Every now and then, I get motivated by a workout week that I created. This week I created a program that is centered around suspension training, but each day has a combination specialty that challenges you in a variety of ways. You need variety to your workouts, but make sure the workouts you select are still specifically developed so you will still reach your goals. Whether the goals are weight loss, military service, special ops preparation, or law enforcement, adding suspension training can enhance your overall workout experience. Below are some fun and challenging sample workouts recently tested by our group:
TRX, Running, and Kettlebells:
Running Intervals: Run quarter miles at your goal paced mile time. So if you want to be able to run a 6 minute mile you would practice running your quarter miles in 90 seconds.
Repeat 10 times
run ¼ mile
– even sets KB swings (2,4,6,8,10th)
– odd sets TRX rollouts (1,3,5,7,9th)
For the amount of time it takes you to run each ¼ mile that is how long you have to do the KB swings / TRX rollouts
- Using a KB or dumbbell, squat with weight between your legs. Explode up with the legs and hips to get the weight over your head — keep arms straight.
- Stand with TRX handles on your forearms. Lower yourself into a plank pose. Lift hips / flex core to get to the standing position again. Do as many reps as you can for as long as it took you to run the 1/4 mile each set.
TRX, Weight Lifting, Moderate Cardio Mix:
Warmup cardio / stretch
Repeat 5 times
5 min cardio of choice
TRX squat rows 10
TRX atomic pushup max
Weighted Pullups max
bench press BW 5–15 reps
Dead lift – 5 reps
(1–1.5 x BW deadlift)
abs of choice 1 min
*BW = bodyweight
Run or bike – easy pace 15–20 min
TRX Atomic Pushups
TRX Squat / Rows
TRX PT / Speed Mix:
Warmup Pushups/Pullups + 50yd run pyramid:
1 pullup / 1 pushup, 50yd run,
2 pullups/2 pushups, 50yd run,
3 pullups /3 pushups. 50yd run
Stop at 10 / light stretch
Repeat 4 times
TRX Atomic Pushups max
TRX squats/rows 10
TRX rollouts 10–15
Speed Events / Tests:
End with Speed Tests: (optional)
IL agility test
rest 2 min
300yd shuttle run (6 x50yd shuttle)
rest 2 min
timed plank pose — can you do 5 min?
This combination of workouts can be done every other day to work your strength, speed / agility, steady endurance pace, muscle stamina, core strength, and more. Share some of your favorite workouts in the comments section and spread the wealth.
I often get emails from people young and old about getting prepared for military training, and also from veterans who want to be in the shape they used to be when they served in the military. Many are looking for veterans to help them get into “fighting shape”. Here is a list of many former military officers and enlisted who train civilians to not only lose weight and get healthy, but prepare for military training too. If you are a veteran in the fitness business, send me a paragraph and link of what you do and I will add to this page.
Military Fitness programs are popular. In fact, many former military personnel of all ranks and services are now getting into the fitness business — myself included. Check out the list of veteran-owned fitness businesses around the country:
Boot Camp Fitness, Inc. — Created by former Army sergeant, Jay Johnson of Dallas TX, who has become the Official Fitness Trainer of The Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders (Enough said! THAT is a success story in the fitness business!). He has been featured on many television shows and magazine publications for his creative workouts that yield great results.
British Commando Fitness — British Army Commando “Sol” Sollerer has retired from the British Army, married an American, and has started his own fitness business in the Annapolis MD area. Also working as an assistant boxing coach at the U.S. Naval Academy, Sol has planted roots in the US and helping active duty and future military candidates prepare for service. Still competitive as well, Sol assists with the Heroes of Tomorrow program in Severna Park, MD giving the students a taste of how nice a drill instructor will be when they join. He is also involved in high school / college team sport mental toughness and team building training.
Hostyle Conditioning - With the help and support of Curd Hos, Owner and Operator of the best training facility in Orleans, Ontario—Curd is helping CPT Smash take the youth strength coaching platform by storm, as well as developing ongoing programs for older adults to help increase the awesomeness within Ottawa, CA. The youth program engages kids as young as 9–13 years old in our bootcamp style training, that will help them move better, get stronger and enhance their overall level of conditioning far beyond what the other kids are able to achieve nowadays. The upper level athletes (15–20+) are slotted into semi-private training sessions to really focus on certain performance goals for their sports in order to make them super tough athletes that are unstoppable on the field, ice or track!
