As the New Year begins, millions of people create the goal, “I want to lose X pounds this year”. In my opinion, weight loss goals are surprisingly ineffective for sustaining exercise motivation over the long run.

Instead consider performance goals, which may help you stay more motivated to exercise not just this year, but for the rest of your life. Getting leaner and stronger is a byproduct of achieving these performance goals.

Creating performance goals also helps shift the focus from the outcome to the process. You approach exercise as a skill that you develop over time. Working out for the sake of working out gets boring for everyone.

That’s why I created 25 fitness goals that are based on improving your performance to help you stay more motivated to exercise. Many of these fitness goals are very difficult, so you can scale them to your fitness level. I personally have several of these goals set sequentially so that as I achieve one, I have another to strive for.

I hope you give one, or more a try this year:

#1 – 10 Pull-Ups

A pull-up is an excellent marker of upper body pulling strength, especially in relation to your own bodyweight. Completing 10 perfect pull-up reps from a dead hang to chin-over-the-bar is worthwhile goal. Losing body fat certainly helps make this goal easier. If you can already do 10 pull-ups, consider 15, or 20 pull-ups, or adding weight such as a weighted vest for a specified number of reps. Ladies who are not able to do any pull-ups can consider 1, or 3 pull-ups.

#2 – 1 Muscle-Up

A muscle up is an advanced pull-up exercise where you forcibly pull your entire torso above the bar then push up your body up so that your body hangs straight toward the ground supported by your arms. The exercise requires substantial pulling strength and core stability. You can see an example of a muscle up here: 10 Pull Up Variations. If you can already do a muscle up, try shooting for 10 in a row.

#3 – 50 Push-Ups

The push-up has been used for centuries as a test of upper body pushing strength and core stability. Working up to 50 push-ups with perfect military-style form (hands slightly wider than shoulder width) requires both strength and muscular endurance. The leaner you get by losing excess body fat, the easier this goal becomes. Shoot for perfect form so that your head, neck, torso, hips, and legs form one solid line while only your arms move. Ladies can shoot for 10 perfect reps military style. See: Proper Push Up Form Video.

#4 – One Arm Push-Up

If you want to take your push-up strength to the next level, the one arm push-up is an excellent exercise to consider. The one arm push-up demands significant muscle tension only using your bodyweight, so be careful as you practice and be sure to warm up and properly progress. An advanced variation of a 1 arm push-up is to lift your opposite back leg, which is called a One Arm One Leg push-up. It’s really tough!

#5 – Touch The Rim

Being able to jump high enough to touch the rim of a 10-foot basketball hoop requires explosive hip strength and power. While it’s not an easy goal if you weren’t born with great jumping ability, getting leaner (losing body fat without losing muscle) can help immensely (See: How Body Fat Affects Athletic Performance). Improving your hip strength and power combined with jumping practice can help you achieve this athletic feat while getting in great shape in the process.

#6 – Run a 5K

If you loved running in the past but have since fallen out of your routine, a 5k may help you get back on track and find your love of running again. Most metropolitan areas should have 5k races on a regular basis as they are very popular to help raise money for non-profit organizations. is an awesome resource for finding various endurance events.

#7 – Do A Spartan Sprint

The Spartan Race is an obstacle course race that has risen dramatically in popularity in recent years. The Spartan Sprint is 3.1 miles with around 20 obstacles that range from spear throwing to climbing walls. Last year I did the Spartan Sprint Citifield. Spartan Races can be a lot of fun and a great way to help inspire you to get in better shape. You can also do it with friends, which makes preparation and the actual race even more fun. Here’s a free Spartan Sprint Training Plan to get you started and you can view and sign up for upcoming races on the Spartan Website.

#8 – 500 Meter Row Under 2:00 Minutes

Most gyms have a stationary rowing machine, which can offer you a quick and simple fitness test by rowing 500 meters as fast as you can. Completing 500 meters under 2 minutes for men, or 2:30 for ladies is a great fitness test to improve your aerobic capacity.

#9 – 50 Double Unders in A Row

Double Unders are a challenging jump rope exercise that requires you to spin the jump rope around your body 2x for every one jump. I created a video to show you how to do them here => Double Unders Proper Form Video. Even if you can’t do one double under right now, I think 50 in a row is a realistic goal to accomplish in a year. And you’ll be in very solid shape if you work up to 50 double unders in a row.

#10 – 1/3 Bodyweight Turkish Get Up

I only learned the Turkish Get Up (TGU) 5 months ago, but it is now one of my top 3 favorite exercises. Movement specialist Gray Cook stated that that the Turkish Get Up is one of his top 5 exercises. The TGU mimics how we first learned to move (rolling, kneeling, standing) and helps create excellent body control and full-body strength because you must use your body as one piece. I recommend getting a certified kettlebell instructor (RKC or StrongFirst) to walk you through the exercise as it is technical, but that’s part of the fun of learning it as you become more proficient. Eventually, you can work up to completing a rep on both sides (right and left hands) with a 1/3 of your bodyweight, and even 1/2 of your bodyweight as a strength feat.

#11 – Pass 5-Minute Kettlebell Snatch Test

In order to become a certified kettlebell instructor at RKC and StrongFirst, you must be able to complete 100 snatches in 5 minutes with a snatch-sized kettlebell, which is 24kg (53 pounds) for men and 16kg (35 pounds) for women. I recently passed a self-administered test, which was a very humbling experience that took months of practice. Kettlebell snatches require a lot of technique practice, an iron grip, hip strength and power, along with excellent cardiovascular endurance. While a “snatch-sized” kettlebell is very heavy for the average gym goer, you can choose a lighter bell with which to practice and test, then work your way up.

#12 – 10 Kettlebell Swings With The Beast

The “Beast” is a 48kg (106 pound) kettlebell that looks like a draconian medieval weapon. A proper kettlebell swing stimulates every muscle in your body, with an emphasis on core strength, hip power, and grip strength. Start with lighter kettlebells to get the form down and slowly work your way up to the Beast. By the time you are able to comfortably swing it for 10 repetitions, you will be a strong dude. Ladies may consider a 24kg, or 32kg goal weight.

