In his book, Never Let Go, Dan John talks about something he calls the “synergy” workout. What is it? Well, that’s a great question and one that I had to answer for myself. What Dan John recommends is going through your home and lining up all the pieces of fitness equipment and doing everything at least once in a “back-to-back-to-back” fashion. For added fun, time how long it takes you to do everything and aim to beat it the next time.
I decided to give this a try. I lined up everything I had and put it in the middle of the living room. In the end I did not use every single piece of equipment I have, but I chose 12 implements which I would do back-to-back until finished. I would repeat this three times.
Here is what I ended up doing:
- 10 jump squats with the Power Jumper
- 2 bent presses on each side with a 55lb kettlebell
- 8 Bow and Arrow pulls each side on a lifeline chest expander
- 10 two hand swings to eye level with a 70lb kettlebell
- 3 cleans and presses on each side with a 88lb kettlebell
- 10 bringing my chin to the matt in the back bridge
- 10 goblet squats with a 105lb kettlebell
- 8 pushups to pike with a power wheel and perfect pushup bars
- 1 Turkish Get Up on each side with a 35lb kettlebell
- 5 curls with a lifeline chest expander
- 2 closing of a Captains of Crush #1 gripper on each hand
- 1 bending of an Ironmind white nail
Don’t worry if you do not know exactly what all of the exercises or pieces of equipment are, the important thing is that you get the concept, as I am sure that everyone has different stuff lying around the house. The first set I did was my experimentation set and I refined it to the final 12 exercises and rep schemes that you see on the list. On set number two I timed myself and it took me 12 minutes and 16 seconds to complete it. After drinking a glass of water and taking about 2 minutes rest, I attacked it again with more intensity and brought it down to 10 minutes and 15 seconds. I was huffing and puffing all the way at the end of the third set, from the time I started the Turkish Get Ups to the bending of the nail. This was no longer a fun experiment… this was all out war and I had to win!
In the end I found this a very interesting and rewarding workout that you should definitely consider implementing 1-2 times a month into your regular workout program. First, I usually work with a defined purpose or goal for about 8-12 weeks and then I change or modify my focus. For example, I am currently on a program where I do one day of strength-conditioning, where I can end up doing 50 rope pull-ups interspersed with conditioning drills, one day of conditioning-endurance, where I can end up doing hundreds of burpees with a pushup and a tuck jump along with mountain climbers, and I have made my third workout Bud Jeffries’ Climb the Mountain, where I have a goal of swinging a 55lb kettlebell 1,000 times. When you throw in one of these “synergy” workouts in the middle of your established plan, you get to train in a way that you are not accustomed to, which is good because it keeps your body from guessing what you are doing and helps prevent overuse injuries.
Another great thing about this workout is that you get to review things you have not practiced in a long time. For example, I had not practiced the bent press in over three months and I have to admit that when I was on my bent press kick I got all the way up to the 88lb kettlebell for one good rep on each side. Now, three months later without practicing the bent press, two reps with the 55lb kettlebell were a little challenging. However, by the end of the third circuit I had gotten my groove back. While I was aiming for an upper body/lower body mix or a swing/grind mix, some of the combinations were simply “weird”. For example, doing a back bridge ten times where you touch your chin to the matt is a great exercise by itself, however getting up immediately from that and doing 10 goblet squats with a 105lb kettlebell did not feel like the most natural thing to do, but by the third set I had adapted to it. I believe that these occasionally “illogical” combos are good for you because they prepare your body to adapt to the unexpected. I also got to try something I had wanted to do for some time. I had seen people do an exercise where their legs were hanging from straps and they started in the down pushup position. They begin pushing up and after completing a “regular” pushup, they continued bringing the butt up in the air until they ended up in a pike position which worked their abs. I combined my power wheel and perfect pushup bars to do the this exercise, and let me tell you, those eight reps did not come easy! Finally, I had not closed my Captains of Crush gripper in over two years and the same goes for bending nails. As you can see, it can serve as a great way to keep all of your skills, specially those that you have not done in a while, honed and razor sharp.
When I finished I felt great and could really feel it in my shoulders, chest, abs, back, forearms, glutes and hamstrings. This was definitely a whole body workout! Now you know what the Synergy workout is. Grab a training partner and try to beat each other’s time!
If you want a structured 12 week program to give you awesome conditioning then check out my Elite Combat Fitness – coming soon! Then you can alternate between the free flowing synergy workout and structured training.