TEST YOUR PHYSICAL AND MENTAL STRENGTH WHILE IMPROVING YOUR FITNESS LEVEL ACROSS THE BOARD
Some fitness challenges are just suffer fests. They’ll make your muscles burn, cause you to see double, and leave you swimming in a pool of your own sweat.
There’s nothing wrong with this type of test. In fact, I have a bunch in my arsenal that I use all the time.
But I also like physical trials that have additional benefits beyond just kicking your ass. Below are two such challenges: the z-press test and the bodyweight squat test.
They not only challenge you physically and mentally, but they also improve your mobility and shoulders and hips, and increase stability in your core. A combination of mobility and stability allows you to lift more weight with better form, leading to bigger strength gains and fewer injuries.
HOW TO DO THE TESTS
The directions for both tests are the same. For each, set a timer for 10 minutes and do as many reps of the movement with perfect form as possible. Do these once a month to track your progress.
Added challenge: Do the tests back-to-back for a brutal 20-minute, total-body workout.
I can’t stress how important form is during both of these tests. Don’t short movements so you can pat yourself on the back for all those “reps” you did. Using proper form gives you far more mobility and stability benefits than if you cheat your way through them. If you’re using bad form, you might as well just do something else with your time.
The Z Press is essentially an overhead press that you perform while sitting upright on the floor. By taking your entire lower body out of the equation, the exercise forces you to rely solely on your core and upper body for strength.
Do it: Sit down on the floor with your legs directly out in front of you, or with your knees slightly bent, and your torso straight up and down. Hold a 45-pound barbell at the front of your upper chest. Now push it directly overhead. Pause for one second at the top and push your head forward. That’s one rep. (See photo above.)
So you don’t have to learn this the hard way, here’s a tip: Pace yourself. I like to try to do 5 reps every 15 seconds. If you go to failure during your first mini set, you’re going to have a long, long 10 minutes.
Your goal: 200 reps.
BODYWEIGHT SQUAT TEST
The bodyweight squat tackles your lower body. And since there’s no weight involved besides your own body, you’re forced to focus completely on your range of motion and form every single rep.
Do it: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Lower your body by pushing your hips back and bending your knees until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Keep your torso as upright as possible throughout the entire movement. Pause, and slowly stand back up. That’s one rep.
No strategy here. Just go all out.
Goal: 450 reps.
Rob MacDonald is the Training Director of Gym Jones, one of the country’s most elite and hardcore gyms, and the Head Ambassador of Rhone Apparel. He’s broken multiple power-endurance world records. Follow him on Instagram at @bobbymaximus.