#13 – 10-Second Handstand

A 10-second handstand may seem far-fetched, but it’s within your reach with practice. Becoming proficient at handstands offers numerous benefits including improved shoulder mobility and stability (you will likely have to work on your shoulder mobility just to get into a proper handstand position), body control and awareness, along with full body strength and tension. Gold Medal Bodies has a great tutorial on how to master the handstand here => Handstand Tutorial.

#14 – 25-Meter Walking Handstand

If you can do a hand stand already, or want to take your hand stand practice to the next level, you can try different hand balancing exercises. One popular exercise is the walking handstand, which requires significant upper body strength along with core control and balance. See if you can work up to 25 meters without stopping.

#15 – Close Captains of Crush #1 Gripper

The last few months I’ve been obsessed with Captains of Crush (CoC) Grippers to toughen up my hands and help improve my grip strength, which helps immensely with kettlebell training and increasing overall body strength. Most men should start with the CoC Trainer, which requires 100 pounds of pressure to close, and then work up to the CoC #1 that requires 140 pounds of pressure to close. Every man should have a CoC gripper! Ladies can consider the Guide, which requires 60 pounds of pressure, then work up from there.

#16 – 60-Second Double Arm Hang

Human beings are designed with the ability to brachiate, which means hand swing. Think about how children can swing across monkey bars with ease. The ability to hang for over 60 seconds on a bar will vastly improve your grip strength and may help you improve your shoulder mobility and stability. Losing body fat without losing muscle will certainly help you achieve this goal faster. To learn more about hanging than you ever wanted to know, check out this awesome hanging tutorial by Ido Portal.

#17 – 15-Second Single Arm Hang

Hanging on to a bar with one arm is surprisingly difficult. When I first tried, I could barely hold myself up for 5 seconds (thumb under the bar grip) despite being able to do weighted pull ups with 75 pounds for reps. I recommend first working up to at least a 60 second double arm hang before moving on to a single arm hang, which requires substantial grip strength and endurance, along with shoulder strength and stability.

#18 – Touch Your Hands Behind Your Back

Reach your right hand behind your head and your left hand behind your back. Can you get your hands to touch? Being able to touch your hands behind your back tests your shoulder and thoracic spine mobility, along with your scapular rhythm (coordination of your scapula and humerus). This is a tough, but great goal for most guys who have tight shoulders. Ladies usually can perform better on the test, but it’s an equally great test for ladies. Here’s a starting point: 5 Exercises To Correct Rounded Shoulders From Office Work.

#19 – 1.5x Bodyweight Barbell Bench Press

While I’m not the biggest fan of 1 rep max lifts, I think with proper workout progressions, form practice, and solid a warm up routine, the risk posed by an occasional max lifting session can be reduced significantly. Being able to press 1.5x your bodyweight is a very achievable feat of strength. While the barbell bench press can put significant stress on your shoulders if improper form is used, it is a very effective upper body strength and mass builder. See: How To Bench Press With Proper Form & Technique.

#20 – 2x Bodyweight Deadlift

The deadlift is a classic full-body strength training exercise that tests your ability to lift a heavy weight off the ground. While the deadlift can be an effective strength builder, it can also be a dangerous exercise. In order to do deadlift properly, you will need to practice form with lighter weights and achieve adequate hip, hamstring, and upper back flexibility. Without enough flexibility, your lower back will round, which makes the deadlift into a lower back killer instead of a lower back strengthener. A 2x bodyweight deadlift is a solid feat of strength. I strongly recommend working with a knowledgeable strength coach, or personal trainer before attempting this fitness goal. Also see: How To Do A Deadlift With Proper Form & Technique.

#21 – Bodyweight Barbell Back Squat For 10 Reps

Another classic strength exercise – the barbell back squat – is considered by many strength coaches as the king of all strength exercises and when combined with ample calorie and protein intake, an unequaled muscle builder. For much more on the squat, check out How Deep Should You Squat, How To Increase Squat Depth, and How To Barbell Back Squat With Proper Form. Keep in mind most people who are squatting should not be squatting because they lack the mobility to do it safely. I strongly recommend getting at least a “2” on the deep squat test of the Functional Movement Screen before barbell back squatting.

#22 – Hold a Deep Squat For 60 Seconds

While we all could hold a deep squat easily when we were 3 years old, the advent of sitting on chairs has robbed many of us of our innate ability to squat, which is technically a resting position. Here’s what a deep squat looks like => Deep Squat Photo. I completely lost the ability to squat, mostly as a result of a locked up left ankle, but have since regained it after a lot of foam rolling and stretching of my calves along with practicing prying goblet squats. See How to Increase Squat Depth Video for some more information on how to improve your squat.

#23 – Pistol Squat With Both Legs

A pistol squat is a calisthenic exercise where you squat down and up using just one leg while the other leg is extended straight in front of you. This exercise requires great ankle and hip flexibility, along with leg strength and core balance. It takes time and practice to progress. Eventually, you can work up to 1/3 body weight pistol squat, where you hold a weight at your chest like a 20kg kettlebell. Here’s what a pistol squat looks like if you’ve never seen it before => Pistol Squat Photo

#24 – 10 Minutes of Exercise Every Morning For 30 Days

Daily exercise is ideal, whether you are doing some yoga, push ups, jogging, or really any type of physical activity that challenges your body. Given how much the average person sits each day, daily exercise becomes even more important. Consider creating a simple 10-minute morning routine of exercises like push ups, bodyweight squats, and dynamic stretches. It can be a game changer for you if you have trouble with consistency, or only workout a couple times per week. My bet is you will notice results in just a few days as your strength, energy, and flexibility improve.

#25 – 60 Minutes Of Yoga Every Day For 30 Days

I’m only just beginning to fully appreciate the benefits of yoga. The more I learn and practice, the more I believe it’s an exceptional exercise method to help you feel younger, more relaxed, and improve your mobility, body control, and balance. If you feel stiff all the time and stressed, I will make the bold claim that Yoga may change your life completely…if you give it an honest try. If 60 minutes of yoga sounds like too much, try 10, or 20 minutes a day for 30 days.

