Rules and technique standards

The Tactical Strength Challenge is a worldwide competition consisting of three lifts:

  • A three-attempt powerlifting deadlift
  • Strict pull-ups for max reps (or flexed-arm hang for time)
  • Kettlebell snatches for max reps in a 5-minute time period

These lifts test a unique trade-off between absolute strength, relative strength, and general endurance. While larger participants have an advantage in the deadlift, lighter participants have an advantage in pull-ups, and the kettlebell snatch tests all participants equally.

Classes of competition

Women — Scaled
Deadlift, flexed-arm hang, and snatches with a 12 kg kettlebell.

Women — Classic
Deadlift, bodyweight pull-ups, and snatches with a 16 kg kettlebell.

Women — Open
Deadlift, bodyweight pull-ups, and snatches with a 16 kg kettlebell (bodyweight up to & including 60 kg) or 20 kg (bodyweight more than 60 kg).

Men — Scaled
Deadlift, flexed-arm hang, and snatches with a 20 kg kettlebell.

Men — Classic
Deadlift, bodyweight pull-ups, and snatches with a 24 kg kettlebell.

Men — Open
Deadlift, bodyweight pull-ups, and snatches with a 24 kg kettlebell (bodyweight up to & including 65 kg), 28 kg kettlebell (bodyweight 65.1–85 kg), or 32 kg kettlebell (bodyweight more than 85 kg).

(What happened to the Masters’ divisions? They’re technically still there. See the FAQ for more details.)

Event duration

The TSC must be held and completed in a single day. Masters competitors will be over 50, not the more common over 40. Masters lifters should lift in the same flights as other athletes. The weights used for snatches vary by competition class as described below.

The events are performed in the following order: deadlift, pull-ups, snatches. Each athlete must be given at least 15 minutes of rest between events but 30–60 minutes is recommended.

Any athlete that places in the top 3 in the Scaled division is no longer eligible to compete in that division and must register in the Classic or Open division at future events.

How each event is scored

Deadlift: The athlete who successfully lifts the most weight wins.

Pull-ups: The athlete who does the most repetitions wins. Flexed-Arm Hang: The athlete who maintains position above the bar for the longest wins.

Snatches: The athlete who successfully performs the most repetitions wins.

Scoring is based on participation. One point for 1st place, two points for 2nd, and so on. In the event of a tie, the pull-up goes to the heaviest athlete and the deadlift goes to the lightest. A tie in the snatch event will stand.

Event Rules

Deadlift (Event 1)

The athlete will lift the barbell and stand erect at the finish of the lift with the hips extended, knees locked, and shoulders above the hips.

  1. Either conventional (grip outside the thighs) or sumo (inside) stance is acceptable.
  2. Any type of grip is allowed. Chalk is the only grip aid allowed.
  3. There will be no downward movement of the bar during the ascent.
  4. No ramping (resting the barbell on the thighs during the lift) is allowed.
  5. No hitching (re-bending the knees on the ascent) is allowed.
  6. Upon the judge’s “Down” command, the student will set the barbell down under control, the hands staying in contact with the barbell until it touches the ground.

Equipment allowed: Belt, knee sleeves (no knee wraps), wrist wraps (not wrist straps), and shoes are the only equipment allowed.

Equipment not allowed: No knee wraps, wrist straps, or powerlifting suits.

Pull-ups (Event 2)

Strict pull-up form and grip is required. A chin-up grip (palms facing the athlete) is not allowed.

With a palms-forward, thumb-less grip (thumbs on the same side of the bar as the fingers) the athlete will pull up from a dead hang until his/her neck or upper chest touches the bar.

  1. Use pure strength; no swinging, kipping, or other use of momentum is allowed.
  2. The neck (or upper chest) must touch the bar below the jawline. Touching the bar with the underside of the chin does not count.
  3. A dead-hang must be maintained for a minimum of 0.5 seconds before every repetition, including the first one. The body must be motionless, the arms and legs straight. (If a mobility issue limits the elbows straightening, then the athlete must notify the head judge to get a medical clearance if he or she wants to be considered as a potential winner.)

For each successful rep, the judge will issue a count indicating a successful rep has been completed. The event is terminated when the competitor quits or fails to make three successive attempts.

The judge/camera should be about eye level with the bar to make sure the jawline clears the bar.

Flexed-Arm Hang

The goal of the flexed-arm hang event is for a athlete to hang with the jawline above the bar for as long as possible. To begin, the athlete will get into position with assistance to the bar with a step up, being lifted up, or jumping up to the start position. The bar must be grasped with both palms facing either forward or to the rear. The correct starting position begins when the athlete’s arms are flexed at the elbow, the jawline is held above the bar and not touching it, and the body is motionless. At no time during the execution of this event can a athlete rest his/her chin on the bar. The clock stops as soon as the jawline is no longer above the bar.

The judge/camera should be about eye level with the bar to make sure the jawline clears the bar.

Equipment: A pull-up bar tall enough so that all athletes can use it without bending their legs and sturdy enough to handle heavier athletes.

Equipment not allowed: No lifting aids or gloves.

Kettlebell Snatches (Event 3)

A snatch is executed by swinging a single kettlebell between the legs with one arm, bringing the kettlebell overhead in a single motion, and locking it out overhead (vertically so the bell is over the heels) with a straight arm. After each rep, the athlete will let the kettlebell fall in a single motion (without dropping the kettlebell to the chest or shoulder) and perform another rep. The knees must be locked out at the completion of the snatch for the rep to count. The athlete may not place the non-lifting arm on the thigh or allow it to assist in any way. If the athlete allows the hand to rest on the thigh or assist the lift in any other way, a no count is called and the repetition is not counted. Speed switches are allowed where the athlete switches arms in the middle of the snatch motion.

The athlete has five minutes to perform as many repetitions as possible. The judge will use a timer or stopwatch and will instruct the athlete when to begin. Once the timer starts, the athlete may begin using either arm and switch arms as many times as desired during the five minutes. The athlete may also set the kettlebell on the ground, rest, or pace on or around the platform provided he or she does not disturb other athletes. The event is terminated when the time reaches five minutes or when the athlete quits. The event is not terminated if the athlete violates a technical rule, but the rep preceding the violation does not count. After notification of a no count or a rule violation, the athlete may resume performing repetitions.

Equipment: A 12 kg, 16 kg, 20 kg, 24 kg, 28 kg, or 32 kg kettlebell and a timer or stopwatch. Athletes may use chalk to improve their grip and can reapply as often as needed. Tape can be used only if a pre-existing injury is noted to the judge.

Equipment not allowed: Athletes may not use gloves or wrist guards (wrist guards can only be used if a previous medical condition exists).

Judge’s discretion

The rules of the TSC are basic and straightforward. A brief rules meeting must precede each event.
Athletes must ask any relevant questions at this time. The judge may, at his/her discretion disallow any practice that he/she deems unsafe.