I have been in training for 17 years. Throughout those years, I've found the most memorable training sessions are those that test my mental fortitude and grit. No, I'm not talking about doing dropsets on biceps curls or supersetting leg presses with leg extensions. I'm talking about workouts and exercises that remind you what it is to be human—raw, primal, and alive.
Primitive training—like picking things up, putting them over your head, throwing or carrying them, and combating difficult terrain—can awaken some of the natural beast inside of you. Workouts that ask you to use your whole body instead of isolating muscle groups awaken your animal instincts. Such workouts teach us how the body is meant to function.
Those feelings are exactly what this tough workout is built to evoke. Your aching muscles, racing heart, and desire to quit will be chiseled into your will. But if you finish it, you'll feel alive. You'll come out the other side with a new appreciation for your body's most basic abilities.
If you can, do this workout in the sand or on grass. Get out of the gym and test your grit in the natural elements.
Walking lunge with press4 sets of 20 steps and 10 presses
The World's Greatest Stretch has earned its name. Even though there are many other mobility drills, I keep coming back to this one because it's so effective. Perform the World's Greatest Stretch for 30 feet, then turn around and come back performing the inchworm.
These drills will help get some blood flowing in your muscles and open up some problem joints like the ankles, knees, and hips. Challenge yourself through these drills so your body is well prepared for the work in front of you.
World's Greatest Stretch
Exercise 1 10-meter sprint
A mere 30 feet doesn't seem very far, now does it? But in any sprint race, those first 30 feet are the most important. They are where the true power takes place—where an athlete explodes and accelerates. Your goal is to be like a lion, ambushing with a short sprint before using your ferocious power to tear down your target. Health advisory: Do not attempt to bite your training partner in the neck.
People who can adapt to different implements, situations, and environments will be more successful and versatile. Thus, you're training your ability to explode right out of the gate.
Ensure that you are accelerating all the way through the 30 feet before putting on the brakes. If you are in sand, I recommend you go barefoot. If you're in grass, try some cleats or footwear you trust to keep hold. You need a solid connection to the ground here, not a fall onto your face.
Exercises 2 and 3 Tire flip, tire carry
Don't go all Rambo on me and pick the heaviest tire you can find. Your focus should be on the speed of your flip, not the weight, so choose a lighter tire you know you can handle. Using lighter weight will allow you to preserve good technique through your triple extension and really work on exploding out of the hole.
As you do the work, try to create smooth transitions instead of segmented motions to preserve momentum. When you stand the tire up, punch it, attempting to push the tire as far forward as you can. Think of yourself as trying to move the tire all the way across a field with as few flips as possible. Use every opportunity to drive your energy forward into the tire. Your hands, your chest, and even your face should be dirty. Embrace it.
After giving the tire a few good flips, you'll change the game. Stand in the middle of the tire and grasp either side of it. You won't have a very comfortable grip, but this wasn't supposed to be easy now, was it? Deadlift the tire so you're holding it in a standing position, then hustle back to the starting line without dropping it.
Exercise 4 Walking lunge with press
To perform this movement, I prefer to use a slosh pipe, but a sandbag, kettlebell, or even a regular barbell could be substituted. Choose an implement you're unfamiliar with. It should feel unwieldy and unstable, throwing a little chaos into your routine.
Your implement will begin on the ground in front of you. Clean the implement, press it overhead, and then let it come to rest at the shoulders. With the weight on your shoulders, lunge down the field. As you come to a standing position at every other step, complete a standing press.
Word of warning: If you attempt to be He-Man during this movement, especially with a slosh pipe, you will likely be eating sand.
Exercise 5 1-mile carry, push, or pull
Your muscles should be burning, your lungs hurting, and there should be sand and dirt in places where the sun doesn't shine. But you came here to test your grit, so you'll continue when others would not. The finish line is in sight, but first you have to complete that final mile.
There are a few ways you can go about doing this, but the objective is simply to move a given weight one mile. The easiest and simplest way to perform this exercise is to have a proper ruck. Or, if you have a plain old backpack, fill it with anything to make it heavy. You can also use a sandbag. If you are male, try 100-135 pounds. Females may consider 50-60 pounds. If you wish to truly push yourself, you can try to push or pull a light sled for this distance.
You now have my permission to die.