Consistently is imperative to success in the gym (as well as just about any other venture in life).
But, we all have those days when we need to infuse some fun and excitement into our training sessions to keep us motivated and pushing hard, especially the deeper we get into a transformation challenge.
Here are six ways to turn a stale workout into a fresh challenge:
#1 Barbell Only Workout
We live in a great time for fitness as there are more options for training amidst all the free weights (barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells, etc.), machines, cable stations, etc.
And, while it’s great to have variety, it can often lead to individuals including too much variety in their workout (e.g. 12 different variations of curls and kickbacks in a single workout) and not focus enough on actual hard work (progressive overload).
Stripping away all the fluff and returning to the foundation of hard training (a barbell and weight plates) places the focus on putting in an honest days work of training, and who knows? By removing all the ancillary equipment and movements from your program you might find you enjoy the simpler (yet still equally challenging) workouts.
Now, you think you might be limited by only using a barbell for your workouts, but the truth is you can still get in a top-notch training session.
Here are some key moves to include in your barbell-only workouts:
- Legs: Back squats, front squats, walking lunges, reverse lunges, romanian deadlifts
- Back: Barbell rows, 1-arm barbell rows, Meadows rows
- Chest: Floor press, flat bench press, incline bench press
- Shoulders: Overhead press, rear delt flyes, upright row
- Biceps: barbell curl, reverse curl
- Triceps: Close grip floor press, skullcrushers
- Calves: Standing/sitting calf raises
If you need some more suggestions for exercises using only a barbell, make sure to check out the extensive exercise library (300+ exercises!) on the 1UP Fitness App, which is available for FREE on both Apple and Google Play.
In addition to a comprehensive exercise library, the 1UP Fitness app also allows you to easily register for our transformation challenge where we are giving away $50,000 in Cash and Prizes to 10 Total WINNERS!
In the app, you’ll get a personalized meal plan with suggested targeted daily calorie and macronutrient intake based on your own information and fitness goal as well as the ability to track your daily food intake. We even provide customized training programs (both for commercial and home gyms!) to help you reach your goals.
#2 Rep-Total Challenges
Instead of the traditional set-rep schemes (3x10, 4x8, 5x5), you’ll set a total rep goal for an exercise and perform as many quality reps as possible, stopping when you feel that you may miss the next rep or experience a breakdown in technique. At this point, take a brief pause 20-30 seconds to gather your wits about you and then start repping again until you reach the point where you may miss the next rep.
Continue on in this fashion until all the reps are complete.
For the more experienced gym rats reading this, you’ll recognize this as a form of rest-pause training.
A good goal to shoot for is 50 reps.
Choose a weight that allows you to get 12-15 reps at the start. When you feel you might fail, rest briefly, and then get back to it. Continue in this rest-pause fashion until all reps are complete.
Keep track of how many mini-sets it takes to complete all 50 reps (or how much time it took). The next time you perform this workout challenge try to complete all 50 reps in fewer sets and/or in less time (while still maintaining good form and proper technique).
This challenge can be stacked with the barbell-only workout for a doubly-intense workout challenge!
#3 Race Against the Clock
If your workouts are like the typical gym rat, they typically last ~60 minutes. Some more demanding muscle groups like back and legs may require 90-120 minutes, but by and large your training sessions are about an hour long, with a lot of that time spent resting, talking, or scrolling on your phone.
That all goes out the door when you start maximizing training efficiency and eliminating the useless fluff (i.e. wasted time) from your workouts.
Instead of taking an hour to get your workouts done, try knocking it out in 30 minutes. One of the best ways to eliminate wasted time without sacrificing the quality of your workouts is to adopt the rest-pause training method that we briefly discussed above.
Normal workouts have you do a set then rest 2-3 minutes, then do another set, rest, lift, rest, etc. etc. etc. Instead of doing that, condense your three working sets into one extended rest-pause set.
Pick your working weight and perform as many quality reps as you can. Rack the weight and rest for 30 seconds. Unrack and perform as many safe reps as possible. Rack the weight and rest another 30 seconds. Unrack the weight and perform as many reps as you can, stopping just shy of failure.
You’ve now condensed your training time but maximizing the muscle-building punch of the exercise by continuing to hammer the muscles never allowing them to fully recover. This translates to more effective (hard) reps for your muscles, which is what resistance training is all about!
In addition to saving time, you’ll also burn extra calories and get one of the best muscle pumps you’ve ever had!
This challenge is also great for those days when you’re incredibly busy and strapped for time!
10x10 stands for 10 sets of 10 reps, and it’s a training set-rep scheme that has been used by decades to great success.
The execution is pretty simple.
Pick an exercise and perform 10 sets of 10 reps of the exercise, resting one minute in between sets.
Pick a starting weight that is between 40-50% of your 10-rep max. So, if you can bench press 225 lbs for 10 reps, start off with 110lbs.
The first few sets won’t seem all that challenging, but as you start to hit sets 7, 8, 9, and 10, cumulative fatigue starts to set in, and the weight starts to feel really heavy all of a sudden.
Be forewarned, 10x10 is incredibly demanding and depletes a good amount of glycogen due to the high volume (at least that’s the case if you dedicate yourself to it and give it all you’ve got!).
As such, make sure to fuel up properly before your workouts by having a proper pre workout meal of carbohydrates and protein. After your workout, you’ll want to get in some fast digesting carbs and protein as well. One of our favorite combinations is to mix together a serving of 1UP Tri-Carb and a scoop of 1UP Whey Protein.
#5 Try Compound Sets
Compound sets are a type of superset where you perform two exercises back-to-back that hit the same muscle groups/movement patterns as opposed to alternating between two different muscle groups (e.g. chest & back, bis & tris).
This is another intensification technique that helps reduce training time while increasing the amount of hard reps you’re forcing your muscles to do -- ultimately helping you get better results in less time!
Here are some of our favorite exercise pairings for compound sets:
- Chest: Incline dumbbell press + push ups, dips + cable crossovers
- Back: Chin ups + inverted rows, supported row + lat pulldown
- Shoulders: Overhead press + front plate raise, upright row + lateral raise
- Legs: Leg curls + Romanian deadlifts, Squats + leg press, Leg press + walking lunges, Hack squat + step ups
- Biceps: Pinwheel curl + incline dumbbell curl
- Triceps: Overhead triceps extension + pushdown, dips + diamond push ups
#6 Set a New PR
When you think of setting a PR, you almost always default to the big 3 powerlifting movements -- squat, bench, and deadlift.
But, the truth is that you can set a PR on just about any exercise, not just the “big 3.”
Furthermore, you don’t have to set a 1-rep max PR either. Truth be told, unless you’re a competitive powerlifter there is almost never a reason to test your 1-rep max.
Instead, focus on setting a new 5 or 10-rep max PR. This way you're building muscle and strength while also reducing the risk for injury.
The next time your workout regimen is starting to feel a little bit stale, try implementing one or two of these workout challenges into the mix. You’ll be excited, motivated, and focused on pushing hard, which ultimately helps you get more results.
Our pre workouts are meticulously formulated using the latest research-backed ingredients to help you push harder and last longer in your training session, burning more calories and gaining more strength.
And, for those of you who train late at night or prefer a caffeine-free option, check out 1UP Stim-Free Pre, which offers all of the performance, focus, and pump benefits of our flagship pre workout, but without the stimulants!