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Feats of Strength

Posted Nov 08 2011 5:10pm

One day last week, just before class was starting, my seniors were complaining about their phys ed classes.

Specifically, they were annoyed by that dreaded annual phys ed unit — the physical fitness tests.

According to my seniors, they have to perform all of the following, on cue, while their teacher plays a recording that instructs them on what to do:

  • half-sit ups (the kids described them as they are shown in this link )
  • push ups to failure (but the recording tells you when to lower and when to raise)
  • running drills (again the recording tells you when to run and how fast)
  • flexibility tests (hands flat on floor, toe reaches, etc.)

The whole conversation, while enlightening, made me remember the physicial fitness tests through which I suffered in middle and high school.

I think what I remember may have been more intense than what my current students are dreading.  I did:

  • full sit ups to failure, with a time limit
  • pull ups to failure
  • push ups to failure
  • indoor sprints
  • standing long jumps

In all honesty, I don’t know if everything listed above was part of our official physical fitness tests.  I do remember, however, that the phys ed teachers were taking note of how many of these things we could do, so the fact that our teachers were keeping track of those kinds of stats was enough to make me dread these “tests” whether they were official or not.

Just knowing that my official pull up number was zero was a little mortifying.

The reminder of my adolescent gym class mortification got me thinking about how much I have surpassed those supposed bench marks.  I can do pull ups.  I can sprint pretty fast.  I can do push ups like a champ.  So what would my gym class physical fitness test results look like now?

I think I should find out.

And I think you should join me.


To that end, I give you a new weekly blog feature:



How it works:

  1. Every Sunday night, I will post a new challenge for the week.  The challenge will consist of one exercise — one feat of strength — on which to focus for the week.  I will include rules, form notes, and explanations or video demos as needed.
  2. All week, I — and hopefully you! — will work on this challenge.  Some weeks the challenge might be on time (as in, get as many good reps done as possible in x seconds).  Some weeks the challenge will be to do as many reps as you can until failure.  Keep track of results for step #3.
  3. On the following Sunday, I will post my results — and yours.  I would love to have readers email me their results, struggles, stories, comments, pictures and videos for each week’s challenge.  I will post both my results & struggles alongside all of yours.
  4. At the end of each results post, I will announce the new feat of strength for the following week, and we’ll start all over again.
  • Dispel our collective gym class demons.
  • Be motivated and inspired by one another.
  • Do something outside our normal fitness boxes.
  • Discover a new ability or two.
  • Get my readers who don’t regularly workout to move more.
  • Have fun.
  • Not a competition.  This isn’t about who can do the most / the best / the longest, etc. Your ability level is not what matters; your participation is what matters.
  • Not a training program.  Everyone should be doing more than *just* something like this.
  • Not a lawsuit.  Don’t injure yourself by doing this.  And you may not sue me should you somehow become injured by participating.

I intend this to be for ALL READERS of this blog — all abilities, all genders, all ages, all continents and nations — so I will make every attempt to keep the equipment needed for each feat to a minimum.

My ideal feats will be ones that require body weight only, but I may occassionally feature a feat that requires a commonplace bit of equipment, i.e. a jump rope or single light dumbbell.  I will also attempt to vary the type of ability required by each feat — sometimes we’ll focus on strength, sometimes on cardio, etc.

I will also post performance indicators when possible so you can see where you might fall according to military or professional fitness expectations.  If I can’t find said performance indicators, I will say so.

AND, since I intend this to be for everyone, and since I am *very hopeful* that you will participate AND email me your stories/results/photos/videos each week, I am setting up a special email address just for this purpose:

My own list already includes:

  • sit ups
  • planks (hold to failure)
  • pull ups
  • push ups and varieties there of
  • short sprints
  • 1-mile runs
  • other isometric exercises
  • AND MORE! (mwahahaha!)


How about it?

Are you in?

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