Extreme SEAL Experience - Former SEAL Don Shipley puts on a great training program complete with shooting, survival, mission planning training in the Chesapeake VA area. See his youtube channel for great footage of the training they put on for civilians and wanna-be’s.
The Health Colonel – Bob Weinstein, LtColonel, USAR, (ret.) can be found on the beaches of Fort Lauderdale, FL conducting early morning workouts with his students. Training many out of shape and overweight people per year, he also prepares young men and women for the physical demands of the military. If you are looking for a motivational/health speaker, The Health Colonel is your man. He motivated me by telling me that “the United States has enemy soldiers within its borders — they kill more than 3,000 people a day, their names are cancer, heart disease, and stroke.” I immediately responded, “yeah and over 20 million people are being held hostage by diabetes in America.”
NavySEALs.com, SEALFIT.com, UnbeatableMind - Mark Divine has evolved into a fitness / mental toughness powerhouse. His programs / store enable any fitness enthusiast, SpecWar candidate pick and choose what he needs to make himself better — mentally, physically, and more. For gear, books, ebooks, training, hellweek simulation, etc.
Owen Richardson — NeoLife: Owen is an active Navy Reserve IS1 and promotes the neolife club products for two reasons: “When I was deployed to Iraq in 09–10, I saw you guys (SPECOPS) everyday with tons of energy. Last year I was talking with Chris (SEAL Team 8) and he told me this was the same vitamins they took day after day. I started on it without promoting for 3 months, once I saw the benefits personally, I started telling everyone about it.” NeoLife has different products for different lifestyles, and at a reasonable price. A months supply of vitamins or weight loss shakes will run about $40
Platoon Fitness.com – The folks at Platoon Fitness located in Philadelphia PA and throughout Pennsylvania and New York City was founded by Todd Scott, a Navy veteran. They have been in business for over 10 years and have indoor and outdoor training facilities with over twenty fully certified trainers who train everyone from working men and women, stay at home Moms, and kids too. They also offer franchising opportunities and training for instructors.
The Sergeants Program – Patrick Avon opened one of the first military group training businesses in the U.S. Patrick is a former Navy enlisted man who has created a military fitness empire in the DC/Virginia area, catering mostly to overweight executives — he also gets several students per year who seek a career in the military. He has over 45 instructors in 35 locations, all certified with a nationally recognized program. He also has his own outdoor boot-camp certification program. Check out his site for his annual Jolly Fat Man’s run/party.
The SEAL PT Course – Jack Walston — former Navy SEAL in Houston TX and Central Park Manhattan NYC — has been doing SEAL PT for over a decade. He has weekly workout plans for locals as well as a SEAL Training/Special Forces mini-camp that will test you to your limits. This program actually mimics many of the events experienced in Hell Week at SEAL Training, including a 24 hour non-stop period of training.
SEALGrinderPT.com - Brad McLeod, born in Thomasville, GA, grew up in Tallahassee, FL. He is a former Navy SEAL and graduated from SEAL training in BUD/S class 132 against all odds. Despite having no athletic background and having life long asthma Brad climbed his personal Mount Everest and made it through BUD/S the second time and went through Hell Week twice.
Training Philosophy for Spec Ops: Our philosophy on workouts is to try to keep as many functional movements as possible that have carry over to your day to day sport or occupation. SEAL grinder PT is dedicated to working out and improving your mind and body to unleash the inner warrior in you. The grinder PT is a mixture of the same exercises that SEAL recruits perform on a daily basis at the BUD/S training camp in Coronado, California. We are also throwing in a few CrossFit style drills, some exercises from SEALFit, Mountain Athlete, Gym Jones and a few others you may not have seen before.
