As the New Year begins, millions of people want to transform their bodies.

While weight goals can be very effective, performance goals can lead to sustained fitness for the long run. 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’ve chosen various fitness goals that are based on improving your performance in order 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. 15 pull-ups

A pull-up is an excellent marker of upper body pulling strength, especially in relation to your own body weight. Completing 10 perfect pull-up reps from a dead hang to chin-over-the-bar is a 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.

  1. 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, locking out your arms so that your body hangs straight toward the ground and is supported by your arms. The exercise requires substantial pulling strength and core stability. (By the way, it happens to look pretty cool, which is I why I chose it for the Rabbi Fitness logo). If you can already do a muscle-up, try shooting for 8-10 in a row.

  1. 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.

  1. One-armed push-up

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

  1. 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. 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.

  1. 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 have 5K races on a regular basis as they are a popular way to help raise money for non-profit organizations.

  1. 60-second handstand

A 60-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.

  1. 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 the monkey bars with ease. The ability to hang for more than 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 1.5 times bodyweight
    barbell bench press

While I’m not a big fan of one rep max lifts, I think with proper workout progressions, form practice, and a solid warmup routine, the risk posed by an occasional max lifting session can be reduced significantly. Being able to press 1.5 times 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.

  1. 2 times 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 the 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 2 times 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.

  1. 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. Keep in mind that most people who are squatting should not be squatting because they lack the mobility to do it safely.

  1. Improve your workout of the day
    (WOD) time

If you’ve given CrossFit a chance, you’ve probably encountered “Fran” - one of its most popular WODs. The routine itself is short, but it doesn’t feel that way. Fran consists of three rounds of barbell thrusters and pull-ups, done for 21, 15 and 9 total reps, respectively. Most beginning CrossFitters complete Fran in 8 to 10 minutes; the elite ones do it in well under three.


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 drop me a comment!


The information provided contained in this article is for educational purposes only. Rabbi Fitness LLC is not a doctor. The contents of this article should not be taken as medical advice. It is not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any health problem– nor is it intended to replace the advice of a physician. Always consult your physician or qualified health professional on any matters regarding your health and/or engagement in physical activity, especially if you (or your family) have a history of high blood pressure, heart disease, or if you have ever experienced chest pain when exercising or have experienced chest pain in the past month when not engaged in physical activity, smoke, have high cholesterol, are obese, or have a bone or joint problem that could be made worse by a change in physical activity.

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