On big Holiday feast days, it is common to see people getting after it with a challenging high calorie burning workout prior to a smorgasbord of great food and drink. Our local group typically does a traditional Thanksgiving Day workout that lasts a good 1.5 to 2 hours the morning prior to feasting. We do the same on birthday parties and other Holiday events where relaxing, eating, drinking and BBQing is the plan of the day.
I never thought about it, but Super Bowl Sunday is perfect for a Gut Check Workout to help you not feel as guilty when enjoying the benefits of a friends Super Bowl party event. Here is a related email that gave me such inspiration:
I would appreciate a workout which burns enough calories to make me feel less guilty about eating so much during the Super Bowl. Mistakes WILL be made.
Thanks – Ben
NO – thank you! This is a great idea. Consider it done. It is now on the schedule to have a challenging workout on Super Bowl Sunday for my group of local workout partners. Typically a rest day during the week, we will make Sunday early afternoon a challenging workout where we might burn 600-700 calories. That is a good amount of calories to have in the bank prior to a several hour Super Bowl party.
Remember, one beer is typically 100-150 calories depending on the brand. Some beers are less than 100 calories (if you want to call them beer). A cookie is 100 calories. One chicken wing is 60 calories (less if you take off skin). 10 chips and salsa is 150 calories. As you can see, the snacks and foods at a Super Bowl party will quickly add up in total calories. If you can burn 600-700 calories (or more) prior to a Super Bowl party that should help you feel a little less guilty.
Here are some ways to put some calories in the bank prior to game time:
1 – Sand Baby Murph 2 – Go Ruck – 1 hour of rucking can burn up to 600 calories. 3 – Go Swim – 30-45 minutes can burn 600-700 calories. 4 – Go Walk – If you are a walker, it may take a little longer. Typically you can burn 300 calories an hour of walking. So yes, it takes about hour of walking to burn off 5 chicken wings.
Good luck this week. Build up your calorie deficiency bank not just the day of the Super Bowl. Try it all week. An extra 100-200 calories burned a day can add up to steady weight loss after steady weight gain of the Winter football season. Or you can just not eat or drink at the game. Haha – Just kidding…
On April 8th, the Heroes of Tomorrow and I are being honored at the Severna Park Community Center’s Annual Gala. I am humbled by this recognition and I am grateful for the opportunity to highlight SPCC’s contribution to my Heroes of Tomorrow program. I created the Heroes of Tomorrow nearly 15 years ago to provide an entirely free training program for those seeking any of the military, special ops, police and fire fighting professions. It could not exist as it is without SPCC’s generosity, allowing young men and women to use the facilities for FREE if they are part of the Heroes of Tomorrow program. We typically work out using the weight room, basketball court, and swimming pool early in the morning every day, year round. People come from out of state, even across the country to join our program, as it is open to everyone who wants to serve our country and communities.
Video Story on the Heroes of Tomorrow and the Severna Park Community Center
The Severna Park Community Center is a non-profit organization that provides a gathering space for activities that serve all members of the community from children to seniors. It exists largely on donations. As a way to say thanks for supporting our program, I’m asking you to help me support SPCC as they prepare for their Annual Gala – the biggest fundraiser of the year.
There are a variety of ways to support this incredible organization:
2 – Donate something for the silent or live auction. Since we will be honoring many military, special ops, police, and fire fighters, any related item or art would be a great addition to the evening. You can also purchase and bid on items as we will have a Virtual Silent Auction Gallery as well. Contact Sue Valentine if interested in donating items to be auctioned.
4 – Attend the SPCC Gala and meet 200+ people in the community with a goal of ensuring the future of this non-profit community center in the heart of our town. If you are interested in attending the Gala – tickets are $175 (your donation includes dinner, gift bag, live auction, entertainment) – you can email me at Stew@stewsmith.com and we will send you the tickets link. We are limited to 250 total.
5 – Attend the Spec Ops Triathlon (Noon April 8th) – Join us as we do a 4 mile run / 4 mile ruck and a 1 mile swim at the Severna Park Community Center. This is where you can work out with us, get help with swimming as there is a teaching lane during the 1 mile swim portion, and donate to a great cause. See link for sign up information to the Spec Ops Tri.
