Tactical Strength Challenge - A Coach and Competitor Perspective


On October 28th, Ethos held our first StrongFirst Tactical Strength Challenge. The event brings together athletes from all over the world and tests their max deadlift, max amount of pull ups or flexed arm hangs, and their max number of snatches in 5 minutes. You are probably thinking, who would do that? Why would they do that? Or, maybe you are thinking, that is awesome, when is the next one? We had members and coaches on both sides of this initially. Everyone had an incredible time, but I was fortunate to see the TSC from 2 perspectives; coach and competitor.  

For myself, I was excited to have a competition to train for. I do well when I have an end goal in sight, a training plan I can stick to and numbers I want to hit. At the start of my training I was confident with my snatches, knew I could get some pull ups, but my deadlift was nothing near where it needed to be. I could only pull 225 and it felt like crap, but it was time to decide which division I would compete in. This seemed as simple as entering checking a box on the registration form, but it created a dilemma. Do I chose the category I know I will do well in, or do I choose the one that will require me to push myself and possibly finish high on the leader board in? This is a personal decision that each competitor is faced with, and one we are faced with all the time; stay comfortable or get uncomfortable. I have written about being uncomfortable before and how important I feel it is to step outside your comfort zone. For some, just doing the TSC was uncomfortable enough. For me, the elite division was uncomfortable, so it was the box I checked.

I was ok with my decision because I knew that I would put the work in and that if I did not do well it would not be for lack of trying. If I fail at something for lack of trying, I have only failed myself. If I “fail” while trying my hardest, I have not failed at all. I have succeeded for myself; fuck what the scoreboard say. And that was the message we wanted our members to hear. This is an event that has a set date, a goal that you can aim for, and only you as your competition. So pick your division, work as hard as you can, and come the day of you will not fail. I am happy to say no one failed.

For 12 weeks I trained, hard. I worked with a coach, Tony Gentilcore, for 8 weeks to improve my deadlift. I worked through the prescribed program of snatches and pullups that Jay wrote for me and I was ready to go. In addition to my own training, I programmed sessions for some of my clients who were competing and for the class members. I was happy with everyone progress and excited for the day. The week before the competition, I had everything planned; how I would warm up, what I would pull for each attempt, even what I would wear. The day came, we started warming everyone up, the first competitors went and everything I cared about for myself went out the window. The people in front of me, some who had never been in any sort of competition before in their whole life, people who put their trust in the Ethos coaches were hitting PR's left and right. I couldn't have  cared less how I did at that moment. I was no longer in my competitive mindset, now I was in the coach mindset; the you can do anything mindset. It was an incredible feeling. Watching members find that holy shit moment, when you accomplish something you deemed impossible at some point, was incredible and I thought- "who cares how I do, this is all worth it!" My own hard work had paid off and I hit my goals. I was happy with my personal performance, but that will fade long before my excitement for the other competitors around me.

This was one of those moments when you realize have clarity in "why" you do what you do, and why you love it. A big reason I became a coach was to help people find their inner strength and how it would help them in so many other facets of life. I think, and really hope, the TSC was one of those events for people. To know how much you can push your body and how unbelievably strong you are is so empowering. Everyone is stronger than they think. Everyone is capable of so much more, but we need to find that in each of ourselves. The TSC was a chance for some people to see that. Maybe it was not the actual act of lifting the most they ever have, or pushing themselves through a 5 minutes snatch test, but maybe it was just about sticking with a plan or about doing something so outside their comfort zone. Whatever it was, each person learned a little something about themselves, and as coaches, that is what we ask for from our members; and from ourselves. Try to be the best version of yourself. Try to grow a little, be a little better. Aim high, plan the work, work the plan, and trust the process.

