Four-challenges-to-light-your-fire

Here's what you need to know...

  1. The first challenge is three sets of barbell back squats. But your "rest" between each set is a PUPP – a push-up position plank.
  2. The second challenge is a superset of kettlebell swings and goblet squats. On the first set you'll do 10 reps of each, the second set 9, the third set 8, etc.
  3. For the third challenge, pick five exercises, then do 10 reps of each, 9 reps of each, 8 reps of each, until you finish. You have 23 minutes to complete them.
  4. In the fourth challenge you'll tumble doing forward rolls, right and left shoulder rolls, cartwheels, bear crawls, and sprints.

The Point of Challenges

Workout challenges wake you up, jolt you from your training stupor, and yank you by the hair out of your rut. After a challenge is over you feel like you've accomplished something.

In that spirit, here are a handful of challenges to try.

Challenge #1: Kick the PUPP

Front Squat PUPP

Some say standard planks are too easy. But if you start shaking before you even reach the 60 second mark, then you need them.

A standard plank is basically just holding a push-up in the top position. I'd make you a video of it, but that would be boring. Form? Just make one smooth straight line, hips solids, head locked in the "military fashion," and body rigid.

There are dozens of variations, but for now just do this – fall to the floor and give me a PUPP.

PUPP: A standard push-up position plank.

Now, use the PUPP as your "rest period" between sets of another exercise. Simply take a squat movement and use a weight that you can get for ten reps. For this workout, however, halve those reps, so do sets of five, and instead of resting, you will PUPP.

Here's an example:

Front Squat x 5 (with 10 rep weight)
PUPP for 30 seconds
Front Squat x 5
PUPP for 30 seconds
Front Squat x 5
PUPP for 30 seconds

Be careful on the last set as the heaving of the chest makes handling the barbell a bit suspect. I strongly encourage you to rest for a little bit after this workout.

Related:  6 Challenges You Must Accept and Beat

Yes, you can PUPP longer than 30 seconds. Yes, five reps with a weight you can front squat for ten is very light. Neither will matter when you attempt to leap off the ground and front squat that last set.

Try it first, then decide if you want to attempt longer PUPPs and more weight on the bar.

Challenge #2: The Big 55

Kettlebell Swing

Here's how to do it. First, put two moves back to back.

Swings
Goblet Squats

Simply do 10 swings, followed by 10 goblet squats, then 9 and 9, then 8 and 8, and – you know where this is heading – we go all the way to 1 and 1. Don't put the weight down if you're doing this with the same kettlebell or dumbbell.

Notes

The swing is simple: Maintain a nice back arch, sit back, keep your head up, stay braced at the bottom, and use a powerful hip snap on every rep. The 'bell shouldn't rise above your shoulders.

Goblet Squat

Think of a goblet squat as a front squat holding a dumbbell in front of your body at your chest. This allows for a comfortable, natural, upright position.

Challenge #3: The 23-Minute Man-Maker

Barbell Rollout A Barbell Rollout B

Pick five exercises. Like these:

Squat
Overhead press
Deadlift (any variation, use thick bars if you have them)
Pull-up (preferred) or pulldown
Ab wheel or ab roll-out using a bar or Swiss ball

The chore is to do ten reps back-to-back of each of the five lifts, then start again doing nine, then eight, then seven... and, again, you see where this is heading!

I have a "tap out" rule that you have to finish in 23 minutes. Use weights that are so light in the squat, press, and deadlift that you're embarrassed to begin the workout. If you follow this advice, you might be able to finish it.

Challenge #4: Tumble

One other area of training most people completely ignore is tumbling.

Tumbling is part of bodybuilding's history. Tumbling was a key to "body culture" a hundred years ago and it existed well into the Muscle Beach era. Franco Columbo was a gifted acrobat and could do amazing things with his total body strength.

If you want a workout that will gas you and leave you sweating and crying, go ahead and tumble. The following workout recently led a fairly good athlete of mine to puke:

Five forward rolls
Five right shoulder rolls
Five left shoulder rolls
Three cartwheels followed by three cartwheels to the other side
One set of bear crawls (about ten meters)
Sprint to waste basket

Note: The bear crawl is a "quad-ped" crawl. Your knees don't touch the ground, just your hands and feet. The two basic variations are the bent-knee Spiderman or "military" version, and the straight-leg version.

I don't like athletes to puke, but the level of intensity, both physical and mental, it takes to tumble really seems to ramp up the metabolism.

Related:  9 Tips for Dedicated Lifters

Don't push it on the tumbling repetitions, and take the time to review technique, position, and protection.

"Accept the challenges so that you may feel the exhilaration of victory," said General Patton. Well, you're going to feel something after one of these challenges. Let's hope the exhilaration of victory is part of it!

09/17/09