SWAT Personal Training – Ron Holland (former USAF) out of Tucson AZ, created an outdoor and indoor fitness business in 1991 after a career in the military and police department. He has a one week in-residence boot camp where they create a military indoctrination environment (0500am wakeup!) He has recruits run, PT, eat a well balanced and nutritious chow, and hike 2 –12 miles in the Tucson area desert. Also water skills, aerobics, yoga, stretching, and other anti-aging programs are taught in a teamwork/military style program. It is very informative and positive feedback and teamwork is highly encouraged.
SEAL Team PT – Former Navy SEAL John McGuire has translated his experience into a one-of-a-kind, non-military fitness program, offering the dual benefit of world-class fitness and team-building to people of all ages and walks of life. Offered in the Richmond, Virginia area since 1998, SEAL Team PT has legions of satisfied, fit, and fulfilled graduates of all ages. To date, SEAL Team PT has graduated over 175 basic fitness classes, conducted more than 50 custom-tailored corporate team-building programs, and led more than 40 SEAL Teen and SEAL Pup classes for youth and children.
StewSmith.com – My website/fitness business has evolved since 1998 when I resigned from the Navy. At first I had a fitness business with as many as 40–50 hours of group PT and personal training a week. Now, after writing everything down for years, I created programs that have helped thousands prepare for military, special forces, and law enforcement physical fitness tests. I still do some online training and local group training in the Baltimore/Annapolis MD area, but my group workouts during the week and weekend are free to those who want to join me on my swims, runs, PT etc. Once on month, we test with a variety of PFTs and we also do quarterly Spec Ops Triathlons — Run, Swim, Ruck. These workouts now give me ideas which to write as I see issues, troubles, and ways around personal obstacles with a variety of students. I figure if I am going to write about training — I need to train.
Products Invented by Vets — SEALS / SF Specifically:
The TRX - Fitness in a Bag! Former SEAL Randy Hetrick has created another device that is easy to carry and so versatile I still cannot name all the exercises you can do with this thing. My latest count is over 200 exercises. In an article, I compared his TRX to a Universal Weight Machine and for a 1/10 of the price it easy outperforms the machine tenfold! This is great for travelers as the straps are easy to pack and unfold in seconds. See some of the videos on his site.
The Perfect Pushup and Pullup - My former SEAL buddy Alden Mills has created awesome fitness products that capture the most beloved and most hated exercises we do in the SEAL Teams and at BUD/S. The rotational motion of his products challenge the best pull-up and pushup performers. In fact, his products cut my reps in half and after a few years of using the Perfect Pushup, they still work like new and continue to make my pushups tougher. Supplemented with some weights, the Perfect Pushup and Pull-up are great additions to a home weight room.
The Fit Deck - Former SEAL Phil Black is probably the real genius of the bunch to take an idea and turn it into a successful business. When on a deployment or just bored, the SEALs as well as other military groups, do a workout with a deck of cards. Usually it required some imagination: face cards = 10 pushups, aces = 25 pushups / 25 abs, jokers = 50 reps of anything…BUT what Fit Deck does for you is take out the mystery and when you shuffle the deck and start to flip the cards you get told what you need to do. Now he has Pull-up Decks, Kettlebell Decks, Navy SEAL Decks, Navy SEAL Audio Series on Acing BUDS, Combat Sports Decks and so many more — even some for kids.
Refactor Tactical - Army SF veterans create tactical gear that works. Designed by the operator for the operator. Check out the gear list and training videos. Anything from bags, caps, survival bands, medical gear, fun t-shirts and more — you can find it on their store and talk with other operators on their blog.
Any of these make great gifts for your fitness guru in the family or those seeking a profession that requires some form of fitness test.
After a brief discussion with the veteran trainers, we all agreed upon a few things. We focus on teaching on a basic level of fitness, habit building, and just adding basic fitness as stretching, walking/running, light PT, and drinking water to people’s lives. Let them see and feel the progress they are making. Take them as they advance and PT them harder, but you have to give them a plan that works.
The plan I have here works…it will help people lose up to 25lbs if they just following the simple directions:
1- Stretch Daily! This is very important if beginning a fitness plan. See Stretch article.
