In my own training I like to primarily focus on strength and honing my technique on the big lifts.  I love to train using the Olympic lifts and the investment in time they require if you want to really excel and compete in them can be substantial.  I would say 90% of my training focus lies here; however the other 10% is hugely affected by my mood, goals and energy levels!  One thing I like to throw in occasionally is a challenge of some sort, whether it is a bodyweight circuit or something with Kettlebells, a rowing machine or getting outside for sprints or strongman training.  I thought I’d write up an example of some of the challenges I use in my own training occasionally, I also use similar challenges with some of my athletes as finishers, just to keep things interesting for them, get them being competitive with each other and get some extra conditioning in the bank too!! 

If you want to try one of these yourself stick it at the end of your regular workout, you can record your performance and try and beat it in a week or two later.  Here they are;

1) Push Up – Pull Up – Squat Ladder

For this challenge you will perform a set of each of these exercises one after another starting with 1rep of each and then adding a rep each subsequent set until you achieve 10reps of each.  Therefore your workout will look like this;

Set 1 – Push Up X 1, Pull Up X 1, Squat X 1
Set 2 – Push Up X 2, Pull Up X 2, Squat X 2
Set 3 – Push Up X 3, Pull Up X 3, Squat X 3… etc.
… Set 9 – Push Up X 9, Pull Up X 9, Squat X 9
Set 10 – Push Up X 10, Pull Up X 10, Squat X 10

By the end of this workout you will have performed 55reps of each exercise, easy right?!?
A few key points to remember though, you can rest as much as you like between reps, exercises and sets. Push Ups must be performed chest to the floor at the bottom of every rep and arms fully extended at the top of every rep, obviously your body should be kept stiff and straight throughout as well.  Pull Ups must be done overhand grip (palms away from you), started from arms completely straight and finished with chin over the bar! Squats must be performed with heels on the floor throughout, at the bottom your hip joint should go below knee level and you must finish in a fully upright position.  If your reps do not look like this, you are not doing the challenge properly, sorry!!! 

2) Rowing Intervals


For this one you need a Concept II Rowing machine. If you go into the machines computer, under ‘Custom Workouts’ you will find the option ‘30s Work: 30s Rest’, click on that one. For those with less understanding of what this means it basically means you row for 30seconds and then rest for 30seconds, the machine will monitor how far you travel on each interval, how far you’ve gone overall and how many intervals you have managed to do, so most of the guesswork is taken away from you, but not all!  On your first interval I want you to row like you life depends on it! Really push as hard as you can, at the end of this it will tell you how far you’ve gone.  During your 30seconds rest I want you to take 10% off that figure, so if you have travelled 150m in 30s, 150 – 10% =135m.  Therefore from interval No.2 onwards you have to go further than 135m, if you become fatigued and can no longer keep it above that distance you finish, simple!  Obviously your recovery will be fine on the first couple of intervals, and then I usually find around interval 5 for most of my guys the rest time is not sufficient enough for them to feel vaguely human by the time they have to start rowing again. The only caveats to this challenge are you have to go hard on the first one. I have had some people come back to me saying they managed over 20 intervals, when I asked how hard they pushed the first one they said they were saving a bit in the tank because they didn’t want to get tired too quickly, this is far from the point of the session! A finisher is meant to be a 5-15min blast of hard work that leaves you exhausted, not a 20-30minute steady state workout where you catch up on your emails on your iphone in rest periods! To monitor your progress on this one you can keep track of several things, how far you went on one interval, how many intervals you could keep going on and the total distance you travelled.  If any/all of those numbers are going up, happy days!

3) Kettlebell Swings

This is less of a challenge than the others and more a great way of burning some extra calories and getting some extra posterior chain stuff in at the end of your workout, but who doesn’t need more of those things?!?
All you need for this is a decent sized kettlebell, most women should start with 16kg and men with a 24kg one however is sensible, if you struggle with those weights, go lighter.  Quality over quantity is absolutely key here; just because it’s called a finisher doesn’t mean you need to blow out your back with a weight that’s too heavy for you! 
First set your watch for 10 minutes. Now all you have to do is complete 10 swings every minute for the full ten minutes.  Not much thought required for this one!!!  The first couple of sets you’ll probably be wondering why this is in the challenge section, by the last couple of sets you should understand.  If however you start to find this one too easy you can progress it in a number of ways; firstly add some reps, so do 12 per minute or 15 or 20.  Not only does this mean more work but it also cuts down the time you have to rest.  Secondly you can increase the weight of the kettlebell.  Thirdly you can cut the time you have to do the reps in, i.e. do 10 in 50seconds or 45 or 30 and so on.  Finally you can add an exercise in there, so I have done these with down-ups included where I have done my 10 reps and then dropped myself to the floor rapidly and jumped back up, I have also done these where I have finished each set with 3 windmills per side (look on YouTube if your not sure what these are) and this made things incredibly difficult!

Feel free to come up with your own and email me with any ideas you might have.  Your only limitation here is your imagination, but as with any of these challenges don’t let them last much beyond 10-15mins, if they do, you’re not working hard enough! It’s a challenge, make it challenging!!!!