4 training paths to support your fitness needs

I’ve always been a fan of video games, books, and movies where the characters have roles that they play in the story where their physical attributes reflect their training. Some of the more common tropes (especially in media where life or death situations are common) are the armored warrior, the fast swordsman/gunman, the stealthy scout, and the ninja/Batman. Each one of these character types have to undergo specific training to make them the best at what they do. Today I’m presenting four Paths, named for these common tropes, and the training you would likely need to excel at them. You can use these Paths along with the focus and workout information provided to give yourself a direction when trying to meet your goals.

About Commitment

You will see the best results by committing to one primary path for 6 weeks or more. At the end of your 6-weeks, look at your progress, update your goals, and choose to continue with the same Path or train another for the next cycle. Your goal should be to train at least 3 days per week for the whole cycle.

If you’re really not sure, spend two weeks on each Path for eight total weeks. Once you’ve done so, choose one to follow for six weeks, as explained above.

Warrior

The Warrior motif is known for strength at arms and an unassailable skill in combat. They are the “tanks” of the human world, able to stand firm against severe physical challenge through nothing more than trained-in strength.

The Warrior path focuses on developing great strength in the entire body, with specific emphasis on the basics of human movement. Warriors should enjoy heavy lifting at slower speeds, with emphasis on shorter periods of exertion at a higher percentage of maximum ability, or they should want to develop these characteristics in their training. This focus can be summarized as: “Heavy Weight, Short Time Metabolic Conditioning”.

The core movements to support this path are Back Squat, Deadlift, Bench Press, and Overhead Press. These should be trained 2-3 times per week at substantial weight for multiple low-rep sets (as high as 80% of your one-rep maximum lift). Good accessory movements are the Olympic lifts (Clean, Jerk, Snatch) and variations on the core movements that challenge the postural muscles (Front Squat, Overhead Squat, Straight-knee Deadlift).

Some good workouts for Warriors include:

For time …

  • 30 Snatches (135 lbs for males & 95 lbs for females)

5 rounds for time of …

  • 5 Deadlifts, (275 lbs for males & 185 lbs for females)
  • 10 Burpees

3 rounds for time of …

  • 12 Front Squats (135 lbs for males & 95 lbs for females)
  • 12 Burpee Pull-ups

Duelist

The Duelist is, in a way, a version of the Warrior that focuses on being agile rather than strictly powerful. They are the “light infantry” to the Warrior’s “tank” and tend to be more mobile and agile.

The Duelist path focuses more on speed, power, and mastery over moving moderate weights for longer periods of time. Duelists should enjoy workouts that use lower percentages of their maximum capability for longer periods of time, favoring medium term workouts that also tax the cardio-vascular/-respiratory systems. This focus can be summarized as: “Moderate Weight, Moderate Time Metabolic Conditioning”.

The core movements to support this path are similar to the Warrior path, but also include more agility-minded movements like Wall Balls, Kettlebell Swings, and Push Presses. These should be trained 2-3 times per week at a moderate weight (60-70% of one rep max), over a longer period of total work (10-15 minutes). Short bouts of monostructural cardio movements like jump rope, rowing, and running make good support work for Duelists.

Some good workouts for Duelists include:

For time …

  • Row, 1000 m
  • 50 Thrusters (45 lbs for males & 35 lbs for females)
  • 30 Pull-ups

21-15-9 reps for time of …

  • Cleans (135 lbs for males & 95 lbs for females)
  • Ring Dips

3 rounds for time of …

  • 15 Chest to Bar Pull-ups
  • 20 Burpees
  • 15 Sumo Deadlift High Pulls (95 lbs for males & 65 lbs for females)

Ranger

You will often notice overlap between the Duelist and Ranger, since both focus on developing agility and cardio- ability to a degree, but the difference is that Rangers tend to favor long-distance/time endurance challenges like marathons or obstacle course racing. Rangers would form the “scouts” that travel long distance over long time in support of the “tanks” and “light infantry”.

The Ranger path focuses heavily on moving small amounts of weight (equipment, for instance) over time frames that can span an hour or more. Rangers should enjoy workouts that tax their ability to keep going long term, move weights at or below 50% of their overall capacity, and favor specialty equipment movements more than barbells. This focus can be summarized as: “Light Weight, Long Time Metabolic Conditioning”.

