How to Master the Ultimate Athlete Challenge
Julie Johnston, the course designer, advises you on how to beat it.
Every year, Men’s Fitness invites men 18 and over to compete in our Ultimate Athlete contest at the Mr. Olympia Weekend in Las Vegas. Competitors vie for prizes by competing in four separate events that are designed to test athletic abilities. These include basketball shooting, baseball pitching, a mock NFL combine, and—as of this year— the Extreme Fit Challenge. A timed obstacle course akin to what you’d find in a military boot camp, the Challenge tests speed, conditioning, and mental toughness.
Since this event is probably the one least familiar to you, we asked its designer, Julie Johnston, for her take on how to beat it. “Most guys who are in decent shape can do these exercises,” Johnston says. “But put them back-to-back and you’d be amazed by the lactic acid buildup.” A good time is under two minutes, she says, but that’ll have you looking like you’ve just been through a full boot camp class. Here, Johnston’s tips for how to ace the Challenge.
Extreme Fit Challenge
Meet the Obstacles You’re Up Against
2-Foot Rope Wall
Task: Use the rope to walk up the wall with your feet.
Julie's Tip: “This zaps your forearm strength,” and the next two obstacles are designed to exhaust it further. To prepare yourself for this much gripping and pulling, “Find your local playground and hang off stuff.”
Task: Lift a 90-pound tire 16 feet in the air then lower it— twice—using a rope and pulley.
Julie's’s Tip: If you want to train for this at home but don’t have a pulley, attach a rope to a tire and set it at a distance. Then lie on your back and practice pulling it toward you as it drags along the ground.
Vertical Monkey Bars
Task: Walk your hands across these bars, which, unlike conventional monkey bars, hang like stalactites in a cave, and are just as hard to grip. Julie's Tip: Practice hanging from a fireman’s pole or other smooth bar for a time, “preferably after a tough upper-body workout.”
Task: Grip the cargo netting with your hands and feet and climb over it.
Julie’s Tip: Hook your elbow around the rope from time to time to rest your grip.
Task: Jump to reach the top of the wall, catch the lip, and pull yourself up, onto, and over it.
Julie’s Tip: Work on your vertical jump. “the higher you can jump, the easier it is to get over.”
Task: Holding a 50–75-pound log behind your neck, walk forward and over various plyo boxes to the next obstacle.
Julie’s Tip: Fill a PVC pipe with concrete to get used to carrying an awkward object.
Spider Wall Walk
Task: Without touching the ground, walk between two walls that stand parallel and three feet apart; use your hands and feet to traverse it.
Julie’s Tip: “There’s really no way to train for this one. You just have to do it!”