Tactical Strength Challenge Rules

Tactical strength challenge rules

The Tactical Strength Challenge (TSC) is a strength competition consisting of three events:

  • A three-attempt powerlifting deadlift
  • Pullups for max reps
  • Kettlebell snatches for max reps in a 5:00 time period



The Tactical Strength Challenge tests different types of strength and endurance—as demanded by real life’s challenges—with three lifts, the deadlift, the pullup, and the kettlebell snatch. The three events test a unique trade-off between these abilities. While larger participants may have an advantage in the deadlift, lighter participants have an advantage in pullups, and the kettlebell snatch tests all participants equally.

The rules are simple, the training is hard, but the opportunity to say you faced the Tactical Strength Challenge and survived makes it all worthwhile.

Classes of competition

Men’s Open Division
A max deadlift, bodyweight pullups, and snatches with a 24kg kettlebell.

Men’s Elite Division
A max deadlift, pullups with 10kg of added weight (22 lbs), and snatches with a 32kg kettlebell.

Men’s Novice Division
A max deadlift, bodyweight pullups, and snatches with a 20kg kettlebell.

Men’s Masters Division
A max deadlift, bodyweight pullups, and snatches with a 20kg kettlebell.

Women’s Elite Division
A max deadlift, pullups with 5kg of added weight (11 lbs), and snatches with a 20kg kettlebell.

Women’s Open 16kg Division
A max deadlift, bodyweight pullups, and snatches with a 16kg kettlebell.

Women’s Open 12kg Division (new)
A max deadlift, bodyweight pullups, and snatches with a 12kg kettlebell.

Women’s Novice 16kg Division (new)
A max deadlift, flexed arm hang, and snatches with a 16kg kettlebell.

Women’s Novice 12kg Division
A max deadlift, flexed arm hang, and snatches with a 12kg kettlebell.

Women’s Masters Division
A max deadlift, bodyweight pullups, and snatches with a 12kg kettlebell.

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 competitors. The weights used for pullups and snatches vary by competition class as described below.

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

Any competitor that places in the top 3 in the Novice division is no longer eligible to compete in the Novice division, and must register in the Open or Elite class.

How each event is scored

Deadlift The competitor who successfully lifts the most weight wins.

Pull-ups The competitor who does the most repetitions wins.

Snatches The competitor who successfully performs the most repetitions wins.

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

Video Verification

One of the goals of the TSC is to build one’s own strength and to compare yourself to previous performances. We want to keep the event fun and challenging for all competitors. For those who are competing and think that they might place in the top ten, a video is needed to verify your score. The top 3 winners from each division will have their video verified by our expert panel. Winners must be verified by video.

Event 1: the deadlift

The competitor 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 instructor’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.

Event 2: pull-ups

Strict pull-up form and grip is required. A chin-up grip (palms facing the competitor) is not allowed. The competitor may choose a thumbless grip or with thumbs wrapped around the bar.

With a palms-forward thumbless grip the student will pull up from a straight elbow position until his or her jawline clears the bar.  Use pure strength; no swinging, kipping, or other use of momentum is allowed.  The elbows must be straight before each repetition. (If a mobility issue limits the elbows straightening, then the competitor must notify the judge.)

Men’s Elite division requires pull-ups are performed with 22 lbs (10kg) attached to the competitor using a weight belt and chain. The total assembly (weight belt and plates) should weigh no less than 21 and no more than 23 pounds and must be weighed before the competition. Any assembly of belt and weights in this range is considered acceptable and will count for competition purposes and TSC records.

For each successful rep, the referee 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 chin clears the bar.

Equipment: A pullup bar tall enough so that all competitors can use it without bending their legs and sturdy enough to handle heavier competitors and additional weight of kettlebells. A weight belt with an attached kettlebell/weight is used for weighted pullups in the Men’s Elite Division.

Equipment not allowed: No lifting aids or gloves

Event 3: kettlebell snatches

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 competitor 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 competitor may not place the non-lifting arm on the thigh or allow it to assist in any way. If the competitor allows the hand to rest on the thigh, assist the lift in any other way, a no count is called and the repetition is not counted. Speed switches are allowed where the competitor switches arms in the middle of the snatch motion.

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

Equipment: A 12kg, 16kg, 24kg, or 32kg kettlebell and a timer or stopwatch. Competitors 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: Competitors may not use gloves or wrist guards (wrist guards can only be used if a previous medical condition exists). 

Referee’s discretion

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