2 — Drink more water — up to a gallon a day
3 — Do something everyday for 45 days straight – even if that is just walk after dinner. This FREE 45 day plan shows you how.
4 — Repeat above — do not worry about food intake yet, but if no results are seen in 3–4 weeks then focus on a food plan as mentioned in plan above.
Look up one of the above veterans and try a boot camp workout program this year. If you know of another veteran operated fitness business that is not listed, please send the website address/contact information and I will place it in an updated article archive so I have close to a comprehensive list. Please email me atStew@stewsmith.com with your questions.
I was recently asked by an Army veteran if there were other fitness tests out there to challenge/ test people who want to be “Tactically Fit”. This particular veteran likes to stay as fit as he was while serving more than 10 years ago and still manages an above average Army PFT for age groups 20 years younger. These are great health and fitness goals to ace a basic PFT, but is it really a Tactical Fitness Test? No — See the multiple dimensions required in creating a foundation to be “tactically fit” in order to have the ability to perform some of the most dangerous jobs in the world — defending / protecting our country and communities.
Tactical Fitness is the new fitness genre and I personally define it as: The ability to perform military, police, and fire fighter job related skills such as running, rucking, swimming, buddy rescue, equipment carry, requiring upper body and lower body strength and muscle endurance. I have been wanting to make an all inclusive tactical fitness test for a while now. The test below has no scientific study behind it, these are simply my opinions what tactical athletes should be able to do. However, all these events are commonly used testing events used by many military, special ops teams, SWAT Teams, police and fire fighters.
These are the twelve events I call the Tactical Fitness Dirty Dozen that I pulled from various military, police, and fire fighting fitness tests to create an all inclusive fitness challenge for those of you who want to be ready for anything. There is a grading system that is quite generous in basic pass / fail standards as well as a max point system of 100 points.
The events justification:
25# Pullup — Weighted pullups are required as most gear a tactical operator wears will weigh anywhere from 15-25lbs minus the back pack. Minimum is 2 reps / maxing is 10 reps. 1 point for each rep for a total of 10 points and minimum of 2 reps.
Body Weight bench press — Upper body strength with combination of moving your body weight for multiple repetitions to test pushing power of the tactical athlete. Minimum points for 5 reps (2 pts) and maximum (10) points for 15 reps.
Dead Lift (1.5x BW) — Can you lift more than your own body weight. Practicing this event alone will help a tactical athlete learn proper lifting techniques and build a stronger foundation to move heavy weight when required. 1 rep P/F but 2 points per rep until 5 reps for more points. Minimum points for 2 reps (1 pt) and maximum (10) points for 5 reps.
Fireman carry — Can you rescue your buddy and carry for 100yds? Pass / Fail criteria (5 pts pass)
400m sprint - Can you run fast (no gear)? 60 seconds max points / 80 seconds minimum standard. Sometimes speed is essential.
Minimum points for 80 seconds (1 pt) and maximum (10) points for 60 seconds.
300yd shuttle run - Can you run back and forth quickly (6 x 50m shuttle)? 60 seconds max / 80 seconds minimum standard.
Minimum points for 80 seconds (1 pt) and maximum (10) points for 60 seconds.
Illinois Agility Test — You will have to zig and zag while running at full speed, changing direction often. Max points of (5) if completed under 15 seconds. Deduct a point for every second slower than 15 seconds until 19 seconds(1 pt). Slower than 19 seconds = fail.
Plank pose - Can you hold the plank pose for 1 minute minimum. Get extra points for every minute after that and max out at 5 minutes. 1 point 1 minute. Add a points for each minute up to 5 minutes. Max points 5 points.
3 mile timed run — The three mile timed run. Can you run 3 miles without stopping? Then you pass. If you get 18 minutes you max the test and can pick up a few more points if you can keep it under 23 minutes. 10 points for 18 min / 1 point less for each 30 seconds until max point time of 23 minutes.
50 lbs ruck in under 1 hour (4 miles) - This is the minimum standard for Army rucking times. Can you pace yourself at a perfect 15 min mile with 50lb back pack or weight vest. No need to go too fast on this event. It is about finishing on a steady pace. No extra points for getting under 1 hour. 10 points pass or fail.