What are your fitness goals this year? Are there any on this list that you want to try?

I would love to hear your thoughts, so please leave a comment!



  1. profile avatar
    Rajesh Jan 03, 2015 - 10:07 #

    Nice list Mark.
    I have also started doing turkish get up since last month. What a brilliant exercise, to say the least. There is something very special about this, for me, there is a kind of genuineness, flow,concentration and what not. Probably, the only exercise in which the whole brain seem to be involved. I have started using a barbel for this, and it is an excellent challenge. This must be even better than meditation..

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT Jan 03, 2015 - 11:43 #

      I totally agree with you Rajesh! There is no other exercise I’ve done that requires such an awesome mind body connection. The TGU is special, the major drawback for most people is that it takes time to learn and refine, but that for me is what makes it more fun. You can always improve and refine your form.

    2. profile avatar
      Rick Jan 05, 2015 - 23:05 #

      Hey Mark, bought your program last year and was doing great until i injured my leg doing squats. its been 4 months and still have some pain when squatting. have seen chiropractors and PT. any suggestions

      1. profile avatar
        Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT Jan 06, 2015 - 10:13 #

        Hey Rick, I’m really sorry to hear about your injury. I would see an SFMA specialist near you (ideally someone who is SFMA and FMS). You can check out the FMS website for more information, or possibly call them to see if they have any professionals they can recommend who are near you. When you feel pain, that is definitely a sign you need to get checked out and get rid of it.

  2. profile avatar
    adele Jan 03, 2015 - 11:12 #

    Hi Mark,
    I have to modify this list for a “senior woman.” I’m in pretty good shape but a lot of the above is not do-able for me. Not to worry! I do use your basics and modify. Thank you for all your “good stuff.”

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT Jan 03, 2015 - 11:41 #

      My dad who is 68-years-old had the same reaction and thought the goals were really tough, but as you pointed out, they are guidelines that you can scale to your own fitness level. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

      1. profile avatar
        Martin Jan 04, 2015 - 17:44 #

        I’ve been working more on losing belly fat and am proud of myself when I stand in front of the mirror and take a look at a six-pack.
        This year i want to find myself able to do pull ups which has been a challenge to me.
        Thanks Marc perry and your team for all you’ve done to me.

      2. profile avatar
        Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT Jan 04, 2015 - 21:54 #

        Congrats on your success, Martin, and good luck with pull ups!

  3. profile avatar
    Maria Jan 03, 2015 - 12:04 #

    I used to struggle with my back, but strengthened my core and started training for pull-ups last year. It’s my top fitness goal for 2015 to be able to do it.

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT Jan 03, 2015 - 12:14 #

      I think pull-ups are a great goal, Maria. Pull-ups are one of a handful of exercises I do every week.

  4. profile avatar
    justin Jan 03, 2015 - 12:13 #

    awesome list Marc! How many on this list do you think is practical to chase at once?

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT Jan 03, 2015 - 12:20 #

      That’s a great question, Justin. I think it depends on the goals you choose. If the goal is very difficult and requires strength and conditioning like a 100 rep snatch test, I would just focus on that one. The cool thing is that achieving one tough fitness goal will help you achieve others like the 500m row test etc. Another approach is to choose one strength (i.e. 50 push ups), one conditioning (50 double unders), and one flexibility (touching hands behind back) goal. It will help you create a balanced workout routine. This is what I personally do.

  5. profile avatar
    Warren Jan 03, 2015 - 12:17 #

    Yet another really solid article, Marc. I have doubts that I’d be able to do many, if any of fitness goals as written above right now, but I’ll be able to adapt them to fit where I’m currently at. I’ve been following your advice over the past year and have dropped 83 pounds since last Jan. 1. Still have another 45 pounds to go, but have no doubt I’ll get there by the fall. Then it’s on to your course where I’ll focus on the “lean” components.

    Thanks for all of your excellent advice!

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT Jan 03, 2015 - 13:09 #

      Congrats on your success, Warren! And I think adapting the goals is a really good idea.

  6. profile avatar
    grrljock Jan 03, 2015 - 12:18 #

    You make a good point that resolutions based on losing x pounds in a year are usually ineffective. Thanks for the excellent list of goals that we can customize according to our abilities. I’m happy to say that I’ve been doing daily yoga-based warmup and short HIIT for a year now based on your articles, and this regimen has helped me have better lower back health and stay in shape. Now to choose a goal (or two) for this new year.

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT Jan 03, 2015 - 13:43 #

      Awesome, happy to hear that! I think daily yoga is awesome. I’m usually doing some type of yoga or yoga based warm up / dynamic stretching every day.

  7. profile avatar
    Heidi Jan 03, 2015 - 12:19 #

    Thank you for this article. I had a workout plan ready to start next week but will incorporate some of these into my goals. Thanks again!

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT Jan 03, 2015 - 12:21 #

      Happy to hear that Heidi! Following a workout plan is a very smart idea.

  8. profile avatar
    Josiah Jan 03, 2015 - 12:26 #

    I agree that performance goals are far better then just a weight loss goal. When I started running in high school, I didn’t really get into it until I had the goal of running a half marathon. Once I had that end goal it was much easier to stay motivated and focused on running and it was a lot easier to track progress.

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT Jan 03, 2015 - 13:11 #

      Thanks for sharing, Josiah. I was going through the motions myself last year, but after coming up with some of the preceding fitness goals, my workouts have more purpose and are more fun.

