2020 TSC—Community Edition Recap

The Tactical Strength Challenge, StrongFirst’s opportunity to provide a challenge and “test” of our training, happens twice a year. The TSC brings together competitors from around the world who put forward their best effort in three events: max barbell deadlift, max dead hang pullups, and a five-minute kettlebell snatch test for max reps. In May we hold the Community Edition of the TSC. It is, by design, less competitive than the October edition but still a fun challenge for experienced athletes and a great entry point for newer ones.

The TSC is unique in that it suits no specific body type perfectly. The big guys will crush the deadlift but suffer on the pullups, the lighter competitors rack up lots of pullups but suffer on the deadlift (and/or max snatches). This inherent challenge is what makes the TSC such a unique event to train for and compete in. Equally important, it is an opportunity to experience the best that the StrongFirst community has to offer. Every year venues hosting the TSC are filled with people cheering each other on to greater feats of physicality.

Given the variety of abilities required to secure a good performance on competition day, training for this event is not taken lightly. Athletes train for months to prepare and when the COVID-19 lockdowns with their social distancing requirements and closure of gyms worldwide were put in place, StrongFirst was faced with as much of a challenge logistically as the athletes were physically. How do we continue to support the many competitors who plan on testing their mettle given that the lockdown impedes nearly every necessary avenue to success?

A Necessary Pivot: From Live to Virtual

From that was born the idea of holding the 2020 “Community” Edition TSC online. Virtual hosting came with some unavoidable challenges but there was no way we would let the dedicated athletes down. We would find a way to carry on and let them get after it!

For many who participated, the mental challenge of performing at a maximum capacity with no one around to cheer was a big hurdle. Just like how teammates cheering you on during your snatch test on test day at a  SFG Level I can help get you across the finish line, having folks cheer you on during a max effort at the TSC definitely primes the pumps for success.

Available equipment was also a challenge, but many of our athletes were up to the task and those who had the gear to stay the course with their training kept on track. And StrongFirst instructors from all corners of the map were glad to offer remote programming to keep our community strong.

Outside of necessary equipment, the biggest challenge for many people was maintaining a regular training schedule when not going to the gym. Routine is a powerful force in our psyche and such a radical departure from a consistent training schedule can wreak havoc on one’s mindset and consequently kill motivation via a ripple effect. Competition always requires a strong mindset, and this has never been more apparent than in our current situation.

Part of the Spring Edition of the TSC is a charity opportunity tied to the event. For this event we highlighted StrongFirst certified instructor David Knuth who earlier this year lost his leg to cancer. In a truly StrongFirst gesture, many participants competed in his honor. Their performances helped raise funds which will assist David purchasing a prosthetic leg. This will allow him to get back to practicing more of his regular strength skills, and also get back to his career as a law enforcement officer. We extend a huge thank you to all who stretched for that extra rep or donated to help our friend and colleague in strength. If you’d like to donate, or get further information on David’s story, you can read more about him here.

Abbe Somerhalder, SFG I, shares her TSC experience below:

“Back in early February I told my (fellow) instructor Jackie Michaels, SFG I, that I wasn’t going to let self-isolation get in the way of my goals. I said I would do whatever she recommended to train for the TSC but admit I did not picture myself snatching alone in my basement while simultaneously making sure my music was low enough to not wake anyone. Without the equipment to deadlift at home, my training focused on snatches and pullups and was the perfect opportunity to mount the old rock-climbing fingerboard that I had been nagging my husband about. Although our gym community was separated, we stayed connected and encouraged each other through texts, video chat, and posting pictures of our daily workouts in our Facebook group. My training weeks consisted of two days of snatching, three days of pullups, and lots of yoga to loosen up from sitting in front of a computer much more than I was used to. Jackie had me follow a pullup program from StrongFirst Certified Team Leader Maggie Burrows which waved the load using slow negatives, bodyweight sets, and weighted pulls. Along with the training, a significant element of my pullup progress had to do with lowering my percentage of body fat. Senior StrongFirst Certified Instructor Ryan Toshner says, “If you want to improve your pullups, go lose ten pounds.” On May 9th, I weighed in 22 pounds lighter than I had for the fall 2019 TSC (where I only got two reps) and proved him right by getting nine pullups, a huge PR for me!”

Ray Vazquez, SFG I, used a completely different pullup program to reach a new personal best:

“In the TSC last spring I did 23 pullups. I really wanted to get closer to that 30 pullup mark, and having always heard great things about the Fighter Pullup program from the StrongFirst community I decided to give it a try. I started the program just seven weeks out from the TSC. I trained pullups five days a week and then rested two days. The first week I did 12-10-8-6-4 every day. The next week I started with two more reps (14-12-10-8-6) and added two reps each day as the program suggests (day two was 14-12-10-8-8). I continued this program for six weeks ending the final week with 20-20-18-16-14. The next week was just two weeks before the TSC so I shifted to only three training days, resting one day between sessions. The first set of pullups on day one of that week consisted of 22. The final week before the TSC, I did one set of pullups to about what felt like 80% of my rep max: 20 pullups. I rested from pullups the rest of that week. Saturday, the day of the event, I felt strong and ready to go. I ended with 29 pullups, a new PR.”

Given the circumstances around this particular challenge, we believe every participant deserves recognition for their personal records and efforts. Check the names of competitors, and corresponding scores, at our leaderboard. The top male and female participant in the Pre-Comp division will receive free entry to the Competition Edition this coming October. Thanks to all hosts and participants—we’re excited to get back together for the next challenge!

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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.
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