And of course, you can always join us for a FREE workout whenever you are in the area.
I have had the honor of helping to prepare thousands of people who have gone on to serve this country. With your help, we will continue to run the Heroes of Tomorrow – helping thousands more prepare for their future profession’s physical rigors. This requires about 600 hours a year of donated time from myself and facility usage at the Severna Park Community Center. If the SPCC stays open, we have a home. Help us pave the way to SPCC’s and the Heroes of Tomorrow’s future by making the SPCC Gala one of the best ever! Whatever your contribution, it makes a wonderful difference. All money goes to the SPCC and since they are a non-profit organization, all donations are tax deductible.
Thanks for your time and consideration,
Stew Smith www.stewsmithfitness.com www.heroesoftomorrow.org
The Heroes of Tomorrow will be doing two EVE workouts this month to help the Severna Park Community Center pool purchase some needed maintenance equipment and gear. As you may know, the SPCC allows my group - The Heroes of Tomorrow - use their facilities for FREE. I also train (for FREE) the young men and women who want to serve our country in the military, police, and fire fighters for FREE over 12 hours a week YEAR ROUND. We help prepare several hundred Special Ops, Marines, FBI agents, local SWAT Team members, Rescue Swimmers (CG and Navy) and Fire Fighters every year at no cost to the student.
So if you are in the area, join us, or join us in spirit as we do the following events:
Chrismas Eve 9am at the SPCC 2 mile run 2 mile ruck 1 mile swim with fins
When asked recently about the most important "non-physical" trait someone who is about to attend BUD/S or any other Special Ops selection program should have, it took a minute to decide on the "most important." Sure, you need mental toughness, a never quit attitude, and must be hard physically, but I think the most important non-physical trait is being a TEAM PLAYER.
Of course, there are individual challenges and tests that you alone must conquer, but no one makes it through any selection program by themselves. You must be a team player and help each other get through training TOGETHER.
What is a Team Player?
You might think that a team player must be an athlete in a former life, but there are many ways to be a team player. Not all Special Ops candidates are former athletes in high school or college. Most are, but it does not take an athlete to be in good physical shape and conditioning.
In fact, some of the best teammates I ever had played individual sports like wrestling or cross country, but also did something else like band or acted in plays. Yes, that is right! Some of the best team players I have seen had a background in music and acting, so do not knock the band members and drama club kids. Team work is team work no matter what it looks like.
Another example is the family team player. Some did not play any sports, instead working after school to help support their family either at a family business or just to earn more money to make ends meet. These guys join the military and send their paycheck home to help younger siblings buy food and clothes. Typically, they have a solid work ethic, are mentally tough, and have a great attitude when under a log or a boat. In their mind, they are working out for a living and have a place to sleep and plenty of food to eat. That is what team players look like.
On a side note, all sports of former team athletes are represented at BUD/S, however those sports that have a high rate of success are lacrosse, wrestling and any running (as long as you have a decent background with swimming comfort.
You will be a team or boat crew carrying a boat (on head or by handles), paddling a boat, carrying a log, and general accountability each day. Your entire class is a team and you will succeed and fail together. The more your team fails, the more you pay the price in some form of extra physical events or time consuming duty.
Your respect for the team and holding yourself accountable to meet the standard as well as set the standard for your teammates is critical to your personal survival as well as your team's success. When someone from your boat crew or team is not meeting the standard and making it more difficult for the rest of the team, the boat crew leader has the duty to counsel that person. Do not team up against him and make him quit. It is the instructor's job to do that. The instructors will notice, especially if your boat or team is being dragged down by someone not pulling their own. Show up last a few times in races and you will see all the instructor attention you care for. That will either motivate the group to NEVER be in that situation again, or the weak links will fall. The goal as a team is to move smoothly from one event to another. This will make or break your team as it always "pays to be a winner." If you get caught up in petty bickering on who is not working hard enough, you can lose valuable time, fail events, and create a feeling of distrust within the team.
