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10 Strength Training Challenges You'll Never Get Bored Of - Antsy Labs

10 Strength Training Challenges You'll Never Get Bored Of

Did you know January 13th is National Qutting Day? Or that January 17th is Ditch New Year’s Resolution Day? No matter how you spin it, the middle of January is a scary time for folks trying to stick to their goals.


When it comes to those goals, whether they be strength training challenges, learning a new language, or reading 52 books a year, committing to them is what makes all the difference.


Of course, that’s no surprise to any of us. 


What may come as a surprise is why our motivation slips away in the first place. The Economic Times suggests it’s often connected to these six reasons:


  1. Setting unrealistic resolutions
  2. Lack of accountability
  3. No tracking/review
  4. Lack of planning
  5. Self-doubt
  6. Lack of clarity 

As someone who recently found himself in the gym two days into the New Year (after a lifetime of long-distance running outside), I see myself in each of those reasons above.


My resolution is to have a more balanced exercise year. In practice, that means alternating between my love of knee-destroying ultramarathons and the static, unchanging gym (oh, look, the same weights again, and look, the treadmill that’s facing the wall! What a wonderland of interesting sights!).


While I found the gym to be a relatively boring place before, I realize now that, well, I was wrong. Previously, my exercises at the gym were picked out at random (no lack of tracking or review), I wasn’t consistent (no planning), and I wasn’t aiming for anything (no specific goals). Worse, as a runner who has prioritized his legs his whole career, the self-doubt of lifting weights near mounds of muscle wasn’t insignificant, either.


The solution? Strength training challenges have allowed me to make a plan, see progress, and enjoy results.


In order to share those benefits with you on your own strength training path, I have put together a few of the plans I’ve come across and modified them to make them weekly (and dare I say, fun!) strength training challenges. The challenge component is what’s going to drive you from week to week, staving off boredom, and driving you toward results. 


I’ve also included sample training weeks. By taking notes of your performance during one week, you can make adjustments to make sure you push yourself for the weeks to come. 


And as a reminder – if you are an absolute beginner, it’s always a good idea to consult with your doctor first!


DO YOU EVEN LIFT BRO?


These IRLAs are for those who stick with their dreams. Training programs require commitment, dedication, and sacrifice. Each new coin is a testament to the time you suited up and got after it. From hours at the gym to the prep at home, you set yourself up for success and now it’s yours for the taking.


Now go get those gains.


1. Progressive overload


This strength training challenge is about gradually increasing the weight, reps, or sets of exercises over time to keep challenging yourself and pushing your limits. Generally speaking, you will pick one of the variables to push yourself per week. 


If you’re increasing the sets from one week to the next, for example, you wouldn’t also increase the weight at the same time.


Monday:

  • Barbell squats: 3 sets of 8 reps 
  • Bench press: 3 sets of 8 reps
  • Dumbbell rows: 3 sets of 8 reps

Wednesday:

  • Deadlifts: 3 sets of 8 reps
  • Pull-ups: 3 sets of 8 reps 
  • Shoulder press: 3 sets of 8 reps

Friday:

  • Barbell squats: 3 sets of 8 reps
  • Bench press: 3 sets of 8 reps
  • Dumbbell rows: 3 sets of 8 reps

If you’re taking on this strength training challenge, you also want to grab our IRLA Strength Training Challenge Medals. You’ll unlock these handsomely designed medals for knocking off weight-lifting challenges, including for barbell squats, deadlifts, and bench presses!


2. Full-body circuit training


Create a circuit of exercises that targets all major muscle groups for this strength training challenge. Perform the circuit three times with minimal rest in between exercises. 


As if training your body wasn’t enough of a challenge, you can keep tabs on how much rest you’re getting. Since these exercises work different muscle groups, you should see if you can save the rest for between the sets.


Monday:

  • Bodyweight squats: 12 reps
  • Push-ups: 12 reps
  • Dumbbell rows: 12 reps (using light weights)
  • Plank: hold for 30 seconds
  • Standing calf raises: 12 reps

Wednesday:

  • Lunges: 12 reps (per leg)
  • Pull-ups: 12 reps
  • Dumbbell bicep curls: 12 reps
  • Dumbbell tricep dips: 12 reps
  • Russian twists: 12 reps

Friday:

  • Burpees: 12 reps
  • Pull-ups: 12 reps
  • Dumbbell rows: 12 reps
  • Plank: hold for 30 seconds
  • Jumping jacks: 12 reps

3. Super-set challenge


Pair two exercises together and perform them back-to-back without rest. Repeat the pairing for a set number of reps or time. As a relatively streamlined workout, this is best paired with one of the other strength challenges. 