  9. profile avatar
    Manon Jan 03, 2015 - 12:35 #

    Hi Marc, me and my daughter have the hardest times doing pull ups, yet we will not give up but really is there a trick or anything you can pin point that will make us reach that goal faster ? lol…

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT Jan 03, 2015 - 13:40 #

      Hey Manon, I do think there is a trick. It’s called greasing the groove, which is a technique I came across from a man named Pavel Tsatsouline. What it means is that practicing pull-ups, or “greasing the groove” is the best way to get better at them. But practicing pull-ups is a different approach than a pull-up workout. Let’s say you can do 3 pull ups total. Instead of shooting for 3 sets of 3, you can do 10 sets of 1. This is a much more effective way of getting great at pull-ups. The idea is to practice a lift with many repetitions but never fail during a set. So you always leave a rep, or two in the tank. Eventually, you can move to ladders, like 1-2-3-4-3-2-1, which is 1 rep, than 2 reps, than 3 reps etc. This ladder strategy allows you to do a lot of pull ups without getting burned out. Strength is a skill, and practicing the exercise will make you better at it surprisingly quickly. If you can’t do any pull ups, I’m a pretty big fan of doing negatives, which means starting at the top of the bar maybe using a chair to help you up, then resisting the negative portion as you go down. Then you can get to 10 sets of 1 and the ladder approach.

  10. profile avatar
    Randy Jan 03, 2015 - 12:40 #

    Do you guys think that rest days are essential for growth?
    And if so, should those rest days be “active” rest days or not
    Wondering because I have so much stuff to get through, and it is hard for me to take rest days

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT Jan 03, 2015 - 13:20 #

      If you mean muscle growth, then yes, I think rest days are important. The most important factor in my opinion regarding active rest vs. complete rest is the quality of your sleep. If you get a lot of sleep (8+ hours) and eat ample calories, then you can likely have active rest days without putting your body into a catabolic state. For more information, you can check out this article by John Leyva: How Do Muscles Grow?

  11. profile avatar
    Teo Jan 03, 2015 - 12:57 #

    Great list! I will incorporate some of these in my 2015 goals.

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT Jan 03, 2015 - 13:33 #

      Thanks Teo

  12. profile avatar
    johnny Jan 03, 2015 - 13:05 #

    How do i get rid of my chest fat? im 53 year-old male had these since i was 18.

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT Jan 03, 2015 - 13:14 #

      Check out this article => How To Lose Chest Fat For Men.

  13. profile avatar
    John Knight Jan 03, 2015 - 13:14 #

    I am 73 years of age and am in fairly good shape. I work out on my BOWFLEX Extreme three times a week for an hour using 13 different exercises. I also walk a nice hilly Golf Course four to five times a week for at least nine holes and eighteen if my partner will ride his cart that far. I also walk a substantial portion of my large yard to cut my grass. Overall I get a pretty good work out each week. One other exercise is dead lift pull ups. Now I do two sets of twenty pull ups and two sets of twenty chin ups with my BOWFLEX set at 260 pounds (130 pounds each side). I do them with the seat in the lower rung to attain maximum benefit. Now using my pull up bar mounted to the ceiling in my workout area, one set of 5 dead lift pull ups is a strain. Then I can do 10 following the first 15. Beats me? Your exercises are good if one uses a gym and that is too far for me to drive (40 miles one way). So I try to tailor your exercises to the BOWFLEX machine and other basics such as push ups. Two years ago I could typically do five sets of 100 push ups among other exercises I did. But, I just cannot work those in with the BOWFLEX and Golf. I feel like I should go back to my old routines and do the BOWFLX twice a week and the old ones once a week. Any suggestions for an Older man?

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT Jan 03, 2015 - 13:30 #

      Hey John, sounds like you are in awesome shape, especially for a 73 year old. If the BowFlex works well for you, I would certainly continue working with it. I do think one day of push ups, pull ups, and maybe even kettlebell swings can help you maintain functional strength. I recently did a fitness assessment for both my parents who are 63 and 68 respectively, and from my perspective, I want to make sure they keep their hips strong and flexible and use their entire body as once piece. So the workouts I created for them are basically push up and pull up / body row supersets (alternating exercises), followed by 5 sets of 10 kettlebell swings on the minute (I went over the form with them in detail). I used to not like kettlebell swings, but have since learned that they help keep your hips and spine strong. When testing for osteoporosis and bone health, doctors look at your hips and spine. That’s why I think some type of hip hinging exercise like the kettlebell swing is particularly important for older individuals and it should also help your golf game. I could go on in much more detail, and I may write an article about fitness for seniors, but hope this is helpful.

  14. profile avatar
    Fiker Taddese Jan 03, 2015 - 13:21 #

    Happy New Year Marc! I’d like to thank u for giving you’re experience! I can do 30 push-ups, 15 muscle-ups, 10 pull-ups, 40 set-ups everyday.My chest is very good it is attractive, like yours. But my arm is still thin, in fact it’s not proportional with it’s length I can’t wear a body or T-shirt freely. Marc how can I build my arm? I ‘m looking your answer sincerely, Thanks
    Fiker T.

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT Jan 03, 2015 - 14:14 #

      Hey Fiker, I had the same challenge myself after graduating college. If you want bigger arms, I think the fastest way is working them directly. Consider working up to 3 to 5 sets of dumbbell curls (or barbell if you have access to it) and lying triceps extension with a bar or dumbbell(s). If you add weight progressively to those two exercises, they should do the trick. If you are around 5’10”, shooting for 14 inch arms (flexed) is a reasonable goal and should help your body look proportional. If you are shorter or taller, than you can adjust up or down 0.5-1 inch. We have a couple articles you can check out for more detailed information, but I would keep things simple and just choose a couple exercises => Best Biceps Exercise For Gaining Muscle Mass and Best Triceps Exercise To Build Muscle Mass.

  15. profile avatar
    Andy Jan 03, 2015 - 13:52 #

    Thanks for sharing our handstand tutorial, Marc.

    Accomplishing everything on this list will definitely be a challenge for a lot of people whose training has been limited to a narrow field or discipline. Getting strong and agile across a broad base of movements and activities is a great goal.

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT Jan 03, 2015 - 14:04 #

      Thanks, Andy. I’m a big fan of GMB.

