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Attacking the 10-Minute Conditioning Challenge

I’m loving RVTKD Instructor Luke Ryan’s new ten minute fitness challenge, and if you’re a member of our dojang, I encourage to do so. For me, part of the fun of this exercise is the way it forces us to think carefully about what my body does well and what it needs help with. If you’ve found the challenge intimidating, and you don’t know where to start, this outline may help you figure out how to approach the series in a way that works for you, whatever your current fitness level.

I’ve put these in order from easiest to hardest. People with the least conditioning experience can make progress with the first couple of concepts, then move on to the harder ones. Good luck, and let me know how you’re coming along.



If 400 reps in 10 minutes feels daunting, try setting a goal of 200 reps in 5 minutes. If you split every exercise in half, and do it in half the time, you’ll still develop multiple areas of fitness across your entire body, building a solid foundation for the full challenge. It takes the body a few minutes to reach anaerobic threshold, so for many of us, you may only find yourself out of breath, with shrieking muscles, for a minute or two.


This is a good complement to the previous approach. To build endurance, and to get a sense of what it feels like to complete the challenge, just let the stopwatch keep running while you do all 400 reps. You might go all out and finish in 11:35 or 16:51, or whatever you’re up for on that particular day. Or, just as valid, you could pace yourself and take twenty or thirty minutes—just getting in the work without making any attempt to push yourself to exhaustion.

This approach will feel familiar to anyone who’s trained for a marathon or other long-distance race. Once you’ve logged the distance (or in this case, the repetitions) it won’t seem so scary, and then you can always work on lowering your total time. Alternating between these first two workout types would be a perfectly good formula for getting down to ten minutes, though the number of weeks/months it might take will vary from person to person.


If you find pull-ups difficult, or split squats, or whatever makes your body say NOPE, do as many of the easier exercises as you can, and sprinkle in a few of the hard ones. If you can do 60% of the full 400, you’ll be able to make progress on the remaining skills each time you do a session. If you do the challenge at home three times a week, and maintain that for a month, I bet you’ll be surprised at how much progress you make on the exercises that seem hardest at first.


If you can do all the exercises reasonably well, and you’re working toward getting them all done in ten minutes, play with the way you break the exercises into sets, and vary the focus on which body part(s) are being abused worked.

Some of these exercises are compound motions that trash fatigue the whole body (burpees, get-ups) and those are just plain tiring. Spread those out so you’re not obliterating depleting your body past the point where it can recover in the available time.

Other exercises focus on very specific muscles (weighted split squats, bench dips) and will quickly crush tire those body parts. Is it better to do, for example, ALL the split squats at once so you don’t have to come back to then, or does that deplete your body too much to do burpees later? Is it better to do the most tiring exercises at the start, when you’re fresh, or just grind them out when you’re already tired and are just trying to get across the finish line? The answers will be different for everyone, and the only way you know is to find out for yourself.


For those who are already quite fit and closing in on the magic number of 400, doing longer sets of each exercise means valuable seconds won’t disappear into the transitions. If you’re doing fifty push-ups in five sets of ten, you’ll use fifteen or twenty seconds going from pushups to whatever comes next. Same with doing ten sets of one pull-up at a time, and so forth. It’d take elite strength and endurance to do all ten exercises in one set each, but depending on how your body works, you might be able to do two or three of the exercises in a set or two. The closer you get to that ten-exercises-in-ten-sets ideal, the more time you’ll save. Less obvious, you may be able to save seconds here and there by transitioning from one exercise that’s on the ground to another that’s also on the ground. If you’re going back and forth between push-ups and air squats, you’re doing a get-up (sort of) between each set. As you’ve surely noticed if you’ve tried them, get-ups are both tiring and time-consuming, so avoiding them is awesome. Looking carefully at transitions might help you a little, and as you get closer to a challenging goal, every little bit helps.

1. 10-Minute Conditioning Challenge
2. Attacking the 10-Minute Conditioning Challenge

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