That said, the muscle groups you target in this super-set challenge are going to feel it!


Monday:

  • Barbell squats: 3 sets of 8 reps
  • Dumbbell rows: 3 sets of 8 reps

Wednesday:

  • Lunges: 3 sets of 8 reps (per leg)
  • Dumbbell bicep curls: 3 sets of 8 reps

Friday:

  • Pull-ups: 3 sets of 8 reps
  • Push-ups: 3 sets of 8 reps

4. Pyramid training


Start with a low number of reps for an exercise and increase the number of reps each set until you reach the peak. Then decrease the number of reps in each set until you reach the base. 


This strength training challenge also works to keep you dialed in until the end, as the last rep demands your full attention.


Monday:

  • Barbell squats: 1 set of 8 reps, 1 set of 6 reps, 1 set of 4 reps, 1 set of 2 reps, 1 set of 8 reps
  • Bench press: 1 set of 8 reps, 1 set of 6 reps, 1 set of 4 reps, 1 set of 2 reps, 1 set of 8 reps
  • Dumbbell rows: 1 set of 8 reps, 1 set of 6 reps, 1 set of 4 reps, 1 set of 2 reps, 1 set of 8 reps

Wednesday:

  • Deadlifts: 1 set of 8 reps, 1 set of 6 reps, 1 set of 4 reps, 1 set of 2 reps, 1 set of 8 reps 
  • Pull-ups: 1 set of 8 reps, 1 set of 6 reps, 1 set of 4 reps, 1 set of 2 reps, 1 set of 8 reps 
  • Shoulder press: 1 set of 8 reps, 1 set of 6 reps, 1 set of 4 reps, 1 set of 2 reps, 1 set of 8 reps 

Friday:

  • Barbell squats: 1 set of 8 reps, 1 set of 6 reps, 1 set of 4 reps, 1 set of 2 reps, 1 set of 8 reps 
  • Bench press: 1 set of 8 reps, 1 set of 6 reps, 1 set of 4 reps, 1 set of 2 reps, 1 set of 8 reps 
  • Dumbbell rows: 1 set of 8 reps, 1 set of 6 reps, 1 set of 4 reps, 1 set of 2 reps, 1 set of 8 reps

5. Negative challenge


Many beginners end up sacrificing form for speed. They just want to get the workout over with! So for this challenge, you’ll focus on the negative (eccentric) portion of each exercise by performing the lowering phase of the exercise in a slow and controlled manner. 


The key to this strength training challenge is picking a weight that pushes your limits.


Monday:

  • Barbell squats: 3 sets of 8 reps
  • Bench press: 3 sets of 8 reps
  • Dumbbell rows: 3 sets of 8 reps

Wednesday:

  • Deadlifts: 3 sets of 8 reps
  • Pull-ups: 3 sets of 8 reps
  • Shoulder press: 3 sets of 8 reps

Friday:

  • Barbell squats: 3 sets of 8 reps
  • Bench press: 3 sets of 8 reps
  • Dumbbell rows: 3 sets of 8 reps

6. Time-under-tension challenge


Similar to the negative challenge, the time-under-tension challenge is about slowing down and performing exercises in a controlled manner to keep the muscle under tension for a longer duration.


The emphasis is on taking more time to perform each rep and holding the muscle under tension for a longer period of time, rather than increasing the weight. From week to week, see just how slow you can make each rep.


Monday:

  • Barbell squats: 3 sets of 8 reps
  • Bench press: 3 sets of 8 reps
  • Dumbbell rows: 3 sets of 8 reps

Wednesday:

  • Pull-ups: 3 sets of 8 reps
  • Shoulder press: 3 sets of 8 reps
  • Bicep curls: 3 sets of 8 reps

Friday:

  • Deadlifts: 3 sets of 8 reps
  • Lunges: 3 sets of 8 reps
  • Tricep dips: 3 sets of 8 reps

7. Cardio and strength combo challenge


As the resident runner here, this is definitely one of the strength training challenges that caught my eye. Here we’ll combine cardio and strength training exercises for a full-body workout that keeps the heart rate up while challenging your muscles. 


