Challenge Yourself – 20 Ways

Insanity: Doing the same thing and expecting different results.

Sadly, many people don’t apply this rule to their training. They constantly do the same workouts and wonder why they look and feel the same, their performance doesn’t improve, they don’t lose that last little bit of flub.

This is insanity.

challenge workouts

Now, I’ve been training since I was six years old. Like I’ve said before, I sort of coasted until then, you know, doing low key stuff like learning to walk, ride a bike, pretty much recreational things 😉

When I hit six, I started my training career and learning about ‘periodization’. When I think about it, I’ve got 45 years of training experience behind me. Wow, as my daughter would say ‘Mom, that’s nearly a half-century’. That’s a long time…

What I can tell you is that doing the same thing when training is not only insane, it causes workout burn out, over training, injury, loss of enthusiasm and more.

Solution? Periodization.

So what’s periodization?

Periodization is an organized approach to training that involves progressive cycling of various aspects of a training program during a specific period of time. It’s the process of varying a training program at regular time intervals to bring about optimal gains in physical performance.

challenge workouts

Really all that means is: change it up, keep your body guessing. There are a variety of ways to change up your workout that I’ll get into later, but aside from my telling you it’s insane mentally NOT to change up your workout, WHY physiologically do you need to change things?

Your body is an amazing machine. It will step up to the challenges you present to it. Once it’s adapted to the challenge, it will basically ‘coast’ until a new challenge is presented. That is, your body won’t ‘de-condition’ but you won’t get into better condition doing the same thing, there’s really no physiological need. Studies show now that your body will adapt to demands during your workout. It was once thought that it took days or weeks for muscles to adapt to exercise when in fact, adaptation happens ‘on the fly’.

Often people just get ‘comfortable’ with their routine and they’re reluctant to try something new. I’ve been guilty of this on occasion as well. Since I’ve been training forever, I notice that when big things are happening in my life elsewhere, I may be more likely to stick to my routine. I stay in condition, but I don’t particularly get ahead or make personal bests in the gym. When I give my training the front seat, I make the most gains, I’m the most excited about my training and I have the most fun. It’s like anything else in life. The fun starts when you get a little uncomfortable…

challenge workouts

Here are some ways you can change up your workout:
1. do more exercises or sets (volume)
2. increase weight lifted (load)
3. increase intensity by decreasing the rest between sets
4. increase load by increasing rest between sets (‘slow and heavy’)
5. do timed sets vs counted reps
6. increase density (that is do more work in less time)
7. add HIIT in between strength sets
8. super set non-competing muscle groups or body parts
9. super set competing muscle groups or body parts
10. find someone of the opposite sex that’s SUPER HOT and train around them 😉
11. change the order of exercises
12. train different body parts together on different days
13. use different equipment (use free weights vs machines vs body weight)
14. train outside
15. train at a different gym
16. use unconventional equipment like sandbags for traditional exercises like squats
17. train with a partner
18. do a circuit vs straight sets
19. get new workout gear (look the part)
20. get out of the gym and go rock climbing, mountain biking, swimming…what ever…something TOTALLY different for a change
Okay, so number 10 and 19 sound a little silly, but you know I’m right on the money with those tips…

Now for those of you that are into more weighted resistance, here’s an example of an ‘old school’ back workout that I changed up.

Straight sets

Heavy cable row 5 sets of 8-10 reps
Pull ups 3 sets to failure
DB pull over 3 sets 8-10 reps
BB curl 4 sets 8-10 reps
Finisher: 50 burpees (timed)


Heavy cable row 10 reps
Pull ups 10 reps
DB pull over 10 reps
BB curl 10 reps
10 burpees
Rest 30 seconds
Repeat for a total of 5 circuits

I did the same exercises, basically the same rep scheme, but the difference in each workout is huge. Both are sound workouts to strengthen the back and increase cardiovascular fitness, burn fat etc etc. But they feel completely different and they actually tax your body in totally different ways so your body has to adapt. You can do this with any kind of workout – just see the 20 points above 😉

If you want a challenging program that includes pretty much all of the above (except number 10, 19), my programs have you covered. You can check out each one on THIS PAGE and you’ll see a ton of variety to shake up YOUR training.

OR, if you need a little hand holding to help you with accountability and more, you can apply for my VIP coaching program HERE.

Trust me, I’ve been studying training for a half a century (egads!) and I know of what I speak.

Or continue to do the same thing with your workouts, look and feel the same and settle with lack lustre results. Your choice.