  16. profile avatar
    Dillon Jan 03, 2015 - 14:07 #

    Hey Marc,

    I’m a 21 year old male, am in decent shape with a BMI of 20. I have been a long distance runner since high school and am now trying to gain some more muscle mass and gain a slightly more defined look. It has been hard for me to gain muscle though. I try to eat whole foods with close to no additives and enough calories to supply my muscles with the energy neede to build but it still seems I’m lacking something to really see results. Any tips?

    Thanks- Dillon

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT Jan 03, 2015 - 15:22 #

      Building muscle is tough. The whole foods approach you are using is excellent for fat loss and overall health, but it’s also exceedingly difficult to eat enough calories to build muscle. I would consider upping your fat intake to help you eat more calories. In addition, while I don’t promote shakes in general, for muscle building, shakes can help you consume a lot more calories than you could otherwise => 5 Best Protein Shake Recipes That Taste Great. Finally, creating strength targets in the higher rep ranges (i.e. incline dumbbell bench press with 50 pound dumbbells for 12 reps) will help you get bigger and stronger over time. So getting strong in higher rep ranges is associated with muscle gain. You can check out John Leyva’s article on the science of muscle growth here, and I do hope to add some more muscle building articles this year => How Do Muscles Grow?. Finally, if you have access to a gym and have proper form, I’ve never come across anything like barbell squats (low and high rep) for building muscle.

  17. profile avatar
    bob Jan 03, 2015 - 14:07 #

    Mark, discovered your site recently and glad to see it’s still active, since many articles were from a few years ago. Would definitely enjoy an article on strength/fitness/health for seniors, but I’d like to see a focus on what I’ll call the “middle agers” – 40-60 – not quite senior, but still having the ability to do a fair amount of strength training. I’m 52, 145, 5’8″, and doing a lot of strength training over the past year as I noticed a lot of muscle loss after being primarily a runner and distance swimmer. I’ve switched my swimming to 50-150 yard intervals with 30 seconds rest, and starting the same on the treadmill for the winter (at 8-9 degree inclines). I tend to keep the weights fairly low in fear of damaging my already weak back and knees. I eat a ton, lots of protein and veggies. Unfortunately, I have no colleagues or peers in similar physical condition so an article would help motivate. Thanks.

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT Jan 03, 2015 - 15:09 #

      Hey bob, I think switching to interval training is a really smart move. You can get in better shape faster with less volume. I would address your weak knees and back and keep tabs on them. You may consider finding an FMS certified instructor, or knowledgeable physical therapist to help you get your knees and back stronger. In my experience, especially with runners, lack of glute strength and activation puts more pressure on the knees / low back. So doing glute activation exercises, along with squat / hip-hinge movements may help you get much stronger and address your weaknesses. But again, ideally you could find a qualified professional near you to do a full evaluation.

  18. profile avatar
    Christopher Jan 03, 2015 - 14:36 #

    Hi Marc:

    I read alot of fitness blogs/advice — and this is one of the best posts I’ve seen in a long time. I especially enjoyed the 10 pull up variations — I honestly had no idea. Bravo to you and this blog: a fresh approach away from boredom and the same dull and uninspiring fitness regimens.



    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT Jan 03, 2015 - 15:02 #

      Thanks, Chris. I appreciate it.

  19. profile avatar
    Manon Jan 03, 2015 - 15:51 #

    Thanks Marc, I ll be sure to try the negative techiniques as well as the 1 set of 1…and get up the latter. (:

  20. profile avatar
    Lee martin Jan 03, 2015 - 16:22 #

    I have been doing Pilate’s weekly for 6 months and am now virtually joint pain free which has enabled me to start a diet and training regime. Do you utilise Pilates at all?

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT Jan 04, 2015 - 11:03 #

      Hey Lee, I don’t do Pilates, but I have tried it a few times. Happy that it helped you. I think Pilates is particularly effective at helping with alignment, breathing, and posture in general.

  21. profile avatar
    Hiwot Jan 03, 2015 - 17:02 #

    Hi Marc!!
    Happy new year. I am so happy you are back and making all the good suggestion for 2015….
    I am gonna work on my one arm stand !!!
    You are the best Thx much!!

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT Jan 04, 2015 - 11:01 #

      Thanks, Hiwot. A one arm stand is a very tough goal, but impressive goal, so good luck!

  22. profile avatar
    Peter A Jan 03, 2015 - 17:14 #

    Thanks Marc. 100% thoughtful and relevant. Have a great 2015.
    I am lucky that I have the time to do 3 x 60 min building lean sessions in gym plus 3 X swims each week. I will include some of the target exercises listed in my sessions.
    PS. I just had some favourite trousers altered – 40 inch waist reduced to 37 inches!
    Thanks for helping me a lot over the last 3 years!!

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT Jan 04, 2015 - 11:00 #

      That’s awesome, Peter. Congrats! Exercising daily, or almost every day is certainly ideal.

  23. profile avatar
    Michelle Jan 03, 2015 - 18:01 #

    Happy New Years Marc! Great list, very thoughtful and insightful. Which ones will you be working on?
    How about adding a burpee challenge? One of my fitness goals is to be able to do 50 burpee’s with push up’s in one set.

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT Jan 04, 2015 - 10:54 #

      Nice to hear from you, Michelle. I think a burpee challenge can be a great goal, but I actually don’t recommend burpees for most women and think they can be a dangerous exercise. The reason why is that, on average, women lack core strength and stability. So what ends up happening is excessive low back arching (hyperxtension) to compensate for a weak core. I’ve done a ton of Functional Movement Screens, and most women get a “1”, or barely a “2” on the Trunk Stability Push Up screen – Functional Movement Screen Review. Women tend to have great mobility but lack stability, which is the opposite of men.

      So if you can complete 20 perfect push ups while keeping your body stiff as a board in one line while only your arms move, than I think you are likely ready for the burpee challenge. Just to be clear, I do think burpees can be a great exercise, they just create significant forces as they are plyometric so they are much more advanced than most people realize.

