A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. This common little platitude is often applied to machinery, corporations, and even the exercises you do in the gym. After all, you are only as strong as your core – or whatever muscle is this season’s pre-hab favorite.
But what if YOU are the weakest link? What if you are the thing that breaks when the going gets tough? Chances are it’s not your body that lets you down, but your mind.
In many military situations, the difference between success and failure is your mindset, your ability to keep on going despite fatigue, hunger, pain, heat, cold, or fear. Call it grit, call it mental toughness, or call it determination – where your mind leads your body usually follows.
However, like an ill-disciplined soldier ignoring orders, you don't have to obey your brain when it tells you to quit. In fact, you can tell it to Foxtrot Oscar and keep on going long after your mind has waved the white flag.
Developing this kind of do-or-die attitude is not easy, and a great deal of military training is geared toward teaching recruits that they can keep on going despite fatigue. It’s this training that gives military personnel that aura of confidence. They know they’ve been through worse. Train hard, fight easy.
You don’t need to join the military to develop a stronger mindset, but you do need to be prepared to push yourself out of your comfort zone. How far? A long, long way!
Here are three challenges designed to punish your brain into submission. They won't do much for your performance, and they certainly aren't intended to build muscle or burn fat. However, after completing any of these workouts, you'll realize that you are capable of exceeding your physical limits and that, in fact, you aren't the weak link.
Recall how hard you pushed yourself so that, when next faced with adversity, you know you’ve been in a worse spot. This will give you the courage to keep going, even when your brain is shouting stop.
- Walking lunge quarter mile
This one is simple – do walking lunges for a quarter of a mile. Take a large step forward, bend your legs, and lower your rear knee to touch the floor lightly. Step forward and into another rep. Do as many as you can before resting.
However, there are no passive breaks in this punisher session. Drop down into the push-up position and do 20 reps. Once you have done your 20, get back up and start lunging again. Keep alternating lunges and push-ups until you’ve done your lap. If you aren’t lunging, you are doing push-ups. Those are your only choices.
- Buddy carry mile
Another simple test of mental fortitude. Grab a buddy and hoist him up on your shoulder using a firefighter's carry. Walk a mile taking it in turns to carry each other. Make sure you work together and encourage the guy doing the carrying. Split the distance equally, so you both carry for the same distance.
No buddies available? Load up your rucksack with something approximating your bodyweight and carry it for a mile. Don’t over think this challenge. Lift, carry, and walk.
- Death set deadlifts
Load up a barbell with your bodyweight. Set your stopwatch for 40 minutes. Start repping out with the aim of doing as many reps as you can in the allotted time. You are not allowed to rest more than 30 seconds between sets, and you can’t do less than three reps per set. Make sure each rep is valid – bend your knees to 90 degrees each time. No half-reps, please.
Don’t like deadlifts? Toughen up and do them anyway! Or, if you have a squat rack available, do squats instead.
Punisher workouts are not meant to be easy, or fun, or even physically beneficial. They are, however, meant to be barely completable. It’s only by attempting the impossible and doing it anyway that you develop an unbreakable mindset. Replace one of your regular workouts with a punisher session or, better still, do your usual workout and bolt your punisher workout onto the end.