Strength training has many benefits, but even its biggest advocates admit that it’s not always fun. It’s no coincidence that athletes play sports but engage in strength training as a workout, a means to perform better in sports and life.
But strength training and fun need not be mutually exclusive. Like anything, the more strength training is viewed as a chore, the less effective it will be. When it’s seen as play or as a competition, it tends to be more fun.
Here are six ways to make strength training more fun.
1. Take it outside.
Toiling indoors in a gym day after day can get monotonous, especially during periods of nice weather. A change in setting can work wonders. This can be as simple as taking a medicine ball outside to do rotational throws. Just make sure it’s against a concrete wall so you don’t damage the walls.
EXOS coaches will often take athletes outside to play games of ultimate frisbee or capture the flag. Or they have athletes get in the pool for drills that use water resistance. Any time you can break the script, you can stay fresh, says Jon Barlow, an EXOS performance specialist.
2. Find a partner.
A training partner provides accountability. But be careful not to spend more of your time laughing and joking than getting work accomplished. Striking a balance between friendly banter and working sufficiently hard comes natural to longtime training partners who recognize the natural breaks between sets and harder work.
Having that partner not only helps when you need a spotter, it makes workouts more fun. It’s also possible to design two-person routines such as throwing medicine balls back and forth or relays between cones or around hurdles.
3. Make it a team competition.
A little friendly competition can help push your limits. Grab a group of friends once a week to mix up your routine. One way to do this is with competitions. Barlow likes creating relay competitions by forming teams and having them compete on a VersaClimber. Or when doing medicine ball throws, he’ll have athletes compete in terms of hang time rather than doing another set of five reps. You get people interacting and building a group dynamic, and that really increases the intensity and the fun, says Barlow.
4. Make it an individual competition.
Of course, sometimes it’s just you alone in the gym. Here it’s important to think in terms of progress. Can you do more reps or train with a heavier weight than previously? This is more motivating and more fun than slogging to the gym out of a sense of duty. “It’s important to have goals and measurables you can track over time,” Barlow says. “There’s nothing more fun than getting better at something.”
5. Change the setting.
The growing popularity of obstacle course racing in recent years has inspired people to prepare for such events by training outside in parks, at beaches, and in their backyards. This involves climbing on monkey bars, hurdling picnic tables, performing dips on park benches, hauling buckets of gravel, dragging driftwood along the water, and dropping for a set of burpees wherever the opportunity presents itself. You don’t need to prep for the next Tough Mudder or Spartan Race to get the benefit of improvisational training outside. Simply add something new to your routine.
6. Try a new hobby or sport.
It’s been said that the best workout is the one you haven’t done before. That’s because a novel workout is physically challenging and mentally engaging. Any active sport like mountain biking, paddleboarding, swimming, or skiing can provide conditioning and a degree of strength training.
Send us a note.