How to Win the TSC? With this Program

Co-authored by Ryan Toshner

Participant registration is now open for this spring’s Tactical Strength Challenge on May 9. Register here.

In our previous article, we laid out the most common snatch, pullup, and deadlift technique and tactic flaws that leave a lot of TSC performance potential under-realized. And because our goal is to see people thrive during their training and on the competition floor, we outlined our top fixes for those problems. While applying these form pointers can set you on the right path from the beginning and allow you to get out of your own way, you’ll also need a proven program to help you ready yourself for the rigors of test day. That’s the focus of this article—to outline the latest version of the program we use to help prepare ourselves and our TNT Performance athletes for the Tactical Strength Challenge.

We say the latest version because for each and every TSC, we apply lessons learned from previous competitions, using ourselves as test subjects. For example, one of our early TSC training insights was not to attempt too many pullups because it led to injuries like a painful lats strain. While we overcame these in time for test day, they provided a valuable lesson: if you do enough snatches, you should have sufficient strength and endurance to also perform well on the pullup portion of the TSC. We learned something similar about deadlifting: the snatch provides enough full-body power to give you a heavy deadlift, with an exception for those without much deadlifting experience. If this is you, work with a coach on a deadlifting block before commencing the TSC-specific program, or have him or her tweak the program to focus more on this movement early in the 12 weeks before testing rolls around.

The TNT Training Program

Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty. Here is the 12-week, 3-days per week program that we’ve used for our athletes and ourselves with great success. As mentioned, this isn’t version 1.0, but more like 10.0 as we’ve been revising, testing, and revising again for many years. We’ve found three days a week to be the most effective training frequency when preparing for the TSC. Before you get started, please read the notes below.

  • We assume technical competence with the listed skills and drills—and enough good judgment to choose regressions as appropriate.
  • W= Week, D=Day. So W1D1 means the first training day of week one.
  • Re-set deadlift so you do each rep as an individual one.
  • % of max for deadlifts: 6 means you could do 8. 4 means you could do 5. 2 means you get 1 and hopefully 2.
  • Begin ab work with hollow position and hollow rocking. Progress to the recommended ab exercises (or an appropriate regression) once you’ve mastered the hollow rocking and TRX Suspension Trainer body saws (see videos below).
  • All swings are two-handed.
  • +1, +2 mean a kettlebell one or two sizes heavier than snatch test size.
  • EMOTM Every minute on the minute.
Hollow rock progression
Suspension trainer body saws

Movement Preparation on Every Training Day

  • FMS passive leg lowers: 20/20
  • FMS shoulder mobility drills: 7 minutes
  • Warm-up: 10 two-handed swings + 10 goblet squats + 5/5 snatch + 1/1 get-up; repeat for three rounds

W1D1

  • Deadlift: 2×5, 1×3, 1×2, 3×1
  • Power wheel rollouts: 5×5
  • Finger board workout: 10 minutes
Finger board training: Hangs, walking, pulls

W1D2

  • Snatch: Test size bell EMOTM for 12 minutes, reps between 5/5 to 8/8
  • Dragon flags: 3×5
  • Finger board workout: 10 minutes including 3 rounds of pullups to 80% of your repetition maximum
Dragon flag

W1D3

  • Pullups: 50-70 reps in as few sets as possible
  • Snatch: Test size bell EMOTM for 10 minutes, 5/5 to 6/6 reps

W2D1

  • Accelerated eccentric (AE) swings: 2×8
  • Heavy swings: 3×5
  • AE swings: 1×8
  • Deadlift: 5×8

W2D2

  • Snatch: Test size bell EMOTM for 14 minutes between 5/5 to 8/8 reps
  • Power wheel rollouts: 5×5

W2D3

  • Pullups: 20 sets of 20% max reps, as fast as possible (AFAP)
  • Snatch: Test size bell EMOTM for 10 minutes, 5/5 to 6/6 reps
  • Finger board workout: 10 minutes

W3D1

  • AE swings: 2×8
  • Heavy swings: 2×5
  • AE swings: 1×8
  • Deadlift: 5×8
  • Dragon flags: 2×10, 1×5
  • Finger board workout: 10 minutes

W3D2

  • Snatch: Test size bell EMOTM for 16 minutes, between 5/5 to 8/8 reps
  • Power wheel rollouts: 5×5

W3D3

  • Pullups: 60-80 reps in as few sets as possible
  • Snatch: +1 or +2 bells above snatch test size EMOTM for 10 minutes, 5/5 reps

