Mandatory Muscle – Here’s 3 Basic Requirements Of Strength You Should Be Shooting For


Push Ups

Ok, it’s not going to get simpler than this but what I am proposing here is a basic requirement for Mandatory Muscle.

Everyone reading this should be able to crank out 10 dead hang pull ups , 30 full range push ups (elbows in tight) and 60 “Ass To Grass” bodyweight squats.

One after the other. No rest. Triple Tap. Bang, Bang and one for luck…Bang! This is non-negotiable. And here’s why…

Mandatory Muscle…

I get people through my workshops who are keen to learn how to use a kettlebell. It’s not that complicated, but it is challenging, actually make that seriously challenging.


Many folks will have a background in training, athletics, in Martial Arts or perhaps they are motivated to lose some weight and simply get back in shape.

But often they under report. I ask what their current training or activity level is like and they tell me they go to the gym but they have had a month off, they did a marathon last year, they used to do Karate, rugby, soccer etc…But it gets foggy sometimes and who am I to question?

Come Training Day is always obvious who’s been working and who hasn’t. In 5 minutes we can see who works out and who likes the idea but hasn’t mastered the application for a while.

So here is your bench mark. Get the following moves and numbers down. Start with what ever numbers you can work.

It won’t take you long to get going but the pay off is immense.

With body-weight training of this sort you can afford to do a little every day and as your strength and numbers increase you can increase the volume/intensity but cut back on the sessions.

How To Start…

Start with Pull ups. What ever number you can do simply multiply by three and do that many push ups. So, for example, if you do three pull ups you drop and do 9 push ups and follow this my multiplying your pull up score by 6 and perform 18 body weight squats.

So there you go, 30 reps. Should take you a minute or so. Aim to add a pull up if not each session, then each week. If you are struggling with even getting one then drop me a line. We’ll get you there.

If you are struggling, start with what you can do. 1 pull up, 3 press ups, 6 squats. Work that sequence a few times a day. When one becomes two, you know what to do.

There simply isn’t enough volume here to produce any type of over training. But once you can bang out you 10 / 30 / 60 in under 2 minutes you will be feeling pretty tight and light.

Once you can roll out 3 full rounds of this as you might increase the numbers (which at this stage will be much easier) add some weight to the drills or make the moves more challenging with variations.

How do we arrive at these figures? What rigorous scientific methodology has been applied to establish these baseline numbers? In lengthy double-blind, triple filtered, zero bullshit study conducted at my house I decided if you can’t do these numbers chances are you are kidding yourself about your current strength and conditioning levels (and probably your eating habits and your ninja skills too!)

…And you really should put away the toys and get to grips with real strength. A pull, a push and a squat, just like mother nature intended. These three moves work major muscles, engage the core and get the body to work as a single unit.

This is tensile strength. As natural as it gets. It is also the foundation for tackling bigger, nastier and altogether more difficult challenges…and they are just around the corner.

Leave me a message below if you have any questions or comments!

– Rannoch

You can get more info from Rannoch on his blog Simple Strength

Mandatory Muscle - Here's 3 Basic Requirements Of Strength You Should Be Shooting For
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Mandatory Muscle - Here's 3 Basic Requirements Of Strength You Should Be Shooting For
It’s not going to get simpler than this but what I am proposing here is a basic requirement for Mandatory Muscle. Everyone reading this should be able to crank out 10 dead hang pull ups , 30 full range push ups (elbows in tight) and 60 "Ass To Grass" bodyweight squats.
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  1. Great post! I’m gonna do these soon and see how much I can do. When you say “ass-to-the-ground squats does that literally mean ass to the ground?
    Thanks again for the post! I’ll get back to you about my workout!

  2. Simple but sweet triset! I’d prefer to go into single-limb exercises to challenge myself, though, once it gets too easy. I love bw stuff and am training for the one-armed pushup and one-legged squat now

  3. I think I’d struggle to do 60 squats with bodyweight. I know I can do 20 (breathing squats) with 94kg on the bar, which is 125% bodyweight for me, but 60 reps with 75kg on the bar? Not sure. I’ll give it a go, though. Sounds like something Dan John would think of!

  4. Is this post aimed mostly at men? The reason I ask is for a woman I think of 10 pullups not as a basic strength requirement, but as a pretty major feat. I’ve been working pretty seriously on pullups for six months or more and I can do three on a good day. Am I off-base here? Would love to hear your thoughts about what is an appropriate baseline for a woman’s strength test.
    PS – The squats and pushups seem like a fine requirement for men or women.

    • I agree. 10 unassisted pull ups for a woman would be quite a feat. As a man it took me two years to go from not being able to do a single pull up to being able to do 15 with good form. My wife on the other hand could never accomplish one unassisted pull up even after nearly a year of trying. But using a chair or assisting with a jump to start will still give you a lot of benefits in terms of upper body strength.

  5. For me, the squats and push-ups are crazy easy compared to the pull ups. 30 push-ups is no sweat but I can only do about 6 pull-ups consecutively. It’s probably so hard for me because I have long limbs, making the ROM on pull-ups/chins a killer.

  6. I too would like to learn more about what is considered proper squat form. This 47 year old would struggle to get his “ass in the grass” once, let alone 60 consecutive times!

