Waterbury Challenge 2011

Note: Damon Valley is the winner of the Waterbury Challenge 2011. Details coming soon!

Each new year people set fitness goals, and by the end of January those good intentions often get buried beneath a pile of outside obligations. I think the reason why people fail by the end of the month is because their goal wasn’t realistic – they try to do too much too soon. That’s why I created the Waterbury Challenge.

As a fitness professional my job is to outline a program you’ll stick with. It’s also my duty to ensure that the workout gets progressively harder over time so your body continues to transform.

We’re five days into the new year. Your hangover is gone, the family is back where they should be, and all those Holiday sweets have gone stale.

In other words, it’s time to get focused. It’s time to set some goals.

When it comes to setting and achieving goals, most of us fall short when we’re given options. Sounds ironic, I know, but it’s true. For example, if I told you to choose from a list of body weight exercises and do one of them every other day for the rest of the year, I’ll bet you’d eventually lose track.

However, if I told you to do a specific workout every day, it’s likely that you’d stick with it, provided it doesn’t mandate a trip to the gym. Yep, it would become part of your daily routine, just like brushing your teeth (unless you’re Jessica Simpson). Also, when a long-term goal is set in motion I like to make it logical – mathematically speaking.

That’s why in 2011 I’ve created the Waterbury Challenge. It’s a very short full-body workout that you’ll do every day. And since I like to keep things in sync with the passing year, the workout gets slightly more challenging each day. In other words, the reps for each exercise match the number of days that have passed since January 1.

Here’s the workout for today, the fifth day into the new year.

Pull-up for 5 reps
Push-up for 5 reps
Lunge for 5 reps with each leg

Seems like nothing, right? After all, that workout literally takes you one minute to complete. Heck, you could do it right now.

Tomorrow you’ll do six reps of each exercise since it’s the sixth day of the year. Friday you’ll do seven reps of each exercise. On January 31, 31 days into the new year, you’ll do this:

Pull-up for 31 reps
Push-up for 31 reps
Lunge for 31 reps with each leg

I think you probably have a grasp on this system by now.

Now, you might be wondering if on December 31 you’ll have to do 365 reps of each exercise. That’s not necessary, although you must admit it’d be pretty cool. Plus, it would take a pretty big leap of faith on my part to assume that any of us could stay on track for 365 days straight.

However, what if you followed that progressive workout for half the year – 182 days? Well, my birthday is July 1 and it just so happens to be the halfway point in the year. So that, my friends, is how long the 2011 Waterbury Challenge will last – 182 days.

This challenge serves three important purposes. First, it makes fitness a part of your daily life. Second, it will build your mettle and willpower, and this will carry over into everything else you do. Third, it will help you get leaner and stronger over the next 6 months because this workout will serve as a complement to your training program. Think of it as a metabolic booster or GPP work.

Plus, if you’re ever in need of a conversation starter at a party or business meeting, just tell them you’re doing this challenge and you’re sure to entertain, or scare the hell out of, your friends.

Now, here’s my challenge to you. Join me on this journey (yep, I’m doing it, too) and video yourself doing 182 reps pull-up, push-up and lunge on July 1, 2011.

On that day I’ll put $500 into the Paypal account of the person who has the fastest time to completion.

Or forget about the competition and prize money and just do it to get leaner, stronger and healthier.

For those of you who want to participate but are interested in the challenge more than the prize, check out the answers to these questions that you’re probably thinking.

Question: Is this a stand alone program?
Answer: No, definitely not. This challenge should be performed in addition to your current training program. For example, if you’re doing the Body of F.I.R.E. program, add these daily workouts on top of it, at any point in the day (it only takes a few minutes at first).
Do this workout first thing in the morning or use it as your warm-up for your regular workout on days you lift weights. Any push-ups, pull-ups or lunges that are already in your regular program don’t count towards your daily requirement. This must be added on top of what you’re already doing.

Question: What if I can’t do a pull-up?
Answer: If you’re a female, or too weak to do a full pull-up, you can do any upper body pull in place of it: inverted row, dumbbell row, lat pulldown, assisted pull-up, etc. It doesn’t matter which upper body pulling exercise you use, just choose one you have access to every day.
However, to win the prize money you have to do pull-ups (any hand position is accepted).

Question: Can I slightly vary the exercises over time?
Answer: Yes, it’s wise to use different variations of the exercise every few days. For example, you can switch between a wide hand position push-up and a narrow one. Or you could do forward lunges instead of reverse lunges. For pull-ups, use different hand positions.

