If long, slow distance jogging or the same gym routine has you feeling like your progress has plateaued, it is time to bring something new and challenging to your physical training. Long-distance running or yoga or tons of bodyweight movements like air squats, sit-ups, and pushups are all good things, but after a while, you need to level up and make things more challenging.
I prefer exercises and workouts that offer a balance of cardio and strength, of the lower body and upper body. I am influenced by trainers and coaches like Ross Enamait, Zach Even-Esh, Dan John, Pavel Tsatsouline, Al Kadavlo, Greg Amundson, Jason Ferruggia, Mark Divine, and Erwan Le Corre. If you are looking for fitness inspiration, I recommend checking out any of their works or programs.
These trainers and coaches offer tons of inspiration and a myriad of training methods, from bodyweight gymnastics to sledgehammer strikes, from kettlebell swings to heavy bag punches.
Here are three low-tech exercises I would add to your training regimen to shake things up, challenge yourself physically and mentally, and learn new skills:
Instead of jogging at a slow pace for an hour, go to a nearby hill, incline, or set of stairs. Sprint up them as fast as possible, go down, and repeat. Hill sprints will improve your anaerobic and aerobic capacities and will make you more athletic and powerful.
Just look at some powerful athletes who grew up on hill sprints, such as Walter Payton, Jerry Rice, and Herschel Walker. Ross Enamait has written extensively on hill sprints and the mental toughness they cultivate in the athlete.
Whereas hill sprints are more explosive and cardio-based, handstands focus more on a person’s gymnastic ability, the ability to manipulate one’s body through space using agility, balance, and coordination. Handstands can be extraordinarily difficult, and they develop one’s upper body strength, core, and athleticism.
Once a handstand is mastered, you can make it more difficult and strength-based by progressing to the handstand pushup. These gymnastic moves are skills that require diligent practice and effort. Plus, you can easily do them in any place with a little space and an open wall.
Beyond sprinting speed and gymnastic skills, pure strength is also a good addition to any training program. A great way to shake up your strength training and focus on the fundamentals is to integrate more loaded carries into your workouts.
Loaded carries simply involve picking up something heavy and walking for it as long as you can or for a set distance. The weight can be dumbbells, kettlebells, sandbags, stones, any odd objects, or another human. There are many types of loaded carries: farmers walk, waiters walk, suitcase carries, bear hug carries, front rack carries, goblet carries, and so forth. To me, the guru of loaded carries is Dan John:
“The loaded carry does more to expand athletic qualities than any other single thing I’ve attempted in my career as a coach and athlete.” — Dan John
Speed, gymnastics, and strength:
Hill sprints involve running but also power. Handstands require agility but also shoulder strength. Loaded carries require grip strength but also movement and mental toughness.
You can integrate these movements into your warmup or as a finisher, or you can focus on any one of the three or all three as your main workout. I encourage you to hill sprint, handstand, and carry heavy weights at least a few times per week. These movements will challenge your mental toughness, coordination, focus, athleticism, and overall strength.