      I have a very long list of goals separated into strength, conditioning, and flexibility. My immediate goals are respectively (1) TGU with The Beast, (2) 100 Snatches under 4:30 with 24kg, and (3) a score of “2” without warm up on the Deep Squat FMS.

  24. profile avatar
    Scott Jan 03, 2015 - 20:00 #

    Thank you for another great article Marc. I have been following your posts for about a year now. One of my goals this year is to be able to do sets of 12 pull UPS. I have recently been working on improving my shoulder strength and also my upper back as I feel these are weak points. I like you idea of 1×10 and building on that using the ladder method to get to my sets of 12. I look forward to your future articles and advice. I spent most of my life very obese and sedentary. In 2008, I decided I needed to take control of my life and start living life rather than sitting back watching life pass by. With a great deal of motivation and a drastic change in lifestyle, I lost 258 lbs and there began my new obsession to be fit and healthy. I am currently doing a six day on, one day off program that I made up myself from your advice and reading other books and health magazines. I am seeing positive results but wonder how often I should switch things up. A friend from the gym switches programs every six weeks. What are your thoughts on this?

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT Jan 04, 2015 - 10:41 #

      That’s an unbelievable transformation, Scott, congrats. I think exercise can get very confusing for people. I personally like less variety rather than more in my strength training routines to keep things simple. I also think the idea of “muscle confusion” is incredibly overrated. Progression is substantially more important in my opinion and the most important thing is staying consistent. What I think could work well is to create a new workout plan every 2-3 months so that you create a handful of workouts and follow them. I have a rolling workout plan where I create 2, or 3 workouts, then I add things in and take things out over time, and sometimes I will create a completely different set of workouts. Of course, I do this for a living and invest time and energy into it, but I do think it’s manageable even for someone who is not a fitness professional.

  25. profile avatar
    Ravi Jan 03, 2015 - 20:21 #

    Hi Marc, and Happy New Year! I completed your 8-week Built Lean program exercise-for-exercise in the fall and feel great. I have been doing some of the standalone workouts since then and mixing things up with hockey, elliptical and weights since then, but plan to re-visit the 8-week program starting in February. In the meantime I think one fitness goal especially for older folks — or people who really just haven’t exercised but want to start from point zero — is “commit to sweating from exertion twice a day.” People should check with their physicians but if folks can commit to pushing themselves to sweat when walking, etc., especially for seniors, I think this can get them over the hump of being afraid of exertion. Thank you Marc for your caring, detailed and sincere approach to this lifelong challenge of living healthfully!

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT Jan 04, 2015 - 01:55 #

      Pumped to hear you enjoyed the program and thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  26. profile avatar
    Liz Jan 03, 2015 - 20:27 #

    Thanks Mark! These are all really good aims but Im afraid I have to “scale down” as Im although Ive plenty of experience in basic training I have never done it intensely until this year.
    There are good ideas that I can aim for in the long term eg Im nearly getting a kipping pullup so maybe a strict isnt impossible, one legged squat with assistance to begin with. I got my first double under the week before Christmas 🙂 Here’s to stringing some together. I think as long as u take a realistic approach, one step at a time and never give up then you get stronger anyway and become a better athlete

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT Jan 04, 2015 - 01:55 #

      Sounds like a great approach, Liz. One step at a time leads to great progress and congrats on doing your first double under!

  27. profile avatar
    Milimo Jan 03, 2015 - 21:12 #

    Awesome article.. cant wait to get started. completed a few on the list, going to enjoy the coming months attempting the rest.

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT Jan 04, 2015 - 01:53 #

      Great to hear, keep us posted on how they go.

  28. profile avatar
    Tamara Jan 03, 2015 - 21:29 #

    Hi Mark thank you for the list I really like the concept of setting fitness goals. Last year I set the goal of being able to do a pull ups with out assistance by the end of summer, and I can now do 3-6 pull ups on my own.

    I really liked the advice you gave to Manon about ‘greasing the groove’ because I, funny enough, do 3 sets of 3 pull ups so i’ll change that to 10 sets of 1 and move on to ladders!

    From your list my new goals are to be able to do pistol squats and the 60 second double arm hang because I need to improve my grip strength as I find my self slipping off a bar when trying to do pull ups or hanging leg raises.

    I am excited to work hard and achieve them! thank you so much.

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT Jan 04, 2015 - 01:53 #

      Being able to do a few pull ups is an awesome accomplishment, Tamara. Congrats. I also have pistol squats on my list, so that makes two of us!

  29. profile avatar
    Robin Chua Jan 03, 2015 - 22:24 #

    Great article Marc!
    Wishing you and all readers a wonderful and fulfilling new year too.
    Forever fit to one and all!

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT Jan 04, 2015 - 01:52 #

      Thanks, Robin!

  30. profile avatar
    Nic Jan 03, 2015 - 23:29 #

    Thanks! Great list to start the new year. Great advice on the knees and lower back pain of the runner.

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT Jan 04, 2015 - 01:51 #

      Thanks, Nic!

  31. profile avatar
    raj Jan 04, 2015 - 00:48 #

    Hi Marc
    First of all,great advise on having some goal other than losing xyz pounds.
    What I would like to know is what yoga postures do you do on a daily basis?
    I googled yoga and there is just so much to do,I was thinking maybe some breathing exercises coupled with a few stretching exercises?What do you think?

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT Jan 04, 2015 - 10:31 #

      You’re absolutely right, Raj. There is a lot you can do with Yoga and there are certainly many people who dedicate their lives to learning yoga. I think the best way to get started is either (1) to take a yoga class near you, or find a basic beginners Yoga DVD (I don’t have any to recommend unfortunately at this time). There are many different types of Yoga so it can get confusing (See: 8 Types of Yoga. I like Vinyasa as it’s free flowing and not incredibly slow or difficult. Here are some poses I like:

      1) Downward Dog
      2) Upward Dog
      3) Extended Triangle + Side Angle
      4) Warrior 1 + Warrior 2
      5) High Lunge + Variations

      I definitely recommend practicing yoga and getting a feel for it. At worse, you will learn some new interesting ways to help mobilize your body and improve your breathing.

