Doing the same old workouts with the same old exercises day after day can get boring even for the most dedicated athletes. Eventually the exercises that used to give you an exciting boost become commonplace, and you're left looking for a new challenge. If that's the case, you've come to the right place.
A couple of months ago, we published an article featuring 5 exercises that only experienced, well-trained athletes could master. These exercises could not be performed by your Average Joe, and they required a unique blend of strength, flexibility, balance and focus. If you've mastered those, awesome. Because we've got five more muscle-mashing exercises for you, ranging from very difficult to nearly impossible. If you can knock out most of them, you're truly elite.
Here are five more exercises that only elite athletes can conquer.
1. Standing Ab Wheel Rollouts
Everyone's looking for a way to tone their core and sculpt their abs. Most are doing it for cosmetic reasons, but a strong core is essential for athletic performance. Without a strong core, your balance, flexibility and overall strength all suffer. Abs are not just for showing off. The Standing Ab Wheel Rollout is one of the toughest ab exercises in existence. If your gym does not have an ab wheel, you can buy one online for as little as $10. You can also use a barbell with 45-pound plates instead.
The Standing Ab Wheel Rollout kicks the traditional Ab Wheel Rollout (a favorite of athletes such as Drew Brees) up a notch. By changing the starting position from kneeling to standing, you drastically increase the amount of core stability needed. Don't expect to nail this move if you've never successfully performed a traditional Ab Wheel Rollout. Anti-extension exercises like this are demanding, so it's best to progress up to the Standing Ab Wheel Rollout.
- Begin in a standing position with your feet together.
- Bend at the waist and grasp the ab wheel with both hands.
- Keeping your abs tight, your back straight and your hips flat, roll the wheel away from your body until your arms are extended overhead. When you reach full extension, your body should be in a straight line.
- Keeping your back straight and your abs flat, roll the wheel back toward your feet as you slowly bend your hips to return to a standing position.
- If your core isn't strong enough, you'll probably fall flat on your stomach. If you've never performed this exercise before, it's best to start on a carpeted or lightly padded surface.
2. The Human Flag
Have you ever thought how awesome it would be to be a flag? Ok, maybe not. But if for some reason you have always envied the life of a flag, we have just the exercise for you. The Human Flag is as physically challenging as it is visually impressive. It requires true full-body strength and an astoundingly strong core. If you can pull this move off, you'll be the envy of every gym rat in town.
The all-time record for holding a Human Flag is only one minute and five seconds. That's measly, especially when compared to the all-time record for the Plank (four hours and 26 minutes). Body type definitely plays a role in performing this exercise. No matter how fit you are, if you have a certain physique or body type, the Human Flag might not be possible for you. The exercise is actually extremely simple from a technique standpoint.
- Find a strong, sturdy pole that you can get a good grip on.
- Grab the pole using a mixed grip (one hand overhand, one hand underhand). Usually, the bottom hand takes the underhand grip and the top hand uses the overhand grip. The distance between your hands will likely be wide.
- Grabbing and pushing off the pole for support, swing your body into a horizontal position.
- A perfect Human Flag has your full body extended and parallel to the ground.
3. Plate Flips
Grip strength is about more than firm handshakes and bulging forearms. A strong grip is a key to catching touchdown passes, pulling down rebounds and smacking home runs. Thus, many athletes are interested in ways to improve their grip strength. Although exercises such as Wrist Curls are OK, Plate Flips are a more challenging test. They require forearm strength, finger strength, dexterity, hand-eye coordination and timing.
Flipping a light plate might seem easy, but it turns into a real killer as you increase the weight. If you can catch and flip a 45-pound plate several times in succession, you have forearms like Popeye. Since this exercise is a bit dangerous, and failing means the weight hits the floor, you should use a rubber plate or a bumper plate and give yourself lots of space.
- Hold a plate with either hand using an overhand grip. Your arm should be straight down at your side.
- Place your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width and bend slightly at the waist.
- When you're ready, pull the plate up as if performing the initial movement of an Upright Row.
- Release the plate and allow it to "flip" for a half-rotation in the air.
- Catch the plate by firmly pinching it.
- Repeat until failure, then switch hands.
4. Crow/Flying Pigeon Pose
If you think yoga is nothing but spiritual mumbo-jumbo, you're seriously mistaken. Yoga requires immense amounts of flexibility, mobility, coordination, strength and stability. Incorporating yoga into your routine can unlock a new level of athletic performance. Star athletes such as Vernon Davis and LeBron James have fully embraced it.
Although yoga has lots of difficult poses, the Flying Pigeon is one of the most challenging. If you've never done yoga before, you can pretty much forget it. You're better off trying the basic Crow pose, which is plenty challenging for beginners. It requires balance, flexibility, core strength and upper-body strength. It's a tough pose, but it also looks pretty cool. Check out the video player above for a full demonstration of how to perform the Crow pose. If you're already a yoga pro or extremely limber, give the Flying Pigeon a shot. It challenges your entire body and is elegant to see in action. Watch a video showcasing the Flying Pigeon here.
- Begin in a Tree pose. Adjust the leg on your inner thigh so that your ankle is above your knee.
- Bend from your standing knee to fold forward and place your palms on the floor. Your front leg should be resting just above your elbows.
- Lean forward slowly to bring the weight off your foot and place it onto your palms.
- When steady, straighten your free leg behind you.
5. The Snatch
Typically considered the toughest Olympic lift and the hardest lift in CrossFit, the Snatch is no joke. It's an old-school lift that requires a tremendous amount of strength, explosiveness and technique. It's also a very fast lift, with the bar traveling a large distance in a short amount of time, which leaves little margin for error. And it's not just about being strong. You've got to have a crazy amount of full-body flexibility and mobility to perform a proper Snatch, which might be the most difficult part of the lift.
Fully extending your arms above your head and holding up a weight while your butt is below your knees in perfect squat form and your chest is straight? Then standing up while maintaining full arm extension? Yeah, not many people can execute that move with anything more than the lightest of loads.
If you fail, you're in a precarious position. You can't drop the bar straight down or it will land on you. And falling backwards is just as scary. Plenty of things can go wrong. One second of hesitation while performing this lift leaves you in a poor position to execute it. To nail a heavy Snatch requires a wide range of skills—you've got to have timing, technique, flexibility and physical and mental strength. That's a rare blend—usually found only in elite athletes.
- Use a wide grip on the bar. Your hands might be only a couple inches inside the plates.
- Begin in a deadlift position with your chest up, back straight and knees bent.
- Explode from your hips and knees to begin the initial pull.
- When the bar is just above your knees, explode further by shrugging your shoulders and extending your hips, knees and ankles (triple extension).
- Pull the bar up, keeping it close to your body.
- Drop under the bar, catching it overhead with your arms extended and knees at or past 90 degrees.
- Perform an Overhead Squat.
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