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.
If you are seeking a job in the military or law enforcement professions, you will likely see an entrance exam that requires you to score well in sit-ups, curl-ups, or crunches. All are abdominal exercises with different hand placement that test core strength and endurance and can be a challenging exercise to improve if you are not getting your repetitions in each week. Here is an email from someone who has improved in pushups and pullups but needs help with the last PT element of the Air Force PAST test for PJ and CCT:
“Stew, I have used your pullup and pushup push plans and actually increased my pushups from 50 to 88 and my pullups from 12 to 20 in just two weeks. Thanks! I have neglected my sit-ups however (62 in 2 min); and need some ideas on the quickest way to increase my reps for the AF PJ two minute PAST test for situps. Do you have a “Situp Push Plan” like your pull / push plans? I am trying to get my situps to 85–100 for the PAST”
Yes, I have been working on a Situp Overload Plan to help create a better foundation to increase situps by 50–75% in just 14 days. It is a little different than the Pullup / Pushup Plan where you take your current maximum and multiply by five for 10 straight days – add in three rest days and test on day 14 for recovery from the overload and max out into a new level of scoring.
Questions like these make me appreciate the younger generation more and have hope for the future of our country. This young man wants to serve this great country of ours, but yet is struggling with the decision of the Army or Navy. Here is his question:
Sir, I’m currently a junior in high school, and I’m having some trouble deciding upon a branch of the military. At the moment, I am PTing with the Army, with plans to go infantry and eventually Ranger. But whenever I decide on that, something just says, “SEALs!” and then I have more trouble. I haven’t signed any paperwork with the Army yet, and I would very much appreciate any help or advice you could give me. Thank you
Sure there are inter-service rivalries between all the branches of our military but in the end, we are all on the same team. Here are some things to consider about your decision:
Fitness programs today are pushing the limits of comfort and getting creative to produce a better warrior or tactical athlete using simple methods that can be accomplished anywhere. Some trainers agree with these methods / some disagree with methods that push the limits of what athletes should do in a day. But regardless of what you think about these type of workouts, this is one such workout that works the entire body, challenges the cardiovascular system, and is actually a fun group workout called the Devil’s Mile with a Tire.
If you remember, a Devil’s Mile is to select four exercises and perform them for a quarter mile each. Such as one of our favorites: 400m bear crawl, 400m walking lunges, 400m fire man carry (200m each partner), 400m burpee broad jump.
Over the past decade CrossFit has motivated and turned the fitness community into a daily competition with quick workouts of the day (WODs) in a group or online group atmosphere. There is not a day that goes by that I do not see a WOD posted up on a Facebook page or shared on Twitter, so people are very excited about their fitness these days. Which is GREAT! And you cannot argue with results. People see results with CrossFit workouts more than not. However, this question is asked quite often and it is about time I post on it as people tend to get a few things confused when it comes to Special Operations fitness. This question is specifically asking about Navy SEAL training and using CrossFit to prepare for BUD/s:
Stew, I know you recommend calisthenics and no lifting when preparing for BUD/S, but what do you think about CrossFit workouts to prepare for SEAL Training? I know many SEALs, Army SF, RECON guys do CrossFit and recommend it for their own training. What is your take on it?
PT Progression #5 is the PT and Advanced Movements Workout:
You now are ready to advance to full body movements in between sets of pullups and pushups and even replace pushups with more dynamic exercises like burpees, push presses, and 8 count pushups. Traveling to and from the pullup bar and the PT area will now require you to bear crawl, low crawl, fireman carry a partner, do a farmer walk with heavy weight, or any other creative method you can think of adding that will assist in your preparation for military, police, or fire fighting training.
PT Pyramid with More Mileage:
Every 5th set run a mile fast pace:
Set 1: 1 pullups, 2 pushup, 3 situp
Set 2: 2 pullups, 4 pushups, 6 situps
Set 3: 3 pullups, 6 pushups, 9 situps
Set 4: 4 pullups, 8 pushups, 12 situps
Set 5: 5 pullups, 10 pushups, 15 situps…
Part four of the PT Progression Series is about adding the final segment of most fitness tests into the calisthenics workouts — RUNNING. Learning to run at your goal pace is critical for optimal performance and you must practice it so often that it actually becomes “muscle memory” when you run. You should be able to transition from the the PT section into the running test easily and know by the way you are breathing, swinging your arms, striding how fast you are going. This takes practice though.
You can make a pyramid out of this one or make it one tough super set but each “rest” period in between sets is a run of a variety of distances. These type of workouts not only help your body learn how to transition from PT exercises to running, but can also help you in simulating other exercise events like obstacle courses, combat conditioning courses, and other job related challenges.
