FitWars 1 ‘By the Numbers’: How Mertens Beat Tetlow

Yesterday afternoon, Colten Mertens and Scott Tetlow faced off in the first-ever FitWars match-up. Dubbed FitWars 1, Mertens and Tetlow competed against each other in a virtual ‘open-style’ workout.

After the 9-minute AMRAP, Mertens finished five reps ahead of Tetlow for the victory. For that, Mertens walked away with $500 and Tetlow earned $200, thanks to the sponsors, Paper St. Coffee and VNDK8.

But beyond the simple fact that Mertens came out on top Sunday, there are some interesting takeaways from the workout. Let’s take a look.

If you haven’t watched the match-up yet, you can watch it here…

The Workout

9-Minute AMRAP of:
15 Squat Cleans @ 135 lbs.
6 Burpee Ring Muscle-Ups
12 Squat Cleans @ 225 lbs.
6 Burpee Ring Muscle-Ups
9 Squat Cleans @ 275 lbs.
Max Burpee Ring Muscle-Ups in remaining time.

The workout itself featured three movements, two of which were combined into the burpee ring muscle-ups. To get to the max Burpee RMUs, 48 total reps had to be completed.

Coming Out Hot

Scott Tetlow came out of the gate starting with eight touch-and-go squat cleans with the 135-pound barbell. While impressive, it only have him a three rep advantage over Mertens just 19 seconds into the workout. From there, Tetlow settled in with quick singles and held on to a three rep, nine-second lead.

When Tetlow started off with the TnG reps, both Andrew Hiller and Brian Friend on the commentary questioned the move to start off so strong.

Burpee Ring Muscle-Ups Didn’t Create Separation

The time to complete the first two sets of six burpee ring muscle-ups were almost identical for Mertens and Tetlow. In the first set, Mertens was one second faster. In the second set, both athletes finished those six reps in 54 seconds.

And once they reached the third set for max reps, Mertens completed one burpee ring muscle-up every 9.3 seconds compared to Tetlow’s 9.6 seconds per rep. That came out to Mertens completing just one extra burpee ring muscle-up over the final 2:15 that Tetlow worked on his max reps.

This means that Mertens won the workout before getting to that final max rep set…which leads us to…

The Workout Was Won/Lost at the Heavy Squat Cleans

If you watched Hiller’s FitWars test video from yesterday, he said that the workout changed once he was midway through the 12 squat cleans at 225 pounds. He went from feeling great to not so much.

This is exactly the turning point of the workout. Mertens caught Tetlow on the 225-pound squat cleans and then pulled away on the 275-pound barbell.

The nine squat cleans at 275-pounds took Merten just 1:31 to complete. Tetlow missed a rep and finished in 2:13. At that point, Mertens had an extra 33 seconds on the max burpee ring muscle-ups…an insurmountable lead, especially given how even these two were at the burpee ring muscle-ups the first two rounds.

The graph below shows the large time discrepancy on the final set of squat cleans.

Hindsight is 20/20

This is an obvious statement, but it can be viewed from both the athlete and fan perspective.

From the athlete’s perspective, Tetlow should not have started out with the eight TnG squat cleans. The advantage gained did create enough of a lead to hold off Mertens when the barbell got heavier. Had Tetlow started with singles, could he have had saved enough for the backend of the workout?

And for those who were watching and picking who was going to win on Lawn Chair Leaderboarding, the heavy barbell was the differentiator. Knowing that Mertens is the stronger athlete and has won every single-modality lift event versus Tetlow, it was clear that Mertens was the favorite heading into this event.

Of course, being the favorite and actually winning are two separate things. But in this case, Mertens’ strategy and pacing was spot on and allowed him to use his overall strength to his advantage.

Rep-by-Rep Progression

The graph below shows the rep-by-rep progression for both athletes. You can see Tetlow’s strong start followed by Mertens making up ground on the 225-pound barbell and creating separation on the 275-pound barbell.

In the graph above, you can also see that the separation began when Tetlow missed the 275-pound clean. From there, Mertens held a steady pace while Tetlow started to take an extra second or two between reps.


By all accounts, FitWars 1 was a success. The match-up has received nearly 6,500 views within 48 hours of the competition. Having to compete virtually against a formidable opponent in a workout that you learned about minutes beforehand adds complexity and requires the ability to set a strategy based on your understanding of your fitness.

In FitWars 1, Mertens’ strategy of going with singles on the squat cleans from the start appears to have been the appropriate strategy. It didn’t hurt that his top-end strength is a little above Tetlow’s too, which definitely helped on those 275-pound squat cleans.

So now that FitWars 1 is in the rear-view mirror, we can’t wait to see how will take on FitWars 2!

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