The questions of how to gain weight and do I need to lift weights are often thrown around by Spec Ops candidates preparing for the upcoming year or more long training pipeline. There are many avenues to get the results you seek. I will recommend a few but our military / spec ops audience may have some more ideas to pass around in the comments section below. Here is the question:
I’m a freshmen in college and plan on joining the Navy to go for the SEALS afterwards. My PT scores are pretty good and I’m working on getting them better, but my real question is do I need to gain more weight and muscle. I only weight 141 lbs and am 5’11″. I know you say weight lifting is not needed to prepare, though I feel like I do need to gain more weight by lifting and taking massive amounts of protein. Also, your opinion on Creatine would be greatly appreciated! Thanks,
First of all — that is not true — weight training is usually needed for some people who lack a power / strength training history. My answer always is to people asking me “should they lift weights before going to any Spec Ops training” is “IT DEPENDS”. It depends on your athletic background and your current fitness level. You need to get in top cardiovascular conditioning prior to schools like BUD/S, Army SF, and Air Force PJ’s, and RECON / MARSOC as you will run and ruck and swim your butt off. Having some extra weight is not a bad idea especially if you are under 150lb and over 5’10″. How you go about gaining that weight is the issue with many options.
Preparing for BUD/S or any Special Ops program is a running man’s game. You will run and ruck for miles each day and if you go to BUD/S, PJs, or RECON, you can add miles of swimming to the endurance equation as well. But the truth is recommendations like these all depend on your current fitness level and athletic background. Sure you will lift boats and logs over your head with your boat crew and it will suck no matter if you are a power lifter or cross country runner. Your job is to simply prepare for that type of training by lifting 40–50# over your head for long periods of time and walking with one dumbbell in your hand to mimic hand carry for the boats mainly to avoid injury. The weight of the log / boats are distributed among your boat crew or squad so you do not have to prepare for lifting a 200 lbs log / boat over your head by yourself. Besides, though these evolutions are not fun, they are not tests that will get you kicked out either. The runs, swims, PT, land navigation, swimming skills, SCUBA diving are all the tests that if you fail — you are done with training. To say you need to lift weights to prepare for the boat lifts and log PT (some people ask) is really not needed. So maybe that is why you misunderstood my position about weights and BUD/S prep.
I am a former power lifting football player and all the guys like me that I know as well as help prepare did not touch a weight for 1–2 years prior to BUDS and made it through. But if you are an endurance athlete and need to work on strength as well as some weight gain to bulk up your upper body and core strength, then YES — start lifting. I prefer you do power lifts like dead lifts, squats, hang cleans, farmer walks, kettlebells, power cleans, push presses, and bench press with moderately heavy weight. No need to lift much more than your body weight on these.
If you want to gain weight — add more high calorie food and lift along with running, swimming. Since you have a few years to prepare yourself take half the year gaining weight and lifting mixing in cardio options to stay fit and not just a muscle head. Keep your runs and swims short and fast working on your pace for the 1.5 mile run and the 500yd swim times. I personally would do this during the fall and winter months as we tend to gain more weight those months naturally.
The other half of the year, drop the weights and add more high rep PT, running, and swimming distances (or rucking if ARMY / USMC). Work on the pushups, situps, pullups PT tests as well as the longer distances of weekly 4 mile timed runs (under 28 min) and longer swims with fins of 1–2 miles. Do this cycle during the spring and summer. But you still have to EAT BIG!
About Gaining Weight — If you want to be BIG, you have to eat BIG!
Weight gain is something that isn’t easy to do as you probably already know. People who cannot gain weight usually have a high metabolism, which makes gaining so hard. The key to weight gain is to do everything BIG. You have to eat big, lift big, in order to get big. This is your new motto! A lot of people think weightlifting is the key to gaining weight. It is an extremely important part, BUT, if you are not eating your EXTRA carbs, proteins and fats you can actually lose weight even during a weight lifting cycle.
Calories IN must be greater than Calories OUT:
So, in my opinion, there are five simple steps to gain weight:
1) Count how many calories you eat in a normal day. Don’t change anything, just eat like you normally would and count how many calories you consumed. This is extremely important, so try to be as exact as possible. Also, weigh yourself. If you are not gaining weight or losing weight, this number is your baseline caloric intake.
2) 500+ calories per day - Starting the day after you counted calories, eat 500 calories MORE than you normally do. So, pretend that the day you counted calories you counted 2000 as your baseline. For the rest of the week, you would now eat 2500 calories a day. Instead of eating 3 big meals a day or eating all day all the time, spread those calories out over 5–6 smaller meals if you have to. 500+ calories may not be enough additional calories if you are really putting in the time with extra cardio / pt workouts. Eat or drink extra calories every 2 and a half to 3 hours.
3) Weightlifting! Get in the gym and lift! This is another important step to how to gain weight, so make sure you are doing it correctly. For more information on weightlifting workout routines check out the eBook Fitness Store for PT workouts and many new Weightlifting workouts.
4) At the end of the week, weigh yourself. You’ll notice you are gaining just after one week! Now, don’t expect to see a 10lb increase. Gaining anymore than 1 or 2 pounds a week is unlikely. So look for 1 or 2 pound gains at the end of the week. Does not sound like much? You can be gaining 5–8 pounds a month! So be patient since you have years to gain 20–30 lbs.
5) Here is an important one. At some point, you will stop seeing weight gain. At this point, you will have to eat even more. So, when you stop gaining for at least 2 weeks, it means it is time to start eating an extra 250 calories a day. Every time you see you haven’t gained weight for at least 2 weeks, add an extra 250 calories. UNTIL you have reached your goal. NOW, even more important KEEP WORKING OUT! Do not just eat to get big. Lift to get big too!!! Your extra cardio will help you keep off the fat while your PT and weights will help you work / build the muscle.
You want healthful foods for good workout energy so try to lay off fast food. Stick to high protein / good carbs / good fat foods like tuna fish (and other seafood), chicken breast, turkey, ham, lean meats, fruits and vegetables.
WATER! Drink water! Up to a gallon is good. Yes, that is a lot of water, but it is water that will allow you to gain weight. Drink extra water especially if you are taking creatine — which I am not a fan of and think you can prepare just fine without it. It would be different if you were playing football, but the addition of creatine in supplemental dosages is not needed for what you want to do. As long as you stay super hydrated though it will not hurt you, but if you want my recommendation I would not take it. Perhaps some in the military.com forum will agree / disagree and have some suggestions to supplementation. Though at BUD/S you cannot have ANY supplements. Just make sure you sip the water through the day and not consume quarts during meals. That will take up space in your stomach. Below is a list of some of the foods you want to eat to gain weight:
Foods that will assist with weight gain: Whole or 2% milk, Milkshakes, Salad dressing, Mayonnaise, Cheese, Burgers, Raisin Bran Cereal, Oatmeal, Crackers, Croissant, Peanut butter and jelly, Club sandwiches, Bagel, Cream based soup, Steak, Ice Cream, Chicken, Ham Steak, Fish, Peanuts, Almonds, Beans, Peas, Potatoes, Carrots, Bananas, Protein drinks, etc…
Any of you fitness gurus care to join in on this one? Adding some detail / specifics to protein / carb loading is always welcome.