  7. Hey, great post yet again, but I’m struggling to do pullups. I tried to do one when i bought a pullup bar, and i could never do it, eventually i was able to do one, but im still struggling to even get 2 done without like dying..
    the pushups are ok as well as the squats though, thanks 🙂

  8. Pullups (my biggest weakness) 3 FULL reps.
    Pushups @ 20 full reps (torn rotator cuff and elbow surgery las year)
    Squats @ 60 full reps no problem (former kickboxer)

  9. Awesome post. I love the simplicity:



    QUESTION: If someone is weak in pullups but strong elsewhere, should he still do the x3x6? Or should he rock an x5x10 or similar?

  10. While I am in a similar situation regarding pull ups as almost everyone who posted, I think that is the whole point of Rannoch’s writing – maybe we are not able to perform because we aren’t training the right way/muscles or aren’t in as good shape as we might believe. The only way to get better at pull ups is to do them all the time. I rarely see anyone doing many at my gym, men or women. I am fortunate to have access to a Gravitron for assisted pullups and have made great progress in lowering my counterweight each month. My goal is to do unassisted, but I can’t get there overnight. Persistance will pay off. Don’t give up, you will see the results.

  11. Sue that is a a great way to see it. I myself got better at Pullups by decreasing the bulk of my legs. So, I focused on conditioning my legs instead of building muscle. Now that I can squat 60 full reps no problem, I’m also 20 pounds lighter. So, my pullups are coming along because I’m pulling less.

    Like I wrote, I had elbow surgery last year, so I’d be doing more full pullups, but I’m shooting for 10 by the end of the year. AND, like you wrote, I’m doing them more times per week. One day 5×5, another 4×12 assisted, and one extra day (more mental) of 5×2(slow).


  12. Wow I had to try this for my workout today. I have been missing some of my gym time the last month and then a few times I have done ladders for pull-ups (where I never do more than 5 at a time but I do 50 total over the work out). So I was not sure how I would go today. But I was able to hit Vic’s 10/30/60 (first set only) and had a harder time on the push ups and squats than I thought I would! Second and third I followed the formula (7/21/42 & 6/18/36). What a great workout and a good benchmark for progress every so often. Thanks Vic!

  13. Michael H – ATG is the ideal but parallel or below is good. Full asian style squats are best for body weight but only is you can get there comfrotably. You will build the depth over time simple by doing them.

    Clement – Single limb drills are a logical extension for this but not recommended til you crank out the basics with ease. Also, for sinlge limb drills I’d be much more conservative on the numbers to avoid any tendon issues.

    Chris Beardsley – These drill as all body weight so if you are talking about adding the bar you are well on your way already!

    Laura – Pull ups are more challenging for women but 10 is completely doable. Just start with what you’ve got. Consistency will deliver results. Remember, this is base line stuff butthat doesn’t mean it is easy. Loop a stretch band round a pull up bar, stick your feet in the loop and use that to get reps as you groove the move.

    Sam – Just work the numbers round. Nothing stopping you doing single reps for example to finish the set out. Get creative!

    Dave – I am 47 Hombre. Age is nothing. Fitness is not fixed. Start with the basics and work your way up. In the last 5 years I have gotten stronger and leaner. I will post a clip of the drills to clarify things.

    Andrew – If you can adjust the bar to about waist height you can start by doing reverse rows with your feet on the ground. As you get stronger simply raise the bar.

    Jesus – good stuff. Mind those injuries.

    Lee – You know your body, mess with the numbers. Don’t let one move hold you back from pushing the others.

    Sue – You hit the nail. Everyone should aspire to this base line. Is it easy, NO! But that is why it frustrates people. But seriously, pulling yourself up should not be impossible. Should ou ever find yourself in a “cliff hanger” situation you’d want to be able to deal with it!

    Jesus – You are on the right track. The body is a single unit. we need to train in a way that reflects that. There is a high degree of technique to getting reps with pull ups. Again, I will post a clip on this.

    Eric – Good going!

    To put this in perpective, if you simply practice, you will get there. For some it will take months, for others ,weeks. But hey, there is no excuse for not working towards it.

    My son is 15 and we now challenge ourselves to bang this out in under 2 minutes. This time last year he could barely do a pull up.



  14. If something is easy then why do it. If you struggle to do pull-ups like most people do then don’t avoid them do them and do them at the start of a work out to get them out the way. Like Rannoch says conssitency is the key. I train with guys who can do Lat Pulls with strict form with much more than their body weight but they struggle with the pull ups. Remember you have different pulls, ones incorporating the arms or wide using the back. The tendency people have is when using wide grip to start using their arms more than their lats which are the huge big muscles that shift your body up to the bar. Like R says, if you can do 3 then do 3 do something else then try again and keep trying until you get there. Mix it up do the negative portion only once every few weeks and see your regular chins soar. It’s not rocket science guys. And remember the chin bar is like the speed ball in a boxing gym. The most under used bit off equipment, why? Simply because it’s a little harder to get the hang off. Anyway bash on with this good routine and stop flaffing. And yes, women can do chins.

    • Hombre! Thanks for pitching in. You are on the money. The speed ball analogy is a good one. And it’s the consistent practice that makes this stuff come together. People find it easier to be average at everything and a master of none.

      And another point, like Marcus says, mix it up. I teach 10 push up variations at my workshops. We teach 5 squat variations. For pull ups, check the clips at Simple Strength.

      I will post a clip of this drill this week end.

  15. Hey um, I don’t have an adjustable bar, only got one hanging on top, do you think reverse pull ups or chin ups are good. If they are, how many seconds should I hold it at the top and how many seconds to go down. Also how should i be breathing for that? Thanks

  16. When pullups become easy, take a bath towel, fold it over twice, throw on top of a sturdy door, and do door pullups. You can kiss your forearms goodbye after the first session.. great workout.


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