Archive for the ‘Special Operations’ Category

Periodization — Do I Need it?

Top fitness concerns for men

Here is a short but sweet question that requires a fairly lengthy answer to do it justice.  Periodization is nothing new to fitness and the training world, but it is one of those things that people have a hard time applying to their fitness program.  Here is the email question:

Stew, I am in my mid 40’s and have been doing roughly the same thing for more than a decade (run, lift, and some PT) – seems to be working for me.  I read about your periodization concept.  I think I understand the basics but what is periodization and why it is important to me?

The best definition I have seen:  Periodization is an organized approach to training that involves progressive cycling of various aspects of a training program during a specific period of time.  (Kravitz)

Operator Grip

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Having a good grip comes in handy not just shaking hands, but doing many tasks required of military and special ops personnel.  Here is a recent email asking about improving grip for exercises that include rope climbs, pullups, and even dry firing with your non-​​dominant hand.

Stew, I am actually pretty good at pullups, but have found it tough to do multiple sets of higher reps not because I cannot do any more pullups, but because I cannot hang on the bar any longer.  My forearms are on fire!  I have the same issues when doing rope climbs and even some tactical skills.  How can I get my forearms stronger?  

This is an excellent question as there are many things you can do to supplement your workout to get a better grip.  Your grip muscles are actually located in your forearm and your hand is mostly tendons attaching them with a few hand muscles involved as well.  This is why when doing pullups, rope climbs, farmer walks, and other tasks you feel your hands getting tired as well as your forearms.  The good news is that grip and forearm strength /​ endurance /​ muscle stamina can be added fairly quickly with a 5–10 minute circuit following normal workouts for upper body.  In a few weeks, you will notice a difference if you do the following circuit 2–3 times a week.  In a few months, you will have that “old man grip strength” that can hold onto anything for long periods of time too.

PRAMEK: How to Move Scientifically and Defend Against any Threat

PRAMEK current

Have you martial artists and self-​​defense combatives practitioners, as well as you professional operators, wondered how to blend science and use it to learn to fight better?

PRAMEK is the answer and solution to that question. First, let me tell you about the background of the founder.

Running More Than You Want To

Top 5 Tips for Proper Running Form

Every so often, I get asked how to train for a long run like a half marathon or marathon.  Many young men and women prefer the accountability of a race and the thrill of competing in runs while preparing for Special Ops professions.  If running is a weakness you must work on in order to succeed in future training programs, preparing for races that are also entertaining can be a great way to turn a weakness into more of a strength.  Though a marathon is not necessary, it does make a great gut-​​check if you can keep from getting injured prior to your training.  Here is an email from a young man who is making the transition from a collegiate power athlete and working on his skills to become a better long distance runner:

Stew, I just finished my senior year of college in AZ and have been trying to get better at running as I am preparing for Army Special Forces.  As you know, this training requires you to run and ruck many miles each week, but I am having issues with keeping my focus during longer runs.  Any suggestions?  Should I try running different locations, races, marathons, different cities, elevation, beach/​desert, trails?  Thanks – Sean.

What is the best way to…?

2012 London Olympics

For over a decade and a half of writing about working out and acing fitness tests primarily, I often get questions that start off with, “Stew — what is the best way to (insert event)?  The most common one is “run faster in timed runs”.  Or “do more pull-​​ups, push-​​ups, sit-​​ups” is often asked.  And, of course, there is swimming times related question — “What is the best way to increase my swim speed /​ decrease swim times per given distance?”  Or a very controversial topic — “What is the best way to build muscle?”

The reason why I bring up this topic is after reading an email from a young man trying to ace his situp test, I got distracted.  He is seeking a goal to keep a pace of one sit-​​up per second or scoring 120 situps in 2 minute period.  This is a great goal!  It is not uncommon in the Spec Ops candidate world to see 120+ on 2 minute sit-​​up tests and there is a way to build up to get there.  Is MY way the BEST way?  I do not know — depends on how you define BEST.  Here is the question:

Traits of a Special Operator

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We all have had some form of psych test in our lives.  Do you remember the Myers-​​Briggs test you may have seen in high school, college, or in the military as well.  I know I have taken it at least three times in my life.  A recent question brought back some of those memories and prompted a little thought on the topic of personality types.  Here is the question:

Stew,
What are some of the personality types that make it through Special Ops training programs and go onto to serve in various Special Ops programs for a profession (like SEAL, EOD, Army SF, SWAT Teams, etc)?  I saw your article on some of the traits needed for Mental Toughness as well as the many fitness requirements you recommend, but what type of people finish the training?

