5 Workouts That’ll Build & Test Your Mental Fortitude
When you’re banging and clanging away in the gym with barbells, battle rope and assault bikes you’re not just burning calories and building muscle… you’re building your mindset too.
It wasn’t until I’d spend a couple of years in the gym that I really began to notice the discipline and mental fortitude I exercised in the gym had transformed across to all aspects of my life!
Sitting on the preacher curl isn’t going to do anything particularly crazy for your mental fortitude… if you want to test and build your mental fortitude give the 5 workouts below a try!
I perform 1 – 2 of these routines each week ontop of my regular workout split.
1. 100 Calories On The Air Bike
Whether you’re looking to burn some extra calories, increase your mental toughness or up your cardio for a obstacle course race it’s hard to dismiss the assault bike as one of the best conditioning tools out there.
Running and stair sprints are great but they’re high impact exercises… there’s only so much pounding of the pavement you can do before you begin to get sore joints and niggling issues due to the impact.
When it comes to pushing the pace for intervals if you’re on a treadmill you’re limited to the max speed of the treadmill (often 20kmph). For many this will not be all out effort.
The air bike mitigates that.
There’s no impact whatsoever, you’re seated with your arms on the handles, feet on the pedals and balls to the wall.
There’s no ceiling or electronic limiter as to how hard or fast you push. That’s up to your mind (they nicknamed the assault bike ‘devils tricycle’ for a reason!).
Aim to hit 100 calories in 3 – 4 minutes.
2. 1000m Row For Time
The 1000m row is my go-to rowing distance for testing your will and building mental toughness.
It’s easy to sprint a 500m row with all out effort, it’s easy to pace yourself on a steady 2000m row… but the 1000m row is a bit different.
It’s a short enough distance to keep up a fast pace yet long enough to have you questioning yourself in the last couple of hundred metres!
A Brief Primer On Rowing Technique
The starting position, known as the “catch,” the knees are bent, shoulders and arms are reaching forward, and shins are vertical. Initiate the “drive” phase of the movement by pushing your feet against the machine’s platform, straightening the legs until there is just a slight bend in the knees. Begin to pull the handle toward your lower chest by bending your elbows as you lean slightly backward, keeping your back straight. Initiate the recovery phase by returning to the starting position. The motion of rowing should be fluid and continuous.
Concept2, often referred to simply as the ‘C2 rower‘ is the standard when it comes to indoor rowers.
Any serious home gym, CrossFit box, rowing competition and the like will be using C2 rowers, hands down.
The C2 rower is not only the worldwide standard when it comes to indoor rowers and rowing competitions, but it also has the most accurate and advanced programming system for monitoring heart rate, measuring distances and inputting workouts.
Although the C2 rower is slightly more expensive than any run of the mill water wheel rower, the Concept2 Model D rower will last you a lifetime provided it’s looked after.
The model D has a relatively small footprint and can be disassembled when not in use, perfect for those looking for a piece of cardio equipment for home that won’t constantly consume a large footprint like a cross trainer or treadmill would.
You can get your own C2 Model D here.
Aim to row 1000m in under 4 minutes.
3. Murph (CrossFit Hero Workout)
Murph is one of CrossFit’s many benchmark workouts.
You don’t need to know how to perform olympic lifts such as the snatch or power clean to smash this workout, all you need is a 20lb vest and some mental intensity!
Here’s the workout… (you can partition the exercises as needed, however the mile must be run at the start and end of the workout).
- 1 mile run
- 100 pull-ups
- 200 push-ups
- 300 air squats
- 1 mile run
4. The 300 Workout
I’m not a huge fan of high repetition work, however I love the 300 workout as it’s not only a extraordinary mental endurance challenge it also provides a benchmark of your current level of fitness – you can rest or stop whenever you want, be strategic and complete this regime in the shortest amount of time possible.
As this is a fairly ‘spartan’ workout routine a very minimal amount of equipment is required, all you’ll need is:
- Pull-up bar or tree branch etc. for pull-ups
- Olympic bar with 2x 45lb plates
- Box or object to jump onto – around 24 inches in height
- 36lb kettlebell or dumbbell (if not possible use Olympic bar)
The 300 workout routine is as follows:
- 25 pull-ups
- 50 deadlifts at 135lbs
- 50 push-ups
- 50 box jumps with a 24 inch box
- 50 floor wipers while holding a 135lb barbell
- 50 clean and press (25 per arm) with a 36lb kettlebell
- 25 pull-ups
Total reps – 300.
When performing this workout the most important thing is to DO IT RIGHT. Videos of men performing the 300 workout in 10~ minutes ALWAYS results in them flailing around on the pull-up bar followed by push-ups with ½ the normal range of motion.
5. 2 Minute Dead Hangs
There are very few exercises out there that produce the same burn (and benefits!) as the dead hang.
The dead hang will increase your grip strength, build your forearms, decompress your spine and test your will.
- Begin with a pull-up bar.
- Grasp the bar with a shoulder width (or slightly wider) grip with your palms facing away from your body (overhand grip).
- Wrap your thumb around the bar.
- Ensure your arms are at a dead hang (straight, no bend in the elbow) you should not feel any muscle engagement from your lats.
- Relax your body while you hang for the desired amount of time – no swinging, no fidgeting. Focus.
Structuring Your Dead Hang Workout
Begin by starting a timer and performing a dead hang for as long as possible – the key before we begin training our dead hangs is to find out what you’re currently capable of… there’s no point in performing sets of 30 second dead hangs if you’re able to hold a 2 minute dead hang off the bat!
Once you’ve found your max dead hang time I recommend performing 3 – 4 dead hangs 2 – 3 times per week at between 50% – 75% of your max time.
For example if my max dead hang is 2 minutes I’d opt to perform 3 or 4 ‘sets’ (hangs) of between 1 minute and 1 minute 30 seconds at least twice a week.
Re-test your maximum dead hang monthly and re-adjust your hanging set times as necessary.
Don’t Make These Common Dead Hang Mistakes…
Not Extending Your Arms To Dead Hang
In order to reap the benefits of the dead hang your arms MUST be straight, they’re called dead hangs because your arms are dead straight and you’re merely hanging. No bend in the arm as per the photo above.
Engaging Your Lats
It’s common to automatically try and engage your lats if you were going to perform a pull-up when you’re hanging from the bar… but don’t!
Focus on relaxing your upper body while your arms hang straight.
Relaxed torso = no muscle engagement.