The 5 Rules of Workout Challenges

Plus 3 Tough Ones to Try Right Now

Dumbass Trainers, Pointless Workouts

Want to know one of my training pet peeves? Watching "trainers" smash people with challenges they never did themselves and will never do. If your workout has "300 of these" or "300 of those" and was thought up the night before while someone got inspired by the movie 300 on Netflix, the odds are good the workout will be tough, but ultimately make no sense.

Don't do a physical challenge just for the sake of doing a physical challenge. Challenges are checkpoints to monitor the productivity of your training and offer a snapshot of your current level of fitness (speed, body composition, strength, and endurance). Anyone can create an "extreme" or "#BEASTMODE" challenge to crush people. Watch, here's one:

  • 500 burpees
  • 400 meters of lunge walks
  • Bear crawl a mile

We'll call it "Pub Crawl Gone Wrong." Ready? Go!

Train Hard, But Train Intelligently

Creating a challenge is an art, but it doesn't hurt to add a little science too. Art lets you be creative and cool. Science lets you add some understanding of biomechanics and anatomy so you don't confuse "cool" with "crazy."

There are three tough but smart challenges below, but first let's go over five rules to help you create a challenge that's simultaneously fun and tough... while making sure you don't hurt yourself or anyone else.

Five Rules For Creating A Physical Challenge

  1. Make challenges adjustable for all individuals. Challenges are not one-size-fits-all. If every person is doing the same reps, sets, and weight, something is wrong. Weights, reps, and sets during a challenge can and should be adjusted to suit the individual. This can be based on training age, gender, body weight, lifting proficiency and more.
  2. Challenges should not destroy you. Anyone can prescribe 250 reps of four leg exercises and call it the "1000 Rep Crippler." The problem? You named it correctly! To make sure your next challenge isn't paying a medical bill, monitor these three variables:
    • Total volume: Pay attention to the number of reps and sets. Equate challenges to regular training. If you ask someone to do 100 reps of something, think 10 sets of 10 with that exercise. Then ask yourself if it sounds nuts. If the answer is "yes," turn down the volume.
    • Total eccentric contractions: Examine the lifts involved in your challenge. Squats, bench presses, and chins will create more soreness than sleds and farmer's walks which lack the same eccentric damage (the negative or lowering of the load.) Account for this and go back to the first variable.
    • Total time: Put a time limit on your challenge. By doing this, you limit the amount of work a less-prepared person can do. Even triathlons have cut-off times, but l suggest you start yours at minutes, not hours.
  3. Challenges should not sacrifice technique for intensity. In any challenge, technique is paramount. If you can't maintain it, why do the challenge? If technique deteriorates, it's either time to alter the reps or change the challenge. My advice? Don't become part of the latest million-view fail video.
  4. Challenges should be "re-testable." After 6-8 weeks of training, your score should improve with a retest. If you never want to take a challenge again because it tore your palms off, that's a good indicator you made up something too hard.
  5. Challenges must be earned. If you don't have the physical base in place, don't do the challenge. Can't do 5 chin-ups? Then skip the "200 Rep Lat Killa." Put in the work, earn your challenges, and be proud of yourself.

Three Challenges Designed Right

1 – Bench and Chin Challenge

If you like bench pressing more than jogging on a treadmill, give this one a shot.

How To Do It

Superset your bodyweight on bench press with chin-ups for 5 reps each for 8 total sets of each exercise. Rest when needed between the sets to maintain form. Complete the entire 16 sets in under 10 minutes. If you're unable to complete it in 10 minutes, stop and record your total number.

Notes: Make sure you're proficient in both lifts. Since you'll experience fatigue, have a spotter present on the bench press.

2 – 100 Rep Deadlift Challenge

If you're looking for a pure deadlift challenge, this one is sure to challenge your body, heart, and mind!

How To Do It

Select a weight you can do for 10-15 reps. Do 20 sets of 5 reps at your own pace. You have 10 minutes to complete the 100 reps. If you're unable to complete it in 10 minutes, stop and record your total number.

Notes: If you haven't been deadlifting much, shoot for 50 total reps instead of 100 to get acclimated. If you have been deadlifting but not with high reps and volume, slow your pace and give yourself 20 minutes. Then slowly accelerate over a number of weeks before attempting the 10 minute barrier.

3 – Animal Crawl Challenge

Looking to test your core strength while bringing out your "inner animal?" Try this one.

How To Do It

Set 15 minutes on the clock and pick 5 different animal crawl movements. Do 10 pushups, 10 yards of crawls, 10 stir-the-pot revolutions, and return with 10 more yards of the same crawl. Repeat the pattern using different crawls for 15 straight minutes and see how many reps and total distance you complete. Crawls will include: bear, spider, gorilla, chimp, and tiger. (See video.)

Notes: This is a test of your core and shoulder stability. Use smooth and controlled movements. If you haven't been crawling, practice before taking the challenge.