Category Archives: Body Weight Training

The Mantathlon

Train Like A Man 9

The MantathlonI’m always on the hunt for ways to take the body and mind to a higher level. While researching the London Olympics, I discovered the ancient Pentathlon and couldn’t figure out why it was no longer contested.
In this ultimate test of physical power and mental fortitude, athletes competed in five different events.
First, they’d sprint down a runway and leap into the sky to see who had the best long jump. Then in a footrace, they’d sprint across a stadium amid the roar of the power-appreciative crowd. Next up were tests of full body explosiveness with the javelin and discus throw.
If these four events weren’t enough to drive the collective Testosterone level of the crowd into orbit, the competitors finished with wrestling to demonstrate dominance and supremacy.
Sprinting, throwing, jumping, and competing mono a mono with muscle and bone. A high measure of explosiveness, strength, technique, and guts.
So last summer, as I sat watching synchronized swimming, the badminton scandal, and a 70 year-old man competing in Olympic Horse Dressage, I wondered why the original Pentathlon was no longer on the docket.
The individual events were all popular in the current Olympic games and surely spectator-friendly. Hell, the only way it could get closer to Gladiators in the arena would be having the wrestling end with a fight to the death.
As I looked deeper into the history of the Pentathlon, I discovered that the original version was replaced with a more “modern” one, without the power events.
Modern Pentathlon? Can you even name the events? How about naming a famous competitor in the event since its inception in 1912?
Don’t feel bad, I couldn’t either.
Perhaps that should be the first lesson. Just to let you know, the current events are swimming, air pistol shooting, horse jumping, epee fencing, and a 3-kilometer run.
Modern? With fencing, pellet guns, and horse jumping? Not exactly. Looks like the Greek Warrior standing among his adoring fans on top of his battered foes has been replaced with a decidedly more foppish competitor.
The MantathlonBut who would do such a thing? What kind of man would replace the aggressive white fibers of the sprinter with the calculating red fibers of a swimmer and distance runner?
If you’ve read Train Like a Man: Part 4, then you won’t be surprised to find that once again the libido of the sprint has been castrated by Baron de Coubertin – yes, the same man that arbitrarily read a poem and brought the world the marathon (and chapped nipples and shin splints) also sacked the ancient pentathlon, replacing it with its more mild and “modern” cousin.
Notice how these two events seem designed to drive Testosterone into the toilet? (Hugh Hefner has made a career trying to offset the repercussions of these events. )
I know the Baron brought us back the Games and I thank him for that, but we must also question some events. If we research deep enough, we may also find he had the first prototype for Uggs boots for men, along with skinny jeans for men.
Pistols and horses, hrummphh! Sounds like there needs to be an update! How often does “modern man” spend Monday evening at the horse stables sharpening his epee while worrying about his 3K time? Forget that! He’s benching and doing dips.
On Tuesdays, he isn’t making sure his pistol and swim stroke are clean – he’s hitting back and biceps. Horse jumping and fencing? What percentage of the world participates in that? It sounds so elitist.
Instead of running cross country, most men would love to see beasts bench head to head and then settle it all with who has the best biceps.
Let me offer something even more modern. Let me remove the steel epee and add some iron.
So here’s my solution: at the next IOC meeting, before they add mixed synchronized swimming and new rules concerning cheating in ping pong, let’s look at this event to fire up the world – the Mantathlon.

Rules of the Mantathlon

The Mantathlon

The Events

There are five events performed:

  • Bodyweight Bench Press for Reps
  • Bodyweight Chin-ups for Reps
  • Half-Bodyweight Overhead Press for Reps
  • 1.25 Bodyweight Dips for Reps
  • Half-Bodyweight Barbell Curl for Reps

You get one attempt for maximal reps during the competition.

Stop Watch

Once you start your bench press test the clock begins. You have 20 minutes to complete all the tests. Any repetitions completed after 20 minutes have elapsed won’t count toward your point total.
You must perform the tests in order, but the rest you take between tests is up to you. I suggest 3-4 minutes between each test, but keep an eye on the clock so you don’t run out of time for curls.

Weigh In

Start by weighing yourself on a scale. Guessing won’t cut it, as most people seem to magically lose 10 pounds before the Mantathlon begins. Since the entire event is based on bodyweight, you’ll be reminded that the spare tire you promised to lose on January 1 still needs a change.