Swim - Can you swim? - If you cannot swim you are ineffective on 75 % of this planet. Be an asset not a liability to your team, yourself, and your family. This is a basic survival skill we all should know how to do. 5 Points for just knowing how to swim.
500m swim — Any stroke. Swim 500m non-stop and you pass. Get 500m in 6 min or less and max out the swim test. You can get extra points until the 11th minute. 5 points for maxing the swim / 1 point less for every minutes until the 10th minute.
25m Life saving buddy tow - Can you dive to the bottom of a pool (8-9ft) grab a unconscious buddy and tow him 25m to the other end of the pool? Pass or fail — 5 points.
Here is a chart to make it easier to understand:
|Exercise||Pass / Fail Criteria|
|4 mile ruck (50lbs)||1 hour maximum time|
|25# Pullups max reps||2 – 10 reps|
|Bench press (bodyweight)||Pass or fail 1 rep: 5 reps — 15 reps for extra points|
|Dead Lift (1.5x bodyweight)||Pass or fail — 1 rep
(2–5 reps for extra pts)
|Fireman Carry (P/F)||100yds of equal bodyweight|
|400m sprint||60–80 seconds|
|Shuttle run 300yds||60–80 seconds|
|Plank pose (P/F)||1 minute minimum / 5 min max|
|3 mile run (P/F)||18 minutes to 23 minutes for extra points|
|IL Agility Test||<15 secs to >19 sec|
|Swim – can you swim?
|Yes / no|
|Swim 500m timed||6 minutes – 11 minutes|
|Swim – Buddy Tow||Pass/fail – 25m rescue swim|
Max points is 100 points if you ace everything. You can still pass with as little as 40 points. You must pass all events to pass the test. Give it a try and see where you stand. Practice and your weaknesses and think your way through this test as you can arrange to best fit your optimal scoring potential. The interesting thing about this test is you can arrange the events in any order you wish. Get creative and develop your own strategy for better performance. The test can be broken up into two sessions or challenge yourself and go for all events in one long testing session.
“The Dirty Dozen” Tactical Fitness Test eBook is here.
An interesting reply to a recent article on PFT Failures in the military, particularly the women and pullups story about the USMC standards, provoked some thought and a realization that maybe the term BOOT CAMP has been redefined over the years. Here is a great question that discusses preparation prior to basic military training:
My nephew has recently joined the USMC and I saw that even before he went to boot camp, his recruiter worked with the kids regularly to physically prepare/condition them even before actual boot camp. My question is, are these women being tested before or right at basic training, or are they failing even after some sort of pre-conditioning +/or remedial boot camp program? Was my nephew’s recruiter unique in his pre-conditioning program?
Nothing unique, as far as my experience shows, with recruiters (especially USMC recruiters) pre-training their candidates prior to basic training / boot camp. The USMC is pretty good at it comparatively. But it is a mix of society — mostly out of shape people in our society join each year. The military gets its share of these unfit recruits who attend Boot Camp like it is going to get them in shape / normal weight again. Typically for men as well — you will have only 40–45% you are really exceeding the standards before training. Others are just meeting the minimums or below the standard. Usually by the end of training, you will have 90 percent or more who are meeting the standards physically. The problem is many of them are borderline pass / fail graduates which can be (and often is) a problem for that recruit / military member for the rest of their career.
I see the statistics that 40–45% of the women are passing or exceeding the standards with regard to pullups, not that over half failed the standards at the END of basic. Granted, that number should be higher in the passing zone and if given more time prior to Boot Camp they could have exceeded those minimum standards. Women can do pullups — they just have to practice them. Same for men. I have seen many recruits (men) start off not being able to perform pullups too. It is a time and practice issue more than anything.
I think the big problem with most people (men and women) who go to basic training think it will get them in shape. The term “boot camp” itself has become misinterpreted in society as a fitness class you take at a gym in order to get into shape. In military training you need to be in shape PRIOR to going or you really do not stand much of a chance of completing near the preferred standards OR you risk getting injured. Arriving in shape to military training (already meeting the standards) will allow you to use the workouts as a stress reliever. This will enable you to learn your new job better too (shooting, moving, teamwork, sparring and other war fighting skills).
