In the ilk of World Strongest Man and the CrossFit Games, My Mad Methods Magazine set out to create their own competition to determine who the most functionally fit person out there was. My Mad Methods creator Mark De Grasse strived to create a different type of competition that did not simply see who was the strongest by lifting the most weight or who was the fittest by seeing who could complete workouts the fastest. Mark wanted to find a mixture of both hence the birth of the Unconventional Training Challenge.
Mark believes that, “The best ways to enhance your real-world capabilities is through Unconventional Training Methods like kettlebells, sandbags, heavy clubs, macebells, battle ropes, odd objects, and calisthenics. This is NOT just random high-intensity training, this is the true application of alternative training implements developed by experts and practiced with core principles of proper form, progression, and systematization in mind. They are efficient, effective, and they encourage performance AND longevity…you can’t simply be the strongest, or the most conditioned, or the most agile in the real world, you need to be everything.”
Athletes from all over in both the amateur (fitness enthusiasts) to professional (trainers) trained for strength, speed, agility and endurance all hoping to be crowned the Ultimate Training Challenge Winner and get their picture on the next magazine cover and over hundreds of dollars worth of fitness equipment from Onnit.
I thought I would give this contest a shot to see where I stood against the other trainers in the professional category. Here is a review on the events that took place that day.
The event took place in Costa Mesa at Innovative-Results. If you have not been to that gym you need to check it out because it is unlike any other warehouse gym out there. You will not find numerous squat racks or Olympic lifting platforms like you do at other conventional strength training facilities. Though they do have plenty of iron, what is most unique is the truly functional set up of the gym.
They have a large turf area providing plenty of room for sled dragging, battle ropes and bodyweight movement training. They also have an assortment of playground equipment including parallel bars, ropes and monkey bars. All of this equipment was impressive, slightly intimidating and definitely put to good use during the event.
Event #1: Obstacle Course Race
My plane was delayed in San Francisco so by the time I arrived at the event I literally signed the waiver, changed my clothes and started the course; talk about jumping into the deep end.
We started off with a 50ft 200lb Prowler push followed by 150lbs 50ft dummy drag and crawl both 50ft. I then proceeded to walk about 10ft balancing on a pair of low parallel bars, followed by the monkey bars that were not only challenging due to the height of the structure but the fact that that bars rotated. I didn’t realize this initially and I almost fell off.
I made it past the monkey bars then off to the 35inch plyo-boxes getting over them however we could see fit. Then we used our hands to walk across a set of parallel bars followed by climbing a 10ft rope three times to the top. We finished with one pull up and the event was underway.
Event #2: Heavy Sandbag Turkish Get Up
After just having caught my breath from the obstacle course it was time to tackle, what I thought was the toughest challenge of them all; performing Turkish Get Ups (TGUs) with a 150lbs. sandbag completing as many reps as possible in 5 minutes.
I have done plenty of get ups before and I have even practiced with the heaviest sandbag I have at the gym but nothing completely prepared me for this event. When a Get Up is this heavy for 5 minutes everything starts to fatigue. Your leg, core, shoulder muscles start to fatigue and your breathing pattern begins to deteriorate. I think I was able to complete seven full repetitions in the five minutes and I should have had eight but I was not able to come up out of the lunge on the second repetition until I changed my technique slightly. This proved to be the hardest event for myself and many of the other competitors.
Event #3: Kettlebell Long Cycle
This event was more familiar to me and I truly thought I could make up some good ground, but with minimal rest between events and not being able to fully recover this was more challenging than in practice.
The event was your standard double kettlebell Long Cycle (clean to press) where males had to use two 24kg kettlebells. There was a five minute time limit to get as many reps as possible. My final count was 43 repetitions and some seriously stiff shoulders setting in.
Event #4: Strict Push Up
By this point in the competition we were all looking forward to this event because of seemingly ease, how hard could a bodyweight challenge be? Well after everything we did up to that point, two minutes of pushups trying to get as many reps as possible proved to be a humbling task.
After hitting the wall around 40 reps the next 30+ were a grind and I have much more respect for our military professionals who can crank this movement out at will without breaking a sweat.
Event #5: Battle Rope Tsunami
I train with the ropes weekly at my gym and I didn’t think much about this even until I realized the slight caveat that I didn’t prepare for. The event seemed simple; counting the number of repetitions a 50ft 2 inch rope using two arms for men; however we had to walk 5ft to take the slack out of the rope.
