If you clicked on this article hoping for a discussion about some nerd, “Dungeons and Dragons meets ‘fitness’” type of workout…well…sorry; you came to the wrong place.
Thankfully, the workout I have on tap for you today makes anything Conan the Barbarian (eat your heart out, Arnold!) attempted look like child’s play.
150 reps of anything in under 60 minutes is going to smoke you.
…but throw in high-skilled, strict movements like bar muscle-ups…
…and the requirement that the yuge 30,50,and 60-rep sets must be performed unbroken…
…and…yeah; anybody hoping to “get pumped” doing a “killer” Arnold-style workout should be crying right now.
Let’s discuss of the real “Barbarians Workout”. Maybe, once we’re finished, you’ll be able to muster up the courage to give it a go!
Table of Contents
Who are the “Bar-barians”?
The Bar-barians are a loose group of calisthenics enthusiasts who are dedicated to performing intense bodyweight workout routines.
Some of these individuals, like Zef Zakaveli and Darryl Campbell, have grown to be incredibly prominent in the calisthenics space. They have formalized the “certification” requirements for potential Barbarians “members” to earn their “Gold Wings”, the designation (with accompanying t-shirt!) that everyone who has passed the Barbarians workout requirements “test” receives.
As you’d probably expect from calisthenics personalities, there isn’t much in the form of extremely produced video, websites, or events. These guys keep things informal and almost gritty in how they promote their training methods and largely equipment-free barbarian workout routines.
If you prefer “simple” (ha!) routines and movements without the over-the-top video production and self-promotion of other types of training programs, the Bar-barians will really probably appeal to you.
What is the Barbarians Workout?
Currently, there is a strict set of movement, repetition, and time standards that must be met to successfully complete the barbarian workout. The workout itself looks like this:
The Barbarians workout is obviously very upper-body heavy (like most calisthenics programs) and given the sheer number of reps, the requirement to go unbroken in each movement, and the short time domain (if you want to “pass”) and you upper body is guaranteed to blow up.
Don’t think you’re currently at a level of fitness where you can complete all barbarian workout requirements?
What is colloquially known and referred to as the “barbarians workout” is the test (kind of like how the 300 workout wasn’t the “daily” workout those guys did, but was used to test the “after” fitness of the actors training for the movie). There are plenty of barbarian workouts you can perform to prepare for the test…and the Gold Wings that come along with passing!
Here are a few of the more “manageable” barbarians workouts:
Pull-ups and Knee Raises
As mentioned above, the workouts promoted by the core barbarians crew are very upper-body biased. The fact that you’re intended to go unbroken on this (not letting go of the bar) is evidence of this. However, 55 knee raises is going to blow your core up.
No wonder all of these guys have, like, 16-packs.
Pump Your Breaks
You don’t have to use a weight vest here; any combination of 55-pound elements to put on your back will do (you’re really going to want to break this up, though!)
Then a 300-rep “cash out” in Part B…maybe these workouts are actually more difficult than the requirements workout afterall!
Dead Man Hang
The bad news: you have a lot of pull-ups to do and a lot of hanging.
The good news: if you’re good at both hanging and pull-ups, you can get through this one pretty quick.
My advice: get really good at dead hangs and pull-ups!
“10-minute” Pull-ups and Push-ups
The title for this one is kind of a tease since, originally, Part A was the entire workout.
…the guys thought they were done and then the (harder) Part B was sprung on them.
Mean, man…just mean!
To be fair, you can get a pretty good workout “only” doing one of these EMOMs (heck, you could even make it a 20-minute EMOM and alternate between pull-ups and push-ups). Maybe start your calisthenics training this way!
Pull-up Scale Routine
We’ve seen “straight-bar dips” a few times in this discussion and, if you’re not familiar with them, they’re the (really hard) exercise shown below:
I don’t know what’s worse: doing 55 of those bad boys unbroken (to go along with all of these pull-ups) or getting hit with the penalty push-ups. Maybe you can try this one out a couple of times and get back to me!
The Wheel of Pain
This one’s actually probably the hardest workout. Unfortunately, I don’t have any standards on this one!
As you can see, even these “preparatory” workouts are no walk in the park! In most cases, you’re expected to have some degree of bodyweight training experience and be at least somewhat experienced performing large sets of pull-up and push-up varieties.
Following a beginner bodyweight program like the ones outlined in the Convict Conditioning books (which I got about halfway through in early 2023) will provide a good primer in bodyweight movements (to include modifications to make “base” movements both easier and harder) to prepare for more challenging Bar-barian workouts.
The “Other” Barbarians Workout
I understand that in more recent times, another “Barbarians workout” has erupted as somewhat viral sensation from a somewhat viral sensation of fitness personality…
Whatever you think about this guy, his Barbarian workout might actually be more interesting than the bodyweight challenge from above. However, I would argue that it isn’t nearly as functional (despite the “king’s” claims to the contrary) and is probably actually exponentially more times inaccessible than a few big sets of bodyweight exercises will ever be.
Promoted by the man himself as “Liver King’s Barbarian…the workout…the rite of passage…the initiation into manhood”, the “other” Barbarians workout has to be seen to be believed.
Yeah…have fun with that.
To up the ante even more, the Liver King claims to have completed the workout at least 117 times, performing it on a weekly basis.
While I can’t really recommend this workout for…like…99.9 percent of the population (I guess you could call me “uninitiated”), if the Bar-barian bodyweight workout is just a little too easy for you, maybe give this one a try!
When you Gotta Train Like a Barbarian, You Got Options!
One prevailing theme we’ve seen in all of the barbarians workouts discussed today?
Ridiculous levels of challenge!
It makes me wonder what the intrigue and attraction are of training like a barbarian with workouts this difficult. Thankfully, I think our last reference to Arnold in this article can explain what make the barbarians workouts “best in life”
I’m pretty sure you’re more likely to hear my lamentations if I attempted one of these bad boys, but you get the point!
It goes without saying that if you’re into calisthenics and related exercises, you should check out our article on the 30 best bodyweight workouts. Do enough of these and your Gold Wings test will seem like a walk in the park!