By Cory Gregory
If there’s one thing I don’t want to be associated with, it’s being stale. So I’ve done everything in my power to live on the opposite side of the spectrum, especially when it comes to training.
With that, I certainly don’t have one kind of training style. In fact, if I was forced to name my overall training style, I think “outside the box” is the best way to put it. I like to include everything and I’m not afraid to try anything. I’ve developed a crazy mix of 1970s Golden Era bodybuilding, powerlifting, CrossFit, and about anything else you could list. I’m not married to one style or one particular method because I always like to keep my training fun and exciting. That keeps me motivated, keeps my workouts intense and, best of all, keeps the results coming.
After pounding the weights Monday through Friday, I wanted to find a workout that allowed me to “master my bodyweight.” I studied a variety of methods, borrowed some intense and very cool concepts, and the end product is my “1,000-Rep Workout.” And, yes, that’s three zeros you just read. This certainly isn’t for the faint of heart.
In coming up with this killer, I wanted to set up something that would be a challenge— and perhaps then some— for myself and my super intense training group at the hardcore Old School Gym, as well as all the dedicated MusclePharm fans on Facebook and my awesome followers on Twitter. It’s been five months since we’ve started the 1,000-rep madness and the results have been nothing short of incredible.
We’ve all gotten much better at this particular workout, but the most amazing thing has been how much stronger everyone has gotten outside of this workout. Lifts on just about every exercise have shot up in remarkable fashion, and this workout has been a big reason why. We’ve got a whole range of people doing this workout as well, from golf pros to NFL players to major track stars to regular Joes, and all of them have had amazing results. Just the feeling of accomplishment you get from finishing 1,000 reps in a workout is good enough, but that euphoria continues when you realize the mind-blowing pump and then the carry-over you get in your weight training.
Confidence is a huge thing in this workout, too. I always tell people if they get good at this, everything else in their workouts gets easier, smoother and sturdier. Believe me, if you finish this, you feel like you can accomplish anything in the weight room.
But this workout definitely isn’t easy and isn’t for the faint of heart. At some point, your weakness will show up, whether it is on something like pull-ups right out of the gates or the excruciating ring dips. It’s at that point you have to dig down and keep pushing forward, not focusing on the pain but rather the end goal.
With that in mind, we try to complete this workout in as few sets as possible and as quickly as possible. With practice and with countless trips to the torture chamber to get this bad boy done, your sets and times will go down. At our best, 25 sets is the lowest we’ve gotten down to and quickest we’ve finished is around an hour.
So you’ve now got that to shoot for, and without further ado, welcome to my every Saturday 5 a.m. workout at the Old School Gym.
It’s the 1,000-rep workout, so let’s get after it!
Wide-Grip Pull-ups – 100 reps
Toes To Bars – 100 reps
Ring Dips – 100 reps
Ring Push-Ups – 100 reps
Bodyweight Squats – 100 reps
V-bar Pull-Ups – 100 reps
Plyo Push-Ups – 100 reps
Dips – 100 reps
Box Jumps – 100 reps
Ab Wheels – 100 reps
I start off with wide-grip chin-ups, which can be a very intimidating exercise without even adding 100 reps to the equation. In my opinion, if you get through this, you’re good and well on your way to 1,000 reps. I like to use a pretty wide grip to really smoke the lats and get some back conditioning going at the same time. Over the past six to 12 months, I have received a lot of compliments on my back and the basis of my back training is always pull-ups.
For whatever reason, people tend to shy away from this exercise. It’s difficult, there’s no denying that, but that’s why it goes first here. We attack the most difficult one head on to start and get after it right away. Make sure your reps are as clean as possible and get 100 total reps here before you move on, no matter how long it takes you.
TOES TO BAR
The next exercise is the sleeper in this 1,000-rep workout. Overlook it and it will definitely bite you. At first, it seems like no big deal. I mean, it’s toes to bar, right? How hard can it be?
Well, let me tell you, this has become the staple in my ab training for a reason. The definition this puts on your abs is great and it really adds to your performance. It’s become a staple in the CrossFit community, but I was floored at how hard this was the first time I struggled through 100 non-swinging reps. This completely taxes your low back and entire abdominal region more than you realize, and I felt my lower abs thicken up a tremendous amount just by doing this exercise on a regular basis. Plus, I can’t say enough about how much this exercise will help your core lifts. If your abs are weak, this will expose you immediately, but after a few weeks, you will be singing this one’s praises. Everyone in my 5 a.m. groups have seen their deadlifts shoot up, and there’s no doubt this exercise is a huge reason why.
So, you want to test your shoulder stability? Well, here you go. Set up a pair of Olympic rings and, yes, do dips— 100 of them— in them. Your body and especially your shoulders have to stabilize to perform this lift and it’s not easy. In fact, I have seen some very strong people shake so much on these that they can’t even get started. But once you get this down, the benefits are outstanding. Once guys have gotten the movement down, their bench reps fly up. Ring dips certainly test your upper body strength at a high level and this is a perfect exercise when we talk about mastering your bodyweight, which is the basis behind the 1,000-rep workout. Stabilization of the shoulder, combined with strong triceps and chest strength is definitely needed to perform this exercise.