Warm Up

Get a good warm-up before testing the bench press. Since each event is different, I’d also suggest doing a few light reps of each exercise during your rest period to alert your body to the next movement. For instance, do 2 single chin-ups and a 4-rep set of overhead presses and dips before going for the real total.


Each test has form requirements for the test to count.
Bench Press: You must touch the bar to the chest and lock out each rep. You can pause at the top, but failing to get a rep or racking the weight ends the exercise.

Chin-up: Use a shoulder width grip or less. You must get the chin over the bar and lower to a complete hang for one second. You can hang longer if you want, but failure to get over the bar or letting go ends the exercise.

Overhead Press: You must lock out the elbows at the top and come to a quick pause at the bottom. Racking the bar or missing a rep ends the exercise.

Dips: You must begin in the top extended position and lower until the elbow has a 90 degree angle or greater. You can pause at the top but touching the feet, releasing the grip, or failure to execute a rep ends the exercise.

Curl: You must raise the barbell to the height of the chin and lower to full extension for 1 second. No swaying or leaning back is allowed at the upper body. Releasing the bar or failure to execute a rep ends the exercise.


A very important point: if you reach 20 repetitions on any exercise, that’s the maximum score. Even if you can do more, 20 signifies the end.
Once you’ve performed all five events or run out of time, add up your total number of reps. A total score of 100 is the ultimate goal for this test.
Below is a rating scale:
0-10 –10-20 –20-30 –30-40 –40-50 –50-60 –60-70 –70-80 –80-90 –90-100 –

So What Does It Mean?

The MantathlonIs this the be-all, end-all of fitness? Hardly. Is it a measure of fitness that’s rarely tested during some of the classic strength and or power tests? You bet.
Before you knock it, try it – after performing the Manathlon, I guarantee you’ll not only be enlightened, but also inspired to improve your score.
You can argue success in this event requires strength endurance, but to rep out with your bodyweight on the bench press, you first have to be really strong.
Speaking of strong, by adding the element of time, my Mantathlon also tests another area of manliness not often challenged during a classic one-rep max test: mental toughness.
You’ll find the ticking clock will create a point during the event where you might mentally give in. There will be reps you don’t get the first time, not because they’re impossible, but because you’re not yet able to access the mental stamina to dig them out.
As your scores improve due to familiarity with the test, so will your mental toughness, which is an added benefit to the strength gains you’ll see as you train to increase your score.

The New Olympics?

Maybe the Baron was misinterpreted? Perhaps he wanted people to carry the horse and the swordfight to the death? We’ll never know. But know this: when you perform the Mantathlon, it will leave you hungry for more!

Weight Training for Women: Should Women Lift Differently Than Men?

By  On October 4, 2012 · Add Comment · In Strength Training

Some of the biggest workout myths and misconceptions, which continue to get recycled by personal trainers, the media and bro-science, have to do with weight training for womenand women’s workout in general.
I have an upcoming article on LiveStrong that will bust many of these women’s workout myths. That said, I’ve recruited Cassadra Forsythe, female fitness expert and author of The New rule of Lifting for Women, to do some myth busting of her own and give us the skinny on the question: Should Women Strength Train like Men?
Cassandra will be one of the presenters (along with Bret Contreras, Bill Sonnemaker and Myself) on the 2nd Annual STRENGTH CRUISE – Feb 14-18th, 2013. Rooms are starting at only  $279 base fare. Contact Caryn Graham (our travel agent) to book your room at  (877) 741-2784. The 2013 Strength Cruise Conference Website/Registration opens Oct 8th!
Before I give Cassandra the floor, here are two great fitness information resources for women:
– This study published in CANCER, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society, showed that women who did about 10hrs a week of moderate exercise (recreational physical activity) had a 30% LOWER RISK OF BREAST CANCER.
– My “Triple Threat At-Home Workout” is in the Fall 2012 issue of Oxygen’s Off The Couch! issue, on pg.56-61, which is in stores now and will be for the next few months.

Weight Training for Women: Should Women Lift Differently Than Men?