W4D1

  • Deadlift: 3×6 RM
  • Front lever: Grease the groove, practicing appropriate regressions as necessary
Front lever regression
Front lever regression (SFB)

W4D2

  • Snatch: Test size bell EMOTM for 18 minutes, between 5/5 to 8/8 reps
  • Power wheel crawl for maximal distance: 1 set
  • Finger board workout: 10 minutes

W4D3

  • Pullups: Ladder 80% of your max pullups for the first set; decrease 1 rep each set to 0, AFAP
  • Snatch: +1 or +2 bells above snatch test size EMOTM for 10 minutes, 5/5 reps
  • Kettlebell farmer carry “mile”

W5D1

  • AE swings: 2×8
  • Heavy swings: ((1×1 + 1×2) x 3) x 3—i.e. 3 rounds of 9 swings
  • AE swings: 1×8
  • Deadlift: 3×6 RM
  • Bent press and heavy pullups: Alternate heavy bent press 1/1 with weighted pullups x 1-3 (use personal assistance to reach full range if needed); repeat for 3 sets

W5D2

  • Snatch: Test size bell EMOTM for 20 minutes, between 5/5 to 8/8 reps
  • Front levers: 3×4 with a 2 second hold on each rep

W5D3

  • Pullups: 70-90 reps in as few sets as possible
  • Snatch: +1 or +2 bells above snatch test size EMOTM for 10 minutes, 5/5 reps

W6D1

  • AE swings: 2×8
  • Heavy swings: ((1×1 + 1×2) x 3) x 3—i.e. 3 rounds of 9 swings
  • AE swings: 1×8
  • Deadlift: 3×6 RM
  • Front levers: 3×4 with a 2 second hold at top of each rep

W6D2

  • Snatch: 5-minute test; rest, then practice cadence work that you want on competition day
  • Dragon flags: 5×10
  • Finger board workout: 10 minutes

W6D3

  • Pullups: 20 sets of 20% max reps AFAP
  • Snatch: +1 or +2 bells above snatch test size EMOTM for 10 minutes, 5/5 reps

W7D1

  • Deadlift: 3×10 (de-load and pull for speed and technique)
  • Power wheel body saws: 3×6
  • Snatch: Test size bell 100 reps AFAP + 5 minutes rest + 100 reps AFAP

W7D2

  • Snatch: Test size bell +2 10/10 for 4-7min EMOTM
  • Bent press: 1/1 to 3/3 with heavy pullups 1/1 to 3/3 for 3 sets
  • Front levers: 3×4 with a 2 second hold at the top of each rep
  • Finger board workout: 10 minutes
Front lever practice on rings
Front lever on rings with a knee tuck (SFB)

W7D3

  • Pullup: 80-100 reps in as few sets as possible
  • Power wheel crawl: Maximal distance 1 set
  • Kettlebell farmer carry: Repeat workout

From now until TSC test day, stop all other exercises. Do only the following program.

W8D1

  • Deadlift: 1×6, 1×4, 1×2
  • Bent press: 1/1 to 3/3 with heavy pullups 1/1 to 3/3 for 3 sets
  • Snatch: Test size bell 10/10 for 10 minutes
  • Dragon flags: As many as possible with good form

W8D2

  • Snatch: Test size bell (2 minutes snatch + 2 minutes rest) x 5
  • Finger board workout: 10 minutes

W8D3

  • Pullups: Ladder 80% max reps and decrease 1 rep each set to 0 AFAP

W9D1

  • AE swings: 2×6
  • Heavy swings: 2×3
  • AE swings: 1×6
  • Deadlift: 1×6, 1×4, 1×2
  • Bent press: 1/1 to 3/3 with heavy pullups 1/1 to 3/3 for 3 sets

W9D2

  • Snatch: Test bell 200 reps AFAP OR 100 reps AFAP + 5 minutes rest + 100 reps AFAP
  • Ab exercise of choice: Grease the groove (GTG)

W9D3

  • Pullups: 20 sets of 20% max reps with added weight AFAP
Weighted pullups

W10D1

  • Deadlift: 1×6, 1×4, 1×2
  • Snatch: Test size bell or 1-2 size lower, 16/16 for 3 minutes straight
  • Power wheel rollouts: 1 set as many reps as possible with good form (80%)

W10D2

  • Snatch: Test bell 5 minutes + 5 minutes rest; +1 bell for 3 minutes + 3 minutes rest; +2 bell for 2 minutes
  • Pullups: 2 sets to 85% effort

