Are You Strong Enough? Take the MTI Relative Strength Assessment


 By Rob Shaul

There is one major difference between Mountain and Tactical Athletes and team sport or individual sport competitive athletes.

Unlike competitive sport athletes, the fitness demands of Mountain Athletes, Mountain Professionals and Tactical Athletes are not specifically defined.

Research tells us that the average football play is 7-10 seconds, and the rest between plays 40 seconds. From a training perspective, it’s easy to see how 10 second sprinting, or sled push intervals, with 40 seconds rest would be a sport-specific work capacity training protocol for football players.

Likewise, we know a marathoner will run unloaded for 26.2 miles, and we can easily find out the vertical gain/loss for the course. We know that professional soccer midfielders will run an average of 9.5 miles in a series of sprints over the course of a 90 minute game.

Record books and past competitions, and even competitive research, competing Olympic and Power Lifters can easily determine what loads they are going to need to make in their lifts, based on their weight class, to be competitive. Same is true for football players, by position, at every level, and rugby players, hockey players, etc.

This doesn’t mean the fitness demands of mountain and tactical missions are totally unpredictable. We can design a sport-specific training plan to climb Fitz Roy based on the approach distance, pitches, pack load, and overall duration. Likewise, there’s a reason we’ve designed different train ups for SFAS (Green Beret Selection) and SFOD-D (Delta) – the selection events are significantly different.

Likewise, we can step back and identify the “Base” fitness attributes for mountain athletes and the different types of tactical athletes. We know most mountain events involve uphill hiking under load, for example, and we know many tactical situations involve sprinting, under load.

What we can’t predict is the unknown or unexpected that often happens during a mountain or tactical mission … when the 6 hour peak bagging effort turns into a 24 hour sufferfest, for example, or a soldier gets injured, and must be carried out during a raid, or the routine patrol welfare check turns into a run and gun firefight.

This unpredictability impacts the strength, work capacity, endurance  and stamina demands of mountain and tactical athletes.

With our base fitness programming at MTI, we attempt to identify the demands we can, make sure they are addressed, as well as prepare them for the unexpected.

A confounding truth of fitness programming is that time and effort spent improving one fitness attribute, often negatively affect others. Training endurance negatively affects strength gains. Too much strength training, and work capacity and endurance decline.

Focusing on strength, how strong is “strong enough” for mountain athletes, mountain professionals and tactical athletes?

In answering, first we are interested in “Relative Strength” – or strength per bodyweight. Mostly, mountain and tactical athletes move themselves around – and their strength per bodyweight is most important.

Below are the Mountain and Tactical Athlete Strength Standards we’ve developed. Understand the in the pure strength worlds of power lifting and Olympic weight lifting, these are not high standards. However, we’ve found these standards attainable for mountain and tactical athletes who also have work capacity and endurance fitness demands.

These exercises and standards were updated January, 2021.

Note … the Hinge Lift is MTI’s preferred technique for the common Dead Lift.

Below is the “MTI Relative Strength Assessment,” which can be completed in a single, 60 minute training session. 


MTI Relative Strength Assessment

This assessment and scoring standards were updated, January 2021.

Warm Up:
(1) 3 Rounds
Barbell Complex @ 45/65#
Instep Stretch
Lat + Pec Stretch

(2) Get on a scale and weigh yourself

(1) Work up to 1RM Front Squat (1RM = 1 Repetition Maximum)
(2) Max Rep Strict Pull Ups (no kipping, bucking, jerking, etc.)
(3) Work up to 1RM Hinge Lift
(4) Work up to 1RM Bench Press

Record 1RM’s, max pull ups reps, and Bodyweight.

Add together your finishing loads for front squat, hinge lift and bench press.

For pulling strength, multiply your max rep pull up times 10% of your bodyweight.

For example, if you weigh 200 pounds, and get 12 pull ups, you’d multiply 10% of 200 (200 x .1 = 20) and 12.

