Nine Brutal Workout Challenges

January 11, 2017

About the Author: Daniel Freedman

Nine brutal workout challenges? WTF? Even one seems like lot. Nine is just ridiculous.

That’s because for most people in most developed countries, life in 2017 is easy.

The hard physical labor of the “good old days” is mostly gone. More importantly, so is the mental grit — born of war and the struggle for survival — that was the hallmark of past generations.

But you can still create challenges for yourself. You can still push your limits and build toughness. Forging a strong mind and body doesn’t need to be a tale of the past. You can do it today. But only if you embrace the suck.

The challenges that follow will re-invigorate your passion for training. You’ll build mental and physical toughness.

Are you ready to step up to the plate?

Upper Body Strength and Stamina Workout Challenges

1. 25 Consecutive Clap Push-Ups

Assume a push-up position, lower yourself to the ground, and push up with maximum force, clapping your hands before returning to the ground. Pretend your hands are touching hot coals. Don’t dawdle. Do the reps quickly, exploding back up into your next rep as soon as you reach the down position.

Why: The clap push-up is an unusual exercise. It hits muscle fibers in a unique way. Pursuing this test will bust you through a training plateau to add power and muscle to your chest, triceps, and shoulders.

Start with 3-4 sets of 6-10 reps before upper body lifts, and add one all-out set at the end of training. If you struggle, elevate your hands on a flat bench and build your endurance. Once you do ten consecutive reps move to the floor.

2.100 Straight Push-Ups

This benchmark is a true barometer of relative strength and muscular endurance. You’d be hard-pressed to find a lifter capable of doing 100 straight push-ups who’s not lean, strong, and built like a tank.

But listen up. Time for some tough love. I’m not talking about your little sister’s head-diving, half-twerking, push-ups.

Do the reps the way they need to be done!

Each rep requires:
– the elbows tucked at 45 degrees
– alignment from your cervical spine to your tailbone
full reps: chest to the ground at the bottom and a full lockout at the top. I’m watching you, dude! #cusiluvu

Why? Push-ups are more than an incredible upper body exercise, they also test anterior core endurance. The 100 push-up challenge will expose any chink in your armor. Notice sagging hips or your head diving forward? You have some work to do, dude.

Try adding two all-out sets of push-ups (with 90 seconds rest between) at the end of your workout. If you’re failing to get at least 25 reps, elevate the hands until you’re able to do so.

3.18 Pull-ups with 10 KG

This one was popularized by Pavel in Beyond Bodybuilding. The 18 rep pull-up test with a 10 kg kettlebell is a requirement for Russian Special Forces. 10 Kg approximates the weight of the body armor worn by operators. It’s a beast of a test, requiring relative strength, absolute strength, and muscular endurance.

Get stronger on your pull-ups by adding weighted pull-ups for 4-5 sets of 5-8 reps twice per week. Then, to build endurance finish your workouts with a rep goal like 40 pull-ups. Break up the sets to preserve technique and never failing on your reps.

Try 10×4, 8×5, 5×8, or 4×10. Think you’re ready? Rise to the challenge and take on the Russian Special Forces pull-up challenge and you’ll build a vice grip, v-tapered lats, and add serious size to your arms.

4.Chin-Up to Match Your Bench 5 RM

Matching chin-ups to your 5 rep max is a fantastic way to measure strength balance and a strong, eye-catching v-tapered back. And while the lats still aid in internal rotation, pull-ups do a great job of teaching lifters to keep the shoulder blades retracted and firing the traps and rhomboids.

This test gives you what you want most: jacked bicep. It also gives you what you need most: more upper body pulling volume to counteract years of unbalanced training.

The set-up: Use a weight belt to add external weight to your pull-up. Ideally, you’ll get five reps at your bench one rep max.

External weight body weight = total weight.

Thus, if your five rep max was 275 lbs and you weighed 185 lbs, your goal would be 5 pull-ups with an extra 90 lbs on your waist. Not there? Build strength in your pull-ups twice per week with four sets of six reps, progressively adding weight. Add inverted rows for fifty total reps into your training twice per week for improved strength, posture, and shoulder health.

Total Body Athleticism Workout Challenges

5. Clean Your Bodyweight
Cleans couple an explosive movement pattern like a jump with total body stimulation to hit nearly 200 muscles. It’s an excellent display of athleticism and power. The clean is arguably the best” bang for your buck” exercise if you want to be a strong, athletic beast.

What to do: For starters, learn how to clean. This tutorial will have you cleaning proficiently in an hour or two.  Then, build strength with a basic program like Bill Starr’s 5×5 or using the loading pattern from Jim Wendler’s 5-3-1. If you’re able to clean your bodyweight, you’ve built a body that’s strong, explosive, and athletic.

