The best exercise EVER to build your mettle

If you’re looking for a new exercise to re-energise your routine, then read on as I introduce you to the greatest ever exercise to build your mettle!

I present to you the death march.

What is it?

The death march is the finisher of finishers to your workout:

  • You’ll feel intense suffering before you’ve even covered half the distance.
  • Your upper body feels annihilated, making carrying shopping bags straight after a chore.
  • Your back cries out on each rep as you pick up those weights.
  • Your glutes and hamstrings burn more intense than repping lunges.
  • You’ll need to fight as your progress as you gradually lose stability
  • You reach a ‘metabolic hell’ and end up feeling in a different place

That sounds horrible!  Why would I do that!

The sensation upon completing my first full 40 metre death march rivaled the euphoria I got completing a Spartan race.

Death march is about more than just being fit and strong, it’s about the individual ability to endure through suffering – their mettle.


a person’s ability to cope well with difficulties; spirit and resilience

“the team showed their true mettle in the second half”

Dictionary definition of mettle

A personal experience

On my first attempt at completing a 40 metre death march, before even reaching the quarter mark, my mind said

“This is horrible! Let’s stop now and just build endurance to do the full distance over the next month.”

I told myself to shut up and at least push through to the end of the free weights section before considering stopping.

When I reached that divider between the rubber weight lifting mats and carpet I’d already decided to press on!

I was in pain, but it wasn’t the type that could cause injury – just the type your brain dreams up when something is too hard and it wants you to stop.

Aka the good pain – the one where you become more resilient if you fight it.

Progressing past the machine weights I reached the edge of the cardio machines and lifting the weights anticipating the next step began to doubt continuing – the routine was kicking my arse so much I was concerned about looking foolish in front of all the bored looking people on the treadmill.

If you’ve been going to the gym for a while, you’re comfortable – developing a level of strength better than the average attendee.

Your over inflated ego creates a barrier to your progress making you afraid to look weak in front of others.

I pushed on and my left foot darted across in front of my right, the woozyness had kicked in and now I was battling to maintain my balance on each step.

The people on the treadmill began shouting words of encouragement

“Come on!”

“You’ve got this”

“Nearly there!”

Expect they didn’t, the distance was making me delusional – it was actually me shouting positive affirmations hoping my conscious would follow.

Each rep got slower as I fought the mental quandary in my head.

I reached the final five treadmills and counted them down like I was counting reps.  The last metre didn’t seem as hard so maybe that helped?  Or perhaps it was because I was so close to the wall I could almost smell the paint.

One final finishing step and my posterior chain let out a cry of relief.

“Good work everyone!”

There was a sense of release and in my delirium shed a couple of tears at the achievement.  That may sound bizarre to a non-gym goer, but in my 18 years I’d never known a single sensation to compare with the experience.

Want to do this?

If my personal story inspired you to see how your mettle handles the death march then read this  this article to understand the fundamentals.

This is also a great video to see it performed correctly:

Final words

The death march works best performed with space to complete it in one as in my opinion doing this over short distances for sets isn’t as trying.

The continuation is what tests your mettle and puts you in that dark place – the situation when you doubt yourself, want to quit and belittle your abilities.

Fight through the death march and get ready to smash the rest of the challenges in your life, or as Glenn Pendlay said:

“As much as being in this dark place sucks, doing well while you’re there is trainable. If extreme stress is new to you, then your ability to fight through it and perform well will be low. But if you go to this place regularly you’ll learn to deal with the stress and perform anyway. This is called building mettle. And there’s no better way to do it than the death march.”

Glenn Pendlay, T-Nation

Thanks for reading and enjoy!

I would love to hear your thoughts on the death march!  Please provide any comments below.

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