Almost anyone who has spent any length of time doing hard training in the gym will eventually want to challenge themselves, and it’s tough to find something more difficult than a leg challenge. An intense leg challenge will not only work your legs, but tax your cardio as hard as the most difficult interval workout, and be a measure of your mental toughness. Here’s a workout that looks simple, but when done properly, can leave you reeling.
What You don’t want in Your Leg Challenge
Coming up with a leg challenge is really pretty easy. Coming up with a good leg challenge is a lot more difficult. While you might think that all you have to do is create a brutal, super-hard to perform, and crazy intense workout filled full of squats, lunges, possibly jumps, and other leg exercises, this really isn’t the case. Throwing together any combination of exercises for any combination of sets and reps with any sort of loading, while difficult, can end up with disastrous consequences.
Squat too much weight for too much volume under too much fatigue, and you may end up damaging your lower back. Doing front squats with the bar in the “racked” position when you don’t have flexible shoulders is going to lead to a possible strain in your wrists. Thinking that combining overhead squats and lunges into a harder combo-exercise when you’re not used to doing either is asking for injury the moment your form breaks down.
A leg challenge doesn’t just need to be hard – it needs to be smart.
What You do want in Your Leg Challenge
On the other hand, there are a few characteristics you do want your leg challenge to include. Here’s a short list.
- Simple – Once you get going, fatigue is going to start to set in, and your challenge will be as much a mental one as it is for the legs. Keep the workout simple so you can maintain focus instead of trying to having to worry about the next exercise, weight, equipment needed, etc.
- Nothing Too Technique-Intesive – As you fatigue, your form may begin to break down. This will be especially true the harder and further you push into your challenge. While you’ll want to maintain as good of form as you can, you want to be confident that if you do push the proverbial envelope, that you’re not going to be overly susceptible to injury because you’re performing an exercise dependent on complicated technique.
- Proper Order – If performing multiple exercises, ensure you’re doing ones that may involve smaller surrounding musculature that’s more susceptible to fatigue first. This is not only safer, but will limit the chance that you have to stop early due to fatigue in areas other than the legs.
- Ease of Equipment – Depending on how your challenge is setup, you want to make sure that you’ll have easy access to any required equipment whenever and as soon as needed. The entire flow and effect of your challenge could be altered if you have “wait on a squat rack”. Incorporating bodyweight-only exercises can alleviate this.
Your “Ultimate” Leg Challenge
This ultimate leg challenge is to simply lunge walk 400 meters (¼ of a mile or one lap round a track) as quickly as you can. You can do this however you want – fast or steady or even with planned rest breaks. Your only requirement is that your back knee touch the ground with each step and your goal is to complete the 400 meters as quickly as possible.
There’s no need to add extra weight as the task alone should be daunting enough. However, if you really desire to challenge yourself, add extra resistance by putting on weighted vest. If you don’t have access to a vest and have to instead hold dumbbells, use a pair of wrist straps so grip fatigue doesn’t become an issue. Though in this case, prepare for your traps, neck, and upper back to be screaming as badly as your legs the next day.
One of the best things about this leg challenge is its singular nature. Your only goal is to put one foot in front of the other as soon as you can. Anyone that performs any form of lunging even semi-regularly knows it doesn’t take many reps to get a serious burn in your quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and even calves. Not only will be you getting this burn, but getting it for 400 meters non-stop.
Your breathing and heart rate will also skyrocket in short order. At some point, you may even find that the challenge is as much about mentally pushing yourself to keep going as it is being able to endure the physical weariness.
Give it a Shot
While this isn’t the sort of thing you’ll want to do regularly, testing your mettle with this ultimate leg challenge 2-3 times per year can be a way to monitor your strength, endurance, conditioning, and mental fortitude. Grab a training buddy who has the guts to do it with you, head to the track, and cheer each other on. Just be sure you have nothing else planned for the rest of the day after you’re done, as you’ll probably need it to recover.