3 Weight Room Challenges For Mental Toughness


In the field of strength and conditioning, new ideas and innovative programs are introduced daily. It seems like a full time job keeping up with all of the new ideas in the field. I have invested my time and energy into learning the best of the best and seeing what results they produce.

I am here today to share my 3 favorite challenge workouts that I have learned in 2016 from some of the brightest minds in the field.


Challenge 1: The Pain Cave

I learned this one from Cal Dietz at his ‘All Things Triphasic Clinic’ this past April.

Cal is a strength coach at the University of Minnesota and the author of Triphasic Training.

How To Do It

You will need to know your 1 rep max for the bench press and have a spotter available. Start by putting 20% of your max on the bar, then put another 30% on top of that, and finally put another 40% on top of that.

You are doing this so you can quickly drop from 90% to 50% to 20% with only having to quickly strip off a couple of plates.

The set begins by holding the bar loaded with 90% 2 inches off your chest for 10 seconds. Once 10 seconds is up, quickly rack the bar and strip 40% off so you now have 50% of your max on the bar.

You will now immediately hold the bar 2 inches off your chest again for 30-40 seconds. Rack it once more to strip it down to 20% and now hold it 2 inches above your chest for 4 minutes.

If you fail before any of the times listed then rack the bar and move on to the next weight and time.

The first time I did this challenge my scalp was tingling for a few minutes from all the blood rushing to my head. Enjoy.

When To Do It

I typically follow Triphasic Training, which is a block periodization model where you spend an entire block of 2-3 weeks focusing on isometric strength.

If I have a team training 3 times’ per week we will have the first and third workout consisting of isometric exercises with the second workout being a more traditional workout without tempos. I will program the pain cave during the final week of this block as the main lift for that day.

If you don’t follow a program like previously discussed I would perform this workout early in your off season when your emphasis can be doing some out of normal workouts as your main lift.

Challenge 2: Static Dynamics

This is one I picked up from Joel Jameson, the author of Ultimate MMA Conditioning. According to Joel, this method has been around for decades but never became popular most likely due to how brutal it is. I recommend adding it to your program for 4 weeks to get its full benefits. But it could also be used for a single workout if your goal is to just get your ass kicked.

How To Do It

To perform this style of training you will start the set in the stretched position (bottom of the squat or bench) then perform two reps with a 2 second concentric (raising of the weight) and a 2 second eccentric (lowering of the weight) then isometrically (hold still) hold the stretched position for 10 seconds. After the 10 second hold repeat this process until time expires. Below is a 4-week progression you can use.


Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

Week 4


3 Minutes

5 Minutes

7 Minutes

10 Minutes


2 Minutes

2 Minutes

2 Minutes








Exercises to use:

  • Goblet Squat
  • Dumbbell Bench Press
  • Dumbbell Shoulder Press
  • Lat Pull Down

When To Do It

I program static dynamics when conditioning of the anaerobic lactic energy system is a big priority such as late in the off-season or during the early stages of a preseason. For example, I have my basketball team’s conditioning program focusing on development of their aerobic system in September then the lactic system in October.

I will have them perform static dynamics once per week for 4 weeks with one set of a goblet squat and a dumbbell bench press as part of their lactic system-conditioning program.

Challenge 3: 60% Bodyweight Bench Press

This one was shared earlier this year on social media by Joe DeFranco and will absolutely destroy your chest for the next couple days.

How To Do It

Find 60% of your body weight, load it on a bar, set a timer then perform 100 reps as fast you can. Your time is your score. The fastest time I had from the two teams I had do it in the spring was 3:35.

When To Do It

In my opinion this challenge is best used in the off-season, for one day only, when the goal of the phase you are in is hypertrophy/muscle growth. If you’re a coach it is a great way to create some competition amongst your team. This workout will leave you very sore so it should be avoided during your in season training.

These workouts can all have a time and place in your yearly program but it is important, as with all challenge type workouts, to use them at the correct times. In my opinion, all of the above are great additions to your toolbox but make sure to look at the big picture before just randomly having your athletes perform these.

About The Author

Bill DeLongis is the head strength and conditioning coach for Trinity College. DeLongis came to Trinity from Stony Brook University on Long Island where he was the assistant director for athletic performance for two years. A former Stony Brook Athletic Performance intern himself, he also ran the internship program. Before Stony Brook, DeLongis served as the head strength and conditioning coach for all 10 sports at Converse College in South Carolina for three seasons. He also has experience at Infiniti Sports Performance in Bellport, N.Y. and Velocity Sports Performance in Charlotte, N.C.