CrossFit may have popularized No Bull tanks and Reebok Nano shoes, but the list of CrossFit customs that have bled beyond box walls 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 amongst all types of exercisers. With the hashtag #BringSallyUp racking up over 98 million views on TikTok, the virility of the challenge shows no signs of slowing down.
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But what does the "Bring Sally Up" challenge entail and how do CrossFit trainers use it to improve their athletes' physical preparedness and performance? Here, fitness experts explain the challenge and share what it can (and cannot) do for the average exerciser.
The 'Bring Sally Up' Challenge, Explained
If you've never played the bop before, the lyrics repeat the phrase "bring Sally up, bring Sally down" over and over throughout its 3.5-minute duration. The workout challenge involves moving in tandem with these lyrics. Specifically, you're supposed to execute the concentric portion ("up" phase) of a movement when the song says "up" and then perform the eccentric portion of a movement ("down" phase) when the artist says "down."
Typically, the challenge is completed with body-weight movements, such as push-ups or air squats, which your CrossFit coach (or you, if you're working out on your own) chooses based on which muscles you need to "wake up" for the programmed strength work or metabolic conditioning.
If you're doing the challenge with push-ups, for instance, you'll remain in high plank position when Moby says "up" and lower down to the floor when Moby says "down." If you're doing the challenge with air squats, you stand on "up" and squat on "down."
The instructions are easy enough, but the challenge is anything but. As the reps accumulate, your muscles will feel the burn. And because there is sometimes a multi-second pause between when Moby instructs you to "bring Sally up" and when he tells you to "bring 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.
The Benefits of the 'Bring Sally Up' Challenge
CrossFit trainers primarily use the "Bring Sally Up" challenge as part of a warm-up to prepare class attendees for the upcoming workout of the day — and Jake Harcoff, CSCS, CISSN, head coach and owner of AIM Athletic says it does that effectively.
"The song and corresponding protocol provides movement, and done all the way through, this challenge will increase blood circulation in our bodies and therefore is a good general warm-up," he tells LIVESTRONG.com.
In addition to increasing your core body temperature, the increase in blood circulation also increases the oxygen and nutrients getting carried to our cells, notes registered dietitian and certified strength and conditioning Reda Elmardi RD, CSCS, founder of The Gym Goat, an online wellness site.
"As blood flows through our bodies, it carries oxygen and nutrients to cells and removes carbon dioxide and waste products," he tells LIVESTRONG.com "This means more oxygen and nutrients are delivered to muscles and organs, which fuel our movements."
Warming up prior to exercising is non-negotiable, according to Harcoff. By increasing the circulation of blood in our bodies and increasing internal body temperature, "warming up also helps our muscle fibers contract more effectively," he says.
In fact, dynamic warm-ups — warm-ups that involve taking your muscles through their full range of motion — improve muscle strength and flexibility, according to an April 2012 study in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.
The fact that the challenge incorporates isometric holds may offer additional benefit to your body. A second study published in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research looked specifically at the effect of isometric holds ahead of exercise. The researchers put baseball and softball players through an isometric warm-up ahead of games and found that upper-body isometric holds offered a "significant" improvement on bat velocity.
These findings suggest that isometric holds, which make an appearance in the "Bring Sally Up" challenge, may have the power to increase power output — something power athletes, like Olympic lifters in particular, may benefit from.
Factors to Consider When Doing the 'Bring Sally Up' Challenge
A potential downside of using the "Bring Sally Up" challenge as a warm-up is that, depending on your current fitness level and how you scale the movements in the song, it could actually work your muscles more than a warm-up is supposed to.
"It's possible that doing the warm-up to completion will pre-fatigue the intended muscle group, rather than prepare them for what's to come," Harcoff says.
The result: You won't be able to perform during the main portion of your workout, he says. For example, for a new or intermediate lifter doing "Bring Sally Up" with push-ups before bench pressing, it could interfere with their ability to bench as many plates. Not ideal!
Another thing to consider when doing "Bring Sally Up" is the exact moves that will appear in your subsequent workout.
"The most effective warm-up includes the movement — or movements — that are going to be done in the workout you are warming up for," Harcoff says.
If you're going to shoulder press, for example, the way to prepare is by shoulder pressing, and likewise if you're going to deadlift the best warm-up would incorporate lower-body hinge exercise or two.
But, "in most cases, people are not spending any time warming up at all," Harcoff says. So if doing a challenge like this is the only way you can convince yourself to warm up, he says have at it. Plus, while push-ups and air squats are popular moves for "Bring Sally Up," you can still perform the challenge with other exercises that reflect what you'll be doing in your main workout.
Turn the 'Bring Sally Up' Challenge into Its Own Workout
As the challenge has moved beyond the walls of CrossFit affiliates, its main intention has morphed. These days, rather than being used to warm people up for their subsequent workout, people — especially FitTokkers — are using the song as their workout. Usually, to test (and show off) their push-up prowess and stamina.
So, if the "Bring Sally Up'' challenge feels more like a workout than a warm-up to you, then use it as your workout! If you decide to do push-ups along with the song, Elmardi says that there's no doubt that doing this challenge a few days a week will slowly build up your push-up capacity.
It's worth noting 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 variation of a movement you can do safely and with good form for the duration of the jam.
"If you are getting gassed or maxing out in your warm-up, you are hurting your ability to perform when you get to your main lifts," he says.
So if you feel fatigued rather than refreshed after the song, he suggests scaling the challenge.
One option would be to do a repetition every other time Moby says "bring Sally up, bring Sally down," effectively cutting the work in half. Another option is to scale the movement you're doing the challenge with, Harcoff suggests. Rather than doing push-ups, for example, you could do wall push-ups or knee push-ups, which tap into less muscular strength. Similarly, rather than doing weighted goblet squats, you could do unweighted air squats.
"You could also just do a portion of the song to start and work your way up to completing the entire thing as you get stronger and fitter," he says.