Question: This sounds like too much volume. How am I supposed to do that many pull-ups every day?
Answer: Well, it wouldn’t be a challenge if it were easy. However, I understand that some people won’t have the will to knock off such a high volume of pull-ups in the months to come. However, it’ll be months before you get to a high volume, and your body will be prepared for it.
You can use any upper body pulling movement in place of the pull-up. Just be certain it’s an exercise that you could easily do 10 times right from the start (even though you’ll only do 5 reps the first day). Then stick with that same weight throughout the months to come. At the very least, do the lunges and push-ups every day.

Question: Who qualifies for the prize money?
Answer: Anyone who’s on my newsletter list. If you haven’t signed up you can do so at the banner on the top of this page. Then, reply to this post and say “I’m in.” That’s all it takes.

Question: What if I can’t start today?
Answer: You must start by Friday, January 7, to reap the full benefits (you’ll start with 7 reps of each exercise on that day).

Question: I’m a female and I want to join this challenge. Is it fair to make me do pull-ups to win the cash?
Answer: Females can perform an inverted row (on a bar or TRX straps) instead of pull-ups. If she has the fastest time, she’ll win the money.

Question: Do I have to do all the reps in one set?
Definitely not. Once we get further into the year you’ll have to break up the total reps into a few sets to achieve the goal for that day. Do as many sets as it takes. Do the workout as a circuit or straight sets – it doesn’t matter. Just get the reps done every day.

Question: What if I miss a workout?
Answer: Don’t.

Stay focused,
P.S. Remember to reply to this post and say “I’m in” by January 7 to qualify for the cash.

121 thoughts on “Waterbury Challenge 2011

  1. Chad, I replied with the “I’m in” to the Waterbury Fitness gmail account On January 5th. Just confirming that I was added to the list as I see it should have gone through this post directly and not email.

    CW: You’re in.

  2. Chad,
    I read your challenge on January 16, 2010 therefore I am not interested in the prize, but I’m with the challenge. My New Year’s resolution, which I began the first week of January, was to follow the exercise routines in your Men’s Health book Huge in a Hurry, which I highly recommend to everyone reading this post; your 2011 pushups, pullups, and lunges Challenge complements the exercise routines in your book, perfectly. I must admit that when I usually buy an exercise book (and I have bought quite a few) I go straight to the exercise and ignore the rest. Your book is the FIRST BOOK that I have read straight through without skipping anything. Your book is full of interesting exercise concepts that break the “status quo” in a sensible and well-thought out manner. Thank you, Chad, and God bless you!

    CW: Thanks Daniel – much appreciated!

  3. Dear Mr. Waterbury,
    I am a Brutal Challenge competitor in Hungary. I lift nearly 11 tons of weight during one challenge, but I still find your idea the most brutal ever 🙂 As a functional training pioneer and your devoted follower, I think I must make my toughest trainees and myself complete The Waterbury Challenge only in order to prove that we are with you.
    Thanks for your inspiring work! Yours, Eva

  4. Chad, how and do we have to plan nutrition around this challenge?. I didn’t do pre/post meals for “big back, big chest, real fast”, but my training went on throughout the whole course of the day, if anything i upped my carb intake and as expected the plan worked wonders. However you have recommended we get our reps done first thing, in one swift session.

    Surely when we reach the 50+ rep mark for each exercise some nutrition strategy would be of help?

    Your thoughts?


    CW: At this point it’s not necessary to add any pre/post workout nutrition to the Waterbury Challenge. However, I’ll update the information as the challenge reaches a level where changes have to be made.

  5. Chad –

    I know you’re more interested in the science than anything else. I know I’ve missed out on the money, but I don’t care. At 260 lbs., pull-ups are almost a max effort lift for me. I include them in my regular session, mostly in sets of 5-8. I have access to jumpstretch bands, which will help with the pulling movements. One more thing, can I include bodyweight squats in this challenge as long as I double the reps? Today would be 18 pull-ups, 18 push-ups, and 18 lunges (per leg). What if 38 squats were thrown into the mix?

    CW: Body weight squats are fine, you don’t need to double the reps. As you mentioned, you’re not in it for the competition, but for the fitness gain. Do what works best for your current level of fitness.

  6. 36 lunges wasn’t a problem physically but it was killing me mentally with my ADHD. I’m going to have to break up the workouts.

