Tactical Strength Challenge: Participation, Community, Strength

The Spring 2014 Tactical Strength Challenge had over 350 competitors. Most had a lot of experience with kettlebell, barbell, and bodyweight exercises, but some had never pulled a barbell deadlift prior to a few weeks before the TSC. Some had never performed a pull-up (novice division women test a flex-arm hang). Some folks decided not to snatch, but to do the other events. No matter, they showed up, and they participated. They had a great time, and moved some weight.

Tactical Strength Challenge

One novice woman pulled 225lbs, snatched a 12kg kettlebell 98 times, and hung for 3.35 seconds. She had just learned the straight bar deadlift a few short weeks before the Challenge and after being encouraged to participate with us, loved every single minute of this team-building event.

The Tactical Strength Challenge Is What We Train For

Every single thing we do as SFGs is all about helping our students, and ourselves, to get stronger in all kinds of ways. Some of us have been training in cycles for the TSC ever since the last one. So the bigger question is: how do we encourage others to participate? How do we build our community? Invite people!

This is how we went about it at Kettlebility. The goal was greater participation from our membership. We have a lot of group classes, from beginner to elite training levels, small groups and personal training. We talked about the TSC at every class, with every student/client, and we showed them how everything we teach translates into one of the TSC events.

We already snatch – so we programmed a ramp-up to the TSC for our classes. We already work on pull-ups – so we helped our folks work on their pulls. Pavel’s Fighter Pull-Up protocol is the framework we use for our programming.

Additionally, we explained how it was really about participation – a great opportunity to support our fellow students, our friends, and our community. To have a great time, and to get numbers on the board, no matter what the level of ability.

Tactical Strength ChallengeSix weeks before the TSC, we put together a special class – specific to prepare for the TSC. We taught them deadlift technique and how to prep their other movements – and anyone who was from our studio and who signed up for the TSC could come to this class as our gift to them, our community, for free. (Of course, A=as a business owner, I calculated the cost of the event and the classes and expensed it.)

Note to facility owners: After our six weeks of free classes leading up to the TSC concluded, we added a Tactical Strength class to our regular schedule as a specialty class at a low additional monthly fee to our membership. We had a good amount of folks decide to take us up on the new offering. They now train straight bar movements (deadlift, Zercher squat, press, bench, etc.) once a week with a Kettlebility instructor.  It was a nice way to monetize an additional offering for the studio, and to add value to our programs for our members.

How We Programmed TSC Preparation for Our Students

The Kettlebility studio specializes in Russian kettlebell training. Sure, we have a few battling ropes, TRX, straight bars, bumper plates, rings, pull-up bars, Indian clubs, medicine balls, and literally hundreds of kettlebells. So, we program kettlebells and all that other stuff, including bodyweight movements GPP style.

So how to add in straight bar work without overloading our students? Once a week, we meet to train the deadlift at our special class – we teach basic deadlift technique (tension, wedging, grip, addressing the bar, etc.) with a narrow sumo stance (usually the safest for newbies) and we figured out their one rep max.

Tactical Strength ChallengeFrom there, we used programming learned at the StrongFirst Lifter Certification (which has an excellent programming section). We used a simple, yet effective program cycle that Pavel had written where we added five pounds a week for nice gains over the six-week period. Reps stayed low. Some of our experienced lifters were able to make gains with this cycle, training the lift several times a week, but we typically only expect our students to do straight bar work once a week with us, in addition to our group kettlebell classes.

In addition:

  • Because most of our lifters were beginners, we had them reset with each rep. For example, our sets of 5 were actually 5 singles. We used the reset each time to work on the skill of wedging and the set-up.
  • Additionally, we made sure to get a long rest between sets, 5-10 minutes minimum.

Even though we used this only once a week, we made great progress with our groups. We added somewhere between 3-5% each week (which came out to be around five pounds). People felt strong, and because our students already understood appropriate tension and hardstyle principals, the basic deadlift form was relatively easy for them.

The Tactical Strength Challenge Is GPP

TSC exemplifies the epitome of general physical preparation (GPP). It really is what we are already training. You have to be fit enough to snatch and strong enough to endure it, be coordinated and strong enough to pull your bodyweight, and have a decent measure of absolute strength to perform a max weight deadlift.

We built our team for the last TSC, and we’ll be doing it again for the next one. Join us! Build your team! We want to see you and your students with us at the TSC Event. Let’s double our numbers and make the next TSC the largest one to date!

Tactical Strength ChallengeAre you are ready to host a Tactical Strength Challenge? If you are ready, willing, and able, to host an event, send an email to us here: TSC@strongfirst.com.  Not only will we help you get set up as a host, but we will send you details on how to market your event locally, how to create great group classes and programming for your facility, and how to make sure your location has the highest rate of participation.

If you are a stand-alone SFG instructor who teaches out of a home studio, or at a larger facility, you can still participate with your clients. Find a host facility near you where you can register yourself and your students. If there are none in a reasonable distance, consider hosting a mini-TSC yourself! It is all about participating and getting some numbers on the board!

Tactical Strength ChallengeQuestions about creating community in your area? Reach out. Invite your area CrossFit boxes and other personal training and group class facilities in person – make the call.  They will be happy you did. When you explain this is about participation, community, strength, and potentially showing off a high level of GPP, they will step up – and it also helps you get your facility on the map.




Tactical Strength Challenge

Andrea U-Shi Chang
Andrea U-Shi Chang, Master StrongFirst Certified Instructor, StrongFirst Elite Instructor, FMS Instructor, Ground Force Method Global Instructor, Z-Health Movement Coach, Oxygen Advantage Breathing Coach, Precision Nutrition Specialist, NASM Certified Instructor, and advisory board member for R2P (Rehab 2 Performance), has specialized in movement training and kettlebell coaching since 2005. An early member of the instructor staff of kettlebell pioneer Pavel Tsatsouline, Andrea became editor of Pavel’s online newsletter and authored several articles in StrongFirst and Dragon Door. In 2009 Andrea opened the Pacific Northwest’s FIRST kettlebell gym—Kettlebility —her Russian Kettlebell Instruction and Elite Performance Coaching studio, in Seattle.

A successful high school and college athlete, Andrea had stayed active after college (she thought), playing competitive soccer and tennis and 'working out.' But she weighed in at 195 pounds and 34% body fat. Technically obese, she realized something had to change. After a childhood friend introduced Andrea to kettlebells she was amazed. Not only was kettlebell training fun and challenging, it was melting off the fat and giving her back her fit athlete body. In just five months, Andrea lost more than 45 pounds. Better yet, she went from 34% to 18% body fat and gained lean muscle mass. Hard style kettlebells had literally changed her life. Andrea has been featured in Oprah Magazine and local broadcast and print media. She has worked as a technical advisor on several training and fitness books, was invited to contribute a chapter in Dr. Craig Liebenson's book, Rehabilitation Of The Spine, and edited and co-authored the Ground Force Movement Instructor manual. In 2016 the Seattle Seahawks hired Andrea to set up their Functional Movement Systems (FMS) screening program for players.

On a never-ending quest to follow her passion and learn more about strength and movement, Andrea continues to study to refine her knowledge and become a more effective coach. Andrea travels globally as a certification instructor for StrongFirst, Ground Force Method, and FMS. She holds specialty workshops, instructor certifications and group classes and provides personal training for people from all walks of life and elite athletes at her studio, Kettlebility, a StrongFirst Accredited gym.
Andrea U-Shi Chang on Facebook