Strength/Endurance Challenge and Bench Press Competition Return Tops Off 2023

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Story and photos by OAN Newspaper Assistant Kari Haahr

There was a sharp inhale, then a beat as Joseph Garza completed his bench press with a loud clang as the bar dropped back into place. The surrounding group hollered whoop! and there you go! punctuated with a final sheesh! from Garza as he sat up on the bench. What’s going on? The group here is among those who answered the call put forth by Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community Diabetes Prevention Services to participate in the Strength/Endurance Challenge and Bench Press Competition, held at the Way of Life Facility on December 1 and Strength/Endurance Challenge held November 27th through December 1.

Since the first event in 2012, the Bench Press Competition has been a popular opportunity for Community members and employees to challenge themselves and test their strength. It started to raise the question of how some of the folks participating would fare in a cardiovascular endurance challenge, so the following year they expanded the event to include both challenges. This continued until 2019, after which they were only able to hold the Endurance Challenge in 2021 due to challenges from COVID-19.

Looking beyond the interruptions due to the pandemic, SRPMIC Senior Physical Fitness Specialist Dion Begay said he is thrilled for the competition’s return. “We’ve had a drop-off in participation over the last couple of years … [Previously we would] get like 20 to 25 people signed up, but [participation] tailed off and now we’re building back up.”

The Bench Press Competition is straightforward: three attempts to press one rep at your max lift. It’s the Endurance Challenge that really encompasses the entire physical fitness and mental toughness of the participants. Participants are given one minute for each exercise to complete as many reps as they are able: squats at their body weight for men or 75% of their body weight for women, complete pushups, complete pullups or 50% of their body weight for women, and running 300-yard sprints. Then, the participant holds a plank for as long as they are able, completes a broad jump, runs 1 mile, and completes one deadlift at their maximum weight. All of this must be done, start to finish, while maintaining proper form.

Despite turnout being smaller than previous years, Begay isn’t dismayed. “You feel that energy,” he says, nodding to the group of men and women who are all smiling through the strain. “We want to be something people look forward to.”

If you’re among those looking forward to next year’s challenge after the holidays wreak their havoc, the table shown here can help you gauge your current fitness level so you can set a goal for where you want to be by the time 2024’s challenge is announced.

ExerciseWeight or DistanceRepsTime
SquatsBody weight (75% for women)As many as possible1 minute
PushupsBody weightAs many as possible1 minute
PullupsBody weightAs many as possibleNo time
Sprints300 yardsAs fast as possible
Plank1Until failure
Run1 mile1As fast as possible
Broad Jump3 attempts
Deadlift1 rep at max
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