  32. profile avatar
    Momo Jan 04, 2015 - 02:57 #

    While I can do a few items in the list, it is still a tough one. Thanks for suggesting the challenge.

    I started reading your articles a few months ago and have followed some of the suggestions. The result is more than I had imagined and I haven’t looked back. As you have seen from previous comments, there is absolutely no reason for seniors (I, being one) not to start. In fact, it is imperative for this group to maintain strength and flexibility.

    Thanks Marc, for showing the way.

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT Jan 04, 2015 - 09:55 #

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Momo. Very happy to hear you are seeing results and are motivated to exercise.

  33. profile avatar
    Paul Jan 04, 2015 - 08:10 #

    Great list Marc. My goals last year were to increase bench and pull ups which I have done. Still be the goal this year along with increasing lower body power. The past 3 months for bench I’ve been doing 3 sets of 2-3-5 with 2 minute rest in between everything. For pull-ups i have been doing eight 1 minute sets of 5 pull-ups, ie, if it took 20 seconds to do 5 pull-ups, I’d rest for 40 seconds then start next set. Do you think these are good exercises to build around? I add incline/decline presses, rows and curls for these lifting sessions too. Or would a total body strength circuit be more advantageous? Thanks.

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT Jan 04, 2015 - 10:06 #

      Hey Paul, a pushing and pulling motion like the bench and pull ups are certainly good exercises to build around. The rep ranges you are using for bench are heavily geared toward strength building. If that’s your goal, then the low rep / high rest makes sense. I personally like using circuits, or supersetting exercises so that you do a set of bench, then a set of pull ups, and continue alternating. While bench and pull ups have some overlap in terms of musculature used, the prime mover muscles are opposite (i.e. chest/triceps vs. back/biceps). So this allows for some recuperation even as you are completing another exercise. So personally, I would pair these exercises together and alternate between them, but it’s your call. I do really like “on the minute” training, which is what you are currently doing with pull ups. It’s not a circuit, but keeps your heart rate high and is intense. You can certainly build that type of training into your program. Finally, I think adding a couple leg dominant exercises is something to consider. See 7 Primal Movement Patterns For Full Body Strength.

  34. profile avatar
    Lisa Jan 04, 2015 - 12:40 #

    GREAT LIST.. I was just thinking about how I will set my goals for the next while and you have now given me the inspiration for setting my goals for the year. I’m looking forward to starting on my goals now. A little direction goes a long way. Thanks

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT Jan 04, 2015 - 21:56 #

      Awesome, happy to hear it was helpful, Lisa.

  35. profile avatar
    Jay Jan 04, 2015 - 14:30 #

    Another great article man. I like that you emphasize bodyweight excercises. Im a fan of the basic pullups, pushups, dips and squats. Great ideas here to change up from the usual bodyweight routine. Performing pistol squats and a 10 second handstand is gonna be this years goal for me. Happy new years.

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT Jan 04, 2015 - 22:15 #

      Thanks, Jay. I think Pistol squats and a 10-second handstand are great goals. If you can do 1 arm push up already, consider a 1 arm 1 leg push up. It’s very tough, but I recently read a bodyweight training book called Naked Warrior by Pavel Tsatsouline who is a guy I really respect. The two exercises he chose as a full workout routine (yes, just two exercises!) are the pistol squat and the one arm, one leg push up. Both these exercises require significant tension / strength.

  36. profile avatar
    Matthew Hirst Jan 05, 2015 - 23:44 #

    Marc, I have been following your advice for a while now; at age 57, I am in the best shape of my life, evidenced in part by my resting heart rate of 54 bpm, a 114/62 blood pressure, and a 32″ waist measurement.

    My challenge is sensitive rotator cuffs. I work my shoulders frequently to build strength and size, but I am frequently plagued by moderate rotator cuff pain. Any chance you’ll be writing something soon to help those like me from creating shoulder problems as we train?

    Thanks, Marc. Congratulations on your success.


    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT Jan 06, 2015 - 10:26 #

      Congrats on your success, Matthew. Those health markers look solid.

      I was just outlining a shoulder mobility article/video. I’ve had really tight shoulders for a long time and finally have made huge strides in increasing my mobility and stability, and ending the crankiness I feel.

      I will share detailed information I hope in the next 1-2 months, but for now, here are a couple tips:

      1) If you are not within a couple inches of touching your hands behind your back, I would stop all overhead pressing movements. Overhead pressing requires a surprisingly mobile and stable shoulder. It’s a very advanced exercise in my opinion.

      2) Always “pack your shoulders” when you lift, this means your shoulders should be down and away from your ears, with extra stabalization coming from your lat muscle.

      3) If you are experiencing rotator cuff pain, there are several possible reasons. Regardless of the reason, the ideal is to get your shoulders down and away from your ears, so that the joint is “centrated”. The shoulder must be mobile and stable. If your shoulders are tight, consider using a lacrosse ball and massaging your chest muscles, upper traps, then foam roll the lats. Also look into getting a radroller. The idea is to test and re-test after each exercise to see if it made a difference in your mobility. Then you can follow up with stability exercises include band pull aparts, W’s, Y’s, and T’s.

      If these don’t help immediately, you should definitely get checked out by a qualified physical therapist. The “p” word – pain – is a clear sign something is wrong and should be addressed.

  37. profile avatar
    Thandi Jan 06, 2015 - 00:34 #

    Thank you for this article. I want to try the 10 minutes work out every morning…I have never done yoga but m willing to give it a try. My goal is to stay fit and adapt a healthy life style…

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT Jan 06, 2015 - 10:27 #

      Good luck, Thandi. I think Yoga every morning is a great goal.

  38. profile avatar
    Matthew Hirst Jan 06, 2015 - 23:57 #

    Marc, I appreciate your thorough and thoughtful response. This is great advice, and I’m looking forward to your related video. Wishing you continued success in 2015.


