Jessica Matthews by Jessica Matthews

From mountain climbers to jump squats, there are a number of effective exercises that put your physical fitness—and mental toughness—to the test. Check out the four moves that fitness experts love for the results they produce, but hate because of just how challenging they can be.

The Move: Rear-foot Elevated Split Squat (a.k.a., Bulgarian Lunge or Bulgarian Split Squat)

Bulgarian Split Squat

What’s to Love: This is a go-to move for Doug Balzarini, DB Strength founder and head strength and conditioning coach for Alliance Training Center, who shares that there’s more to love than there is hate when it comes to this effective exercise. “I hate this move because no matter how hard I work at it this exercise always humbles me. But I love it because it’s such a great combination of core and hip stability, unilateral strength and even flexibility. And because it’s a fairly simple exercise to learn, it’s great for all levels.”

How-to: Stand approximately 3 feet in front of a bench and place the top of your left foot on top of the bench. Cross your arms in front of your chest and slowly lower down into a lunge, keeping the right heel down on the ground and the right knee tracking in line with the second toe, and press back up to your starting position. Complete 12-15 reps and repeat on the opposite side.

The Move: One Arm Kettlebell Snatch

What’s to Love: There are few movements more anaerobic than the kettlebell snatch—often referred to as the king of the kettlebell lifts—according to Steve Cotter, founder and director of International Kettlebell and Fitness Federation (IKFF). “When done fast with a challenging load this exercise will have your lungs screaming if you push yourself, while this same movement—if repeated for a longer periods of time at a slower pace—becomes an aerobic activity. The kettlebell snatch is a versatile way to train different energy systems with the same movement, simply by changing the load, duration and and/or speed of execution. Every person, no matter their level of fitness and athleticism, can find the challenge in this movement.” Cotter adds that while this move is highly effective—and an ACE-study supports that kettlebell training burns major calories—no one should rush this exercise, as mastering the form of the movement has to occur before you start sprinting with a heavy kettlebell.

How-to: To perform this move, grasp the kettlebell handle with your right hand using an overhand grip. With the feet hip-width distance apart, begin by swinging the kettlebell back between the legs as you hinge at the hips then thrust the hips forward using the power of the lower body to swing the kettlebell up. To perform the snatch, allow your right hand to move inside of the handle so that the kettlebell moves smoothly around your wrist, with the bell touching the outside of your forearm as your right arm extends fully overhead. Once again, move your hand inside of the handle, returning the bell back in front of the body as you prepare for another swing. If you’re new to this move, start slowly, aiming for 12 reps per minute. You can either complete all reps on one side before switching to the other side or alternate sides each time. As you master the form of the movement, try “sprints,” aiming to complete 30 reps in one minute.

The Move: Foxhole Push-Up Sprint Drill

Push up sprint drillWhat’s to Love: For Army Master Fitness and Resilience Trainer and six-time Solider of the Year Ken Weichert—aka “SGT Ken”—tactical fitness training that focuses on metabolic conditioning with a strong need for balance and power is a must. “Soldiers train as they would fight, making it possible to reduce combat injuries caused by poor physical preparation. They must be ready for any situation at any time, such as jumping out of a foxhole and sprinting across the field of battle. This drill provides the opportunity to develop controlled strength, speed and agility in a short period of time.”

How-to: Lie down on your stomach with your hands on the ground outside of your chest. Using the strength of your upper body, quickly press yourself up to a standing position and sprint forward 10 yards, moving as fast as you can. Once at the other side, crouch down and turn to face the direction you just came from, and drop down to the ground and perform a push-up. Repeat the sequence back and forth for 60?90 seconds.

The Move: Not Your Average Burpee

What's to Love: Zaki Fitness, teaches this creative move in her Asset Management class, which focuses on challenging participants’ strength, power, flexibility, cardio and core stability. “I love this exercise because it is a dynamic move that requires no equipment and combines several moves—squat, plank, split dog, low lunge, push-up and plyometric jump—into one.”

How-to: Beginning with feet shoulder-width apart, reach down between your feet with both hands. Step back into a plank position and lift your hips up and back, moving into downward facing dog. Raise your right leg toward the ceiling, keeping the hips square to the floor. Drive forward, steeping the right foot outside of the right hand into a low lunge. Bend your elbow and lower the body toward the floor for a push-up. As you extend both arms, step back with the right foot and then jump forward with both feet into a low squat. From there, rise up to standing and jump up with the arms extended overhead. Complete this sequence on the right side for one minute and then repeat on the left.

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