For instance, when you carry the boat by hand you are basically farmer walking the boat as a team. Eventually, one hand grip will fail and you have to switch hands. The only way to do that is to switch sides with one of your team mates. The best way is to switch out sides as a group -- almost like a Chinese fire drill in your car at a stop light (for lack of a better analogy). Both sides travel clockwise around the boat on verbal command and you are back to moving again within seconds.
Another example is Log PT. Overhead presses and holds of the log get tough quickly -- within minutes. However, if pushing a log, or a boat for that matter, over your head, your team needs to get good at implementing a quick push press versus a pure shoulder press. Simply by using your legs to push the log or boat to an overhead extended arm position will give your team some more time before failure kicks in. But this takes perfect timing and is a perfect example of how teamwork makes tasks easier for you and the team.
As stated, you cannot maneuver through these events without being a functionally working team. Once you have completed your selection, you will join what can be described as the ultimate in teams -- The Teams. Your success means your team lives another day -- it is that serious. So, go into training with a team work mentality. Rambo does not make it in the Teams.
"You have to be a media company that sells 'X' to survive in business today."
In case you missed a few recent emails, videos, and blog posts about a new project Navy veteran and online marketing guru Jim Edwards and I are working on, here is an update and synopsis of some great new training we've already shared with you in the past week!
"Do It Yourself Media Marketing Program"
In fact, here's what my experience with learning something new - when I thought I knew everything I needed to know about selling books and ebooks - BUT this applies to everything too:
"With simple marketing tips, I learned from Jim Edwards, I took two ebooks to #1 on Amazon Kindle fitness and motivation categories. Also, using another recommendation *Fiverr.com*, I found a VERY affordable graphic artist online I changed the covers of all the EBOOKS in my store had a 33% increase in sales within a month!"
So there you have it. FOUR (4) awesome, meaty, and insightful chunks of content that can put you on the fast track with media marketing!
Jim & Stew
PS - If you're serious about building your business, selling more books, and getting more clients, Jim and I have just launched "D.I.Y. Media Marketing Academy" - an online coaching program to help you use all types of media to sell more, get more subscribers, and expand your reach, no matter what you sell!
PPS - I got the original idea to create this program when he heard a friend say, "You have to be a media company that sells 'X' to survive in business today."
This book evolved into a full blown online course with blogs, webinars, and live Q and A sessions. However, Media is more than Facebook. You'll learn about print media, digital media, social media, webinars, internet marketing, and more at the DIY Media Marketing Academy.
PPPS - By the way... The end of the enrollment window on our brand new "Media Marketing Academy" is fast approaching - 20 DEC our course is locked for new students. We will open it again later next year but not at this ground-breaking price - $20 / month.
From Halloween to New Years, people tend to fall off the fitness and / or the weight loss wagon. There are many factors that will even challenge the most disciplined of eaters and exercisers. Here is a list of things to beware of during the months of November - January with tips to avoid them from sabotaging your fitness goals:
1 - Change of seasons / weather and time - Setting the clocks back an hour and darkness arriving earlier each day can actually affect normal energy levels. Add in cold weather and the desire for your outdoor jogging / walking routine has decreased to a standstill. Stay on top of the fitness time squeeze, by getting the workout done before your day normally begins. Missing your daily workout can cause you to not burn 400-500 (or more) calories a day. This can seriously affect your weight gain during the Holidays.
TIPS: Even if it is 20-30 minutes of less sleep, you will find your daily productivity and energy levels will increase after spending a short period of time mixing in calisthenics / dumbbells for resistance training and a fast walk, run, bike, or other form of cardio intervals. If the weather is the culprit to you missing your daily runs of the previous six months, find an indoor option even if it is machine cardio. Another option is an indoor basketball court or similarly distanced area and try various pyramids while running from one end of the other increasing repetitions in such exercises as burpees, pushups, abs, squats. Make it hard with a weight vest. See Weight Vest Wednesday Article for ideas and the Burpee Pyramid.
2- Halloween candies / snacks in the house for the month of November - IF you have kids, you likely have trick or treat candies by the sack full. You may just have the treats that no one came to pick up laying around as well. This is an extra 1-2 pounds of weight and a trip to the dentist in the waiting.
