Working out can be a serious business – especially if you are training toward a specific fitness goal. However, in the same way that you can’t train hard all the time, it’s nice to relax and enjoy a slightly more light-hearted workout now and then.
That doesn’t mean you get to take it easy. We all know that easy workouts won’t do much for your fitness or strength.
But, breaking the monotony of intense, serious training is an excellent way to avoid the stagnation and boredom that can often accompany long periods of very structured workouts.
If you need a break from your regular routine, but still want to continue training hard enough to maintain your progress, try one of these workout games.
1. Head to head rep ladder
If you want to win some gym bragging rights, this is the workout game for you! It makes a great finisher at the end of a training session or, alternatively, you can use it for an entire workout.
To do it, grab your workout partner and choose an exercise you can both do – such as push-ups. Adopt the push-up position facing your partner.
Go first and do one rep. Next, your partner does a rep. Then, do two reps, and your partner does the same. Keep on adding a rep until one of you is unable or unwilling to continue. The last person standing is the winner.
This workout works well with almost any exercise, but is especially good with:
- Barbell or dumbbell curls
- Deadlifts – set up two bars facing one another for extra motivation
- Bodyweight squats – pause in the down position to make them even tougher
2. Deck of cards workout
Like the card game Solitaire, you don’t need a partner for this workout game. It’s a great way to add some randomness to your training while accumulating a lot of workout volume.
Take a regular deck of cards and allocate an exercise to each suit. For example:
Hearts = burpees
Spades = push-ups
Diamonds = inverted rows
Clubs = stability ball crunches
For jokers, allocate something that can you can use as an active recovery, such as jump rope.
Shuffle your cards and place them face down. Turn over the top card and do that number of repetitions of the exercise indicated. For example, if you turn over the seven of diamonds, do seven inverted rows. On completion, turn over the next card and do that exercise for the number of reps shown, e.g., nine of hearts = nine burpees.
Work your way through the deck as fast as you can until you have completed all the cards.
Use the face value of each card for your reps, with aces being worth one. For picture cards, do 11 reps for jacks, 12 for queens, and 13 for kings. For the jokers, choose a duration that provides 1-2 minutes of active recovery, e.g., two minutes of jump rope. Alternatively, if you prefer, you can leave the jokers out and just use the four suits.
While your aim should be to complete each card in one go, if you are unlucky enough to get several high-value cards for the same suit in a row, you may need to break some of your sets down into more manageable chunks. That’s ok; just make sure you complete all the reps before moving onto the next card.
3. The emoji workout
This game is another great way to randomize your workout. You can do it on your own, but it’s even better with a partner. All you need is a phone. Open your text editor and call up the emojis. Allocate an exercise and a number of reps to each one, e.g.:
Next, close your eyes and tap the screen. Open your eyes and do the exercise you have selected. On completion, close your eyes and go again. If you are working out with a partner, get them to choose the next exercise.
Keep going for a pre-agreed time, such as 20 minutes, before stopping. Don’t dawdle between exercises – maintain a brisk pace to maximize the effect of the workout.
4. Protein shake plank-off
Do you and your training partner like to end your workout with a well-earned protein shake? Good for you! Post-training protein is an effective way to speed up recovery and maximize your gains. But who buys the protein shake?
With this mini-game, you get the chance to win your post-workout snack by out-planking your partner.
Facing your partner, drop down and adopt the plank position, so your body is straight, and you are resting on your forearms and toes only. Brace your abs, but don’t hold your breath.
Maintain this position for as long as you can. The first person to quit buys the post-training protein shakes.
5. Thunderstruck burpees
This workout is a great cardio finisher that you can use at the end of your regular workout. While this is an excellent non-competitive solo game, it’s even more fun if you do it with a partner or as part of a group.
Find the AC/DC track “Thunderstruck” on YouTube and hit play. Start jogging at a comfortable pace. Every time you hear the word “thunder” or “thunderstruck,” drop down and do a burpee. Get back on your feet as fast as you can and then continue running.
The next time you hear the phrase thunder or thunderstruck, do another burpee. Continue for the duration of the song. Add an extra dimension to this game by changing your jogging direction after each burpee.
Don’t like burpees? You could do push-ups or squat jumps instead.
6. Run and lift relay
This workout combines cardio and strength training. Instead of doing your exercises for a predetermined number of reps, you work out for as long as it takes for your partner to run a predetermined distance.
For example, out on a basketball court, you do push-ups while your partner runs one lap as fast as they can. The faster they run, the fewer reps you’ll need to do. When they get back to you, jump up and start running while they do their push-ups. Do 2-4 sets of one exercise before choosing another one.
While this workout works well outdoors with bodyweight exercises, you can also do it indoors if you can set yourself up near a treadmill. Alternatively, you could replace the running with jump rope, stationary cycling, rowing, or stepping. The cardio part should last 30-90 seconds.
7. Roll the dice workout
Are you looking for a short but sharp workout that you can do with minimal equipment? Maybe one that’s good for muscular endurance and cardiovascular fitness too? Try the roll the dice workout.
For this solo game, all you need is a pair of dice and a piece of paper. Choose and write down six exercises – two upper body, two lower body, and two core exercises.
Next, throw both dice to determine how many sets you are going to do, e.g., nine.
Finally, throw both dice again to discover how many reps you are going to do of each exercise, e.g., seven.
Now, do seven reps of each exercise in turn, continuing until you have done nine laps. Storm through as fast as you can, moving quickly from one exercise to the next.
If you threw a low number, you might want to roll the dice again and repeat the workout. However, if you rolled a high number, once through will probably be enough.
8. The body weight challenge workout
For this workout, your challenge is to see how many times you can lift your body weight using a variety of different exercises. Each exercise is done just once and for maximum repetitions, and there are five of them.
The exercises are:
To start, load up a barbell with your bodyweight, or to the nearest available weight plate denomination. After a thorough warm-up, rep out until you are unable to continue. Make a note of how many reps you complete.
Next, set up for bench presses and do the same. Use a spotter for this exercise to avoid accidents. Alternatively, use a Smith machine.
Then, after a short rest and using a squat rack or power cage, see how many times you can squat your bodyweight.
Finally, do max rep sets of pull-ups and dips.
Add all of your reps together to determine your score. Try and beat that number next time.
Modification: instead of doing one all-out set, see how many reps you can clock up in a predetermined time, e.g., five minutes.
Wrapping up the best workout games
To get the best results from your workouts, you should follow a planned, progressive training program. Each week, your workouts should get just a little harder, so that your body is forced to adapt and grow.
But, that doesn’t mean the occasional break from your routine won’t do you good.
In fact, if you are starting to get bored with your current program and feel like your motivation is slipping, a change may be just what you need.
Use these games to add some fun and variety to your workouts while maintaining or even improving your general fitness. Some can be done in a group or with a partner, while others are one-person games. Some are competitive, while others are just for fun. Whichever you choose, you are sure to enjoy the challenge of doing something new.