What are the toughest, most mentally and physically challenging workouts that you’ve ever done? There are many discussions online on this topic, so I figured I’d add my own opinion to the mix. These are in no particular order; just a list of things that absolutely, positively destroyed me.

20 rep squats

  1. Load a barbell with a load you normally squat for ~10 reps
  2. Unrack the barbell
  3. Don’t rack it again until you’ve done 20 reps

Back in 2009, I did 20 rep squats once every week as part of my Crossfit hybrid routine. I started at 205lbs and each time I got through all 20 reps, I’d add 5-10lbs for next week. I made it up to 300lbs for a set of 20 before quitting. It was without a doubt the longest, most excruciatingly unpleasant, dear-god-make-it-stop-can’t-breath single set of any exercise I’ve ever done. This is why 20 rep squats have been nicknamed “widow makers”, “man breakers”, “breathing squats”, and “death sets” and are discussed all over the web.

I have to admit that, week after week, 20 rep squats were the one workout I dreaded. I typically did them on Wednesdays and would spend all day at work thinking about them and trying to come up with excuses for skipping the gym. Once the weight got heavy, I’d be sore for days after the 20 rep workout. Having said that, they were also extremely effective. I saw huge gains in 2009 both in terms of mental toughness and overall strength: squat +90lbs, deadlift +50lbs, overhead press +30lbs, power clean +50lbs, snatch +60lbs, etc.



Five rounds for time of:

  1. Run 800 meters
  2. 2 pood Kettlebell swing, 30 reps
  3. 30 Pull-ups

Like most Crossfit workouts, Eva is done “for time”, which means you try to get through the workout as fast as you possibly can. Unlike most Crossfit workouts, Eva makes me want to quit long before I’m done. The combination of 2.5 miles of running, 150 heavy KB swings and 150 pull-ups destroys my lungs, legs, and grip. It’s a 45-60 minute nightmare of a workout and it takes every bit of my willpower to pick up that kettlebell each round.

Rowing and burpees


For time:

  1. Row 1000 meters
  2. 25 Burpees
  3. Row 750 meters
  4. 50 Burpees
  5. Row 500 meters
  6. 75 Burpees

Rowing and burpees both have the ability to get my heart rate through the roof. Putting together 2250m of rowing and 150 burpees made me feel like my chest would explode. I’ve only done this workout once and am not sure I ever want to do it again.

Inverted burpees

Inverted burpee

Five rounds for time of:

  1. 25 Inverted Burpees
  2. 25 Pull-ups
  3. 25 Burpees

You know what’s worse than burpees? Inverted burpees. Seriously, these things are downright mean. And 125 of them - in addition to 125 pull-ups and 125 normal burpees - is just plain evil.

400m repeats


This may seem like a strange one, but I’m not sure any other workout allows me to approach 100% exertion quite like all-out 400m repeats. I’m actually a pretty terrible runner and suffer at any distance, but 400m has a special place in my heart. It starts out easy, but before you know it, every muscle in your body is burning and your veins are pumping battery acid.

Pick your poison

What workouts do YOU fear? Post them in the comments.