Sleep Deprivation Video from TED Conference

sleep deprivation and shift work1

If you have not seen or heard about the TED conferences you should subscribe — especially if you like to hear about new and innovative things occurring in the world with science /​ technology based research and development.

TED = (Technology, Entertainment, Design) Conference share the best ideas in the world for FREE by video.  Check them out.  This one is conducted by former Navy SEAL and current medical doctor — Kirk Parsley.

Workout of the Week # 18: 50–50 Workout

workout

As many of the readers know, I use a method of periodization that evolves with the seasons.  Some have called it the Solstice Running Plan, while I tend to just like changing my workouts every quarter (12–13 weeks) so not to burn out with any one type of exercise.  For instance, each change of season brings in something new and gradually fades something out:

Spring (March — May):  Progressive running build up as well as shift from winter weights to higher rep calisthenics, taper from longer swimming workouts, with shift in speed /​ agility training.

Summer (June — September):  Peak build up of miles running, high rep calisthenics, high speed on swimming, only bodyweight exercise to include fireman carries, crawls, log PT, etc…(Almost no weights — focus is PFT testing scores)

Fall (September — November):  Drop high rep calisthenics, introduce weight training, increase swimming distance /​ rucking, reduce running mileage over 12 weeks and focus on faster paced shorter runs.

Workout of the Week #17

Combat Swimmer Stroke

Here is a swim workout that requires a video to best explain.  The focus is on three events:

Life Saving Buddy Tow — 25m
Combat Swimmer Stroke 50m
Freestyle 100m (6–10 strokes per breath)

The goal is to push yourself on the buddy tow — recover with the 50m CSS — then push your heart /​ lungs with 100m freestyle hypoxic type swim set.

Top Reasons Why People Fail Special Ops

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I love getting email questions that require me to think and recall over the years some of my experiences to share.  These questions are from a future SOF candidate, who asks a simple question, “Why is the attrition rate so high?”  Here is his specifics:

I was curious Stew, why are the attrition rates for SOF so high? It seems that to get into any SOF training program you have to pass a physical examination to show you can handle training, academic tests, and reach a pretty high level of fitness. Therefore; all those who start should technically be able to complete the course? But of course most end up quitting. Through what means do trainees feel that the course isn’t for them? Or is it that people believe the workload isn’t worth the reward? Is it naive to think that because you only meet the minimums that you cannot succeed in the course? Is it more of a solid success-​​driven mentality requirement?

Advice on Over-​​Training

Advice on Over-Training

For years, I have written about and discussed the fine line between training for Special Ops type programs and over-​​training.  But until recently, I realized I forgot one very important piece of information:

TELL OTHERS AROUND YOU THE SYMPTOMS OF OVER-​​TRAINING.

Because, you will not notice it until it is too late (typically).  Even though, over-​​training is actually hard to do by just training — it is easy to see symptoms pop up occasionally when your recovery balance is off:  Not enough sleep, not eating or hydrating well, and too many crazy workouts in a week are just the things to push any training program into the over-​​reaching /​ over-​​training zone if not attended to.

Favorite Workout# 10: Last Week

pullupupOk — this workout is no joke and not for beginners.  This is one of our favorite combo circuits where we focus on the following type of exercise groups:  Upper body PUSH, Upper body PULL, Legs, Abs, and Full body Movements.  This one is a mix of a circuit and a max rep set of the pull, push, leg and the full body and abs are done to your wishes.

Pull, Push, Legs, Abs, Fullbody Max Reps Sets exercise circuit:

Max Reps sets of first 3 (Murph Workout*) — then “rest” with abs /​ full body each set:
Pull = pullups 100 reps
Push = pushups 200 rep
Legs = air squats 300 reps
Abs of choice 50
Fullbody exercise of choice:  options dead lift, hang clean, power clean, push press, KB swings, etc…Heavy or light moderate reps sets.  5–10 reps of these fullbody exercises.

United We Stand

HonorGuard

I come from a family of patriots.  We all support our Veterans, our military service men and women and our country regardless of the date on the calendar or the status of world events. My grandfather is part of the Greatest Generation as a WWII Veteran. My uncles are Veterans of the Vietnam War.  I am a the spouse of a GWOT Veteran who served our country valiantly during a career that saw both peace and conflict. So, during a time when we celebrate our Nation’s birth, it seems fitting to also thank those who graciously and unselfishly support our troops, respect our flag, and serve our Veterans.  This week, while we’re spending time with family and friends,  I want to introduce you to a couple of patriots & patriotic organizations that have inspired me. 

