Tight Muscles from Work — Need Help on PFT

Tight Muscles from Work — Need Help on PFT

Here is a great email about how many people feel after a long day of work or sport practices and you have to also prepare for a fitness test in the military or special ops training in your near future.

Stew, I am a specialist in the Texas National Guard and I have an extremely hard time with my APFT. My civilian job involves constant lifting, pushing, pulling etc…of heavy objects, I can feel myself getting stronger but my pushup score is declining during tests. I have increased my workout to try to compensate but it doesn’t seem to be helping. When I perform pushups during the test it feels like I’m fighting my chest and shoulder muscles to move downward.  I’m wondering if the constant heavy workout is affecting my range of motion and making pushups harder for me? Have you ever heard/​encountered this? How can I get my APFT score back up?

STRETCH:  You have to consider your work day as a workout.  That means pre-​​work warmup /​ light stretching and finish the work day with a cool down cardio event and a stretch at the end of the day.

GOOD NEWS:  The good thing about working all day and then fitting in a workout either before or after your job, is that you are basically preparing yourself for a full day of Army training.  I tell people all the time that there is no 30 minute gym workout that will properly prepare you for a day of military /​ special training.

BAD NEWS:  The bad thing that can happen from this constant moving /​ lifting and then working out is your body is not recovering or properly fueled for the busy day and you could start to exhibit signs of over-​​training:

Common Sign of Over-​​Training:

Over-​​Training Symptoms
- Joint Pain
- Chronic Muscle Soreness
- Sickness 
- Mentally /​ Physically drained
- Decrease performance 
- Insomnia
- Losing fat AND muscle
- Lack of enthusiasm for exercise
- Poor attitude /​ grumpy
- Elevated heart rate in AM
- Increase in injuries
- Depression
- Mental Breakdown
- Weight loss
- Lower Testosterone Levels
- Higher Cortisol Levels
- Digestive issues
- Fatigue
- Unable to complete workouts


If you are having many of these issues, and it sounds like you are, you have to start focusing on recovery.  In the Tactical Training world, we call it “actively pursue recovery”.  That means rest days, sleep well, eat good food like a top athlete would, hydrate all day, and if you are sweating profusely or in arid environments you need to also add in electrolytes as well.

Full Range of Motion Exercise:  Start from head to toe and work every joint in its proper full range of motion.  You do not necessarily need to stretch each joint area but just move them.  Do this anywhere /​ anytime.  I like to do this one in a pool and work ankles, knees, hips, lower back after long runs and rucks as well as upper body — chest, shoulders, elbows, upper back after hard upper body PT or weight training days.

Foam Roller:  One of the best tools I use today and wish I had back when I was going through training is the FOAM ROLLER.  You can really help yourself out by learning how to use the foam roller properly.  There are many videos on youtube to show you how to release tension in your back, legs, arms, neck.  I cannot say how great this device is.  It has helped me keep running with mild IT band flareups and prevented countless normally occurring aches and pains I tend to get during long ruck and run season.

And of course PT:   When you feel like you are ready to push and pull in addition to your work day, mix in some pushups, pullups, situps, dips and other exercises into a circuit or pyramid routine — EVERY OTHER DAY.  Give yourself a few days in between if needed BUT remember to warmup, light stretch, workout, cooldown and a good foam roller /​ stretch session to finish off a workout.  That should help you increase repetitions for a fitness and and improve overall performance in running and rucking too.




  1. Tim says:

    When you need the best of your strength, additional nutrition is a powerful help. I am taking Navy Seal Formula manufactured by MGNutritionals. It gives me incredible amount of energy and pushes me harder during my workouts. I have never been in such a good shape.

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Stew Smith

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. If you are interested in starting a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle - check out the Stew Smith article archive at Military.com. To contact Stew with your comments and questions, e-mail him at stew@stewsmith.com.

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