Villain Challenge 5

by MOA and Johnny Pain

Several elite units were created by the Soviet Union at the onset of the Cold War, each with a diverse mission set, from sabotage of Western nuclear weapons to partisan warfare in the mold of the Werwolf units employed by the Nazis in the waning days of World War II. Known as Spetsnaz, or Special Purpose Regiments, these commandos ignited the Soviet-Afghan War with simultaneous attacks on Kabul’s communications hub and the Tejbeg Presidential Palace, where they massacred the Afghan President and his 200 bodyguards.

Documentation on the training of both Military and KGB Spetsnaz is scarce at best, but thanks to men like Pavel Tsatsouline, we have anecdotal information on physical assessments such as the vaunted pull-up test. According to Pavel, one of the regular physical fitness tests in Spetsnaz units was 18 dead-hang pull-ups performed in combat fatigues, boots, and 10kg body armor.

Keeping in line with Villain training ideology, the test will be modified a bit to make it a Villain Challenge. We will do chin-ups, palms facing inward, instead of pull-ups. This is to increase range of motion, involve more muscle mass, and because those on the Greyskull LP will already be doing weighted chins and/or frequency method bodyweight chins. Also, since Soviet canvas fatigues and heavy leather boots are in short supply here in the West, the weight will be increased from 22lbs. to 25lbs. As far as equipment goes, weighted vests are unnecessary as a standard dip belt can be used for this Challenge. If you don’t have a dip belt, a length of chain and carabiner will work in a pinch.

Training for this challenge is very straightforward, especially if you’ve been doing frequency chins throughout the day and weighted chins at least one day per week. Every day, perform multiple submaximal sets of chins throughout your waking hours. Alternate increasing your reps or sets by one each week. Thus, two months of frequency training might look like this (below assumes a single set chin max of 8 or 9 to begin):

Week One – 6 sets of 6 reps

Week Two – 7 sets of 6 reps

Week Three – 7 sets of 7 reps

Week Four – 8 sets of 7 reps

Week Five – 8 sets of 8 reps

Week Six – 9 sets of 8 reps

Week Seven – 9 sets of 9 reps

Week Eight – 10 sets of 9 reps

Your frequency sets should be done with a few reps left in the tank. Don’t do max reps; if you need to start kipping, terminate the set.

If, for whatever reason, it becomes impractical to do 10 sets of chins throughout the day, or the reps get too high too quickly, ladders are an excellent way to build volume without having to be within the vicinity of a pull-up bar all day. Ladders are performed as follows:

Perform 1 rep; rest for about as long as it took you to do the rep

Perform 2 reps; 1:1 work-rest ratio

Perform 3 reps; 1:1 work-rest ratio

…and so on. When you get to the “top” of the ladder, which again will be a couple reps short of failure, start over at 1 rep and work back up. Three ladders with five rungs each give you 45 reps in one short session! Perform a few ladder sessions a day and you can easily achieve the same volume as with the standard frequency method.

At least one day per week, do two sets of weighted chins working your way up to at least 45lbs. of additional weight for 8 reps per set. Those of you following the Greyskull LP will do them on Pressing days, getting in two sessions one week and one session the next. Loading can follow a similar scheme to presses, with 5lb. jumps per week until micro-loading of 1-2.5lbs. becomes necessary. Once you hit 45lbs. for two sets of eight, go balls out and test yourself the following week.

Now get after it, Comrade!

MOA is a professional gunfighter who travels to exotic locales to refine his craft. Having completed some of the most physically and mentally arduous training in the US military, he is uniquely qualified to answer questions pertaining to all aspects of military fitness and UDT-short sizing. Johnny Pain has dubbed him “the CJ Caracci of the StrengthVillain empire.”


11 Responses

  1. This is a great challenge, we do Spetsnaz style pullups in our program. I like the idea of switching it up to chins.

    For some flavor we go straight Russian Courage Corner when we do ours. So if you find yourself without any soviet ops gear. You can stay cultural by hooking a kettlebell off your foot. You can do a bell each foot when you need to go up. You can also just use a burlier bell and hook the front of the supporting foot off the other foots heel.

    Have fun with that.

    December 24, 2010 at 11:01 am

  2. Blackbriar

    MOA, as someone who’s going to start the process of getting back into the service next year I ask that you keep your VC’s coming. The more the better


    December 28, 2010 at 12:57 am

  3. Joachim

    Hi, this is my attempt at this challenge

    I’m also kind of working on #1, but took a break because of a cold.

    Thanks for these challenges,

    January 8, 2011 at 8:59 am

  4. Jay Deeming

    Hey MOA – just started training for this one this last week with the 6 sets of 6 twice a day. I’ve managed to get my strict bodyweight reps to 19 – so 18 with boots cams and 10kg webbing is a little bit intimidating!

    What is the advice on the weighted reps – I was thinking of halving the work of my bodyweight sets for once a week – so for this week after doing 6 sets of 6 twice a day for six days I’d then do 6 sets of 3 reps of 10kg’s and then bump that up the next week when I switch up to 7 sets of 6. Thoughts?

    January 16, 2011 at 1:14 pm

  5. MOA


    I’d say do your weighted pullups during your lifting workout, at least once per week. I’ve currently been doing 1 heavy set (40-80lbs) followed by one max-rep set with 26lbs.

    Stick with your bodyweight on the frequency stuff.

    January 18, 2011 at 10:10 pm

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  7. Jay Deeming

    Hey MOA – this challenge is awesome.

    Copy you lima charlie on doing the weighted reps during the lifting days – currently in the 3rd week of the volume programme, so up to 7 sets of 7 reps;

    My question concerns the position of the feet for the reps. I’ve always been told to pull the elbows back at the top of the rep – basically achieving chest to bar – is this profitable? With the feet we tried feet going forward of the bar at the top to counterbalance and stop the ‘swing’ of consecutive strict reps – we’ve now changed to a tight cross over with our feet that seems to work well at keeping everything ‘still’ – but I know that for a lot of special forces pullup test don’t allow you to cross the feet for whatever reason….. I know i’m thinking about this too much.


    January 29, 2011 at 2:21 am

  8. MOA


    Honestly, put your feet wherever and however you need to. I don’t think about my feet when doing chins, so try feet crossed, straight, etc. Just find something that works.

    As for getting chest-to-bar on every rep, it’s not necessary. Just clear your Adam’s apple.


    January 30, 2011 at 10:07 am

    • Jay Deeming

      Ha,ha thanks MOA – I know i’m being trivial with the feets thing!

      January 30, 2011 at 9:16 pm

  9. The Dude

    Hey MOA,

    Would you say this is a reasonable plan to train for and complete VCs 1,3,5 at the same time?

    Following JP’s recommendation for 1 (I am a burpee newb)

    For 3: Starting with 6 sets of 20 push-ups and working to 10x 30 over the eight week period (my current max usually falls in between 60-70)

    And then following the chin-up plan from this article for 5 (current max 11 body weight)

    July 15, 2011 at 12:55 am

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