TIPS: If you can, get the treats out of the house quickly. Give it away or hide it from easy access, as a piece of candy can add up to several consumed a day if you are not careful. That will add up to several hundred calories of sugar a day which means weight gain.
3 - Parties (Neighbors, Friends, Work, Sports, etc) are constant during Nov-Dec - Constant parties with friends and co-workers added to several hours a week of sitting and eating / drinking alcoholic beverages can crush your diet plans, Also, in the height of sports season, watching football, basketball, baseball, and/or hockey is another challenge you have to deal with during the final months of the year and beyond into the New Year. The amount of sedentary and unproductive time during your average sports week leads to lower productivity and higher caloric intakes.
TIPS: These are fun events that you should still attend, but be smart. Try a NO CARB NIGHT when at the party, focusing only on meats (proteins) and drinking water or unsweetened beverages during the party / event. Limit alcohol beverage to 1-2 max!
4 - Busy travel and shopping season: Travel and eating meals in restaurants added to a stressful shopping and traffic experience, only compounds upon each other for a double whammy of stress eating and huge meals in restaurants.
TIPS: Take your own food with you while shopping. Replace fast food with water, almonds, nuts, berries, and easy to store fruits kept in the car. This will help you not only fight the temptations of eating fast food, but will help you save money as well. Get your shopping done early and online to save the hassle.
5 - Big Family Meals (Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukah, New Years, etc): Big family meals often come with busy travel days as well, maybe even a few nights in hotels, eating at restaurants or family homes where the Holiday snacks are plentiful. The calories are high during these family feasts.
TIPS: Prior to Thanksgiving do a butt kicking workout, then you will at least not feel guilty for hogging the turkey and mashed potatoes. Once again, try to limit the carbs to a few and eat plenty of turkey, boiled eggs, and salads. Beware the big day of football on Thanksgiving! It is easy to sit idle for hours, taking naps with a full stomach, only to eat and drink more through the day.
Don't wait for New Year's to get started. In fact, you may need less of a New Year's Resolution if you can gain control of the next two months. Studies show that the average weight gain during the months of November - December people will gain in between 1-5 lbs. The low end is not that big of a deal overall, but the average weight gain the entire year is typically 1-2 lbs. for adults, but this weight stays on typically. And if you are overweight, that average increases to 5+lbs just during the Nov-Dec months.
I realized I have been using my Periodization style of training now for 20 years, after one of my former BUD/S prep students reminded me it was 20 years ago he and his classmates shipped off the BUD/S. This was the year, I learned I needed to make some changes in my personal and professional training program and they needed to make sense with job requirements. My periodization program is A WAY to train – not THE WAY to train. It has worked for me from age 27-47 and took me from a near broken, over-trained, SEAL officer to a much healthier practitioner of fitness that can still reach Spec Ops levels in all the elements of fitness as we cycle through those specific training programs.
HISTORY My history with learning to train, training hard for sports and for the special ops profession has now totaled more than 30 years now. I remember getting my first weight set from a Sears mail order catalog for my 13th year Christmas present. Since then I have never stopped training. Learning from people smarter than I, being coached by high school and college coaches, I cut my teeth in the weight room and powerlifted year round from ages 14 – 19.
Begin a powerlifting football player (#50) was my WHY I went to the weight room and started training. I trained hard – year round to be a better football player and powerlifter. Gaining weight in my teens was difficult so I maxed out at weighing 210lbs in high school. Then I joined the Navy and was fortunate enough to get accepted into the Naval Academy where I learned quickly that I was not in military shape. Making the transition from anything over 100 yards is long distance to a BUD/S candidate, and by the age of 22, a BUD/S graduate, did not come easy. I trained hard year round to make transition from powerlifter to SEAL candidate. I went to BUD/s at 195 and graduated at a leaner 195.
BUD/s itself is an exercise in how much the human body can take, but you still graduate stronger and harder than when you started. You definitely learn that your body is capable of 10x of what your brain will let you do. Taking that hardcore training philosophy forward for the next several years, staying at the top of what my body could do physically, takes its toll. By the time I was 27, the aches and pains started to show themselves in back, knee, shoulder pain. Mostly soft tissues issues, but some stress fractures, joint damage, and muscle imbalances. This is when I started cycling with different workouts.