6. Vertical Jump 30 Inches

Brutal? Not really. But to be brutally explosive and build a body that performs as well as it looks the vertical jump is an awesome test.

To be an athlete, you must generate strength fast and be able to move your body through space. There are many tests, like the 40-yard dash, broad jump, and pro-agility test, but the most practical is the vertical jump. Vertical jumps require a blend of relative strength, a baseline of absolute strength, and explosiveness. For most, 30 inches is an excellent benchmark.

What to do: Test your vertical jump with either a Vertec or chalk and a wall.
Going the chalk method, you’ll need to measure your reach with your arm extended overhead. Then, perform a vertical jump, reaching up with the chalk, and measuring the height of the mark.

Height on jump – reach = vertical jump.

Not at 30 inches? Train jumping variations twice per week. Before your heavy squats, deadlifts, or cleans, perform 3-4 sets of 3-5 reps on jumps.
Once per week, use unweighted jumps like box jumps, or squat jumps.

Squat jumps.

Box Jump:

Then, add a weighted jump like a dumbbell squat jump once per week.

Lower Body Strength, Stamina, and Power

7. Bodyweight Barbell Squat x 50

This one is brutal. The fifty rep set is the weight room equivalent mental and physical warfare. Performed once or twice per month, this test will help you crush training plateaus. And it builds serious mass to your legs.

Following a thorough warm-up, load up a barbell with your approximate body weight, throw on some DMX, and start squatting.

Struggling to reach fifty?
This test is easier for smaller guys, that’s physics. But, regardless of size, the best way to improve endurance and relative strength is to get brutally strong. Focus on improving your one rep max, then add one or two high-rep drop sets with your body weight every other week to finish off your legs.

Again, this test is brutal. Use safety racks, a spotter, and plan extra recovery afterward.

8. Front Squat Your Back Squat 5 RM
The front squat builds a steel- clad physique and incredible lower body strength as well as the back squat. It’s a badass lower body exercise. The front squat reinforces posture and adds mass to your upper back since your elbows stay elevated your thoracic extensors work double time to hold proper position.

Plus, We’ve all seen what happens when someone rounds their back, yelps like a kicked puppy, and jacks up their spine on the back squat. No such issue on the front squat. If you round, the bar drops forward, decreasing the risk to your spine.

Here’s simple math:
Back Squat Max x.85= Back Squat 5-RM.
405 x .85= 345

So, if your five-rep max on the back squat is 345 lbs, and you weighed 185, your goal would be a front squat of 345 lbs for one rep.

What to do: You’re naturally stronger in the back squat.But most lifters are embarrassingly weak in the front squat compared to the back squat.

Aim to get a 1-rep max in the front squat equivalent to 85% of your back squat. You’ll build a stronger core, thick yoke, bigger quads, and well-rounded physique. I’ve had experienced clients hit a front squat cycle then come back to a stronger back-squat.

9. Sadiv Sets

Sadiv sets are a high volume and high-intensity monster of a workout. Designed by the ridiculously strong Rich Sadiv, Sadiv sets are an advanced training method designed to boost your deadlift, test mental grit, and add tons of muscle to your posterior chain.
Beginners or the weak-minded need not apply.

Don’t even attempt this unless you’re deadlifting 1.5-2x bodyweight. Here’s what to do:

• Set a timer for 12 minutes and load the bar with 60% of your 1RM. Using the example of a 405-pound max, this would be about 240 pounds.

• Perform each rep as a single, resetting between each rep and pulling with perfect form. This means taking the slack out of the bar, keeping your hips back, your back flat, your chin down, and driving your heels into the earth.

• Perform each rep with max speed from the floor—leg drive is key!

• Perform as many reps as possible during the 12-minute span, shooting for at least 20 reps. If you don’t get 20 “good” reps, decrease the weight!

The beauty of this test is the load is light enough to build explosive strength off the floor, yet light enough to preserve technique. Once fatigue sets in, it’s vital to setup each lift like it’s a max attempt, brace the core, and drive the bar. Can you beat the 20 rep cut with perfect form? You’re well on your way to newfound growth and endurance. You are displaying the ability to resist lumbar flexion under fatigue, a vital quality for long-term training safety.

The Takeaway on Workout Challenges

“Difficulties strengthen the mind, as labor does the body.”
― Seneca

Challenge yourself, but don’t bite off more than you can chew.

Pick one challenge for the for the next four to six weeks and make that a focus.
Don’t make the mistake of chasing two rabbits, as you’ll end up with none. Challenge your body, challenge your mind, and set yourself up for growth.

P.S. Want to see how you stack up in these challenges?

Join our Free Facebook Group Minimalist Muscle and post your results. We’ll see you there. 

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