  7. Hi Chad,

    First off, I think it’s a great idea for you to post a competition like this! Even though I am not taking part in this completion, I did recently buy your “Huge in a Hurry” book and am starting a whole new workout and nutrition regime. Kinda like my own competition if you will. I encourage anyone interested in losing weight while building muscle to buy Chad’s book! It is easy to follow, has great advice, and has definitely made me excited to change my workouts! Good luck to all the competitors here and thanks again to chad for all your great work!

    Keep it up!

    CW: Thanks Justin!

  8. Hi Chad.

    Thanks for an inspiring challenge. Me and my friend Chris are still in 🙂
    – But we have had some discussions on what’s the best way to do the required reps after the reps have increased somewhat.

    Yesterday, the 30th, I did 14 pullups (could maybe have managed one more, but stopped) followed by 14 pushups on my fingertips and 14 reverse lunges with my right foot in front and then 14 with my left foot positioned in front (no rest between the sets). The pushups- and lunges-sets were fairly easy to perform, but I did the same number as I did pullups just to be sure to get the correct amount of reps in the end and to provide me with just enough “rest” to do another set of pull-ups. Without any rest I continued to do 8 reps of pullups (again I could maybe have done one more, but thats max), 8 reps of pushups and 8 reps of reverse lunges. In the end 8 rep of each exercise to complete the workout of 30 reps of each.
    – My perspective is to add necessary sets of each exercise when I’m not able to do the last required reps of pullups in my last set. I think I maybe have to do 4 sets of each exercise later today ?

    My friend Chris, on the other hand, believes that this way of doing the required reps will be too exhausting strength-wise to do in addition to our regular rather demanding weight-lifting workouts and believe that you should do it in a way that challenges you more in a cardiovascular way (more like GPP). He does 1 pullup, 1 pushup and 1 Lunge on both feet and repeats this sequence 30 times again.

    These ways of doing this challenge are becoming increasingly demanding in to very different ways. Whats the preferred way? Maybe somewhere in between?

    I know you have said that we can do it any way we like, just do them, but related to your fitness purpose of this challenge what would be the preferred way?

    Still no need for a post workout shake after 30 reps?


    CW: There’s no best way to get the reps. Again, just be sure you get them finished in a day. As the volume increases over time you’ll probably need to spread them out more. I will say that doing only one rep of each is not ideal, especially when you reach triple digits. Just knock out as many reps as you can for each exercise, and then repeat until the reps are finished. Or do the reps later in the day. Regardless, it’s not going to be overly taxing on your recovery.

  9. I have got serious inflammation in my forearms, on the inner side when palms are facing upwards (0-10cm down from the elbow – I think it is called ulna in Latin) the last 7-10 days and it is becoming worse. Even simple things like writing this question and operating a remote control hurts pretty much. I believe it has something to do with the daily pullups that I do in this Challenge. I have never had such problems before and I have not changed my regular training routine lately. I have alternated between supinated (narrow and normal grip) and pronated (normal and wide grip) on the grip. Do you have any suggestions with regards to training and nutrition to get rid of this problem and not get it again in the future?

    CW: This is not uncommon. HFT parameters will often bring underlying issues to the surface. They don’t cause them per se, but they’ll make those soft tissue limitations more pronounced. I suggest you get soft tissue work performed on your forearms, upper arms, and shoulders by an ART specialist http://www.activerelease.com
    The wrist flexors stretch (aka reverse prayer stretch) that I outline in my book Huge in a Hurry will help alleviate the problem, too.

  10. Hi Chad. Day 48.

    I’m still going, but today my motivation for another “do it against the clock” routine was low, so I opted for just five-rep sets with much longer rest periods (I usually just go for time).

    I was wondering: what ways could you suggest to further mix this up, as I like the idea of having different formulas to try when my mood varies?

    Here’s my thoughts:

    1. Just go for speed and endurance (hey, you need this to win $500…)
    2. Plyometric versions (needs longer rest periods)
    3. Extreme variations (very wide or narrow hand positions)
    4. Very fast reps (owing to your Huge in a Hurry, I always go as fast as I can anyway personally)
    5. Long rest periods – just to be different (and it makes it feel easier!!)


    CW: All of those will work. The key is to just do the reps everyday, regardless of the method you choose. Do whichever version feels best that day and you’ll get great results. As it gets closer to July 1, focus on speed.

  11. Hi Chad!

    I’m still in the challenge, and actually finding it more bearable now than earlier. I typically do it same number of reps for each: A1-Chins, A2-Push ups, A3-Lunges, rest 30 sec, repeat. As for weight training, I have done the Waterbury Method program for the past 3 weeks, and this is my last week on that program. Looking forward, spring is coming up, and I’ve recently read up on your 10-10 transformation program. This looks pretty interesting, and I’d love to start doing it next week. However, as that program is also centering on a HFT approach to training, would you advise me against it? And rather stick with a more conventional weight training program (TBT/SFM) along with the challenge? Or just go for it and couple the challenge with 10-10 for the 12 weeks?

