Shrugged Collective
Caserta Snatch | Barbell Shrugged

How We’re Getting Our Athletes Stronger & Faster with the Shrugged Strength Challenge

Every 4 weeks we test and track the results from our Shrugged Strength Challenge athletes.

After collecting and compiling the data, the improvements they made were beyond our expectations and I just had to sit down and share some of the progress that our members in the Shrugged Strength Challenge have made in just a few months with you.

Before I dive in and reveal the numbers, I want to take a second and tell you a little about how we test, train, and re-test in this program to get these kind of results. 

Our measures of success

There are three metrics that we test for each month. An overhead squat mobility test, some form of a lower body strength test (like a front squat or back squat), and the classic CrossFit® benchmark “Helen.” (more on what “Helen” is later in the article if you aren’t familiar). We’ll test several other things, but these are done consistently.

We thought these tests were fitting for several reasons but most importantly because the goals of this program are to increase strength while maintaining (if not improving) conditioning with our two most important metrics of gaining 50 pounds in the back squat and taking 3 minutes off the “Helen” time.

How low (and close) can you go? Can you go down low? All the way to the flo?

The overhead squat mobility test is our way of measuring improvement in movement quality each month.

At the beginning of the program the athletes perform and record an overhead squat with an empty barbell with their hands as close together as they can maintain as “perfect” form as possible, meaning they aren’t coming up on their toes in the bottom and keeping a flat (neutral) spine.  

They measure the distance between their hands, make note of foot position, if they wore shoes or not, and the depth of the squat. The goal here is to set a baseline and a starting point as a way to “measure” movement quality.

There isn’t a perfect score for this or a single best way to set up and measure. We just wanted to make it super clear that the setup is the exact same each month so that you can measure improvement. The change from A to B. Think of it as body-fat caliper testing for your mobility in the form of a complex movement.

Here’s SSC Athlete Mary getting her testing in:

This is SSC Athlete Ray. Ray moves….very well.

This “screen” is very important to us as we really want people to get stronger, but we have long term progress and health in mind as well. Most people who joined this program were tired of feeling “beat up” from previous strength programs. We want to help you squat more weight and we also want to help you do it without pain. Training should not leave you in pain!

“How strong are you brah?!” – McG

Next we test the leg strength. The lower body strength test we use varies each month and cycles between testing a front rack rear foot elevated split squat (for single leg strength), the front squat, and the back squat with the main goal being overall improvement in the back squat.

Most people who joined this program have had previous experience with strength programs and have hit some form of plateau in their training. This helps up maintain variety and spread out the testing for each lift so that we give ourselves enough time between training cycles to see improvement in each of the various lower body tests.

Again, one of the main goals in this program is to get stronger, and keep the conditioning in check. Which can be very difficult for some people to balance. If you are tired of following a strength program and having to climb yourself out of a deep hole of conditioning that you dug, you can do both. It just takes time, patience, and good programming.

This current group is doing just that.

Here’s one of our athletes, Emily, crushing a 20 lb PR during her back squat test:


And Rob hitting a 15# PR after being stuck for a year prior to the SSC:


But what good is all that strength if you get winded going up the stairs?

We want you to be strong but also feel capable that you can do something that requires you to breathe and get your engine running when needed. So in this program, improving your conditioning/work capacity along with adding strength is a key focus.

We use the workout “Helen” as our conditioning or capacity test for this program.

Just in case you’re not familiar…


3 Rounds for time:

Run 400 meters

21 Kettlebell Swings – 53# for males/35# for females

12 Pull-Ups (any style)

And if you’ve ever done it, you know it’s a breather and gets nasty quickly.

There are a million different tests we could have chosen or created, but this is a workout that a LOT of people are familiar with. In terms of general fitness & conditioning we like the mix of running, pull-ups and kettle bell swings. This is a very exposing workout if you’re not a great runner. It tests a fair amount of upper body pulling strength & endurance, as well as movement efficiency with the kettle bell swings.


Where are our athletes’ Helen times 3 months in?

This test has been the most surprising in terms of improvement. We know that some people would do better after the first try just based on exposure alone but after three months and 3 attempts, they are still getting better, especially those that already had a fast(er) time.

For example, bringing someone from a 20 minute “Helen” down to a 17 minute seems far easier (generally speaking), than bringing someone from a 10 minute to a 7 minute time. One of the goals we established in the program is to drop your “Helen” time by 3 minutes. Prior to starting the first week of training, you are require to do complete some initial testing including testing your back squat and “Helen.”

After month three we compiled everyone’s results from and took an average of the Helen times from each month. In only 3 months, on average, the program has helped taken 2:30  off their starting “Helen” time!

And the exciting part is how much stronger everyone is getting while they get faster. Here’s a few more of our athletes crushing it:

And for some, success comes from more than just getting a number, but from overcoming an injury and trying to get strong again.

Mary Q Shrugged Strength | Barbell Shrugged


How did we do it?

As I mentioned before, this is not a “quick fix” program. We believe in making progress that is sustainable. And when/if the time comes for you to move on to something else, we want you leaving stronger & fitter than ever. We’re not going to trash your body at the expense of reaching a number as fast as possible.

We thought long-term and developed smart programming and progressions to help make sure everyone is being challenged enough to adapt, and grow, while also keeping the program fun & interesting. 

The first few weeks of training are dedicated to helping build structure and balance in your strength and energy systems. This is where we lay out the foundation for long-term progress. Not so you can ONLY PR next week and that be the end of it. We’re looking long term and each month builds onto the next. The consistency from week to week makes is really easy to see the progress in certain areas.  

And we consistently track that performance!

But performance metrics are not the only thing we track in this program.

On top of posting results in the Facebook group, every month athletes check in with their assigned coaches and report on how the last few weeks of training went. The coaches follow up and discuss the results with the athletes.

Questions like….

How many training sessions did you miss?


Did you perform this months habit that was assigned?

Why or Why Not?

How did it help you?

We firmly believe accountability is one of the biggest missing factors in most programs.

The numbers don’t lie either. Those who had the most improvement in their performance metrics, simply missed fewer training sessions. Consistency is key!

Athlete Stephen Caserta’s Meso 2 Check-In:

Check-in | Barbell Shrugged

*Since starting the program, Stephen’s Helen went from 10:50 to 8:41 in 3 months. His front squat from 275# to 315#. His Snatch from 175# to 185#, and his clean & jerk from 205# to 230#.

I’m super proud of all our clients. There are so many more that weren’t listed that I wish I could share their progress.


Thanks for reading,


Mike Bledsoe

1 comment

  • The Shrugged Strength challenge really incorporates a lot of facets of fitness. You even have a CrossFit workout in there! Using different workout challenges and sports marketing ideas is a good way to bring in customers, because there is something for everyone. Keeping yourself accountable will definitely inspire improvement, the numbers don’t lie.

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