The core movements to support this path on lighter-weight specialty movements like Wall Balls and the wide variety of Kettlebell movements. While similar to the Duelist in this respect, they also employ simple bodyweight movements like squats, pull-ups, and box jumps to better train them for long-term muscle usage. These should be trained 2-3 times per week at a light weight (<=50% of one rep max), over a long period of total work (20+ minutes). Longer bouts of monostructural cardio movements combined with taxing static holds like planks are great accessories for the Ranger.

Some good workouts for Rangers include:

5 rounds for time of …

  • Run 400 m
  • 20 Burpees
  • 15 Two Hand Dumbbell Bent Over Rows (50 lbs for males & 30 lbs for females)

7 rounds for time of …

  • 12 Thrusters (75 lbs for males & 55 lbs for females)
  • 9 Toes To Bars
  • Run 200 m (holding medicine ball, 20 lbs for males & 14 lbs for females)

For time …

  • Run, 2 mi
  • Rest 2 mins
  • 20 Squat Cleans (135 lbs for males & 95 lbs for females)
  • 20 Box Jumps (24″ for males & 20″ for females)
  • 20 Overhead Walking Lunge With Plates (45 lbs for males & 35 lbs for females)
  • 20 Box Jumps (24″ for males & 20″ for females)
  • 20 Squat Cleans (135 lbs for males & 95 lbs for females)
  • Rest 2 mins
  • Run, 2 mi

Monk

The path of the Monk is concerned with mastering the human body and all the movements it is capable of. Good examples of athletes that primarily train the Monk path are gymnasts and Parkour practitioners. Keeping with our theme, the Monk path turns out, plain and simple, the “ninjas” of the human world.

Monks will focus on developing their ability to control their body through space over various lengths of time (short, medium, and long term). Monks should enjoy training primarily with only their bodyweight and the many movements this entails, with a focus on working towards strict muscular movement patterns and holds. This focus can be summarized as: “Body Weight, Multi Time Metabolic Conditioning with Mastery”.

The core movements on this path are anything requiring bodyweight control including pull-ups, squats, sit-ups, etc.. While other paths use these movements as accessories, the Monk path trains these towards the intent of perfecting them in and of themselves. These should be trained 3-4 times per week at various levels of intensity, from accumulating reps throughout the day of harder movements, all way to short sprint workouts involving powerful movements like kipping, jumping, rolling, etc.. Monostructural movements like jump rope and running can help improve endurance to be able to sustain bodyweight movement patterns at speed and over time.

Some good workouts for Monks include:

Complete as many rounds as possible in 20 mins of …

  • 18 Box Jumps (24″ for males & 20″ for females)
  • 15 Toes To Bars
  • 12 Pull-ups

3 rounds for time of …

  • 12 Muscle Ups
  • 75 Air Squats

21-18-15-12-9-6-3 reps for time of …

  •  Pull-up
  • Handstand Push Up

Combining Paths, Special Goals, & Cross-Training

Each one of the Paths presented has a focus that will meet the needs of 90% of the people who go to the gym, and particularly of those who attend classes at CrossFit gyms. Whether strength, short term cardio, long term cardio, or bodyweight training is required, one of the Paths covers those needs. However, some other needs may arise that conflict with the chosen Path.

More than one goal OR wanting to also work on weakenesses

You may want to lift heavy as well as develop your long-term endurance. Great! Split your weekly training so that you are on the Warrior Path for two days and the Ranger path for two days. If you only have three days to train, pick the goal that matters most to you, and train that Path for two out of the three days, then dip into a Path that supports your secondary goal for the third day. You can use this same idea for working towards goals while also working on your weaknesses by splitting in the same way. A good rule of thumb is to work on your Primary Goal at least 2/3 sessions, and spend 1/3 working on Secondary Goals or Weaknesses.

Fat Loss

Losing body fat  can be accomplished on any of the Paths as long as your diet is supportive of your activity and needs. That being said, the Duelist Path is the best option out of those presented for two reasons. First, it has more cardio than the heavy weight Warrior path, but not as much as the Ranger path. Second, it has higher-percentage strength training than Ranger. Both of these aspects combine to make you more likely to burn fat versus burning muscle, maintaining your lean mass while dropping fat mass.

The Monk Path can also be used effectively for the same reasons as the Duelist path, and has the advantage of requiring very little equipment for most basic workouts. However, bodyweight strength training does tend to require more discipline and variety than basic barbell lifting, so you need a variety of training options.