Fast forward 20 years later and things have changed. Not so much with the cycle but how my body handles the cycle. Now gaining weight during the lift cycle is WAY too easy – getting up to 220 but strong. Also losing the weight in the Spring / Summer run cycle is WAY too hard and running at 220 is not fun. By the time I hit the age of 35, I realized by workouts, no matter how long or hard, could not out work my diet. So calorie consumption has to be a focus. Good proteins, carbs, and fats, need to be part of the cycles as well. I have tried a few cycles of limiting / even eliminating carbs and found it effective with weight loss, but did not help me with higher levels of performance, so keeping a balance has been key to both a steady weight and performance expectations. Now in my 40’s, keeping my weight 200 plus or minus 5 pounds has been the key to making this work optimally.My first desire was to get back to the weight room and build my strength back up. I had mainly focused on running, swimming, high rep calisthenics with only some lifting during my 20’s. So I dropped the runs, focused on non-impact cardio options (bike / swim) and lifted weights for my first winter lift cycle. It was life changing. I still kept up my cardio conditioning, but got stronger with all my power lifts I did like a mad man in my teens. The classics (bench, dead lift, squats, power clean / jerk) as well as other variations such as front squats, hang cleans and even leg machines. Getting back into muscle head mode was natural and was a good break from pounding the asphalt and hundreds of repetitions of calisthenics each week. But I realized, I needed to get back into SEAL shape so I started a Spring / Summer PT cycle. This is a progressive cycle in both repetition volume and miles running each week and peaks late Summer. By this time, the body is ready for a transition into weights again – at least MY body was. The Fall was spent with a reduction in running miles / calisthenics and a steady increase in weight training for strength gains. That was my first year of doing this cycle.
Here is the way I arrange my workout throughout the year. I think of the year as a way to challenge ALL of the fitness elements (speed, agility, endurance (run, swim, ruck), strength / power, muscle stamina, mobility and flexibility) – not all at once but throughout the year. You will find you can still be above average ALL the elements of fitness which are invaluable to Tactical Fitness professions.
April – June: Calisthenics and cardio workouts. Run / Swim Progression
July - September: Calisthenics and cardio workouts (advanced). Run max / Swim Progression
October - December: Calisthenics, weights, and decrease running / non-impact cardio workouts. Ruck / Swim with fins.
January - March: Near 100% weights . weight vest calisthenics, more non-impact cardio workouts. Some rucking / More Swim with fins.
My Trilogy of Periodization
Shortly after my first year of this type of training, I wrote Maximum Fitness which is a 52 week plan though the lift cycle is more of a bodybuilding hypertrophy program than a true powerlifting program that is has evolved into today with Navy SEAL Weight Training and Tactical Fitness programs.
After 20 years of this type of training, do not think of it as rigid. We have adding in new elements such as kettlebells, weight vests, TRX, tires, sledgehammers, sleds, crawls and carries to enhance our program each year. We have many favorite GO-TO workouts, but also create new workouts every day. Trying new ideas should be part of your training to find what works for you personally. This is my 20 year story plus my 15 year fitness foundation background before I started training using these methods.
Over the past several years of writing about high level Special Ops Fitness, there is always a question concerning Mental Toughness. I get asked if I have any tips on getting more mentally tough. And I hate to sound like a grumpy, old coach, but to answer that – THERE ARE NO TIPS! There is no secret sauce that makes mental toughness magically appear in your life. Mental Toughness is built slowly – sometimes years – over several stages. Here is how I see mental toughness and resilience develop over time in the following stages:
Motivation – There is a saying in the SEAL community that “The Motivated Find the Teams.” It is true, but motivation has to grow into much more. We all need that initial spark – that WHY you want to doing something to better yourself. This is the easy part, as many find something that interests them and are HIGHLY MOTIVATED at first. Then, the work to achieve that goal is realized. Many lose that initial motivation once effort is involved. Motivation will only get you started. Maintaining motivation only occurs after going through the following other stages and this takes time. With time, often pitfalls in the form of administrative headaches, physical injuries, or illness make you feel like you are starting over ALL OVER AGAIN. But you have to keep moving forward.
