Death Sets

Sascha catching some serious air.

Every once in a while, it is good to do a death set.  Especially if you are one of those people who is super strict, regimented, and tight about your training, bust loose and do a death set. Go ahead, I dare you. You can train for it, or just go for it.

A death set is a workout that is long and heavy and a little crazy, something that will tear you up a little.  It might be 100 heavy thrusters with a penalty every minute (like CFFB’s Kalsu), 100 bodyweight plus squats, a super heavy near max Grace, the Inman Mile, one of the Painstorms, Murph (with a vest, buddy). You could even go further and try for 2 workouts a day for 5 days in a row.  Amundson and I once did Fran, Helen, and Grace every way we could think of for a week straight.  A death set is something way out of the ordinary, something that really challenges you to just finish.  You don’t worry about your time on a death set, you just get it done.

Death sets are very common in martial arts. You might do 500 low kicks on the heavy bag, the same kata 100 times, 1000 cuts with a sword or bokken.  Often these death sets take place at a special time, midnight on the solstice, for example, or New Year’s Day, or a birthday.  Go ahead and make a celebration of it.

The benefits of a death set is not really physical.  You are not going to get stronger on one workout, no matter how grueling it is.  The real benefits to death sets are mental and spiritual.  A death set should be demanding enough that you have to harness all your strength and fortitude just to finish. And that kind of hardship, even in just one workout, will make you stronger.  Stronger on the inside.

Actually, doing a death set might even set your training back a little bit, because a death set will mess you up.  You are going to be bruised and sore and you might not be able to hit it with your usual intensity for a couple days after the death set.  That’s ok, it’s to be expected.  Don’t worry, you will make some big leaps forward.  Death sets build indomitable will even as they turn you to jelly.

Regardless of the  name, death sets are a lot of fun.  And you can reap some big benefits from them. Go for it.


Front Squat

8×2 @ 85% 1RM


7 Rounds

Jerk/Rack Jerk 185/115#

5 KB Swings 2/1.5 pood

7 GHD Situps