Part three of the PT Progression Series is to build upon a foundation that you have created over the past few months. Once you have mastered the PT Pyramid and the Super Set and can handle workouts with volume of 100 pullups and 200 pushups, then it is time to test your new found strength. This workout will increase your muscle stamina and endurance which is really the goal of mastering PT tests. The Max Rep PT is ideal for those who are stuck in the 10–15 pullup, 70–80 pushups / situp range. In a 5–6 week period of doing this workout just once a week as shown below, most people were in the 20+, 100+, 100+ range on the pullup, pushups, situps tests. But, like I said earlier, you need a foundation of fitness before trying this workout.
The new goal to achieving the volume of PT reps that you are used to is now to get those numbers in as few sets as possible. For instance, for our standard 100 pullups, 200 pushups, 300 situps workout then plan is to get these numbers in max rep sets. It is recommended to only do this workout once a week but you can combine like this during your week:
Part #2 of the PT Progression Series is the Super Set.
This is a series of answers concerning a question about getting better at pullups, pushups, and situps for both fitness testing as well as bootcamp, police or fire academies.
The Super Set is also considered a Foundation Workout similar to the PT Pyramid where the goal is to increase the weekly total volume of your repetitions in pullups, pushups, situps in order to get better at taking calisthenic fitness tests. Having a solid foundation by using both the PT Pyramid and the Super Set will enable you to build your muscular endurance by increasing your daily volume in smaller sub-max rep sets. Eventually you may fail at these predetermined number of these sets, but that is fine. Keep pushing and resort to knee pushups for pushups, crunches for situps, or flexed arm hang for pullups for the last few remaining sets of the program.
A super set is nothing more than a circuit but made with a set number of repetitions and a range of sets for you to shoot for in the workout. For instance, to ace the pullups, pushups, situps, test you can make a super set like this:
Everyday someone asks about improving in fitness tests. Many people have issues with not just performing on an entry level fitness test (join military, police, fire), but also progressing in a manner that will enable them to perform well at Boot Camp or Police and Fire Academies. Here is an email from a concerned student who is preparing to join the military in the next year:
Stew, How do I get better at pullups, pushups, and situps? I know I should do more of them but how do I arrange workouts so I am going to see progress frequently (weekly / every other week)?
This is a great question because we all have to start somewhere and then we progress into being PT animals eventually. The good news is that you have a year to train but you need to start now. I am going to make my next several articles focus on the PT Progression Method. It all starts with building a foundation and then advances in the following workout arrangements.
Over the past few months, this email question has been blowing up my inbox. It is concerning adding women to Special Operations units like Army Special Force, SEALs, Rangers, and the rest. Here is an email from a future BUD/S student:
I am training for BUDS when I graduate college in 2 years. I am on Capitol Hill for the summer and I hear they are talking about lowering the fitness standards for some programs including SEALs to make it more inviting to women. What is your opinion on this and do you think it will actually happen?
Personally, I do not speak for Navy Special Warfare, I am a civilian fitness writer who specializes in fitness standard programming. Making programs for people to succeed well above the minimum standards is what I do — no matter what the program, fitness test, or men or women. But this question is really a waste of time coming from a young, male, trainee who wants to go to BUD/S. You all need to focus on your own training as it is a 80–90 % attrition rate among men. These men who quit are well-screened, tough, above average strength and cardiovascular endurance. You ALL will have your hands full training for the next couple of years to be competitive and in the top 10–20% of the class who finish.
See video on Nasty Nick that this Obstacle Course Event is modeled after — Fundraiser for Green Beret Foundation
If you are an aspiring Special Ops candidate, there are many things you can do to prepare. Whether you want to go Army, Navy, Air Force, or Marines Special Ops, you need to be able to move through obstacle courses and learn to move with weight in a back pack. The US Army Special Forces Obstacle Course called the “Nasty Nick” is a challenging event during the Selection Phase of training for future Green Berets. Now, Special Ops candidates as well as civilians looking for a fun racing event can do an obstacle course based on the Nasty Nick, but sadistically placed on a mountain ski slope. The former Special Forces operators at GORUCK are creating such and event to raise month for the Green Beret Foundation. See More Info: GORUCK Nasty.
If you have been a user of my workouts for any of the past 15 years, you will notice I do not do jump roping as part of my written programming. It does not mean I disapprove of jumping rope, in fact, I have many years of jumping rope when I wrestled and played football in high school and played rugby in college. We also used jump ropes while on deployments when visiting on submarines or boats when in the SEAL Teams. I just never pushed jump roping as a training option when the focus of my writing has been mainly running, rucking, swimming as a cardio foundation.
However, after learning about this new jump rope called the Crossrope (www.crossrope.com) at the National Strength and Conditioning Association’s Tactical Strength and Conditioning Conference, I actually have added jump roping to my training programs.
Training in the summer months takes some special consideration especially if you live in a hot and humid environment like the South, East Coast and Midwest. However, training in arid and hot environments like the Southwest and Western U.S. require the same considerations. Dryer climates can actually be more dangerous as you do not sweat to stay cool (it just evaporates almost instantly) — but you will notice salt stains on clothing just the same.
Here is a question from a trainer down in Charleston, who needed some ideas other than the typical “stay well hydrated, avoid the heat of the day, etc…”