We once again utilize the Olympic rings, and it doesn’t get any easier. For these 100 reps, we are performing a full push-up, stabilizing our upper body in between the Olympic rings. This is very taxing on the shoulders and helps build up an unreal stability and strength in your chest and triceps especially. By the fourth exercise— and 400 total reps— your upper body is feeling a bit fatigued, but there’s plenty more left in store. With a lot of my guys, I have seen the ring push-ups and ring dips carry over to other exercises, especially their bench press numbers, over the last several months.
Now it’s time to incorporate some lower body work and, when you’re talking lower body exercises, you start with the master of all of them— the squat. Since this is a bodyweight conditioning routine, we want to take what is essentially air squats deep and with very clean form. I always grab a 10- or 20-pound medicine ball as a guide to make sure I am going below parallel on each rep. The funny thing is most people don’t understand that doing 100 squats in a row is pretty difficult, even if it is bodyweight. The important thing is to make sure your form is clean and you get it done in as few sets as possible. After these 100 reps are done, you’re officially at the halfway point.
The V-bar pull-ups are a great retro exercise I pulled from the Arnold and Franco Columbo Golden Era bodybuilding days. I love this exercise because it’s challenging and really brings out the muscularity in your mid and lower back. These are great for really developing that Christmas tree in your lower back and the proper arch at the top is key in that regard. I just imagine that I am doing a seated row with my own body the entire time, cranking out 100 reps in as few sets as possible. This is what is cool about mixing fitness worlds together: We jump right from a CrossFit move (ring push-ups) into a 1970’s bodybuilding exercise (v-bar pull-ups). Now that’s what I call thinking outside the box.
When I devised the 1,000-rep workout plan, I wanted to do push-ups, but I needed them to be a bit harder than a regular push-up while still having 100 reps as an attainable goal. That’s where the plyo push-up fits into things. The rules are simple with the plyo push-up— your hands just have to leave the ground. This makes the exertion your body has to put into each rep much greater, but most still can finish the 100 reps in a reasonable manner, even at this point of the workout. I also like how the explosiveness of this movement carries over in to normal everyday gym lifts. After this, “only” 300 reps remain.
Performing these 100 dips might initially feel 100 times easier than the ring dips from earlier in the workout, but your body will still struggle because you’re looking head-on at 800 reps in one workout. With this movement, it’s up to you whether you want to keep your head down or up, but just make sure you get full range on each rep and lock out. I want you to get a nice stretch on these, as it really opens up your chest. Throw them in on a consistent basis— or knock out 100 reps of these during the 1,000-rep workout— and it will really add to your chest fullness.
We have a lot of NFL and NCAA athletes in our training group, so I felt it was important to add an athletic, explosive bodyweight exercise like box jumps. Again, it all goes back to mastering your bodyweight, and the box jump certainly gives you that opportunity. Before we go any further, let me just say 100 box jumps are no joke when you are using a 24-36 inch box. I am definitely spent by this point and my entire mindset through these 100 reps is to simply not eat the box. I go as high (usually up to 36 inches) as I can tolerate, and simply take a drop step and explode up. As for your landing, I like to quote Westside Barbell legend Louie Simmons, who always said to “land like a ninja.” Make sure to land in a good position for your joints to receive your bodyweight on the box, and then step down. And then only 100 reps remain.
We throw in a doozy for the finisher, the good ol’ ab wheel. Your entire body is thrashed by this point, so make sure you really pay attention to the form in the pictures. Starting in a bad position can get you hurt, so keep the technique in line for these final 100 reps. I like to start with my back already arched up like a scared cat and then flatten it out as I move forward, just using your abs and lower back to stabilize yourself. The ab wheel will definitely thicken your abs and serratus because it’s a similar motion to the highly underrated dumbbell pullover exercise. Plus, an ab wheel is as cheap as $10, making one a real win-win situation for you. I’ve been dedicated to this movement and it’s paid major dividends for me. Finish these 100 reps and you’ve not only finished 1,000 reps, you’ve just mastered your own bodyweight.
The 1,000-rep workout certainly looks crazy and challenging on paper, and there’s nothing easy about it, but once you get into the trenches, it can be fun and extremely motivating.
After a few times through, this 1,000-rep madness also becomes incredibly rewarding.
The big thing is not getting flustered at first. Attack it with vigor and confidence and if you need to scale it down to 50 reps for each exercise (and 500 overall), that’s cool, too. The important thing is just jumping in, having fun, pushing yourself and just doing it.
From there, you can up the intensity by reducing your overall sets for each exercise or trying to beat your time each time you do it. The vast amount of benefits will become noticeable almost as soon as you’re done with the first one.
Thanks for checking out my craziness and I hope you’re ready to attack your first 1,000-rep workout. I think you’ll be glad you did.
If you’re looking for daily challenges in the gym, make sure you check out the free workouts I post on Twitter Monday through Saturday every week.
Cory Gregory is the President and Co-founder of MusclePharm.