I have never performed the exercise taking the slack out and this made a huge difference. I started out Ok getting the rope to move far enough to count the reps, but when the velocity begins to decrease and the fatigue begins to set in it is almost next to impossible to get the rope going again and your challenge is over. When it was all done I managed 14 repetitions in the 1-minute time period.
Event #6: Plank Chain Pull
This final event was another first for me. We had to pull a 50ft length of 100lb chain around a fixed point while maintaining three points of contact in a plank position. There is a lot of technique to this event much like the rower where you want to use your whole body to get a long pull but you want to make fast enough movements to get the repetitions in as well.
I put up my worst performance in this event only completing about one and a half revolutions in 1-minute time period. I would definitely like another crack at this event so I can implement a different technique and perform to the best of my ability.
For its first year Mark de Grasse put on a wonderful event that was truly challenging and fun all at the same time. I am happy to have been a part of it and to have been able to meet all of the other high caliber contestants and friends of Mark, Innovative-Results and My Mad Methods.
I seriously think anyone should consider trying out for the second annual event because it truly can cater to the different athletes in all of us. You can shine in your strengths and completely understand your weaknesses. In the end I personally won two of the six events (Long Cycle and the Rope Tsunami) and felt pretty good about my overall performance. I realized that I have to work my strength endurance more to make exercises like pushups easier when I am in a fatigued state.
The video below is a recap of the event to get you excited to try it out. Just take my advice and start training soon.
In this video I present five tips to help alleviate tendonitis pain yourself. After you have identified the cause and then thought about technical changes to make you can then add soft tissue work, stretching and then strength training working around the inflamed area.
It’s been four years and I am proud to have been a participant all four years running and to see this event grow each year.
If you do not know the history behind the event, Jason Dolby of the Orange Kettlebell Club (OKC) decided four years ago that he wanted to celebrate his birthday in epic fashion by combining three things he loves most in this world: lifting kettlebells, his friends and family and helping out those who need it most.
The First Long Cycle charity event was held in Southern California and hosted 19 lifters to support Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles. The event was a success with records being broken by Sergey Rachinskiy who completed 915 repetitions with a 24kg kettlebell and Jason Dolby, himself, completing 262 repetitions with two 20kg kettlebells.
None of us realized how much these humble roots would spread in years to follow.
The Second Annual One Hour Long Cycle Event was bigger than the first with 38 participants including recreational kettlebell lifters and record setting world champions. This event was personal because one of the OKC’s own, Nazo, was trapped in Japan for months after the tsunami and she wrote a very heartfelt blog post about the experience; read her post here. The event proved to be a huge success again and it would only get bigger from there.
The Third Annual One Hour Long Cycle Event was the first year the event left California and hosted in Seattle Washington. Not only was the location change marking a new first for this event this was also the first time lifters could participate in a team relay fashion or lift from a satellite location. In Seattle alone there were 60 relay lifters and 12 solo lifters and we had many more in satellite locations including: New York, Colorado, Los Angeles, Japan and Singapore. With the addition of the relay teams and the satellite locations the event grew tremendously and they were also able to raise much more money for the Tuberous Sclerosis Alliance which conducts research to find a cure for Tuberous Sclerosis Complex (TSC).
This fourth year brought us back down to Southern California at Innovative Results with about 30 lifters participating at the main location and over 200 lifters at 30 satellite lifting locations worldwide. This year Jason decided to raise money for the Jimmy V Foundation in the memory of Jason’s brother’s best friend James Chang who lost a battle with cancer earlier this year.
Jason not only wanted to make this the biggest kettlebell charity event to date he also wanted to tackle a huge challenge and do something no one else had ever done before: long cycle with two 24kg (53lbs.) kettlebells for one hour; Jason succeeded in both. This was the biggest long cycle charity event to date and he made it through the hour using every ounce of physical and mental strength he had completing 154 repetitions and shaking off the ghost of defeat.
You can watch Jason in the video below. I recommend that you watch the beginning, minutes 33-35 and the last minute at 1:01 and you will see a man determined and a person who refuses to quit.
One again I feel blessed to have witnessed history and having been a part of this whole event, however I am more proud of the support we received from Rise Above Performance Training. You all came through and helped raise over one thousand dollars to help support the Jimmy V Foundation. I want to thank you all for your support and generosity towards this cause.
I am thankful there are people out there like Jason Dolby to use their gifts to help inspire and heal others. I am also thankful there are people like you, the Rise Above Performance Training members who didn’t hesitate to help out and support.
I cannot wait until next year to participate in the event again and I hope you all consider joining me in lifting for a cause too.
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