If you’re anything like me, sometimes you get to the gym and the sheer act of getting there is triumph enough. The workout becomes almost irrelevant. By virtue of getting up off the couch and taking 'massive' action, you’re already in credit.
But other times, you’re in an altogether different headspace and you want to train. I mean, properly train. Here are five savage workouts that will push you to your limits and beyond - both physically and mentally.
There's nothing wrong with steady-state cardio or a by-the-numbers weights routine. But if you're serious about fitness, it's worth giving these SOBs a go at least once to remind yourself what it’s really like to enter the pain cave.
Now, I want to stress that there’s nothing especially noble about entering the “pain cave” or the “hurt locker”. Except that pushing yourself to the max works on a number of levels. Or, at least, it does for me and the people I train with.
The two main reasons (out of a list of many) are:
- it’s humbling to hurt a little during exercise and actually provides good feedback on what true suffering might look like (i.e. far worse than hurting during a workout) and;
- it’s efficient. By going hard, going early and then going home, you can get a lot of work done in a short time frame. And that has to be a good thing in today’s busy world.
So here a 5 workouts that really do bring the pain. Feel free to try them. Purely at your own risk, you understand…
#1 BURPEES & SKI ERG CALS
50 cals on ski-erg : 10 burpees
40 cals on ski-erg : 20 burpees
30 cals on ski-erg : 30 burpees
20 cals on ski-erg : 40 burpees
10 cals on ski-erg : 50 burpees
The combo of burpees with virtually anything else involving cardio is likely to break your spirit. Fast.
No matter what you do – pace the ski-erg / pace the burpees / speed up the burpees to get them over with – nothing seems to help remove the crushing self-doubt that envelops you as you work up the burpee numbers.
If you get to the end of this, you’re a legend. If you do it in less than 30 minutes, you should have a statue built in your honour. For those without access to a ski-erg (which is designed to replicate the effort involved in Nordic skiing), use a rower or even an Assault Bike (if you’re a masochist).
#2 CROSSFIT ‘ELIZABETH’ AT 60KG
21-15-9 Squat cleans and ring dips
A staple of the Crossfit realm, Elizabeth isn’t the most complicated or the most gassy, and is therefore not likely to have you reaching for the bin to spew into.
But it’s a brute force war of attrition, alright.
Scale the weight as you need to but make sure it’s plenty heavy enough that you can’t roll over touch-and-go reps for the duration. We’re talking singles, then dropping the weight and starting over, which translates to a lot of volume and that slow, steady onset of extreme fatigue – almost muscle sickness as the lactic builds and your quads start to complain.
The dips become almost a rest period as you bide your time until you’re back under the bar. Let’s face it, who likes ring dips? Not Elizabeth.
#3 400M REPEATS
A staple of Andy Murray’s winter conditioning block in Miami, this innocuous-looking hit out will leave everything burning and, quite possibly, have you looking for a nearby dustbin to spew in.
Run a lap of an athletics track in 1 min 25 seconds. Rest for the same period. Repeat. 10 times.
[You can scale this back by running your laps on a 3 minute cycle which buys you an extra 20 seconds of rest each lap.]
What could possibly go wrong?
Do three of these laps and see how you feel about the remaining seven.
Here’s a link to Murray’s track workout, including warm-up and cool-down.
#4 RUN 30+ KILOMETERS OUTSIDE A RACE
On the face of it, this is about the most unpalatable workout of all. Even if you’re a seasoned runner.
For a start you’ll need around three hours. And by the end, you’ll be dragging one leg in front of the other.
But find somewhere outdoors and scenic to run, strap on a backpack with a few gels and some fluids, and you’ll be rewarded.
For starters, once you get past ten or twelve kilometers it starts to feel good as the “runner’s high” kicks in.
And if you complete it, there won’t be a task you don’t feel able to conquer.
#5 BOOTCAMP MONTHLY TEST
10 x push-ups
10 x burpees
15 x sit-ups
X 3 rounds
1 mile time-trial
I can’t begin to explain how much this hurts. And it shouldn’t. It’s a 7 minute workout followed by a five minute rest, then a 6 minute workout.
Bonus Secret Workout
6. ZUU CERT 1 TEST I’m not even allowed to share this. It’s top secret.
It last 10 minutes. Suffice to say it brings you to your knees.
To try it out, you’ll need to sign up for a Level 1 ZUU course. Find out more about ZUU here.
There’s plenty to get stuck into here and something for every preference and budget.
My advice? Try one per week for the next five weeks. Approach it sensibly and scale back as needed but don’t leave much in the tank.
Ben Ford is the author of SuperFitDad, a lifestyle blog that focuses on health tips for busy dads.