The top 10 gym challenges


If you’ve hit a plateau in the gym or you’re getting tired of the same old routine, you could do worse than setting yourself a new challenge to give your training a boost and keep yourself on track.

The ten gym-based challenges below are not for the faint-hearted, but mastering each of them will result in significant fitness gains and give you a stimulating goal to work towards – not to mention giving you an enviable arsenal of party tricks…

1. Skip 200 times in two minutes

This is much more draining than you would imagine, but it’s one of the cheapest, best and most portable workouts there is.

2. Perfect a handstand push-up

Practice against a wall – founder Jim Bathurst advises you to ‘spread your fingers and shrug your shoulders towards your ears.’ Remove wall, add balance and wow strangers.

3. Grow your biceps by 2cm in two weeks

With a set of dumbbells, do seven partial curls using just the middle of the movement. Hold for seven seconds at the top while turning your wrists from up to down then back again. Finish with seven full reps.

4. Bench press your own bodyweight…

This is the minimum you should aim for. If you’re stuck below that, your stabilising muscles may need work. Add pull-ups and bent-over rows to build your back, giving you a better base for benching.

5. …then bench an extra 50%

This puts you in a different league. The Smolov Jr bench specialist programme can help: do six sets of six reps at 70% of your max on Monday, 7×5 reps at 75% on Wednesday, 7×4 at 80% on Friday and 10×3 at 85% on Sunday. Add 5kg to all weights for week two and another 2.5kg on week three. Then go for a one-rep max.

6. Front raise a 10kg plate for two minutes

It’s considered the minimum for F1 drivers. Who said they weren’t real sportsmen?

7. Row the Channel… at the gym

Your goal is 32km, the shortest distance those swimming from Dover to Calais have to cover. Do it in two-and-a-half hours and earn a pat on the back.

8. Do 20 pull-ups in a row

Pro-athlete trainer Chad Waterbury has the easiest method: on day one go for a single max-rep set in the morning and another in the evening. Rest on day two, then repeat until you’re in Club 20.

9. Do 100 press-ups in a day

Proper ones, mind. Johnny Pain of suggests approaching them military-style. ‘Do lots of sets throughout the day but never hit failure,’ he says. ‘Do them when you wake up, before the shower, before bed, while you watch TV. Just get them done.’

10. Do ten one-arm press-ups

Make like Rocky and impress the whole gym. Try it with feet apart, and lock your lats in place – it should help.