Coaches are always looking for ways to add fun competition workouts to their programs. In my experience, competition workouts are a great way to break up the monotony of training and can result in team building too. Athletes are competitive by nature, so they enjoy testing their mettle with fun challenges or finishers in group workouts.
Most of the time, I use something that can be completed quickly and doesn’t take too much time away from the planned workout for that day. Challenges that involve everyone together at the end of the workout help to create a team atmosphere without taking away from the workout itself. But sometimes I will program the challenge right into the workout itself, depending on what it is. Other challenges will actually be the workout for the day.
Hit the Sweet Spot
Challenges or finishers can be a great tool for coaches, but don’t overdo it. If you try to include too many, they lose their fun and take on the monotony training they were meant to dissolve. them more often and they kind of lose their fun. Doing one every 1-3 weeks works well for me.
I also do not want to distract from the real workout for the day. In picking a challenge or finisher, I always choose something that fits appropriately with the training for the day. I also mix up the types of challenges that I program in, so it’s not always the same people winning everything. Ideally, I want every athlete to feel like they have a chance of winning at least one out of every four to five challenges.
Here is my list of top challenges to try. Some are for the weight room while others require more open space like a gym, outdoor field, or fieldhouse.
- Any Lift: Max weight.
- Any lift: Max reps at certain body weight % for 1 set.
- Any lift: Max volume of 1 set = weight x reps.
- Back Squat: Max reps for 2:00 min @ body weight. Keep back on back the whole time.
- Pull-up or Inverted Row: Max reps for 2:00 min.
- Sit-ups: Max reps for 1:00 min (military rules).
- Farmer’s Walk: Max distance @ 50% body weight.
- Team Farmer’s Walk: 2 people for 400m time, 3-4 people for 800m time @100% average body weight.
- Flexed Arm Hang: Max time.
- Straight-arm Hang: Max time.
- Head-to-head Bar Hold Battle: With 2 bars, boys @ 45+25 lb each bar, girls at one 25 lb each bar.
- 100 Burpees: Fastest time to complete.
- Bear Crawl: Max distance.
- Turkish Get-up: 1 rep max.
- Sled Push: Best time or farthest distance wins.
- Bench Jumps: Max reps in specified time.
- Ab Wheel: Max reps in 1 set.
- Texas Push-Up Challenge: 1 push up, then stand up, 2 push-ups, stand up, repeat until 10 reps are completed. Go for fastest finish time.
- Double Plate Pinch: For time. Flat sides out, boys use two 10 lb plates, girls use two 5 lb plates.
- Bench Press. Fastest time to get 100 reps @ 50% body weight.
- Sandbag or Heavy Med Ball Over Bar: Fastest time to get 50 reps (overs).
- Med Ball Over Bar: Max reps in 1 minute. Boys: 50#, Girls: 40#, bar = chin height.
- Push-ups: Max reps for 2:00, rest only in up position (military rules).
- Overhead Plate Hold: For time.
- Death by Back Squat: Boys = body weight. Girls = 75% body weight. EMOM (every minute on the minute). Start with 1 rep & increase by 1 rep each round. Go as long as you can.
- Whole group at once.
- Individually as part of, or within, a workout.
- Last Person Standing style = Compete in small groups first. Group winners move on and compete against each other to get champion.
- Brackets or tournament style.
- Small groups/teams together against other teams.
I highly recommend incorporating workout challenges from time to time. From a physiological standpoint they may not be extremely beneficial, but from a mental standpoint, they allow athletes to get comfortable with testing your limits among peers. And some fun competition is always enjoyable for athletes and teams. Give some of these a shot or make up your own!
Scott Meier is currently in his 19 year at Farmington High School (MN) where he is the Strength & Conditioning Coach. He is also a Physical Education Teacher at FHS and teaches Sports Conditioning, Weight Training, and 9th grade Fitness For Life classes. He coached Farmington’s competitive weightlifting for 9 years, and in that time, the Tigers earned four state team titles, over 40 individual state champions, and multiple state record holders. Prior to that he was the head Strength and Conditioning Coach at Lakeville (MN) High School and worked as a personal trainer for 6 years. Scott is featured in the award-winning documentary “My Run” which tells the story of his 56-year-old client who ran 75 marathons in 75 days. He continues to compete in track & field at the masters level where he is a nationally ranked sprinter and holds several state age-group records. Scott is the current Minnesota state director of the National High School Strength Coaches Association.