Moving, lifting weights, swinging bells, dragging, carrying and challenging the body is essential, if you want to become a better athlete. But sometimes, your mind just isn’t in it, you need a change of pace, or simply need something tangible to work towards. Whatever the reason may be, adding some challenges to your workouts may just give ya the boost you need to break through that plateau. These are great for assessments, tracking progress, creating little mini competitions with athletes, and more. Test them out, have some fun and keep us posted on your progress.
Ingrid Marcum introduced this one at the Perform Better Summit last summer in Long Beach. She was teaching John Brookfields ‘Beyond Bodyweight’ Training and had about 350 coaches simply crawl in a circle for 4 minutes. You can change direction anytime, but simply spin on your hands and feet for 4 minutes straight. Crawling is a foundational movement pattern that challenges the entire body, so this challenge is perfect for developing body awareness, coordination, strength, endurance and mental toughness. Can you crawl for 4 minutes straight?
3 Minute Pull Up
We’ve all done pull ups before. They are one of the best upper body exercises that exist. We have used chin ups (palms facing you), neutral grip (palms facing each other) and regular pull ups (palms away). You could also incorporate fat grips handles or any other odd grip that you have available. Simply set the clock and do as many as possible, with good form. Check out former UFC champ, Frankie Edgar, performing his 3 minute test.
Sprinting is one of the absolute best things on the planet for athleticism, conditioning, power, speed and many other things. Bottom line is that everyone should be sprinting in one way or another. A simple challenge that we will do is to find some open space, set the timer for 10seconds, and see how far each person can get. This can be a competition between athletes, or it could be a single person test. Measure how far they get, record it and test periodically to see how well they are improving.
25 Yard Shuttle Run
We are able to do this one in our gym, but you may need to find an open field, track or similar. Set up 5 cones, 5 yards apart, measuring about 25 yards long total. Sprint to the first cone, then back to the start line, second cone, back, third cone, back, etc. Time the event, record scores and compare old scores, team performance and more.
Feet square, good athletic stance, explode and jump as far as possible. This test has been used in the NFL combines for years and is a great display of athleticism. Measure the heal of the foot, record and measure progress over time.
This is a challenge that we have adopted at our gym in Costa Mesa. Depending on the equipment that you have available, you may need to adjust slightly. We have 100lb, 1/2 inch chains that we hook up to a harness and drag for distance. Dragging heavy resistance is tough on the mind and body and is a great way to increase work capacity and mental toughness. We started with a single chain, measured out a quarter mile and simply walked down and back for time. As we got stronger, we have added more chains, to increase the load. Put the harness on, add resistance and go. This is a killer drill that builds beasts in the cage. Use chains, sleds, tires, trucks, weights or whatever you think will drag well. Keep in mind that the object you drag and the surface you work on, will make a significant impact on the difficulty level. Dragging on grass is different than concrete, so test it out and develop a challenge that fits your team best.
Battling ropes are a popular tool these days in most gyms. Typically, these ropes are sold in 50′ lengths and are either 1.5″ or 2″ thick. Using a thicker or longer ropes will make the drill more difficult. Attach one end of the rope to a secure anchor, straighten it out and you are ready to go. Grab the end of the rope, step forward, so the rope drapes down to your feet and then shake the rope up and down, so that the waves carry to the anchor point. This drill is called the Tsunami. We have done tests for reps, time, distance and more using this drill and all work out pretty well. One of our favorites is the 100 rep challenge. See how long it takes your athletes to perform 100 reps. Make sure you start with the rope draped down to your toes, both hands on the rope and every wave travels to the anchor point. If the waves, don’t make it to the anchor, then they don’t count toward the 100. Can you perform 100 reps in under 30 sec?
100 Rep Battling Rope
This is probably the most common thing you see people do on the ropes. Using a fifty foot rope, wrapped around an achor point, you will have the two ends in your hands. Perform the alternating wave drill as fast as possible for 100 reps total. You will probably need counter, because this one moves fast. We simply count 50 reps on either the left or right hand and then stop the time when completed. This is a fast, fun drill to test the speed of hands and upper body. Can you break the 10 sec barrier?
Farmer carries are a great exercise to develop strength. In this challenge, you will grab two dumbbells that roughly total your body weight. So, if you are 160lbs, you would grab two 80lb dumbbells. If this is too advanced, then simply grab two heavy dumbbells that you can hold. This one is simple. Pick up the dumbbells, stand tall, eyes forward and walk as far as you can. You can measure time or distance covered and track progress over time.
Sandbag Get Up
I saw Mark Degrasse, of My Mad Methods magazine, perform these at a fitness/jiu jitsu expo in LA. He had a 150lb sandbag and had people trying to do a Turkish Get Up from the floor. If you would like to use 150lb bag, great, but I would highly recommend using a 50, 100 and 150lb sizes for different ability levels. Once you’ve got the technique down, then see how many reps that each person can perform in 5 minutes.
Pushing sleds has become a staple for many strength and conditioning programs. It is great for developing strengtha nd power throughout the hips and lower body. We have used a variety of challenges using the sled, but our favorite has been 4 plate challenge. We stacked 4, 45lb, plates onto our Prowler and had each person push it 50 feet down the turf, turn around and come back. You could adjust the weight or distance to fit your needs, but make sure you time it and track the progress over time.
Challenges can add a cool dynamic to your practices and training. They are a great way to track progress, create competition and stir up your workout schedule. As you add these challenges into your workouts, please keep us posted on how it goes, who sets records and we can get a little friendly competition going around the world!
Do you use any other challenges in your workouts?
If so, leave us a comment and we will give them a try.