20×12 = 240.

** Note on Pull Ups … the Max Number you can use for scoring  for this assessment is 20. So even if you tested at 25x pullups, the most you can use for your scoring is 20.

Add your pulling strength total to your other 1RM’s, and divide by your bodyweight. The final number is your score.


Male Army Infantryman ….

    • Bodyweight – 201 lb
    • 1RM Front Squat – 275 lb
    • 1RM Bench Press – 275 lb
    • 1RM Hinge Lift – 435 lb
    • Max Rep Pull Ups – 22

Pull up scoring maxes out at 20 reps. So, 10% of Bodyweight x 20 Reps … 201 x .10 = 20.1 x 20 pull up reps = 402

275 – Front Squat 1RM

275 – Bench Press 1RM

435 – Hinge Lift 1RM

402 – Pull Up Score

1,387 / 201 (bodyweight) = 6.9, or “Excellent” for Tactical Athletes.



Male Mountain Athlete ….

    • Bodyweight – 182 lb
    • 1RM Front Squat – 215 lb
    • 1RM Bench Press – 185 lb
    • 1RM Hinge Lift – 285 lb
    • Max Rep Pull Ups – 13

Pull up scoring … 10% of Bodyweight x 13 Reps … 182 x .10 = 18.2 x 13 pull up reps = 236.6

215 – Front Squat 1RM

185 – Bench Press 1RM

285 – Hinge Lift 1RM

236.6 – Pull Up Score

921.6 / 182 (bodyweight) = 5.06, or “Good” for Mountain Athletes.

In general, we want professional mountain athletes and all tactical athletes to score “Good” or better on this assessment



Why are the scoring standards for mountain athletes lower?
Mountain athletes don’t have the loading requirements of tactical athletes – and simply don’t need to be as strong.

In addition to this overall relative strength score, this assessment tells us much about overall strength balance. A balanced athlete, in terms of upper body and lower body strength will have similar 1RMs for bench press, front squat and pulling strength.

How did you chose these exercises?
We tried to choose common, technically simple, strength exercises for this assessment.

Why no Olympic Lifting or “Power” exercises?
Many athletes are not technically proficient with cleans, snatches, etc., and this technical inefficiently does not reflect their relative strength.

How to work up to 1RM’s?
Begin with a set of 5 reps at light to moderate load.

Then, add weight, and do a set of 3.

Then, add weight and start doing singles (1 rep per set).

Keep adding weight as appropriate, and aim to find your 1RM by your 4th or 5th single rep.

Pull ups?
No warm up … get right to them. You can “rest” in the down, hang position – but can’t put your feet on a bench, and must keep both hands on the bar. Form is strict … not kipping, bucking, etc. Chin above the bar at the top and full elbow extension at the bottom.

Why the Front Squat and not the Back Squat?
First – we believe the front squat has a slightly greater emphasis on the quads than the back squat – which seems to engage the butt and hamstrings more. We use the Hinge Lift to really target butt and hamstring strength (posterior chain).

Second – athletes which have an upper and lower body strength balance will have equal, or nearly equal front squat and bench press 1RMs, and using the front squat and the bench press in this assessment gives us a good picture of this upper / lower body strength balance or imbalance.

I took the assessment and didn’t score where I wanted to. What should I do now?
Complete the MTI Relative Strength Assessment Training Plan. This is a 5 week, efficient strength-based training plan designed to increase your relative strength.

Have you developed any standards on Ideal Bodyweight by athlete type?
Yes. See …  Ideal Bodyweights for Mountain Athletes, Mountain Professionals and Tactical Athletes

I’m where I want to be strength-wise. What about other assessments?
We have several … full list HERE.

A couple suggestions for Tactical Athletes:
(1) MTI Tactical Athlete Work Capacity Assessment, (2) MTI Military Athlete 3/3/3 Endurance Assessment

Suggestion for Mountain Athletes:
MTI Alpinist Fitness Assessment

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