Unconventional Training Challenge: Review

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.

100_0074We 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.