  39. profile avatar
    Gaby Jan 11, 2015 - 10:45 #

    Thanks for the awesome info

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT Jan 12, 2015 - 23:45 #

      Happy you liked the article, Gaby!

  40. profile avatar
    John Knight Jan 13, 2015 - 09:05 #

    I cannot find exercise routines for a Turkish Get Up or a Kettle Bell. I want to see what these routines consist of before deciding to try and work some or many of them into my routines. Nice words of enthusiasm about both being great but no visuals to support the what, why, when, and where? So would you rush out and purchase a Kettle Bell with no real idea what you can do with it other than a boat anchor? Ditto Turkish Get Up. Sounds like a dress and may be pretty but not for a guy?

    Give and old man a hint.

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT Jan 15, 2015 - 15:09 #

      Hey John, I understand what you’re saying. I would start out choosing a couple fitness goals that do not seem too difficult at this point. For the turkish get up, I strongly suggest getting a certified kettlebell instructor to teach you, either RKC, or StrongFirst ideally. It will be well worth the time and money invested. You can also learn how to do a proper kettlebell swing and kettlebell basics. The kettlebell is a pretty awesome tool to help your body get stronger and leaner. While I do intend on creating some instructional kettlebell videos, it’s best to meet with a competent fitness professional. For now, if you want to learn the basic kettlebell exercises, you can search youtube for “Phil Scarito” and the name of the kettlebell exercise you want to learn. Phil is someone I’ve learned from myself and he’s a StrongFirst master level instructor.

  41. profile avatar
    Anabelle Jan 23, 2015 - 01:56 #

    Hi Marc, I’ve been running for about ten years but have put on roughly 10-15 lbs over the last two even though I’m active and eat pretty well. In 2015, I decided to start weight training. I’m a 32-year-old female, and I’m 5’4″. When I began my diet/fitness routine on January 1st, I weighed 151 lbs (pear-shaped, 28″ waist, carrying most of my weight in lower body). I lost 4 lbs in the five days (guessing mostly water weight) and have been a steady 147 lbs since then. I’m frustrated and don’t want to lose the drive to keep going. I run 30-40 minutes four days per week, strength train 60 minutes three days per week with low weights and high reps, and then do one 2-hour heavy weight/low rep workout after my run on Sunday mornings. I’m using My Fitness Pal to track all of my food, which I also weigh, and my food intake averages 1300-1600 calories per day. I can see more muscle definition, but my weight and measurements haven’t budged. Any advice?

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT Jan 29, 2015 - 20:04 #

      Hey Anabelle, I think strength training is a smart move, which will pay off dividends as you age. I wrote a pretty comprehensive article on weight loss plateaus, which I encourage you to check out. I think it may answer some of your questions.

      First, I wouldn’t stress at all, it’s only been a couple of weeks. Second, I would reconsider the use of light weights, I think they are far less effective than working with weights that are as heavy as you can handle comfortably. If you were my client, I would have you swinging (within a couple of months) a 40-50 pound kettlebell for 5 sets of 10 on the minute! Heavier weights will create a larger metabolic effect and cause more muscle damage, which boosts calorie burn overall (science shows this afterburn effect). And it’s also fun to get strong! Somewhere around 10-15 reps is ok, but use a weight that challenges you. It sounds like you are doing A LOT of exercise, which is great, but I hope it’s sustainable. I would rather see someone workout 2x per week and keep doing it than 6x per week for a month, or two.

      My own opinion is to go lower rather than higher on calories, but this is a slippery slope and you may want to check in with a nutritionist. Most studies show that on average people tend to overestimate calorie burn and underestimate calorie intake. Here’s one example => Of course, you may be doing everything perfectly, but even tracking foods with a calorie tracker may not be completely accurate.

      Lastly, I created a very structured program – my 8-week BuiltLean Program – for the purpose of trying to decrease the stress of creating a plan because the fitness and nutrition programs are already laid out. It sounds like you have some structure, but the more structure I think the better when following a plan, as long as it’s not too rigid. With the eating, my philosophy is to keep things simple and less varied (i.e. limit food choices, but not food groups). I know this is a lot of info so hope this is a helpful starting point. Just remember what you are doing is healthy as long as you don’t stress too much about it and can sustain it without too much trouble. Keep up the good work and think about it as a journey, not a sprint!

  42. profile avatar
    Romelia Thurston Nov 14, 2016 - 00:13 #

    Great write-up! I am normal visitor of this site, so please maintain the excellent operation. I plan to be a regular visitor for a long time.

    1. profile avatar
      Kristin Rooke, CPT Nov 14, 2016 - 12:10 #

      Thanks! We’re glad you’re enjoying our articles, and definitely plan to keep our content quality high.

      -Kristin, BuiltLean Coach & Managing Editor

  43. profile avatar
    Rabindranauth Oudit Nov 26, 2016 - 10:51 #

    I am 52 and work out 3 times per week with light weight and build so fast my body respond to light weight.

  44. profile avatar
    corburterilio Jan 04, 2017 - 04:41 #

    I really like your writing style, wonderful information, thanks for putting up 😀

    1. profile avatar
      Kristin Jan 04, 2017 - 11:24 #

      Glad you enjoyed it!
      -Kristin, BuiltLean Coach & Managing Editor

  45. profile avatar
    David Jan 07, 2017 - 15:47 #

    Fantastic list. Pretty much every one is incredibly possible, but not done. (I’ve got the hang, OCR and BW squat clicked off.) Thanks

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT Jan 16, 2017 - 18:19 #

      Thanks for the comment, David. Hang, OCR, and BW squat are fundamental exercises, so that’s great to hear

  46. profile avatar
    JCP Jan 25, 2017 - 08:48 #

    Hi Mark
    I’m picking some of these items for my goals this year. I’m a 50yr old female.
    #8 500m in 2:30 for female- what is the resistance setting on the rowing machine?

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT Jan 25, 2017 - 20:55 #

      That’s a great question. All these machines are different, consider 5 if it’s out of 10. That’s usually considered pretty optimal. You could try even lower, around a 3 given it’s 500m

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