Favorite Workout #7: Last Week (Spec Ops Tri)

Operation Craving Competition

The Special Ops Triathlon — Run — Swim — Ruck

This fine tuning of the challenging cardio events of the triathlon is now an all-​​time favorite workout.  We even made it a quarterly competition with our Heroes of Tomorrow and Special Ops Team here in Maryland.

You can arrange the run, swim, ruck of the Special Ops Triathlon in any order, but we often like to make it like a simulated mission where you have the following phases:

Career Change to Special Forces

New Workout: Devil’s Mile with Tire

If you are thinking about a career change and perhaps wanting to move out of a cubicle, travel the world, challenge yourself with a typical younger person’s profession, this email may resonate with you.  There are some things to consider from the physical demands of the training you seek, strain on relationships, monetary issues, to just name a few. However, if you are seeking a career change to any of the Special Forces /​ Special Ops world, start training hard and specifically NOW!  Here is the email question and related answers to many foreseeable issues:

Stew,  I am considering a career change from a Phys. Ed teacher to Army Special Forces. 

Fitness is Relative /​ Energy Systems Are Not…

Why Bodyweight Exercises Rule!

After a challenging workout on Memorial Day this year, I posted it in the Weekly Favorite Series and received a few comments from, “this is a crazy workout and too hard to think about doing,”  to “it was not that bad if you paced yourself.”  This led me to think about how fitness is ALL RELATIVE, meaning, depending on your fitness level, workouts can easily be accomplished or not.

Military Swimming — How Good Should You Be?

swimming

People all shapes and sizes with varying backgrounds join the military each year.  Many are great swimmers, most are average swimmers, some cannot swim at all.  Here is an interesting question that prompted a longer explanation in order to accurately describe “How Good at Swimming You Should Be?”

“Stew, I am a three sport athlete about to finish high school, but not a great swimmer.  I can swim, but having issues with reaching the faster times Navy Spec War (SEAL) recommends on the BUD/​S PST.  I am heading to college to likely focus on football and track, but would like to be able to go to BUD/​S and become a SEAL after I graduate (either enlist or OCS).  How important is getting the 500yd swim time down to 8 minutes vs. maybe 9 minutes and being comfortable in the water?

armsFirst, congrats on soon to becoming a collegiate athlete.  I tell people all the time, learning to be a team player (in something) is one of the most critical skills you need if you want to join the SEAL Teams as well as the military in general.  You will be a part of a team when you serve — being a good team player will help you tremendously.  You could even say it is more important than swimming — BUT you still need to be able to swim and swim well.

Top Ten List: Mental Toughness

buds seal training 3

After this article, a friend of mine asked about what I thought the Top Ten List of traits for mental toughness would be.  After some thought and discussions with some successful, mentally tough people, we came up with this.

Mental Toughness – How do we obtain it?  Make it stronger?  Many young people ask these questions of me each day and I wish it was a simple answer.  I wish you could be mentally tough by figuring out a magic solution of phrases or training programs.  But it is not that simple.  Being mentally tough requires you to keep competing when your mind wants you to quit.  Humans have a “safety switch” in our brain that tells us to stop in order to prevent us from hurting ourselves.  We are natural born survivors built to conserve our energy, store food, and just simply live to survive another day.  There are times you can actually shut that part of your brain off.  When you do this, you realize your body is ten times stronger than your brain will let it be. Training programs in the Special Operations world helps you tap into this mindset, but often your life experiences and habits can build a mental toughness and resilience that no one can beat.

Are You a Captain America?

Captain America1

I consider my sister-​​in-​​law, Dana, a real sister to me.  She is kind, compassionate, fun, wonderfully opinionated and loves me unconditionally.  I always welcome her advice and recommendations and she has never steered me wrongly.  Last summer she said I must watch The Avengers movie.  What a fun ride!  It was cool to see so many of my favorite characters like Thor, Ironman, and the Hulk joining forces to fight evil.  The only challenge was that I knew nothing about Captain America.  Friday night, I finally watched the first Captain America movie and can’t wait to see the sequel that apparently was a blockbuster at this past weekend’s opener. What caught my attention was the desire this scrawny little guy had to serve his country and sacrifice for the greater good of mankind.  Fortunately, you don’t have to look too far to find those willing to raise their shields to protect our country.  From our incredible service men and women to every day difference-​​makers, we all have a little bit of Captain America in us.

Coast Guard Diver Rating Created

Cgdivers

Coast Guard divers have been performing hundreds of diving missions each year for decades around the world in support of the multiple maritime missions of the Coast Guard.  Now, starting this year (2014), the Coast Guard created the Diver (DV) rating for qualified enlisted members.  Until now, divers in the Coast Guard had different rating professions and diving was a collateral duty.