Want Something to Do This Weekend? Try These Workout Challenges

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A Marine takes part in a ruck march.
A Marine from the U.S. Marine Corps Forces Europe and Africa participates in a ruck march carrying a minimum of a 40-pound ruck sack during an 18-mile course through Panzer Kaserne Training area in Stuttgart, Germany, Oct. 8, 2020. (Rey Ramon/U.S. Army photo)

If you are like most active people, the weekend is your time to shine when it comes to working out. The few weekday workouts you are able to squeeze in are shortened by work and life, so you use the weekend to play catch-up.

The weekend is your chance to push yourself, whether that means participating in a race, obstacle course or other butt-kicking physical challenge. You should enjoy the challenge of an intense weekend workout that makes you forget the laziness of the week.

Whether you fall into this category or are the type that always is looking for a challenge, the following workouts are sure to make you sweat. Read on for some intense, Saturday morning workouts, practiced weekly by a group of future, current and former special operations members.

I. The Classic Fast Run/PT Pyramid

Warm up by running one mile at an easy pace.

Sets 1-5:

  • Do one pull-up, run 50 meters, do two push-ups/burpees, run back to pull-up bar.
  • Do two pull-ups, run 50 meters, do four push-ups/burpees, run back to pull-up bar.
  • Do three pull-ups, run 50 meters, do six push-ups/burpees, run back to pull-up bar.
  • Do four pull-ups, run 50 meters, do eight push-ups/burpees, run back to pull-up bar.
  • Do five pull-ups, run 50 meters, do 10 push-ups/burpees, run back to pull-up bar.

Be sure to mix in some dynamic leg stretches between sets, and follow the fifth set by running one mile.

For the next sets, switch up your mode of travel. Instead of running, try a bear crawl, fireman carry, lunges, low crawl or broad jump. If none of these work for you, come up with one of your own.

Sets 6-10:

  • Do six pull-ups, travel 50 meters, do 12 push-ups/burpees, run back to pull-up bar.
  • Do seven pull-ups, travel 50 meters, do 14 push-ups/burpees, run back to pull-up bar.
  • Do eight pull-ups, travel 50 meters, do 16 push-ups/burpees, run back to pull-up bar.
  • Do nine pull-ups, travel 50 meters, do 18 push-ups/burpees, run back to pull-up bar.
  • Do 10 pull-ups, travel 50 meters, do 20 push-ups/burpees, run back to pull-up bar.

Follow the 10th set by running one mile.

From here, you can progress by repeating the workout in reverse order -- 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 -- or try sets 11-15.

If you keep going up, stop where you fail. Make a goal of one day reaching 20 sets and don't forget to run one mile after every fifth set.

One pyramid of 10 sets (up and down) will yield 110 pull-ups and 220 push-ups or burpees. If you continue to 20 sets, you will have done 210 pull-ups and 420 push-ups or burpees. That will take some time to build up to, but you can do it. And once you are able to, perhaps you should start considering a career in special operations.

II. The Special Ops Triathlon

Run, swim, and then ruck, picking a mileage of each that fits your fitness level. The typical distance is a three-mile run, one-mile swim with fins and a three-mile ruck.

If you are running on pavement, find a hill that is roughly a quarter- to a half-mile long and challenge yourself by running up and down the hill as many times as you can. Build up your endurance over time until you eventually can run up and down the hill 5-10 times.

If you have access to a trail with natural terrain challenges, hit it fast. A great example is a Marine Corps Endurance Course (if you have access to a Marine Corps base). Strive for being able to run 5-7 miles, more if you are preparing for longer racing events.

If this isn't enough for you, you might want to consider some special operations challenges such as the Sandbaby Murph or Devil's Mile (as described in the links). Both take time to master fully, and I recommend you start off at 25%-50% of the distances and repetitions listed in the links above when you first try them.

I hope this gives you hard-chargers some ideas for a better workout this weekend. Feel free to share your favorite go-to butt kicker and what it helps prepare you for. Many of the above exercises have been helpful in simulating obstacle course races, log PT, and typical carries and crawls experienced in the various special operations selection programs.

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you're looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to stew@stewsmith.com.

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