*Joel Snape – English author and writer, motivational alchemist, fighting enthusiast & steak lover – has written this great article on how to host a BBQ Throwdown.
How to host a BBQ throwdown…
Training, if you’re planning on doing it forever, shouldn’t always be a carefully planned regime of sets, reps and rests. Sometimes, you need a change of routine, a challenge, or just a fun day of throwing weights about with no specific plan. And sometimes, you need to do a whole lot of volume and eat a gigantic amount of protein.
My way to do all of the above is simple: BARBECUE THROWDOWN.
Like many of my best ideas, I’ve partially stolen it from the always-excellent Dan John, who often talks about getting together with his training buddies (including Gym Jones founder Mark Twight) to play with ideas and training techniques, chat and eat meat. Over the last few years, I’ve tweaked the format so it works better for a) The British summer and b) Men who don’t have much kit or space available. Here’s how to get it done.
1. Invest in a decent barbecue
Those throwaway foil jobs are fine for camping, but much less fine for a meeting of gentlemen. A decent-quality barbecue will cost you less than a night out, and last longer. A monstrous barbecue will still cost less than a PlayStation 5, and let you roast four chickens at once, even in the winter. Only you can decide where your priorities lie. Bonus tip: if your friends get really hungry and you want to cheat a bit, I seriously recommend getting a slow-cooker – good ones are under £60 – and doing a big shoulder joint of pulled pork the night before your BBQ. It’ll keep everyone happy while the grill warms up, and shouldn’t fill anyone up too much.
2. Get some good quality meat
Essential. Walls Sausages are the ruin of any fine barbecue, and pre-made burgers are (usually) worse. Get some decent-quality mince and make your own patties – if you’re economising or have a lot of friends, bulking them out with chopped onion and mushroom (alongside some breadcrumbs, egg, paprika or sweet chilli sauce) will make the meat go further with no taste-based compromises. Oh: and this isn’t the time to worry about staying full paleo: you’ll be doing enough exercise to earn your carbs, preferably in the form of some nice brioche buns. Tell your friends you’ll handle the meat: they can buy the booze.
3. Bring kit
If you’re hosting, this is easy: otherwise, it comes down to what’s portable. If you’ve got a car, chuck a kettlebell in the boot – if you’re going by public transport, throw a suspension training rig or some rings in your bag. As well as allowing you to do more moves, this has important psychological/motivational benefits: nobody wants to be that one showoff who starts doing Aztec press-ups on the ground, but as soon as there’s kit lying around, people will start playing with it… and then you can subtly nudge them into the more competitive stuff. Fun fact: it’s physically impossible to walk past a pair of gymnastics rings hanging off a tree without doing a quick skin-the-cat on them. SCIENCE.
4. Have a ladder challenge
No, not a ladder *match*: even if you can find a championship belt and a tree to hang it off, hitting your BBQ companions in the face with a folding stepladder is, at best, wildly irresponsible. A ladder challenge is simple: you pick an exercise – dips are hard to cheat and fun to do, though pull-ups and press-ups also work – and everyone who’s playing does one rep. Once you’re done, everyone does two reps, then three: until everyone hits an amount they can’t do and only the winner’s left standing. It’s an excellent competitive format, because a) Everyone can play, b) It has a built-in warm-up, c) Nobody has to stand around waiting for ages for their turn, d) There’s plenty of time for trash-talk and e) Everyone goes to failure. It should go without saying, of course, that the triumphant victor – who has bragging rights until the next BBQ, which are far more valuable than any cash prize – should do one final set to failure just so his arms hurt as much as everyone else’s.
5. Play HORSE
It’s much more fun than eating it. The rules of callisthenics HORSE are simple: the first person in the group does a move – anything from a pistol squat to a handstand press-up or an L-sit pull-up works – and everyone has to match it. Failure means getting a H, and you carry on around the circle (with each contestant bringing out a new move) until only one person’s left. HORSE requires a bit of sportsmanship so that people don’t abuse the rules – if only one person in the circle can do a muscle-up, for instance, you probably shouldn’t let them keep doing muscle-up variations – and a bit of common sense so that the game doesn’t last forever: allowing 2-3 reps of ‘easier’ moves (Tarzan pull-ups, say) speeds things up a lot. Also, you’ll need to come to a gentleman’s agreement about what’s allowed as a ‘move’ – when I’ve played in the past, this has degenerated into a backflip contest, but that’s because I choose my friends on the basis of their backflip ability. All that said, HORSE is fun, challenging, good motivation to get better at callisthenics, and a great way to upset that one guy you know who deadlifts 240kg but can’t tie his own shoes. Please do not kill yourself, I can’t stress that enough. Which leads us nicely on to…
6. Have a drink
Yes, even when you’re training. It’s not something to do every day, but it probably won’t hurt: Arthur Saxon and Herman Goermer both drank throughout workouts, and were both among the strongest men of their respective eras. More scientifically – yes, there’s evidence that testosterone drops when you get falling-over drunk, but it takes more booze than you’re going to knock back at a civilised social gathering. Remember: training is supposed to prepare you for life, and sometimes in life, you’re going to have to do things after a couple of pints. Have a drink, eat some meat, lift some weights, and enjoy being alive.