The Many Ways To Train for the Tactical Strength Challenge
by Steve Freides, RKC, NSCA-CPT
Just as other multi-event sports have proven that a wide variety of training plans can yield good results, so the TSC can be approached in many way. Here are some training plans to consider.
1. Each event twice per week.
The three events of the Tactical Strength Challenge lend themselves nicely to training each event two times per week. (Those familiar with powerlifting will recognize the broad outline of this template.) Because so much has been written about this, I won’t go into details here. Suffice it to say that your two days at each event should probably be different, and one should be heavier or more reps while the other might focus on a lighter effort done with more speed.
Powerlifter are required to make maximum effort attempts at each of three lift, but TSC lifters have a max deadlift, pullups for max reps, and kettlebell snatches to test the combination of strength and endurance, so a different training plan might work better for some.
2. Deadlift and snatch twice per week, GTG for pullups:
This approach seems better suited to the TSC overall.
Deadlift twice per week using the format of your choosing – perhaps the classic 5 x 5, perhaps the 54321 rep scheme (you can read about this on the DragonDoor web site in the PTP Alternatives article), perhaps even just a few heavy singles. If you are also squatting as part of your regular training, you might take a hint from the powerlifter and deadlift less often, perhaps once a week or even once every two weeks. Some powerlifters only deadlift as a meet approaches.
Snatch twice per week also. The TSC format is simple – maximum repetitions with 24 kg in five minutes. You may put the bell down as often as you like, and you may switch hands as often as you like as well. Start with where you are by testing yourself on kettlebell snatches. If you are new to this event, try the time-tested format recommended by Pavel – start with short sets to keep your form fresh and solid, take sufficient rest before beginning another set, never start a set you aren’t confident you can finish in good form, and work on building up some total volume.
Once you have a base of solid technique and some kind of training volume, start working to shorten the rest periods. A favorite workout of mine is five snatches with each hand, switching on the fly with one short swing, and putting the bell down. I do this workout in front of a clock with a second hand or counter, and each time the second hand hits the 12, I start a new set. Start with five minutes worth and work your way up to 15-20 minutes – 20 minutes of this format will give you 200 total snatches for your workout, a nice solid base from which to proceed.
The next level of training will be to work towards longer sets. If you can do 5+5 on the minute for 20 minutes, I recommend you take a few days off and test your one-set maximum number of reps – I think you’ll find you can do 20 or more with each hand without a switch, an excellent start to working up to some good TSC numbers.
Another milestone workout for aspiring kettlebell snatchers is Steve Maxwell’s 20-15-10-5. The idea is to perform the required number of reps with each hand without every putting the kettlebell down. Learn to pace yourself in order to complete the workout, and practice holding the kettlebell overheard for time once in a while and even walking around with it in this position to teach you to relax at the snatch lockout position. If you cannot do 20-15-10-5 without a break, then try to follow the format but with fewer reps, e.g., try 12-10-8-6 and see if you can complete that, then work on increasing the reps in each of the four sets.
100 reps in five minutes is a good goal to shoot for in the TSC, so your next step might be to start pacing yourself accordingly. As I write this article, this is where my own training is at, about six weeks before my first TSC. (I’ve competed at Girevoy Sport before but never at a TSC.) My plan has been this: once a week, I do as much of the 20-15-10-5 workout as I can at my competition speed. That means the first 20 must be completed in the first minute, and so on. For the second workout of the week, I back off a little from the number of reps I did on previous day but I keep the pacing the same, but after a rest, I go back and try to do more snatches to bring my total up to at least 100. The concept is pretty simple – one day of maximum effort at pace, a second day of two or more sets in order to achieve more training volume. So far, I have been making steady progress and am hoping to get 100 reps non-stop in the 20-15-10-5 format at the meet.
Pullups are done with GTG, the Grease The Groove method of what Pavel calls “synaptic facilitation.” Train your pullups every day or almost every day, doing many sets of approximately 50% of your maximum reps spread throughout the day. Aim for at least 5 sets per day and as many as 20. Training pullups with GTG should enable you to increase your maximum reps, so periodically take a few days off and test yourself, perhaps once a month. Read the GTG article on the DragonDoor web site. Do your pullups after your deadlifts or snatches after a nice, long rest.
3. Don’t train specifically for the TSC at all if your current program is close enough.
Some people will find their current training program will let them comfortably to a TSC without specific training or because it already includes one or more of the events, e.g., a powerlifter who incorporates pullups and kettlebell work already is certainly close enough. People following the CrossFit model also already perform some or all of the TSC’s required movements on a regular basis. (Thanks to Tom Phillips making this point to me.)
There is nothing like competing to bring out the best in all of us. I hope this article has given you some things to think about as you prepare for your next TSC, and I look forward to seeing _your_ name on the list of results on the web site.