CrossFit may have popularized No Bull tanks and Reebok Nano shoes, but the list of CrossFit customs that have bled beyond the walls of the box doesn’t end there.
Since the start of the pandemic, a common CrossFit warm-up known as the “Bring Sally Up” challenge has steadily gained traction amongeverythingtypes of exercisers. With the hashtag #BringSallyUp garnering over 98 million views on TikTok, the masculinity of the challenge shows no signs of slowing down.
But what does the “Bring Sally Up” challenge involve, and how do CrossFit coaches use it to improve the fitness and performance of their athletes? Here, fitness experts explain the challenge and share what it can (and can’t) do for the average exerciser.
The ‘Bring Sally Up’ challenge, explained
The “Bring Sally Up” challenge requires one thing: access to a song from the 2000sFlowerfrom Moby. (Plus, either a speaker or headphones to enjoy the song).
If you’ve never played bop before, the lyrics repeat the phrase “bring Sally up, brought Sally down” over and over throughout its 3.5 minute run time. The practice challenge involves moving in tandem with these texts. Specifically, you should perform the concentric part (the “up” phase) of the movement when the song says “up”, and then perform the eccentric part of the movement (the “down” phase) when the artist says “down”.
Typically, the challenge ends with bodyweight movements, such as push-ups or air squats, which your CrossFit coach (or you, if you’re working out on your own) choose based on which muscles you need to “wake up.” ” for programmed strength work or metabolic conditioning.
If you’re doing a push-up challenge, for example, you’ll stay in a high plank position when Moby says “up” and drop to the floor when Moby says “down.” If you’re doing the air squat challenge, stand on “up” and squat on “down.”
The instructions are simple enough, but the challenge is anything but. As the reps accumulate, your muscles will feel the burn. And because there’s sometimes a multi-second pause between when Moby tells you to “pull Sally up” and when he tells you to “put Sally down,” you’ll be forced to hold an isometric (or static) hold at the top or bottom of the rep for several seconds at a time .
Benefits of ‘The Bring Sally Up’ Challenge
CrossFit coaches primarily use the “Bring Sally Up” challenge as part of a warm-up to prepare class participants for the day’s upcoming workout — and Jake Harcoff, CSCS, CISSN, head coach and owner of AIM Athletic says it works effectively.
“The song and the proper protocol allow movement, and by the end, this challenge will increase blood circulation in our bodies and is therefore a good general warm-up,” he tells LIVESTRONG.com.
In addition to raising your core body temperature, increasing blood circulation also increases oxygen and nutrients carried to our cells, notes registered dietitian and certified strength and conditioning specialist Reda Elmardi RD, CSCS, founder of The Gym Goat, an online wellness website.
“As blood flows through our bodies, it carries oxygen and nutrients to the cells and removes carbon dioxide and waste products,” he tells LIVESTRONG.com “This means more oxygen and nutrients are delivered to the muscles and organs, which fuel our movements .”
Warming up before exercise is non-negotiable, says Harcoff. By increasing blood circulation in our bodies and raising our core body temperature, “warming up also helps our muscle fibers contract more effectively,” he says.
In fact, a dynamic warm-up — a warm-up that involves putting your muscles through their full range of motion — improves muscle strength and flexibility, according to an April 2012 study.Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.
The fact that the challenge involves isometric holds can offer additional benefits to your body. Another study published inJournal of Strength and Conditioning Research specifically dealt with the effect of isometric postures before exercise. Researchers put baseball and softball players through isometric warm-ups before games and found that isometric upper-body stretches offered a “significant” improvement in bat speed.
These findings suggest that the isometric movements featured in the “Bring Sally Up” challenge may have the power to increase power output—something that power athletes, such as Olympic lifters in particular, could benefit from.
Factors to consider when doing the ‘Bring Sally Up’ challenge
A potential downside to using the “Bring Sally Up” challenge as a warm-up is that, depending on your current fitness level and how you time the moves in the song, it could actually work your muscles morethan the warm-up should.
“It’s possible that warming up all the way beforehand will fatigue the target muscle group, rather than preparing them for what’s to come,” says Harcoff.
The result: you won’t be able to work during the bulk of your workout, he says. For example, for a new or intermediate lifter who does a “Bring Sally Up” with push-ups before benching, it could hinder their ability to put as many plates away as possible. Not ideal!
Another thing to consider when doing the “Bring Sally Up” is the exact moves that will appear in your next workout.
“The most effective warm-up includes the movements—or movements—that will be performed in the workout you’re warming up for,” says Harcoff.
If you’re going to do a shoulder press, for example, the way to prepare is the shoulder press, and likewise, if you’re going to deadlift, the best warm-up would include a lower body exercise or two.
But, “in most cases, people don’t spend time warming up at all,” says Harcoff. So if a challenge like this is the only way to make sure you warm up, he says. Additionally, while push-ups and air squats are popular movements for “Bring Sally Up,” you can still complete the challenge with other exercises that mirror what you’ll be doing in the main workout.
Turn the ‘Bring Sally Up’ challenge into your own workout
As the challenge moved beyond the walls of CrossFit affiliates, its main intent changed. These days, instead of being used to warm people up for their next workout, people – especially FitTokkers – are using a songastheir training. Usually, to test (and show off) their push-up strength and endurance.
So if the “Bring Sally Up” challenge feels more like a workout than a warm-up, then use it as your workout! If you choose to do push-ups to a song, Elmardi says there’s no doubt that doing this challenge a few days a week will slowly increase your push-up capacity.
It’s worth noting that you can also use the challenge as a burner at the end of your workout.
Modify the ‘Bring Sally Up’ challenge to your ability
Harcoff recommends choosing a movement variation that you can perform safely and with good form for the duration of the jam.
“If you warm up or exhaust yourself, you impair your ability to perform when you get to the main lifts,” he says.
So if you’re feeling tired rather than refreshed after a song, he suggests reducing the challenge.
One option would be to repeat every other time Moby says “pick Sally up, put Sally down”, effectively cutting the job in half. Another option is to increase the range of motion with which you do the challenge, suggests Harcoff. Instead of doing push-ups, for example, you can do wall push-ups or knee push-ups, which contribute to reducing muscle strength. Similarly, instead of doing goblet squats, you can do weightless squats.
“You can also just do part of the song to start and work your way up to finishing the whole thing as you get stronger and fitter,” he says.