  Other nights I was so freaking tired and exhausted that I would have paid somebody $100 to do the pull ups for me.  The night I moved into my new apartment was particularly miserable.

However, I used the Braveheart Technique and complained loudly to myself…as I was doing my pull ups.  Then, they were done!  I put on my hard hat and went to work, learning a lot about myself in the process.

Sometimes I had to put PLP before other things in my life – even work!  I decided that this workout plan WAS work and missing was not an option.

PLP kept me on track, and became my Constant.  In years past, when traveling I would allow myself a few days off (which is NOT a bad thing); however, it would take me many days upon returning to get back in the groove.

This time, because I didn’t miss a day, I was constantly thinking, “I am healthy and making good decisions.” So, when I got home I had maintained my momentum and got IMMEDIATELY back on track.

Questions You Might have

Steve Push Ups

“Why does PLP work?” By adding just a single rep each day, you are teaching your body to expect a small increased challenge each day. You force your body to recover quickly, and thus it has to adapt. PLP teaches your body to become resilient, stronger, and regenerate faster in order to manage the increased daily stress headed its way.  Like jogging for a quarter of a mile, and then going just a bit further each day – your body learns to adapt and expect additional stress, rebuilding stronger and quicker. PLP just applies this concept with three great muscle and strength building exercises.

“But you always say ‘take a day off between workouts,’ what gives?”  I hear you, and I still feel that for beginners this is the best path.  I have been training in gyms and around the world for the past 12 years, and wanted to try something a bit counterintuitive.  I still took days off between my heavy lifting sessions.  But why does PLP work despite the rest rule? As Anthony explains, as a newb, rest is your best bet:

“It’s kind of like getting the flu. You’re adding something to your body that it’s not used to, and it responds to the stress as a novelty. This freaks you out quite a bit, and understandably so. Your body has no idea what it’s dealing with. It kind of makes sense to use it in this situation simply because there’s little reason NOT to recover in between every training session. You want to be fresh enough to groove form on lifts and exercises.

But after you put in some time, you’ve ironed out form and whatnot, the stress isn’t as novel anymore either. Your body has the potential to operate on a different clock, but it’s not always easy. By starting at 10 reps and then adding, you’re “forcing” your body to recover on a shorter time window. 

Again, if you are just getting started, don’t worry about PLP – including traditional recovery days will be the most effective way to level up.

“What if I miss a day?” Suck it up and get right back on track! One missed day isn’t gonna screw stuff up. But two definitely will.  Remember, never allow yourself to miss two in a row.  So if you miss a day, that next day should be your next number.  If you complete PLP 30, then miss a day, the next day should be PLP 31.

“What if I can’t do pull ups and regular push ups?”  This probably isn’t the workout plan to attempt at this point on your journey.  There may be more effective ways to get the results you’re looking for, like the Beginner Body Weight Workout.  Focus on getting really good at these movements and work towards being able to complete them with great form, and then come back to this workout.

“What kind of results can I expect?”  Honestly? I don’t know.  That is dependent upon your genetics, training schedule, experience, dedication, sleep schedule, and nutrition.   The guys from this T-Nation article (where PLP was born) all saw great progress (as did Anthony Mychal and I).  It is important to remember that sticking with ANY program for 2 months straight will produce results, but the amount of success is dependent upon a number of factors.

Speaking of success…

Tips and Tricks for Success

Steve Lunge

Always warm up before!  I had a day in Vegas where I skipped my warm up and I tweaked a muscle in my back because I simply just started with pull ups without properly warming up.  I put myself through a quick dynamic warm up and do lots of arm rotations and joint movements to warm up my back and arm muscles.  Same goes for my legs.

Keep your elbows tight! On your push ups, keep your elbows tight at your sides.  My elbows grazed the sides of my body with each rep.  REALLY focus on good form on your push ups.  No elbows flared nonsense!  Elbows tight, and full range of motion.

Neutral Grip Pull Ups! Because you’re doing SO many pull ups (in addition to however many you’re doing with your normal workout), your elbows and shoulders are gonna take a pounding.  Do pull ups with rings or with your palms facing each other, engage your shoulder blades down and together behind your back; pull your chest to the bar.  Put your arms through a full range of motion when possible.  There were days when I had to do regular pull ups or chin ups because I didn’t have access to neutral grip options, but ultimately I stayed with neutral grip for 90% of my workouts, and my joints thanked me.

Reverse lunges are your friend!  This is because you’re going to be doing a crazy number of lunges in addition to any other heavy lifting or leg work throughout your two months on the PLP program.  In order to decrease the wear and tear on your knees, do reverse lunges (and keep your core tight).  Stand feet together, and step back to do your lunges.  You can also do split squat lunges (step back into the lunge, do all reps with that leg, then do all reps with the other leg).

GET SLEEP and EAT RIGHT!  Recovery is HUGE with this workout plan, and your body needs its rest in order to be able to regenerate like Wolverine.  So sleep MUST become a priority.  Along with that, make sure you are consuming adequate amounts of protein in order to help rebuild those muscles!  As I am in the process of getting bigger, I increased my caloric intake during my final week to deal with all the extra work.

Have IMMEDIATE access to a pull up bar. Although I have a pull up bar in the small gym in my condo building, I wanted to minimize the steps between me and completing my daily PLP, because otherwise I knew I would find excuses. So I bought a door frame pull up bar, and did about half of my PLP routine on that. Ultimately, I upgraded my batcave.

any takers?

Steve Handstand

So, anybody want to give it a shot? I’m excited to hear your thoughts and if I can help you out in any way.  

What kind of questions do you have for me?

Are you up for the challenge?  

Any other counterintuitive workouts to share?

Put on that hard hat and go to work!

-Steve

PS: We are off to a great start with Camp Nerd Fitness sales, with close to 100 campers already joining up! I’m really looking forward to this event and I’m so excited that others are too.  I hope to see you there, as I’ll be giving out all the hugs and high fives I can muster 🙂

PPS: A huge CONGRATS to my buddy Benny Lewis for releasing his book, Fluent in 3 Months, this week.  Benny is a great friend and a phenomenal linguist, speaking 10 languages despite only speaking English until his early 20s.

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