Failure Is Not Final: Overcoming the DVRT Clean + Press Test

 Passion will move men quote via @FitFoodieMama

As most of you know, I recently went to NYC to get my DVRT Certification with Ultimate Sandbag.  In last week’s post, I alluded to the fact that my experience was extremely powerful and it was, but before I get into my story, here is a little background. 

About 4 years ago I was introduced to the sandbag and not too long after I purchased one for myself to use at home.  Only knowing a handful of exercises to do with it, I found a plethora of resources and educational information on the blog which is authored by creator, Josh Henkin. 

His nearly daily blog posts of workouts and tips created a foundation of knowledge for me that I needed to take my at home workouts to the next level.  After several years of reading his daily posts, purchasing his new workout programs and following USB on social media, I decided it was time to take my passion as a fitness enthusiast to the next level and get certified.  

After a check on their website, I realized that there was an upcoming cert being held in NYC.  I quickly signed up and started preparing to ensure that I would really impress them with my knowledge and skill.  

Not only do the Level 1 and 2 certifications require that you pass a written test but the Level 1 cert also requires you pass a physical test, otherwise known as the Clean and Press Test

Depending on your weight and gender there are different standards: 

  • Women under 150 pounds: 40 pound Strength USB for 50 repetitions
  • Women over 150 pounds: 60 pound Strength USB for 40 repetitions
  • Men under 170 pounds: 60 pound Strength USB for 50 repetitions
  • Men from 171-210 pounds: 80 pound Burly USB for 40 repetitions
  • Men from 210+ pounds: 100 pound Burly USB for 40 repetitions

Like I said, I quickly started prepping once I realized what this certification would entail.  I only had a power bag at home so I purchased a strength bag and began practicing right away.  I even had a method down, 10 reps at the start of every minute then rest and start again.  I practiced for months and was successful at getting in my 50 reps in under 5 mins without too much of a problem.  

Flash forward to the first day of the certification…I signed in and could hear a loud, low voice booming around the corner.  There was no mistaking it, it was the voice of Josh Henkin himself.   Upon seeing him a moment later, I got nervous and began to question all that I had taught myself.  What if I embarrassed myself in font of THE Josh Henkin? What if I fail? 

My fear began to dissipate the moment I walked into the actual fitness studio.  The certification class was being held at Mark Fisher Fitness in Manhattan and let me tell you, it is the most interesting place I have ever had the opportunity to sweat in before.  

Seriously….there are disco balls hanging from the ceiling and a unicorn puking a rainbow painted on the wall….

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Mark Fisher Fitness Manhattan, DVRT Certification MFF2

I also began to feel more comfortable when we started our hands on training.  There were several other Master Trainers present to assist including Steve “Coach Fury” Holiner, Amanda Thebe, Michele Decerio and Danny “Twoguns”.

The morning was spent with them learning how to build the hip hinge, proper dead lifting techniques and working up to the Power Clean to Fist which involves sweeping the USB (Ultimate Sandbag) from the ground up under the fists in front of the body.  

Since this specific clean is part of the technique that is used for the Clean and Press Test, it was imperative that we became proficient at it.  

While they had warned us at the beginning that we would be completing the C+P that day, none of us really knew when. Then right before lunch, it was announced that it was time.  The feeling of fear instantly rushed over me but all I could think was, “its now or never”.  

Before we began, Coach Fury gave a speech about how it was a tough test, how we should not feel bad if we didn’t complete our required reps in the 5 minute time frame, that it wasn’t the end of the world saying if that happened “you haven’t failed, you just haven’t passed yet”.  

Coach Fury, DVRT Certification

He then went on to tell his story of how the first time he tested for the C+P, he went in confident that he was going to smoke it- he had done it a number of times successfully, just as I had.  On the day of the test, in the only 5 minutes that mattered, he failed… missing it by 4 reps.  He described this defeat as SOUL CRUSHING.  

The immediate mention of those two words made a wave of fear rush over me but as best I could, I collected myself thinking “I can’t fail, I won’t”.  Surely adrenaline would push me through. Surely I would not fail

Without much time to think (okay, there probably was, but it’s a bit of a blur), we were told to get ready and the timer was going to start.  My training partner, Jonathan and Master Trainer, Amanda Thebe stood by my side to count the reps, watch my form and cheer me on.  

We started….1, 2….10…15…no problem.  But there was a problem, I went out too fast, too hard.  I didn’t push press, I just pressed instantly fatiguing my arms and shoulders.  By the time I had reached 25 reps, only halfway, I wasn’t sure I would be able to make it to 50.  

Clean and Press Test, DVRT Certification

Jonathan kept encouraging me…telling me to rest for a few seconds, reset, take a deep breath and then push through and I tried….I really, really tried.  

With less than a minute left, I was at 40 reps….just 10 more and I would make it.  Just 1 more minute of giving it all I had.  Just one more minute.  You can do anything for a minute. 

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But I couldn’t.  The clock hit 5 minutes and I only did 48 reps.  I missed by two.  Two reps that I just didn’t have in me.

 My soul was crushed. Tears started to well up in my eyes and I retreated to the back of the room, embarrassed that I became so emotional in front of a group of mostly men.  

My tears were tears of anger though…so pissed that I hadn’t completed what I set out to do.  Pissed that I had failed.  As I was wallowing in my self pity and rage, Coach Fury came to console me.  He told me how the day after he failed, he went on to crush the test, getting in 43…7 more than the day before! He assured me that I would too, and reiterated that I had not failed, I just hadn’t passed yet.  

I collected myself, regained my composure and went back to cheer on my partner and the others who were in the midst of five minutes of hell.  I watched some these guys CRUSH IT and instead of being jealous, I was inspired.  I could do it. I knew I could…I had before and I would again. 

As much as I (or maybe just my pride) wanted to go back and crush it the next day just like Coach Fury did, my better judgement prevailed.  I was reassured that those of us who didn’t get our required reps in could go home, rest up and submit a video via email to them along with our written exams. 

As much as it pained me to not show them what I was capable of in person, I took their advice and a few days later went home, put the sandbag in front of my feet, pressed record and went for it. 

….and I did it.  Exactly 50 reps in 5 minutes.  Not the best I have ever done but I will take it.  

Now, I still haven’t submitted the video for two reasons:

  1. I slam the bag down at the end- that is sort of a no, no but I was rushing to stop the timer on my phone.  Why? I don’t know.  The video can clearly demonstrate my beginning and end point so next time I will try and remember I don’t have to actually stop the stop watch. 
  2. I didn’t push press the whole time, which I should have.  I know I can do better so I am going to try again and see what happens.

Regardless, I proved to myself that I didn’t fail before, that failure is not final and if you have enough passion it can drive you to move mountains….or sandbags in this case! 😉 

Ps. Check out this awesome crew that I got to spend the weekend with, happy and honored to now call them my friends! 

DVRT Certification, NYC


Let’s talk…

How do you overcome failure? 

Do you ever let pride get in the way? 

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About me

Annmarie is a self proclaimed foodie, avid long distance runner and functional fitness coach. A DVRT Master Trainer, HKC Instructor and food allergy sufferer, she writes about strength training for runners as well as shares allergy friendly recipes for busy athletes.   She is also the owner of Strength In Motion Studio, mother of two sassy sisters and wife to a chronically busy chiropractor.   Subscribe by email for updates to get the latest workouts, advice and recipes straight to your inbox!


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