You don't need to be a Spartan Race junkie, a competitive CrossFitter, or an Ironman champ to want to push your body to its limits. Your body is a machine, but it needs variation and unique movement to go full-bore. Put your body to the test so you can enjoy knowing how powerful you are. Sometimes it's awesome to do things just because you f'ing can.
Throw in a fitness challenge every week or month to enhance your cardiovascular and muscular endurance, test your mental strength, and assess your athletic ability. Ultra-tough workouts are also helpful for personal growth. If you always do the exact same thing over and over, how will you ever know if you improve? How will you test your limits?
If you're ready to take a break from your normal split and add a little bit of crazy to your fitness routine, here are seven challenges. Keep them in your back pocket for when your want to see what your capabilities are. You might surprise yourself.
Let us know how you did in the comments!
Challenge 1 Bear Complex
This barbell complex was created by the devil himself—or at least it seems that way. You don't need to use a ton of weight to get a sense of exactly how awful this is supposed to make you feel. Not only is this complex hell on your cardiovascular system, but your legs, core, and shoulders will get a shock.
To do the bear complex, load a barbell. Start light. Do the following exercises in succession: power clean, front squat, push press, back squat, and push press from behind the head, all without resting. That's one circuit. You can rest only after you've done seven circuits. Seven of these circuits is one round.
You might feel absolutely smoked after one round, but try to do five. If you started with too much or too little weight, make sure you adjust before you begin round two.
Challenge 2 Mile-Run Test
When was the last time you tried to run a mile as fast as you could? High school? Do you remember how well—or how poorly—you did back then? Unless you're an elite marathoner, trying to cover a mile as quickly as you can is really difficult.
Give it a go. Think of a time you'd like to beat, and then try to beat it. Usually, somewhere between six and eight minutes is a good time to shoot for.
If you think, "Why the hell am I doing this?" during the run, think about the zombie apocalypse. Being able to outrun zombies—even for a mile—is going to make your life expectancy much, much longer.
For added difficulty, wear an elevation training mask.
Challenge 3 100 Squats
Depending on your fitness level, you can do these loaded or unloaded. I prefer loaded because, well, it's more difficult that way.
Don't heap on so much weight that you can only do 2-3 reps at a time. Choose a weight that you feel comfortable doing about 10 times. Aim to go for 10 sets of 10 reps and rest as little as possible.
Stop just long enough to shake out your legs and catch your breath. Then get right back under the bar. If your quads, glutes, and hamstrings aren't screaming by the end, you need to add some weight next time!
Challenge 4 Quarter-Mile Weighted Lunge
Nothing says "I'm just this side of insane" like wearing a weighted vest and lunging around a track. Rocky Balboa would love you.
Your butt, hamstrings, and quads might be so sore that you waddle like a penguin for a couple of days, but who cares? You'll have completed a task that very few people have the courage to do.
Need a more down-to-earth reason to do it? Remember, the best workout you can do is one your body isn't used to doing. If your lower half has grown accustomed to your usual routine, then a high-volume, high-intensity leg workout will shock it.
Throwing a workout like this into your split might just help you overcome a bout of stagnation.
Challenge 5 7 Minutes Of Burpees
I borrowed this idea from the 2012 CrossFit Open WODs. These may just be the worst seven minutes of your life. Burpees suck on their own. But doing them constantly for seven minutes makes a bad thing even worse... in the best possible way.
Since we're borrowing this from CrossFit, we may as well use the CrossFit rules to do the workout. When you do the burpees, make sure your chest hits the ground and you jump to a target six inches above the top of your reach. Try to do as many as you can. If your cardio is good, aim for at least 100 reps.
Much like the other workouts on this list, the only way to get through this workout is to just keep going. It doesn't take very long, but who says a tough workout has to take a lot of time?
Challenge 6 Death By 200 Meters
This is a fun one. If you ever ran track in high school or college, it will bring back fond (or maybe terrible) memories. Every minute on the minute, you'll run 200 meters. If you can run 200 meters in 30 seconds, then you have 30 seconds to rest before you begin again.
Keep doing 200-meter sprints until you can no longer run 200 meters within the one-minute time frame.
Sprints are a great way to increase your cardiovascular fitness while preserving your muscle mass. You don't need to do something this difficult every week, but doing some high-intensity training is great for your physique and health.
Challenge 7 Dumbbell 5X5
Not only is this workout perfect for challenge-seekers, it's great if you're stuck in a hotel gym and have really limited equipment. It's a brutal little test of your muscular endurance and your ability to count to five. (Trust me, that gets kind of difficult after the second round.)
Pick up some heavy dumbbells. I like to use whatever I can overhead press for five reps. Hold the dumbbells at your sides and do five squats. Immediately move to five dumbbell cleans, then do five dumbbell thrusters, then five overhead presses, and then hold the weights at shoulder level and do five more squats. That's one round. You'll do four more.
One round comprises only 25 reps, but if you're using heavy-enough dumbbells, the round should be difficult to complete. Don't rest too long between sets—30 seconds is plenty.
Bonus Challenge 100 Single-Arm Kettlebell Swings In Under 5 Minutes
Kettlebell swings are deceiving. They don't look like much, but if you do them correctly and with enough reps and weight, you can absolutely destroy yourself. This five-minute workout is no easy task.
Grab a heavy kettlebell. You can switch hands every 5 or 10 reps, or you can even try alternating every rep. Whatever way you decide to do it, your grip and forearms will never be the same.
Remember that this movement is powered by your hips, so make sure you're engaging your hamstrings, glutes, and lower back throughout the swing.
If the clock hits the five-minute mark before you finish 100 reps, keep going until you're done. Write down how long it takes you to complete all of the reps and then try to beat it next time you try this challenge.