I can go on and on about how incredible the day was and why anyone and everyone should do the TSC or something similar, but here are some thoughts from the competitors themselves:


In one word, the TSC event was inspiring. Each athlete came into the event with a different goal, some were big and some were small, but each athlete owned that goal and it was really awesome to be a part of. On a personal level, I had a lot of anxiety beforehand because I was unsure of my deadlift and I wasn’t in great snatch shape, but I channeled the energy from Jess’ blog post about fearing failure: trying and not meeting your “goal” is not a failure. The environment and the enthusiasm at the gym on Saturday helped put a lot of the anxiety to rest. Every athlete/trainer in the gym was my cheerleader; when I needed a pep talk my fellow athletes were there to tell me I could do it and to get out of my own head. Honestly, I feel like my attitude has been rejuvenated after participating. I would highly recommend it to other Ethos athletes and I look forward to the next one! Sara D.


When I first signed up for the TSC, I chose the Novice category because I had 1 thing in mind, being the best and trying to win. Sure enough as the day approached, this mindset slowly changed. Come Saturday morning all I wanted was to be my best me and watch other people do the same.

The atmosphere was absolutely unreal. Not a single person in the gym was silent during a single event, and I think the room was just as excited as the individual athlete when they competed. The cheers were roaring and the smiles were contagious. I might have actually shed a few tears of happiness watching other people PR.

As you would assume, I have probably watched my PR deadlift video 100 times now, but I am watching it differently. While I obviously love watching myself do well, I've stopped watching the video and am now just listening. I am beyond proud of myself for this PR, but I think it almost meant more to me to feel and hear all the support and love coming from everyone else in the room.

To people who didn't participate for one reason or another, my advice to you is just go for it. Every person went in there with a different goal and a different mindset but we all left with the same things: PRs, unwavering support from and for one another, and the desire to do more. I cannot wait for the next TSC, not only to see how much further I can push myself, but to watch everyone else succeed again.

 This was my first fitness "competition", and I can guarantee it won't be my last. -MacKenzie


The TSC was a complete leap of faith for me. I put my trust in the coaches at Ethos and I couldn't be happier with my decision! I have to admit, the most difficult aspect was taking the coaches advise to rest and eat in the week leading up to the event. Although my nerves kept me from sleeping well, I do believe their advice paid off! I performed much better than I could have dreamed of and I will definitely do it again! Huge thanks to all the coaches and everyone who competed, cheered us on, and trained with us! 

With gratitude! -Kim


When I decided to compete in the TSC I had never attempted a body-weight pull-up and was just learning how to do a kettlebell snatch. After a few short months of focused preparation, I reached my goal of 100 snatches in 5 minutes and performed the first pull-up I've ever done. In addition to the excitement of completing two tasks I never saw myself accomplishing, I reached a personal record deadlift 30 lbs above my previous best. Needless to say, participating in the TSC was an absolute blast! There was such camaraderie in the gym that each successful rep felt like a championship. Watching my fellow athletes hit personal record after personal record was inspiring, and made me incredibly proud to be a part of the Ethos community. The TSC gave me a great goal to focus training towards, and I was blown away by what I could accomplish, so I would recommend the TSC to every Ethos athlete.  

Thank you, and everyone who participated for such an amazing experience! –Ben


I was feeling a little apprehensive about the TSC because I was still not fully recovered from my head cold earlier in the week, but I didn't want to miss it and I wanted to see others that I've trained with tackle this event.  While I may not have deadlifted more weight than I did, or completed more pull-ups, or hit triple digits in the kettle bell snatch test, I left the event feeling really good about how far I've come in less than 3 years of working with Ethos coaches.  I'm proud of what I accomplished and am not comparing myself to anyone else - I did something I never did before and never knew I could do.  I also walked away with a baseline to to build on going forward. 

The absolute best thing about the day?  The camaraderie amongst everyone there.  Seeing other gym members who weren't doing the TSC show up to just watch, cheer, and support others was really great, and being able to see so many of my peers do some incredible feats of strength and endurance was really inspiring.  It was great to be able to encourage my peers and celebrate their accomplishments.  Just an awesome day that reminded me of why I love Ethos so much! -Sidney 


Never in a million years did I think I would participate in a strength competition, but I’m so glad I did. I walked out feeling like I could conquer the world. The event drove me to push myself beyond anything I ever thought I was capable of, surrounded by people who cared about my success as much as their own. It was an amazing day, and I strongly encourage every Ethos athlete to take part. You won’t regret it.” - Lisa P.