    Thanks a lot for the challenge, it has been one of the best bad ideas I’ve tried! 🙂


    CW: Stick to more traditional training. The challenge is HFT, so adding an HFT program on top of it is too much. For fat loss, Body of FIRE with the challenge is ideal.

  12. Hows everyone getting on with this?! Hope everyone did their 65 reps today!

    I’m doing it with a slight twist, bodyweight (90kg) squat instead of the lunges. Things I’ve noticed: My squat max strength has gone up! General conditioning has improved and doing it first thing in the morning results in me being a lot more productive throughout the day, it also gets me doing extra foam rolling and mobility work!

    I’ve been playing around with the format a bit, on days I feel good I’ll go for max reps on chins then just match the reps on squat and pushups and on other days I do ladders eg. 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8, etc or 10,5,3,2,10,5,3,2 etc (Dan John inspired!). I’ve also done straight sets 7×7 for example. One really good session I did was 10 sets of 5 chins, 5 jump squats and 5 clap pushups!

    I also vary grips on chins and pushups to keep things interesting and took my kettlebells for squatting when I was away from the gym!

    It’s just really fun to have a challenge to stick to!

    Hope everyone else is going strong.

    CW: Great! Thanks for the feedback. Keep at it.

  13. Now that we are getting into some high volume pull-ups and push-ups and lunges is it going to interfere with my ability to recover from an intense stength training program?

    CW: The only thing it’ll interfere with is your pull-ups. You don’t need to do them in any other main workout at this point.

  14. Chad, I know you have said to stick to a more “traditional” weight training program, but exactly do you mean by this? I was thinking three total body sessions a week.

    CW: Yes, 3 full body workouts per week is the way to go. Pick up Huge in a Hurry on Amazon and you’ll have plenty of options of that type of layout that works well with the challenge.

  15. Hi Chad,
    you said you were doing the challenge too, so how are you doing now? I feel great. At first I thought I would need some post workout nutrition but now I think I can go through the whole thing without any specific nutrition strategy. The only thing is: before I had calluses in the hand and now I also have calluses on the fingers.
    Thanks again for this amazing idea.

    CW: It’s going awesome. Full recovery and no soreness with 130 reps (currently) of each exercise is pretty cool.

  16. Chad, first I want to say thank you for introducing this idea to us. I can see myself doing this type of extra work for a long time. I’m on day 58 of the challenge(I started after I read your plp article on t-nation) and I’ve found it’s gotten easier as the weeks have gone by. I did get some elbow pain around day 30 and wrist pain around day 50 but both have passed.

    It hasn’t really improved the number of chin-ups I can do consecutively, but it has certainly improved my muscular endurance. I didn’t think there was much muscle growth from this, but last week I had dinner with a friend and his wife(I hadn’t seen them in couple months) and he remarked twice that my arms looked alot bigger. I didn’t mention anything that would have prompted that either.

    Anyways, since I’m getting close to the 60 day mark I had a question about the next stretch(which I’ll probably take the full 180 days like this article suggested). Would it be alright to add an exercise that provides stimulus to the delt/trap area in addition to the three exercises already performed? I was thinking about trap raises or maybe face pulls. Or would this put unnecessary stress on the shoulders or just be too much volume in general? Thanks again.

    CW: Do face pulls.

  17. Hi Chad,
    I’ve started to perform pull-ups, push-ups and lunges and came up with one question: won’t it affect my routine full body workout training 3 times per week? I’m doing heavy pull-ups with additional weight 3 times per week and if I’ll continue to do pull-ups, push-ups and lunges every day in terms of muscle building isn’t too much? Will I have enough time to recover?
    BTW my goal is to gain muscle mass and strength

    Thanks in advance

    CW: It’s not too much if you start with a low number (10 per day of each) and only add one rep per day. This gives the body plenty of time to upregulate recovery.

  18. Hi Chad

    I have been doing this challenge, and have definitely noticed a positive difference .. Thanks!
    .. Not to sound computer illiterate, but where/how is the video to be posted to?
    Thanks so much for the challenge and time!


    CW: Just google “how to post a video on YouTube” and you’ll see plenty of options.

  19. Damon Valley is the winner of the Waterbury Challenge 2011. Details coming soon!

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