If you are thinking about serving this country. Do yourself a favor and show up having taken several fitness tests. Prove to yourself that you can ace the standards in front of you. You will be glad you did.
Each month (or more often if this series is popular enough), I am going to post some fun workouts that I would recommend you trying if you are in the intermediate / advanced level fitness zone. Here, we mix weights and calisthenics with some unconventional exercise options. One of the new favorite unconventional exercises is the stair crawl — which is just an advanced version of the bear crawl where you crawl down head first a flight of steps and then change directions and crawl back up FEET first (this is the hard part).
So check out this fullbody workout circuit:
Repeat 3 times
Pushups 1 min
Pullups 1 min
Situps or abs of choice 1 min
Walking lunges 25 yards
Stair crawl UP / DOWN a flight of steps — NOTE: If there are no steps to do this or your gym will not let you — simply bear crawl 25m or farmer walk carrying a 25–50 lb. weight.
Training large groups with varied fitness levels is one of the most challenging things to accomplish with success. Success will be defined by the group’s increased fitness levels as well as not injuring people who maybe ill-prepared for new and challenging exercises. Here is a great question from a new PT coordinator concerned with adding new ways to test the group in exercises /events not common to the Air Force PFT.
My unit has placed me in charge of the PT program which is a combination of remedial PT failures as well as the top fitness levels on our base. We are – for the most part – a competitive group and though we do focus on the PFT exercises so we stay on top of the test, I would like to change it up and add new fitness testing exercises to challenge our team. I recall you writing that there were about 10 to 12 exercises that have been deemed as acceptable (validated) for most military and police fitness tests. However, there will certainly be some naysayers who will be less than enthusiastic about fitness programming and evaluation on a department-wide basis – even if it is for fun. I know you have a lot of experience in this area, so I wanted to see what your thoughts were on the best exercises / tasks for testing purposes.
This week I received an email from a vegetarian who has been in the Army for a few years and is finding it difficult to keep his energy levels up without high doses of caffeine each day.
Stew, I am just reporting to my first duty station after almost two years of training and am a vegetarian. Do you have any recommendations for being in the military and a vegetarian? Steve
Steve — as a meat eater, I may not be the best person to ask this question, but I have a few books on the topic that I like. I eat more fruits and vegetables than I do meat, so I appreciate the vegetarian ways of eating more natural foods. I recently received a book from Lisa Montgomery — now there are many out there — but this is one I liked as I found I was able to eat many raw fruits and vegetables through the day and it help me with my energy.
Removing the Flexed Arm Hang and adding Pullups to the women’s fitness standards in the Marine Corps was an upgrade that was carefully considered, studied and implemented with support throughout the chain of command for the past couple of years. However, recent events have forced the USMC to reconsider the start date of the new change. When 55% of the female graduating class at boot camp failed the three pullup minimum, the January 1, 2014 implementation date has been postponed.
Why is this an issue?
Often injuries or illnesses occur and derail our fitness and progress made over many months and years of effort. This can be extremely frustrating to any hard charging military or fitness buff. Getting back into it after several weeks or months of recovery time can be a shock to the system and a bruise to the ego if efforts and expectations are too high. Here is an email from a British Army soldier needing help after an illness sidelined him for several months:
Stew - Well my fitness has gone completely! I am serving in the British army, unfortunately just over five months ago I was struck with kidney stones. The doctors immediately stopped me from doing all physical exercise until this week when they have finally given me the all clear to start again! I was feeling completely wasted after a ten minute jog and struggled to complete a measly 10 mins on the static bike! Could you please advise me as to whether any of your other programmes would help me in starting to get back to fitness, any help would be more than gratefully received!
If you are an active duty member or veteran who remembers the good deals at the PX or Exchanges on base, take a look at a few websites that offer great deals to military members, veterans, and government employees as well. The websites cater to active duty as well as veterans who are looking for good deals on many of the brands you already use. You can get everything from flowers delivered to family members to tactical gear at below market prices. It really is like shopping at the base PX. Plus you can view reviews of products used by like minded people.
