MTI’s Signature Exercises & How They Got Their Names

Sandbag Getups …. MTI didn’t invent this exercise but has definitely helped make it famous.

By Rob Shaul

Ever wondered where Mr. Spectacular, Scotty Bobs or Curtis P’s got their names from? Over the years we’ve come up with quite a few original names.

We call these our “signature” exercises because we either invented them ourselves or developed them through our athletes.

Some of these exercises even became known beyond the borders of MTI. Recently a US Military member sent me an official fitness training program for a US Army course which included elements of MTI’s program design and many of our “signature” exercises.

I’ve put “signature” in quotes here simply because coaches have been training athletes for much longer than I have, and my guess is few of the exercises we’ve developed are truly original – other coaches might have done the same or something very similar previously. We’ve just come up with some clever names.

I went through our exercise list and pulled out those which have an MTI stamp ….



I named this exercise after an old training partner – and perhaps my original lab rat – who began training with me way before I started coaching. I definitely didn’t invent this exercise, but can’t remember where I saw it.

“Curtis P” is an actual guy – an oilfield welder. One session was 100x Curtis P’s at 95#, and somewhere in the middle, Curtis started yelling “I love this exercise!!!” over and over … so I named it after him.

1x Curtis P = Hang Squat Clean + Right Leg In-Place Lunge + Left Leg In Place Lunge, Plus Push Press and can be completed with barbell, dumbbells/kettlebells or a sandbag.

Loaded heavy with a barbell for 1-3 reps, the Curtis P is a great total body strength exercise. Loaded light, for high reps, the Curtis P is a killer legs and lungs burning work capacity mode/exercise. “Garbage Reps” keeps me from programming high rep Curtis P’s these days, but back in the day, a workout I named “Nina’s First Time” was 100x Curtis P’s for time at  55% body weight for men, and 45% body weight for women. I did lots of personal experimentation with this effort and ultimately found that doing 3 reps at a time, with 3 breaths between sets lead to my fastest completion time.



I invented the Craig Special while personally training an older, fairly de-conditioned athlete named Craig. It has since developed into my favorite total body exercise. 1x Craig Special = 1x Hang Squat Clean + 1x Front Squat and can be completed with anything heavy …. barbell, dumbbells, kettlebells, sandbag, big rock, etc.



I’m not sure if I created this exercise or saw it somewhere else, but I did name it the “Sean Special.” Sean was one of my most dedicated mountain lab rats in the early days of Mountain Athlete. I can’t remember why I named this exercise after Sean …. A 30/5/30 Sean Special is a 30-second side bridge, 5x push ups then a 30-second side bridge.



I learned this exercise while instructing an advanced programming course in the early days of Military Athlete to a group of USAF PJ’s in Alaska. The PJ who showed me was named Jeremy. 1x Jeremy Special = 1x Ankles to Bar + 1x Pull Up.



I first learned of this exercise from Mark Twight at Gym Jones, but I doubt another facility has taken it to the levels that we have at MTI. The Sandbag Getup is by far my favorite total body chassis-integrity exercise and when done for time or reps, also a great test of work capacity and mental fitness. Max Rep Sandbag Getups in 10 minutes is one of our events for the tactical Operator Ugly Fitness Assessment. The most I’ve seen in a decade is 80 reps. My personal best is 74.



I learned this hip strengthening complex from an athletic trainer named Kevin Brown in California. I named it “Jane Fonda” because the complex of exercises could be right out of an old Jane Fonda workout video. But, while they look goofy, they work your glutes and hips … and some of the most intense pain in my gym has been experienced completing Jane Fondas.



I purchased a video of kettlebell-based strength exercises, one of which was a 2-handed clean followed by a walkout to a push up. I added a push press to the exercise and named it Mr. Spectacular after a professional wrestling character I saw at a minor-league pro-wrestling event in Salt Lake City. The event was held in an auto-repair garage – turned into a boxing gym in a Hispanic neighborhood. The “hero” of the wrestling match was a masked, Hispanic wrestler and the home crowd loved this guy. “Mr. Spectacular” was this 5′ 9″-ish, Hollywood-looking, blond bodybuilder and he was so awesome at riling up that crowd and making them hate him. The match was complete with a Vince McMahon – evil – promoter character in a suit and more wrestlers. All I can say is if you ever get the chance to go to one of these minor-league pro-wrestling events, go. It was awesome!!!



Many other coaches have their own complex of barbell exercises, but ours I did invent. It’s purposely built to include a posterior chain exercise (hinge), anterior chain exercise (front squat), pulling exercise (barbell row), pushing exercise (push press), power exercise (hang clean) and total body exercise (back squat). Plus, the complex is purposely choreographed to start with the barbell low and in front of the body, and work up and around the body to finish high and behind on the shoulders. We’ve used the barbell complex to train strength (I’ve only seen a handful of athletes who could complete it at bodyweight), work capacity (10 Rounds, 1x barbell complex every 2 minutes at 75/105#), and our old gym based stamina (20 rounds of the barbell complex at 45/65#). I’ve often told athletes that if they came into the gym every day and did 4 rounds of the barbell complex increasing load 10# each round, and kept starting heavier each week, it would likely be all the strength training and gym-based work capacity training they would need. The barbell complex is an incredible strength and conditioning tool.