W10D3

  • Finger board workout: 10 minutes

W11D1

  • Deadlift: 1×5, 1×3, 1×1
  • Ab exercise of choice: GTG

W11D2

  • Snatch: With a KB 2 size lower than test bell, 12/12 to 16/16 EMOTM for 10 minutes

W12D1

  • Speed Deadlift: 100 single reps at 18-22% 1RM with full rest every 10 reps. Take 90 minutes to complete

W12D2

  • No warm-up: 80% max pullups x 2 sets throughout the day (i.e. 1 in the morning and 1 at night)

W12D3

  • Snatch: Test bell for cadence for 3 minutes

W12D6 TSC DAY

  • Compete and conquer

There you have it, our TNT Tactical Strength Challenge preparation program. If you have questions, leave them in the comments and we’ll do our best to answer ASAP.


Community Edition—Snatching for a Cause

As you know, StrongFirst hosts two Tactical Strength Challenges each year. The first or spring event is where we emphasize individual improvement and take the opportunity to support a member of our StrongFirst community who had a challenging year. On May 9th, 2020, at our Community Edition TSC, we will support StrongFirst Certified Instructor, David Knuth.

In August of 2019, David was diagnosed with an aggressive bone cancer in his left leg. After four cycles of chemotherapy, doctors concluded that the bones in the leg could not be rebuilt. As a student of strength and law enforcement officer, the best possible solution for David was to have his leg amputated at the knee. Here is a short paragraph, written by David, about his journey:

“I wouldn’t have been prepared physically, mentally, or spiritually if it wasn’t for my family, my prayer warriors, my TNT Fitness and Sports Performance family, and my StrongFirst family. Learning to live “by the shield” having attended StrongFirst Level I & II Certifications, and the StrongFirst Bodyweight Certification, instilled in me the value of being a student of strength. Through their support, encouragement, and motivation, I continued to train at TNT Fitness and Sports Performance, to remain as strong as possible, and encourage others. The support from both StrongFirst and TNT Fitness & Sports Performance families made this journey successful for me and helped me to press on.”

David’s goals are to return to law enforcement and to be able to help train and encourage others with physical challenges. In order to do this at his best, David will need a quality prosthetic leg, at the cost of about $100,000. Let’s help David deadlift again, get back on the streets in his uniform, and inspire others with adaptive needs! Please consider asking friends, family, and neighbors to sponsor your 5-minute snatch event in the Community Edition TSC. If each participant could secure one sponsor at $1 per snatch, as a StrongFirst team, we would be able to gift an amazing prosthetic leg to David. Thank you, in advance, for your support.

You can learn more about David and make donations by clicking here.

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Derek Toshner
Derek Toshner is the Co-Founder, with his brother Ryan, of TNT Fitness Results. TNT is a group of four gyms and one sister gym in Wisconsin. TNT in Fond du Lac, where Derek is most often, has a military-style obstacle course on 8.7 acres of land.

Besides being a TSC division champion, Derek was a 5x NCAA national champion in track and field (3x 400m hurdles and 2x 4x400m relay) and competed at the USA World and Olympic Team Trials from '03 to '05. He is also a consultant for Nike as a member of the Nike Trainer's Network.
Derek Toshner on FacebookDerek Toshner on GoogleDerek Toshner on Twitter

7 thoughts on “How to Win the TSC? With this Program

  • Just wanted to say, this works! In an earlier post Derek talks about all the winners from TNT using this program. That was a few years ago, but this past fall, after some one on one snatch technique work with Derek I followed this on my own and won the Master’s Division. A couple of the sessions are long and tough, but on TSC day they will be a distant memory as your training carries you through.

  • Thanks for the plan, Derek!
    a) How much rest would you generally recommend? The classic 3-5 minutes between grinds and talk-test based between ballistic sets, if not indicated otherwise?
    b) The last snatch cadence day, would that ideally be on friday or earlier during the week?
    c) I assume the “1/1” nomenclature for pullups is just a typo, as they are done with both hands?

    And of course congratulations on your track record 🙂

    • Hi, you bet!
      A). I take obnoxiously long rests; don’t rush the workout, and keep great quality
      B) the last week we have all our training complete by Wednesday. Thursday and Friday are off completely.
      C) ha, correct—good catch! Although 1-handed pull-ups are excellent. 🙂

    • Hey Justin,

      Anything that strengthens the fingers. Fingertip plank holds could work. There are various band exercises for fingers too. The key is less forearm and more finger strength.

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