I do not want to make this a free commercial for both of these sites, but I have recently joined both and enjoy clicking through all the options available to me for just about anything I need from cool tactical pants and sunglasses to running shoes at big discounts usually 15–20% but some reach 50+%. It depends on what you are looking for, but it is a great way to buy fitness related gear!
So if you are looking for big deals online and you are military, a veteran or government service check these out:
Every year — it never fails — many engage to correct all of their wrong-doings, unhealthful habits, and other self-helping notions in the form of New Year RESOLUTIONS. “Resolution” is one of the most over-used words during the end of December and January each year, but by February it is gone usually along with our energy to better ourselves. So, I recommend instead of making a resolution, set four quarterly goals to help you reach where you want to be next year at this time. Take a look back at 365 days ago. Seems like yesterday right? Why not create a logical goal setting formula that will work for you with a little bit of effort and some good habit building skills? Where people fail with their resolutions is that they try to fix too much at one time. Stopping smoking, starting an exercise program, eating healthy foods in an effort to lose weight can be too much to take on all at once. Try another approach to success.
Mental Toughness has been a topic of discussion and debate for generations as we humans try to define our lives. What makes some people tougher than others? More successful? More motivated? Calm in stressful situations? What are the common traits of ordinary people doing extraordinary things? Can mental toughness be measured? Scientifically tested?
These are the questions I have been seeking answers to and the type of questions I get each day from young men and women preparing for challenging programs in the military, law enforcement, and fire-fighting professions.
There are some scientific studies performed trying to measure how people handle stress and why they graduate Special Operations programs like Army Special Forces and Navy SEALs. Some of the most interesting and pertinent to this discussion were the ones done by Dr. Andy Morgan of Yale Medical School.
Building up your running is a constant battle for many recruits especially when they are also trying to build muscle to handle the stress of PT, rucking, and other weighted events in military training. Maintaining running for USMC fitness tests can be challenging as well for active duty Marines especially when you are deployed and spending most of the day wearing your kit / ruck. Here is a question from a USMC recruit trying to prepare himself for faster USMC fitness standards on the run:
I am currently able to accomplish the USMC PFT with 19 pull ups, 87 sit ups, and my 3 mile time is 25:00 minutes. Do you have any information and ways to reduce the time on my run? I rigorously work out 5 times a week including cardio and strength training. Thank you for your time and assistance.
Like many people who are into fitness and exercising, you were likely to have started due to either improving your body image or athletics, OR a combination of both. My personal story was a combination of both. I started lifting weights at 13 years of age and mainly cut my teeth on the widely popular Joe Weider weight lifting books mixed with a healthy dose of calisthenics. Calisthenics has been a constant in my life ever since being introduced to them back in grade school. YES — Back when you had Physical Education everyday in school. The President’s Fitness Test was a competition among most students in our class. Therefore, my fitness foundation was calisthenics, free weights (some powerlifts / some body building sets), and whatever sport was in the season throughout middle and high school. (football, powerlifting, track, wrestling, baseball)
Once I joined the military, I realized quickly that there was much more to learn about fitness training. Not only are there workouts that can get you strong, create endless muscle stamina, enable you to run, swim, and ruck, BUT (this is for you body builders) you can actually keep most of your muscle. With proper nutrition and creative balance of weights, calisthenics, and cardio, you can not only be cardiovascularly fit, but strong, lean, and still have muscle mass. Just look at most active Special Operators today.
Learning how to balance tough Special Ops level training with injury prevention is a constant battle and a delicate balance between recovery, logical progressions, nutrition, hydration, and knowing when to put in 100%. Now that last part is a bit tricky because in Spec Ops training you need to give 100% all the time right? Well — not really — you have to know when to turn it on and when to back it down so you do not injure yourself. Here is an email from a 28 yr old trying to get the most of his last few months before the age limit no longer allows him to attend SEAL training:
“Stew, I am 28 and a SEAL candidate working hard everyday to prepare myself for what is to come. I am a former boxer and have found that when I do the sprints in your Navy SEAL Fitness book , I ache for a day and I am borderline pulling a hamstring. How do I do these workouts at my age and not hurt myself?”
