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This past weekend, we hosted our annual Fall Throwdown – a fun, in-house competition we put on for our community. In this post I want to share with you a bit of the “behind the scene” look into our thinking and logic behind this year’s event.

Before I get into the details I want to start off by saying congratulations to all of our participants!  Members from both our Group Classes and Exclusive Coaching program competed in four events, showcasing their strength, mental toughness, and ability to pace. Great work done by ALL!

When we put an event like this together, I always ask myself the following questions:

  • Why are we doing this?
  • Who is participating?
  • What is the desired outcome?
  • What are we looking to test and why?

Answers to these questions helps to focus our energies and knowledge to come up with a “Fun” competition that not only does what it’s supposed to do, which is test fitness, but more importantly keep people safe by ensuring the design is thoughtful and appropriate for ALL participants.

I want to be clear about that last point, because I feel this point could get very easily lost.  If we’re going to test fitness, then the tests that we come up with must…and let me repeat that, MUST be able to be completed by all participants. In my opinion, if you design a “test” where you have to scale this or that for any of the participants, then it’s a poor design. My observations with local and regional competitions popping up everywhere is that it seems the race to “Up the Ante” on the crazy, and/or prioritize being entertaining over being effective as the priority now…of course there are exceptions to the rule, but I digress.  For our recent in-house competition, let’s look at our answers to the above questions, offering you some insights and perspective into the behind the scenes at MSP Fitness.

Why are we doing this?

I feel it’s important to understand that the impetus to create these internal competitions comes from one place, our clients.  It’s their interests and not our ego that creates these competition days.  We aren’t building this event as a marketing tool to solicit outside business, make money, or get more page likes.  We do it because our clients enjoy it, and that is our primary goal.  To make sure everyone has a GREAT time, and most importantly is SAFE!

Who is participating?

This is a HUGE piece of the puzzle.  In putting something like this together, if you don’t know your audience and think that you can just put something together to “kick their butt”, you’re really missing the point and likely putting them at undue risk.  You must know who is going to be participating.  Their level of fitness and abilities, and based on that, build/design testing environments that fit within those parameters.  This is why on some of the larger National competitions, you start to see all of these different divisions within the same competition.  You have to know that group“A” folks are your high level Elite Female Competitors ages 20-29 vs. your Masters Male 50-54 scaled division, etc…

When it comes to our community at MSP Fitness, to say that we are intimately aware of our clients’ abilities in the gym is an understatement of understatements.  You can pick nearly any client out of our community, and we will tell you not only the last day they were in training, but the weight on their bar, and the coaching cue we gave them to work on that day, and more.  We know who they are and what they can do, and this knowledge is key to creating proper tests that are safe, appropriate, and effective for everyone in our community.

What is the desired outcome?

Take this in for a moment.  Everyday our clients come through the door of the gym and ask, “What are we doing today Coach?”  They are completely trusting, subjecting themselves to our whim under the guise of training, and health and fitness, and we at MSP Fitness, take this awesome trust very seriously.

So back tracking to the question at hand, simply put, we want everyone to have a ton of fun and be safe.  To walk out at the end of the event with a smile on their face, high five’ing, and ready for some well deserved carbs! The educator in me also wants the participants to learn something about themselves, which can come in many forms.  Often in some variation of learning to trust their mind, body, and training, having likely performed at a new level they never thought they could.

What are we looking to test and why?

Simply put, we take into account all of the above and formulate a series of events/tests that follows through with our values. Before we get into the details, I feel it’s important to understand that in the strength and conditioning realm, there are some simple truths.  Tried and true, scientifically proven principles, one of which states that we get stupider as we progress through a training session.  Ok, that might not be a direct quote, but what I mean to say is that at the beginning of a training/testing session, our bodies and minds are primed to perform the hardest, most mentally, physically, and technically demanding work possible.

With that said, and with consideration of the total time of the competition being around 2 1/2 hours from start to finish, we wanted to build 3-4 events that test a variety of physical and mental potential within the competitors, starting with the most complex movements and moving downward from there.

EVENT #1 – 2x Power Clean -> 3x Front Squat

This event was a test of strength and skill.

Following in line with the above principle, all of our competitions start with a test of strength when the competitors are fresh.  For this Throwdown, we decided to go with a Barbell Complex of 2 Power Cleans followed immediately after receiving the last PC with 3 Front Squats.  There was no touch and go (TnG) option for the Power Clean, and you had to start from a full finish position on the last PC before you began the Front Squats.  This kept the playing field fair for those who don’t posses the TnG skill, or know how to perform a full Clean.  For added “fun” we added a time constraint for each component.  Competitors had :15 to complete the Power Cleans and :30 to complete the entire complex.

EVENT #2 – Max Vertical Jump

This event was a test of power.

What could be more eloquent and pure as a vertical jump test. Simple, nothing fancy, but it doesn’t need to be.  This is a time tested, absolute expression of pure POWER.  You compete against no one but yourself, with TONS of public data and research to compare your results against.

EVENT #3 – 500m Row Repeat

This event was a test of fitness and gives insights into what type of athlete you are.

My stomach gets a little queasy when I think about this one, but again, simple AND effective.  500m Row with a short rest on the rower, followed by another 500m Row.  The goal is to achieve the fastest 500m time for BOTH row efforts.  This is what is called a fatigue repeatability test, and purposely has an insufficient amount of rest between the two rows to expose some truths within the individuals.  This event, borrowed from my mentor and coach James “OPT” FitzGerald’s OPTAthalon, offers tons of great insight into the type of athlete and fitness level based on the results.

EVENT #4 – 7min AMRAP Mixed Modal

This event was a test of pacing, along with mental and physical toughness.

What would a competition be without a little pacing to close the show.  We finish our day with a 7min AMRAP (As Many Reps As Possible) test of 9x Burpees to a Overhead Touch, and 15x Kettlebell Swings with specified weight for men and women.  This event is straight forward.  You try to maximize your effort to execute as many reps as possible in that window of 7min.  Pacing is required, and knowing your engine is paramount to your success.

There you have it. In the end, a lot of thought and care went into this great day with the lion share of the accolades going to the participants.  They did a wonderful job.  Awesome and inspiring to witness such great efforts put forth that day.  CLICK HERE to see some of the pictures from the day, and look forward to a Video compilation from the day’s event coming soon.  PR’s were had by many, and as I mentioned, some great individual takeaways and insights as well. We are already planning for our 2016 Spring Throwdown! Look for more info on that down the road.

– Written by Michael (MSP) Pilhofer