Pushing your body as hard as you can (a la HIIT) is one way to challenge yourself. Another? Mastering a physical skill. Performing a movement pattern that you don’t typically do develops new neuromuscular connections, which can amp the efficiency of your regular workouts, says David Freeman, national program manager for the Alpha Training program at Life Time Fitness. (Research proves it also keeps your brain sharp!) Weave in one of these drills (after your warm-up or at the end of your workout) up to three times a week. Focus on the same exercise for at least three weeks in a row if you’re looking to conquer it; switch it up weekly if you want to keep your body and mind continually tested. (Torch fat, get fit, and look and feel great with Women’s Health’s All in 18 DVD!)
Of course, you need upper- and lower-body strength to scale a swaying object—but you also need grip control, of both your hands and feet. That’s something that isn’t trained often enough (or ever, in the case of your feet).
In this dramatic version of jumping rope, you leap powerfully enough into the air so the rope can hit the ground twice before your feet do. It may be a stationary move, but it quickly raises your heart rate to torch cals fast and develops your fast-twitch muscle fibers (needed for explosive speed).
A single-leg squat (balancing on one leg as you drop down low into a squat, the other leg straight in the air in front of you) is so damn hard—but builds incredible lower-body strength while shoring up your muscles against injuries and imbalances. To master it, first use a counterbalance (place your hands on a wall or try a TRX) so you don’t fall. Eventually, as your legs get stronger, lose the props.