To keep the strength challenge going from week to week, you should push the speed on the cardio elements and up the weights on the strength part.


Monday:

  • Run for 15 minutes on the treadmill
  • 3 sets of 8 reps of barbell squats
  • 3 sets of 8 reps of bench press
  • 3 sets of 8 reps of dumbbell rows
  • Finish up with 15 minutes on the treadmill

Wednesday:

  • Jump rope for 15 minutes
  • 3 sets of 8 reps of pull-ups
  • 3 sets of 8 reps of shoulder press
  • 3 sets of 8 reps of bicep curls
  • Finish up with 15 more minutes of jump rope

Friday:

  • Bike for 15 minutes
  • 3 sets of 8 reps of deadlifts
  • 3 sets of 8 reps of lunges
  • 3 sets of 8 reps of tricep dips
  • Finish up with 15 more minutes of biking  

8. Bodyweight challenge


As a former gymaphobe (germaphobe, but for gyms), I was all about bodyweight exercises. Despite my reformed ways, there’s still a spot for bodyweight challenges in our weekly workouts. This one is about using your body for resistance and performing exercises such as push-ups, squats, lunges, and pull-ups.


Before you take on this bodyweight challenge, you might also want to grab the Strength Training IRLA Pack. These Strength Training Challenge Medals have specific challenges tied to push-ups and workouts per month, so you’ll get the motivation you need to keep heading to the gym.

DO YOU EVEN LIFT BRO?


These IRLAs are for those who stick with their dreams. Training programs require commitment, dedication, and sacrifice. Each new coin is a testament to the time you suited up and got after it. From hours at the gym to the prep at home, you set yourself up for success and now it’s yours for the taking.


Now go get those gains.


To increase the challenge from week to week, you can try reducing the time you rest between sets, slowing down the movement in each set (see the time-under-tension challenge), or add more reps.


Monday:

  • 3 sets of 8 reps of bodyweight squats
  • 3 sets of 8 reps of push-ups
  • 3 sets of 8 reps of pull-ups
  • 3 sets of 8 reps of lunges (per leg)

Wednesday:

  • 3 sets of 8 reps of burpees
  • 3 sets of 8 reps of dips
  • 3 sets of 8 reps of mountain climbers
  • 3 sets of 8 reps of single leg glute bridges

Friday:

  • 3 sets of 8 reps of bodyweight squats
  • 3 sets of 8 reps of push-ups
  • 3 sets of 8 reps of pull-ups
  • 3 sets of 8 reps of lunges (per leg)

9. Repetition max challenge


This challenge is one that’ll always end in failure – and that’s a good thing! Here we’ll have you attempting to perform a maximal number of reps for a given exercise with a specific weight. Try to beat your previous rep max each time you perform the exercise.


Monday:

  • Barbell squats 
  • Bench press
  • Dumbbell rows 

Wednesday:

  • Deadlifts 
  • Pull-ups
  • Shoulder press

Friday:

  • Barbell squats
  • Bench press
  • Dumbbell rows

10. Challenge yourself with different equipment


Novelty is important when it comes to physical challenges. While it doesn’t mean you need to change up your exercise every single week, you should keep exposing your body to new movements and new exercises. 


This challenge is a fun one as you experiment with different types of equipment such as kettlebells, resistance bands, medicine balls, or sandbags to challenge your muscles in new ways.


Monday:

  • Kettlebell swings: 3 sets of 8 reps
  • Medicine ball slams: 3 sets of 8 reps
  • Resistance band pull-aparts: 3 sets of 8 reps

Wednesday:

  • Sandbag squats: 3 sets of 8 reps
  • Medicine ball Russian twists: 3 sets of 8 reps
  • Battling rope waves: 3 sets of 30 seconds

Friday:

  • Kettlebell goblet squats: 3 sets of 8 reps
  • Medicine ball slams: 3 sets of 8 reps
  • Resistance band pull-aparts: 3 sets of 8 rep

DO YOU EVEN LIFT BRO?


These IRLAs are for those who stick with their dreams. Training programs require commitment, dedication, and sacrifice. Each new coin is a testament to the time you suited up and got after it. From hours at the gym to the prep at home, you set yourself up for success and now it’s yours for the taking.


Now go get those gains.


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