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Burn Fat and Build Muscle with These 5 Fitness Challenges
By Jess Hunter, Coach at the Australian Institute of Fitness | Sep 29, 2021
If you’re feeling the weight of extra COVID kg’s or the ache of being on the couch for too long, it’s time to get out of your comfort zone. Finding something that pushes you to compete and chasing a defined goal is the taste of control and routine that we are all craving whilst in lockdown.
Even for those not in lockdown, training with purpose can take your workout to the next level. Each one of these challenges will push you to change your everyday life, in one way or another. Once you’ve found the one for you, lock it in and get to work.
Couch to 5km
Have you ever wanted to take up running, but had no idea where to start? The Couch to 5km is the challenge for you. Designed for the beginner runner, the goal is to gradually build up to 5km’s (or about 30mins) of non-stop running.
This 9-week running program starts slow, mixing intervals of walking and jogging before ramping up into a light jog and run. This steady start puts you in the best place to avoid injury and enjoy going for a run.
With the user-friendly CouchTo5KM app, that guides you through each of the 20-30 minute sessions, you’ll be able to log and track each of the 3 runs throughout the week.
This challenge is also perfect for places that have implemented 5km exercise restrictions and will take you from scrolling mindlessly through Netflix at the start of lockdown to striding through the streets by its end.
75 Hard Challenge
Perhaps the most popular fitness challenge over the past few years, 75 Hard is self-described as the hardest 75 days of your life. With that being said, if you can exercise your discipline, you will potentially be the fittest version of yourself you’ve ever seen.
The rules of 75 Hard are easier said than done. Every day for 75 days straight you must drink 4 litres of water, follow a diet (of your choice), have no alcohol or cheat meals, read 10 pages of a non-fiction book, take a daily progress photo and do two 45 minute workouts (one must be outdoors). Miss any of these and you start Day 1 again. Are you still with me?
As this challenge is all about consistency it’s important to do some preparation beforehand. Understanding what diet you’re going to follow, getting yourself a good water bottle and having your non-fiction books ready to read will take some of the stress off upcoming 75 days.
If you’re not used to training multiple times a day or back to back days a week, start with low to moderate intensity workouts with low reps. This will help you avoid burning out and give you the best shot of getting to day 75.
The Pistol Squat Challenge
The pistol squat is one of the most difficult and technical body weight exercises there are and is not easy to perfect quickly.
This progression will show you how to go from bodyweight squats to a pistol squat through 6 exercises, each gradually increasing in difficulty. Firstly, you’ll make sure your ankle and hips are mobile and warm. If you’ve got limited mobility in either, or start cold you may not get the best results possible.
Bodyweight squat. A simple starter to make sure you can get full range of motion comfortably. Aim for 3 sets of 10-12 reps.
Close foot bodyweight squat. A slightly harder version of exercise one, here you’re challenging your hips’ ranges of motion and stability on a narrower base of support. Again, look to complete 3 sets of 10-12 reps with full range of motion before moving on.
Eccentric single leg squat (off a box or bench). This progression shifts the load to a single leg, solely focusing on the lowering section of the squat. By starting on an elevated surface you’ve got more space to lower yourself but this increases the difficulty of the movement. If you’re just starting out, start with a small box or step, then gradually increase the height. A good starting place is 2-3 sets of 3 reps, before building to 5 reps each leg.
Single leg box squat. Here we add the concentric or standing portion to our previous exercise. Starting with a high box or seat, slowly lower yourself down on one leg until your bottom touches the box, then stand up again. As this gets easier, slowly lower the box height until you’re almost single leg squatting to the floor. Getting 10 reps at each height should be a benchmark before moving to a lower box.
Toe squat. Very similar to a narrow split squat, this progression ensures you’re comfortable with pushing your knee over your toes and getting as low as possible. The goal here should be multiple sets of 6 reps before tackling our last exercise.
Floater squat. Your last progression before the pistol squat, here you’ll start by hooking your back foot around your stance leg’s calf. Slowly lower yourself down into the full depth of your toe squat and stand tall to finish. Again, 6 reps for multiple sets should have you ready to try a pistol.
For a training novice, focus on mastering each progression and avoid skipping ahead. Include the first two progressions into your training program for two weeks, before spending at least two weeks on each subsequent progression until your form is on point. Don’t hesitate to continue on a progression until you feel comfortable moving on.
For the more advanced trainee, find the progression that you’re only just able to complete and spend some time building in some volume (more sets, then reduce sets and add reps) before changing movements. Again, a minimum of two weeks with each progression is recommended before moving ahead.
The purpose of this challenge isn’t to see how quickly you progress or how many you can do. It’s about coming out of lockdown having learnt the correct technique to (eventually) nail this insanely impressive movement.
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