Are you putting the routine in workout routine? It’s time to rise to a new challenge.
“If you don’t have goals, your workout will inevitably become stale,” says Layne Nordquist, C.P.T., a master trainer with VASA Fitness in Denver. “I encourage people to come up with BHAGs—big, hairy, audacious goals. Goals that feel monumental.
“There’s empowerment in setting and achieving these goals that translates to everything else in life,” he continues. “If you can tackle this physical goal, you feel like you can do anything.”
Of course, you don’t have to climb Everest to feel a sense of accomplishment. Here are five simple fitness feats you probably consider out of reach. Conquer them and you’ll be ready to tackle any other obstacle standing in your way—at the gym or in life.
1. Perform an Unassisted Pullup
Pulling yourself over the bar for the first time is transformative. Why? Because it’s quite an accomplishment, Nordquist says. It requires total-body strength, with an emphasis on the muscles in the back.
Work your way up by performing pulling exercises, such as horizontal and vertical rows, as well as hollow-body holds and hangs.
As you master those, you can move to band-assisted pullups to build your strength. This is where you loop a resistance band over a pullup bar and place your feet in it, carefully using your upper body to lift your chin to the bar.
As you continue improving, you can lessen the amount of assistance by loosening the band … until it’s all you.
2. Do 100 Pushups in a Row
Pushups are a great marker of overall strength. They don’t just engage your arms, says Nordquist. More important is core strength.
Focus on your form, Nordquist advises. Perform each rep with your body forming a straight line from head to toe, core braced, and shoulders pulled away from your ears.
If your form falters, place your hands on an elevated surface like a step or bench, or place your knees on the floor. No, it’s not cheating. It’s the foundation that will help you achieve your BHAG down the road.
Similarly, it’s important to start with smaller goals like 20, 10, or even just one pushup before vying for bigger numbers. Once you feel comfortable, tack on reps until you can reach your goal.
Still not sure if you’re doing it right? Ask a trainer at your gym. That’s why they’re there!
3. Squat Your Body Weight
No, we don’t mean perform a bodyweight squat. The goal here is to execute a squat with a weight (typically a barbell) that weighs as much as you do.
“The squat is such an important exercise for developing and demonstrating both strength and power,” Nordquist says. And performing a squat holding your body weight is emboldening.
If you’re new to squats, start with your own bodyweight. Your feet should be hip-width apart. Sit back until your thighs are parallel to the floor, don’t let your knees cave in.
You can progress the squat in many different ways. For example, try a single-leg squat. Lower into a traditional squat, feet hip-width apart, and then lift one foot and push back up through your planted foot to return to start.
Goblet squats, in which you hold a dumbbell or kettlebell in front of you, can also increase your challenge.
Before progressing to back squats (with the bar across your back), ask a trainer to assess—and, if necessary, improve—your shoulder mobility so that you can safely get into that position.
4. Climb a Rock Wall
Rock climbing can be scary, and that’s the point. Reaching the top of a cliff, even if it’s at your gym, will fill you with adrenaline and awe, Nordquist explains.
Successfully sending a route (climbing speak for making it to the top) doesn’t just depend on great upper-body power. Core stability, leg strength, and grip also play major roles. Bonus: Grip strength is consistently linked to improved longevity and overall health.
While you can increase your climbing strength with a comprehensive strength training program that includes squats, rows, core work, and dumbbell carries, the best way to get started is just to go for it.
Visit a climbing gym and sign up for an introductory class. They will teach you the basics and get you started on beginner routes that will literally help you work your way up. Chances are, you’ll make it to the top before the hour is up.
From there, you can aim for even higher or more difficult routes—or even take your new hobby outside.
5. Hold a Handstand
No, handstands aren’t just for yogis or circus performers. But while it doesn’t take much to sell exercisers on the awesomeness of a handstand, it can feel a bit out of reach for many of us.
According to Nordquist, mastering your first handstand is all about progressing slowly and developing enough core and shoulder strength to enable it.
Shoulder presses are a great place to start, but plank variations, hollow-body holds, and pikes with your feet on a stability ball can also help you work your way upside down.
Once you feel like you’ve gotten the hang of these, progress to your first handstand with wall-walks. Place your hands on the floor a few feet in front of a wall with the heels of your hands closest to the wall. With your arms extended, place your toes on the wall behind you and slowly walk up.
Between steps up the wall, inch your hands closer to the wall until they are about a foot in front it. As you walk up the wall, your legs will become straight and your body will become almost vertical.
Pause at the top to get used to holding up your entire body weight. To return to start, walk your hands back out away from the wall and your feet down.
Practice the wall-walk and eventually you’ll feel confident enough to push your feet off the wall and hold yourself in a handstand without support. Now you’re ready to join the circus.
Note: Please consult your physician before beginning a physical activity program to make sure it’s safe for you.