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

Steve Pull Up BeachWow.

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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108 thoughts on “The 60 Day PLP Challenge: That Time I Did 2,440 Pull Ups

  1. Love it! Going to start tomorrow. I maxed out at 13 pull ups (OH grip) after trying Pavel’s Pull Up Program last year and didn’t focus on them and can’t do as many now. So I’m starting at 1 even though in my head I want to start at 10 reps. 😉 Guess it’ll really add up 60 days from tomorrow! Thanks for this article and all the great content…I used to read and have since bounced around blogs and am back in action on here now…. Great stuff!

  2. On day 22, shoulders still intact (mostly), although it won’t be long until it stops being a warmup and starts being a finisher. Thinking about the future, same principle behind PLP should apply to an OHP-BW Squat-BW Row combo, and starting low means you can transition immediately, since the first week is a de-load anyway.

  3. I just started adding the PLP to my workout plan 3 days ago.. I’ve kept steady with adding 1 rep to each set every day, and it has already made a HUGE difference in my over all fitness levels. I can actually feel my body growing, in a good way.. Steve – thanks for telling us about good form with the three exercises. the reverse lunges and tight elbows really do help a lot.

  4. I had the same question as another writer…But, how do you stay in the 8-12 range when you have 13 reps? Should I do 12, 1 or should I do 6, 7?

  5. Gotta start PLP today, after my regular WOD. I think the next 2 months will be challenging, especially when the reps will exceed the twenty / thirty per day!!! I’ll let you know the results, If I’ll survive! m/

  6. On Day 13 today. My previous pull up max was 6, and the other day I got to 8. Now it’s starting to get a bit more challenging and I’m splitting the total into as many sets as I need – just short of failure on the pull ups, then the same number of split squats and pushups which gives me a little recovery.

  7. I started this not too long ago and today I had 54 to do. Pull ups have always been a challenge and the first day I did 3-3-4 and today i did 20-18-10-6 amazing challenge on top of all that i have lost 53 pounds since Nov 2013.

  8. Hey Steve! I am on day 42 of the challenge right now, and am loving it. The biggest challenge for me had been doing something for 61 days in a row. So far, so good! I am feeling myself getting stronger every day. I cannot wait to see the results at the end of day 61.

  9. Finished PLP back in May and immediately started on the next 61 days – Pike Pushups, Sit Ups, and Squats. The every single day concept also inspired an idea for achieving change in other areas of my life. Thanks for the workout program, Steve.

  10. Do you have to get all your reps in at the same time of day? For instance, I’m on the day for 30 reps, can I get 15 pull ups in the morning and then 15 in the evening or do I need to bang them all out in the same session?

  11. If you read the T-Nation link at the beginning of this post, he mentions on the second page that you can spread the reps throughout the day. Though I get the feeling Steve did them all together as a single workout.

  12. Hi Steve, I can only do 1 or 2 strict pull-ups. Can we do banded pull-ups? And would it be terrible to do normal pull-ups if I don’t have access to rings everyday for neutral grip pull-ups? (Will it do more harm than good to do normal pull-ups?)

  13. Next up Steve…100 Burpee – 100 Day Challenge…that’s right…100 Burpees each day for 100 days! 10,000 burpees total! 100 burpees are not hard to accomplish throughout the day…10 here, 10 there or 100 all at once. Like anything else, this is more of a mental challenge. “It’s 10:30pm and I’ve done 0 burpees!” OR “I’m at a wedding and I only did 40 burpees this morning!” This was one of the hardest challenges I have done because of the discipline, planning and mental/physical effort involved.

  14. I just attempted a similar style program but with planks / the goal was to hold plank position for 5 min on Day 30, starting Day 1 at only 15 seconds. I was a complete Newby and could barely hold 15 seconds to start out, but I managed to push through Day 15 and reach 2 min 30 seconds. My muscles gave out after that though, they would shake and I couldn’t hold good form any more / I failed to go past Day 15 after trying for a week.
    It really helped me build strength though – I went from barely holding a plank to holding a plank for a minute no problem. So rather than call it a “failed” challenge and sit in sad disappointment (which I did for a few days), I’m calling it a mini 15 day challenge / one day after I’ve built up more strength I’ll go back and push for the full 30 day achievement unlock.

  15. Just curious, you mentioned that at a certain point you started doing the workout as soon as you woke up. How did that work with intermittent fasting? Did you continue to fast until lunch? I guess, I am wondering what your nutrient timing was between finishing the PLP for the day and the time that you ate? I know this is a bit late to the game, but thanks anyway!

  16. Well, I’ve started this TWICE before, since this post came out, and I finally completed the 60 PLP as of today! I didn’t do all-strict pullups everyday, but I did do a push, lunge and pull (inverted rows, lat machine, some pullups). I didn’t want my inability to do more than 2 or 3 pullups to keep me from moving forward. Progress not perfection. I’m taking a day off, and then starting this over from where I left off, but this time, focusing on real pullups (chinups, neutral and reverse too).

    Also joined the Academy over New Years as a present to myself. The gamification (sp?) is AWESOME and keeping me going.

    Steve and crew, thanks.

  17. Awesome — thanks for the response on the long past thread. I have started it, am doing IF, and am 23 days strong at this point. Awesome stuff!

  18. What if i only have standard pull up bar that doesnt allow my palms to face each other? Just a standard vertical one.

  19. Very awesome man! But I got a question. I can only do like 5 pull-ups
    but I can do more chin-ups! So can I replace pull-ups with chin-ups !
    Please , I need a response cause I want to start this program in the
    first of july.

  20. I read this blog post about 65 days ago and instantly ordered a pull up bar with neutral grip (http://www.amazon.de/gp/product/B00EZ24BC2). As soon as I got it, I started doing this workout in addition to my functional fitness workouts and (some time later) “insanity max 30”. Just as you did, Steve, I feel really good now. Not “invincible”, but way stronger. This is not everything, though. There were significant changes to my posture as well. Now I look much “prouder by default” because I don’t tend to put my shoulders to the front anymore. The back deltoids and lats are now strong enough to pull against the front deltoids and pectorals when I rest. 🙂

  21. Have been doing 100 a day for 16 days and just found this article. Initially I had to use a resistance band and could not do more than 3 consecutively but now I’m doing sets of 5 with body weight. I like the idea of adding one extra pull up into each set so I’m keen to give that a go, doing 100 in one set would be amazing. I’m doing them regular grip though.

  22. I did it! I finished today! 60 days straight. No exception. No excuses. Started with 10. I feel awesome! Ready to take on the next challenge.

  23. Just started today. Biggest concern is when I’m at big numbers like 40+ and it’s my regular workout day… have four very busy kids so hard enough to find a good time to workout, but I will take this on!

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