“EO” stands for Equal Opportunity. I neither invented nor named this brutal ground-based core exercise, but rather learned it from a soldier who attended one of my programming courses.



Figure 4 is a technical move used in ice and mixed climbing to traverse a roof where there are no footholds. Done in a training environment for reps, Figure 4 is a great, sport-specific ice and mixed climbing exercise to train grip and midsection strength.



1x Mutant Maker = Hang Squat Clean into a Thruster. I doubt I invented this exercise but named it after a former athlete named Brian Harder. Brian was a couple years older than me, an Exum Guide, Runner-up national champion road cyclists and all around athletic badass. I once watched him climb up our 18′ foot climbing rope, hands only, with his legs in the L-sit position, three times in a row. Brian’s gym nick-name was “Mutant” and this exercise is named after him. The Mutant Maker is a great, total body strength exercise.



I developed this exercise as part of an Urban Fire-Rescue Fitness Assessment. It’s a killer.



One of my favorite, rotational, chassis integrity exercises. Until recently, I prescribed a 40# sandbag for women and 60# for men … but as we’ve done more and more chassis integrity circuits, our fitness has improved. So recently I began prescribing 60# for women, and 80# for men. I can report first hand, that this exercise with an 80# sandbag is exponentially more difficult than using a 60# bag … for whatever reason. Why is it called a “keg lift”? When I originally developed the exercise, we used a keg partially filled with water. Later we started using sandbags.


TAC SEPA – Tactical Pro Agility Drill

The Pro Agility Drill is a very common football-specific agility drill. We added a tactical element to it by requiring athletes to start prone and then go prone at each direction change. We also add difficulty by completing the drill in an IBA or weight vest. Making the athlete carry a rifle/sledge hammer is even better.



Another tactical agility drill we complete both unloaded and loaded. The simply stacked box obstacles are super effective at training mission-direct tactical movement and agility.



Multiple level changes in a gym-based tactical agility drill.



Another great total body Chassis Integrity exercise, this simple exercise is also a lung burner. One time we did it for 15 minutes straight at 40/60# and all collapsed afterward. Simple, Hard, Work.



Choreographed mobility drills we developed and used to deploy frequently in our programming.



Kayaking is an interesting sport which largely locks the legs in place and focuses effort to the mid section and upper body.  This exercise trains both upper body single limb pressing and isometric midsection bracing strength, concurrently. 



I’m not sure what is its about this exercise that makes it so terrible, but it is….



I didn’t invent this exercise, but witnessed its creation while mentoring for a week with Dan John back when he was still a high school strength coach in Salt Lake. The Double Eagle is another great total body strength exercise. It requires a sled, waist harness and a couple kettlebells or dumbells, plus a place to drag the sled, but if you can make this happen, try Double Eagles.



I certainly didn’t invent this exercise, but did name it after a brand of telemark skis. What I like best about Scotty Bobs is it’s a 2for1 upper body exercise … with each rep, I get two pressing movements (push ups) and two pulling movements – dumbbell row for each arm.



I consider this exercise an anti-rotational chassis integrity effort – currently my favorite. I can barely make 3 reps (6 total) at a 45# plate. Killer!!



A former Marine and Intern of mine named Lee Pace invented this exercise while working with us and it’s other great 2for1 exercise which trains mid-section bracing and 1-arm pulling. Lee since went on to open his own facility in Texas training professional rodeo athletes, and last I heard was on a short list for a strength coach job at a university!



I learned this lower body complex of bodyweight exercises while attending a personal trainer’s conference early in my coaching career at the Flamingo Hotel Casino in Las Vegas. In time I returned to it when I needed a way to train eccentric leg strength for alpine skiing dryland training. We’ve also conducted a mini-study in which we compared the leg-strengthening abilities of the Leg Blaster and the Front Squat, and found the Leg Blaster was just as effective as the Front Squat in developing Front Squat strength and more and more program Leg Blasters into bodyweight and other limited-equipment training plans as my go-to limited equipment leg strengthening exercise.



I invented this exercise after a couple years of using Leg Blasters with my skiers and wanting something more. The Quadzilla Complex is similar, but more simple than Leg Blasters and deploys dumbbells for loading.



I learned this skiing-specific exercise for US Ski Team member and MTI Athlete, Resi Stiegler, who learned it from Ted Ligety himself.



I didn’t invent this exercise, but Mountain Athlete and MTI have taken it to new levels as a primary gym-based training mode for training uphill hiking/movement under load. Step Ups are pure drudgery … but super effective. If it makes you feel better, no one has done more step ups than me…



I didn’t invent this exercise, either, but did name it the “Tarzan” Pull Up and often prescribe it as an alternative to a rope climb for athletes without ropes.



An interesting, surprisingly difficult anti-rotation chassis integrity exercise. Be conservative on loading – I prescribe just a single 25# plate for men. I doubt I could do this exercise with a 45# bumper plate.




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