Your 2021 Fitness Bucket List
Travel, Adventure and adrenaline activities are common in traditional bucket lists, but we’re taking this approach into the gym and putting the fun back into training with a fitness bucket list! Here are 10 things you can aim to achieve in the gym this year, in no particular order. Not only will you boost your strength, endurance, mobility and general fitness, but learning new skills can also improve neuroplasticity, memory and learning speed.
COMPLETE THREE PULL-UPS
Nailing your first pull-up is a great feeling and a real sign of strength. The first is always the hardest, so why not work towards three this year? This body weight exercise is great for building strength around your back, biceps, core and grip. Use a combination of negative (focusing on the eccentric portion of the movement) and band-assisted pull-ups to work your way up.
CLIMB A ROPE
Inspired by Ninja Warrior? This one’s for you. While the rope climb appears to require great strength, it’s more about technique and skill. Performed correctly, the movement involves a knee lift and foot wrap with a simultaneous pull with your upper body and push with your lower body. But remember, what goes up must come down, so learning how to descend is just as important. Mastering this skill will improve your grip strength as well as your core, back, biceps, quads and glutes. For a more advanced variation, try climbing with your upper body only.
LEARN TO HANDSTAND
Handstands may have been fun and easy during childhood, but it’s a different story as an adult. They involve strength, stability, balance and technique, plus there’s an added fear of falling or injury. Start by adding exercises to your workout that improve core strength, shoulder stability and mobility around your shoulders, wrists and thoracic spine. Consider adding moves such as plank variations, dish holds, downward dog and a Swiss ball or TRX pike. Safety is important, so always practise your handstands against a wall and learn how to safely come out of the movement.
LIFT YOUR OWN BODY WEIGHT
A great goal to achieve baseline strength is to be able to bench press, squat and deadlift your own body weight. While training for this goal sounds simple, it requires great consistency. Try to complete all three exercises at least once a week while aiming to increase weight in small increments every week or two - five sets of five reps is a great starting point. All three exercises involve the whole body when performed correctly. A hot tip is to create tension in the body with all three lifts. Grind your feet into the ground, brace your core and grip the bar hard.
MASTER AN ADVANCED YOGA POSE
For many of us, life is very fast paced. Take the time to slow down and focus on balance, breathing and mobility by mastering an advanced yoga pose. Those trying yoga for the first time may be surprised at how much strength and stability is involved. Yoga is also tied to improvements in mental health, stress and sleep quality. Some poses to try include crow pose, king pigeon pose, dancer pose or a headstand. Attending regular yoga classes is the easiest way to kick off this bucket list item, which will also double up as a great recovery session.
Skipping is another skill that’s harder in adulthood. Great for cardio, coordination and agility, the double under is where the rope moves under your feet twice in the one jump. It’s all about timing and jumping to the correct height. Start by adding single skips into your workout. When you feel ready. Move to singular double unders before progressing to consecutive reps - and be prepared to fail many times before you succeed. You’ll need to jump higher and move the rope faster while keeping your arm movements small.
DO AN OLYMPIC LIFT
The two big Olympic lifts are the snatch and the clean and jerk. Both combine speed, power, strength and mobility. Due to the technical nature of these lifts, it’s best to learn under the guidance of a personal trainer or coach. There are a series of exercises you can add to your program to prepare your body for Olympic lifting, such as the power clean, push press, overhead squat and front squat. Practise all movements with a dowel rod first before reaching for a barbell.
Training for a pistol squat will help improve balance, mobility and unilateral leg strength. It’s a full-range single-leg squat, with your free leg hovering off the ground. Start by improving your range of movement in a deep bodyweight squat, especially in your ankles and hips. Practise a single-leg squat on a plyo box before progressing to an assisted pistol squat (holding on to a secure object such as a stretching bar for support).
With the right training program, completing a 10km run without stopping or walking is easier than you think. Start by finding out how far you can comfortably run now and aim to beat it by small increments every week. Running helps improve your cardiovascular system as well as endurance and general fitness. A thorough warm-up and cool-down (including stretching) is really important for injury prevention.
This one will work your brain! The hardest part of a Turkish get-up is remembering the right movement on the right side in the correct order. It’s a whole body movement, challenging your shoulder stability, core and coordination. The goal is to go from the ground to standing through a series of movements while holding a weighted object (like a dumbbell or kettlebell) above your head. For added safety and balance, keep your eyes focused on the weight the whole time.
Who said you can’t teach an old dog new tricks? Training towards these 10 items will shift your focus in the gym more towards skill acquisition, adding variety and fun into your program. Once achieved, you may notice other exercises in the gym become much easier. For guidance on any of these bucket list exercises, consult a personal trainer.