Competition brings out the best in us. The glory of winning and the fear of losing push us to give our best effort. If you harness your competitive fire, you can make your workouts more challenging and effective.
However, your entire workout should not be a competition. This can lead to bad reps performed with too heavy weight and poor technique, just so you can win. You work out to get bigger, stronger and faster, not to completely crush your body and cause an injury.
To help you make your workouts more competitive and fun, we consulted with elite strength coaches. They provided seven ways to add a competitive element to your training—ways that will safely challenge your body and encourage you to make gains faster. Do no more than two challenges per week.
"Who Dat" Challenge
Todd Durkin tests his athletes' strength and endurance with the "Who Dat" Challenge, named after New Orleans Saints QB Drew Brees. Compete with a partner to see who crosses the line first, or try to beat Brees's record of six minutes. That's elite! Check out the video player above for a demonstration.
How to: Perform this circuit as a finisher at the end of a workout no more than once per week. Rest only as needed.
- Power Clean and Press x 2
- Burpees x 10
- Shuttle Run x 10, 20, 30 and 40 yards
- Repeat 3 times
Mike Robertson, co-founder of iFAST, recommends turning your lifts into a challenge over three to four weeks with the Escalating Density method. By doing as many reps as you can within a specified time, you can either compete with yourself and try to do more reps each week, or try to beat a partner.
How to: Select a lift and period of time, like 10 minutes. Do as many clean reps as you can within the time period, resting only as needed. Track the number of reps you perform. Repeat once a week for three or four consecutive weeks using the same time period, and try to beat your personal rep record each time. Use this method for only one or two exercises per week in different workouts.
Repetition Effort Method
Seeing someone lift more weight than you stinks. But you always need to lift weight that's appropriate, and competition sometimes doesn't lend itself well to this. Tony Bonvechio, strength coach at Cressey Sports Performance, recommends the Repetition Effort Method popularized by Westside Barbell.
How to: After your main lift, choose an accessory exercise such as Dumbbell Bench Press or Weighted Push-Ups, and do two sets of as many reps as possible with a weight you think you can lift 15 to 20 times. If you're by yourself, do a set to just shy of failure, rest two minutes and repeat. If you're with a partner, do one set. When you're done, your partner immediately hops in and does his set. Try to beat your rep count or your partner's rep count each week. Once you can do two sets of 20 reps, increase the weight.
Split the Circle Drill
Alan Stein, owner of Stronger Team and strength coach for the DeMatha Catholic High School boy's basketball team, has his athletes compete in the Split the Circle Drill, which increases their speed and agility.
How to: Instruction is provided in the video below. Make sure to maintain proper technique throughout the drill.
"Sometimes you need something to tell you when the workout is over," says Brandon McGill, sports performance director for STACK Velocity Sports Performance. "Oftentimes that 'something' is you lying in a pile on the floor gasping for breath, pointing to your workout buddy and telling him that you just kicked his butt." The Modified Cindy, a slightly tweaked version of a workout commonly performed in CrossFit, will do just that.
Do this at the end of your workout. Complete as many rounds as you can in 10 minutes. Rest only as needed.
- 5 Pull-Ups
- 10 Push-Ups
- 15 Squats
Drop Set Rep Off
After you finish a heavy lift, perform one final drop set. "Those moments when your training partner says, 'I bet I can do more than you,' need to be squashed once and for all. Finish him off with a Drop Set Rep Off." This is less about how much you can lift and more about your mental toughness.
How to: Drop the load down to 50 percent of your last set. Perform as many reps as you can in a final set.
Timed Team Reps
"This makes athletes push themselves a little further than they should normally go, because they don't want to let their team down," says Rick Scarpulla, owner of Ultimate Advantage Training. Do this once per week to add a competitive element to your workouts and for team building.
How to: Create four groups of four people. Each group picks one exercise. The groups perform their lifts within a given time period (e.g., 30 seconds) with a weight they choose. You can have each person in the group responsible for one exercise, or have each person help with all four moves. When finished, add the total number of reps performed with the weight used. The loser has to clean the gym that week.
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