Here is an email from a young man who seeks some advice about adding weights to his training plan. He is not only pre-training for the next track / cross country season, but also is preparing for Navy SEAL training after he graduates high school.
Stew, I was curious if I start to add some weights to my off-season program would it affect my running negatively? In other words, would it make me slower? I am also wanting to add Navy SEAL workouts into my training so I will be adding in swims, swims with fins, and various PT workouts. I read in a previous Navy SEAL article you mentioned about learning to be a good team player prior to joining the service — well I am doing that but I want to be the best team player I can be and in this case it means running faster. Any advice?
Team sports in high school go a long way in developing needed skills you will use everyday in the military. Simply being on a team with a competitive spirit is a great foundation to build upon once you join and you will especially need these skills in the Spec Ops community.
The diversity of the TRX training device has continued to increase each year since it exploded in the fitness world a few years ago. The TRX just keeps getting better as more creative users post videos and the company, TRX Training, strives to build state of the art programming for trainers, professional athletes, military, special operation personnel and many others throughout the fitness spectrum.
The latest TRX development now fits in the palm of your hand – The New TRX Force Super APP. A twelve-week tactical fitness program used by all branches of the military, a huge video library to get ideas and gauge your form and technique, and an interactive timer to challenge your fitness levels are all combined in the new APP. Looking at other publications and videos, there can be over 200 exercises from this one system! You can see many of these in video format on the TRXtraining.com website as well.
Often life can get in the way of fitness performance as well as your basic health. The missing link to many Special Operations candidates as well as active duty members is proper amounts of rest, recovery, and stress mitigation skills. Actively pursuing recovery has to be done whether you are in a high level Special Ops training program or just trying to get through a stressful day at the office or home. Here is an email question that shows how easy it is to burn the candle at both ends. The problem is if this stressful life continues for too long, you can suffer some long term side effects of chronic stress which makes life very unpleasant for you and the people close to you.
Hey Stew — I am a Fire Fighter / Paramedic in a busy city making calls constantly when on duty. I am also training to go to Army SF Training with my National Guard Unit this next year. I am finding that my scores are not getting better (run/ruck times and PT scores) even though I am working out hard 5–6 days a week. I think I am doing everything right — what do you think can get me of this plateau of the last few months.
Rhabdomyolysis is a word that not many people have ever heard or experienced. But recently, it has unfairly made the headlines with regard to difficult training programs such as CrossFit. I am not a CrossFitter, but this issue is part client and part trainer problem and not simply a CrossFit problem. Truth is, “Rhabdo” as many people refer to it, is very common in MANY challenging training programs such as military bootcamps, police and fire academies, even professional football, and body building. It is a deadly condition that should be studied by anyone who is a trainer, but also taught to students who are seeking challenging workout programs in harsh environments.
Defined, from a 2010 US Armed Forces study on active duty cases, Rhabdomyolysis is the breakdown of muscle cells with release into the bloodstream. If not treated, Rhabdomyolysis can be fatal and you can have kidney failure, heart attack, or stroke. It is definitely not a condition to make light of or wear as a badge of honor.
Insulin Resistance is our nation’s biggest public health problem and potentially much worse in our future. Insulin Resistance (IR) is defined by Dr. Greenwald of Specialty Health in Reno NV as “When humans become insulin resistant, the glucose receptors of our liver and muscle cells get clogged. Insulin has a difficult time allowing glucose to get into the cell. Glucose stays in the blood stream and blood glucose levels increase and so does the blood insulin levels as the pancreas keeps pumping more and more insulin to try to keep blood sugar (glucose) levels under control.”
Why is IR our biggest public health problem?
Insulin Resistance leads to many deadly ailments such as Heart Attack, Alzheimer’s Dementia, Cancer, Kidney Disease, Stroke, Gout, Obesity, and Diabetes to name the most serious illnesses. Obesity and Diabetes alone will continue progressing and cause lower back pain, joint pain, amputation, blindness, and slow healing wounds.