By Cassadra Forsythe, PhD, RD, CSCS
Should women lift differently than men? This is a loaded question because argument could be made for both Yes and No answers.
On the yes side of things: Women do have strength and physiological differences compared to men, so it could be said that when a program is made for a woman, it should focus on their unique weaknesses and metabolic advantages/disadvantages.
First, it is well known that most women carry much less lean mass in their upper bodies compared to men, so exercises such as pushups and pull-ups are a common weakness. Thus, it could be said that women should spend more time on these exercises than men, so that they can increase their strength in their upper bodies, which in turn does lead to improved self esteem and a sexy upper body (what girl doesn’t feel amazing after doing full pushups or pull-ups on her own?).
Then, metabolically, women do tend to be less powerful than men due to several factors such as lower muscle mass, lower lung capacity and smaller hearts, leading to lower stroke volumes. However, their ability to recover after high intensity exercise Is often greater than men’s. This means, that women will often need less rest time after an exercise bout or set, and can get back under the bar, or back in the circuit sooner.So, exercise programs that prescribe significant rest periods may make a women feel bored and she’ll add in  an “active rest” just to keep her body happy.
Women do also often carry more body fat than men, and are usually not as interested in performing max reps of an exercise, so the amount of volume they prefer to perform is often higher than a guys. In terms of lifting, their rep range is often more desirable in the 8 to 15 range. However, many women would benefit from lower reps and more weight to hit muscle fibers that are only stimulated with those types of lifts (hence, this is where women SHOULD train like men).
Most women’s goals for exercise are not to increase muscle size per se, but instead to increase muscle definition, without adding a lot of bulk.
In terms of exercises women are most attracted to, it tends to be those that improve upon areas that women are looking to enhance or minimize. For example, many women want to enhance the roundness and firmness of their glutes, but not make their butts bigger (Guys may like Big Butts, but women can’t fit into most jeans if their butts are too large).
Then, they want to make their breasts perkier, but not end up with a “man chest”. Also, women want a flat defined tummy, but not usually one that is super muscular (yet, a very muscular mid section is usually more about genetics than exercise as we all know).
All women also want tight arms, but not “large guns”. So, they’re typically not going to spend hours of exercise working on the “gun show”, but instead, perform higher reps of some direct arm exercises (in conjunction with pushups and pull-ups of course), to enhance definition.
Many people want to know what research supports these claims or notions, but one must remember that science doesn’t have the money or time to look at questions like, “What exercises are best for women?” unless there is a clinical implication for it. For example, money will be spent to determine the best training programs for women to prevent them from developing an ACL (knee) injury, which are very common. So far, exercise physiologists have determined that improved the strength and firing capacity of the medial hamstring muscles, helps prevent knee valgus, which leads to ACL tears in athletic women (reference below). Or, funding will be developed to understand what exercise protocol helps overweight women lose the most fat. Also, metabolic differences between men and women are investigated, which does show improved recovery in women, and differences in substrate metabolism during and after exercise. But, to pay money to research simple questions like “What are the training differences between men and women?” very rarely, if ever happens. So, much of the knowledge that is shared here is from the experience of exercising women across the world, plus the experience of the trainers that work with them.

Scientific References and Sources on Women’s Workout

1. Tarnopolsky MA. Gender differences in metabolism; nutrition and supplements. J Sci Med Sport 2000;3:287-298
2. Esbjornsson-Liljedahl M, Bodin K, and Jansson E. Smaller muscle ATP reduction in women than in men by repeated bouts of sprint exercise. J Appl Physiol 9-1-2002;93:1075-1083.
3. Esbjornsson-Liljedahl M, Sundberg CJ, Norman B et al.  Metabolic response in type I and type II muscle fibers during a 30-s cycle sprint in men and women. J Appl Physiol1999;87:1326-1332.
4. Carter SL, Rennie C, and Tarnopolsky MA. Substrate utilization during endurance exercise in men and women after endurance training. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab2001;280:E898-E907.
5. Siegel L, Vandenakker-Albanese C, Siegel D. Anterior cruciate ligament injuries: anatomy, physiology, biomechanics, and management. Clin J Sport Med. 2012 Jul;22(4):349-55.

 Author bio:

Cassandra Forsythe, PhD, RD, CSCS is the author of two popular nationally publicized books for women, “The New Rules of Lifting for Women”, and “Women’s Health Perfect Body Diet”.
Her passion lies in encouraging women and men of all shapes, sizes and life stages to exercise seriously and with purpose. Most recently, she has become an advocate for super fit pregnancies following her own ultra-fit gestation.
She runs her own group fitness facility in Connecticut, which has transformed the bodies of hundreds of women and men across the state. You can find out more about Cassandra and her fitness facility at
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