Persistence – Persistence is defined by Webster’s as: The quality that allows someone to continue doing something even though it is difficult or opposed by other people.As motivation is the start – persistence is the day after. No matter how many rejections you get in the process, you have to keep pushing forward. Starting off moving in the right direction toward your goal has to be done EVERYDAY. Everything you do should be something that gets you closer to accomplishing your goal. With daily persistence you build habits. GOOD HABITS.
Habit – We are all creatures of habit. Dropping habits that are bad for us is just as challenging as creating new habits - sometimes harder. Often, we have to do both in order to achieve a new goal you are motivated to accomplish. After you are have completed several weeks of the journey to accomplish your goal, doing the little things to help build your foundation, you will find that you have created a habit. Habits are daily events, a gold standard of perfect performance, and have to be part of the schedule (religiously) so that when you miss it – you feel bad for doing so. Be patient with this stage as it takes time to build a habit.
Discipline – You cannot reach your goal without discipline. Discipline is what gets you moving when you are low energy and not motivated to keep going. Discipline requires a laser focus on your goal by constantly reminding you that you need to get to work (studying, exercising, earning money, moving forward) doing the things that will make you better. Finding a weakness and making it a strength requires discipline as well as you dropping the ego and seeking help sometimes. Sometimes you do not have all the answers – get assistance when not seeing results. Discipline is not just linked to military performance – we all need it in life. So how do you get discipline? First find something that motivates you. Then find enjoyment in learning more about it. Figure out what you need to do to get to your goal. Set up sub goals and a time line. Continue that enjoyment by performing daily tasks that will move you toward your goal. It could be school work, learning to swim or run, lifting weights, or anything that requires constant repetition before you see improvement. Once you have made this process a habit, you have developed a working level of discipline. Discipline has a unique quality too. Soon you will find that you are more disciplined in other areas of your life as well. Now – to the next level.
Mental Toughness – The final stage of this process requires you to master the above as there will be a time when you are physically beat down and exhausted and your mental toughness will help you find that second wind or “the fuel when the tank is empty.” Often, this is part of the pinnacle of the challenge you set in front of yourself years ago and it will come to this very moment – just you and no one else. HOW BAD DO YOU WANT IT? I am a firm believer that you cannot measure someone’s heart, but you can test it to an extreme level. Some believe that you are either born with this mental toughness or not. In my experience, both personally and as a coach, it is a bit of both. Mental Toughness can be built, but it may take years. Many start the process with a history of athletics, yearly workout cycles, hard work experience, difficult life experiences, dedicated academic study hours, ignoring naysayers, proving others wrong, and accomplishing difficult tasks only by shear work effort that required you to Never Quit.
Building a never quit work ethic is the end result of any difficult accomplishment that took everything of you to overcome. So, find a goal – set a course – stay focused – and Never Quit!
The Heroes of Tomorrow program was developed by former Navy SEAL Stew Smith, fitness author. We can help prepare you for ANY profession that requires a Physical Fitness Test and YOU pay nothing for the training! Warning - it is rather advanced but we can scale it back a bit and teach running and swimming techniques and help you build up to your goal level of fitness.
I am a fitness writer that specializes in military, police, and fire fighter fitness. I have well over 800 articles on the internet on various sites and several published books / ebooks. I ENJOY answering questions from readers - especially the younger generation who seeks out information and finds me as a resource for tactical fitness training / general preparation information. In fact, I answer my emails each day easily seeing 100-200 emails a day. These give me ideas to write about and very often (more than 50%) of the time I reply to someone with an article link that has become a frequently asked question over the years. THIS IS WHAT I DO. But I also want to be the guy who tells you to
Take the Initiative!
The definition of initiative is: The act of taking the first step. The ability to think and act without being told what or how to do it.
The reason I am telling you to take, use, or seize the initiative is probably no one has ever told you to do so. There is a short story called Message to Garcia which was the first thing I ever read when I joined the Naval Academy. It is about a young officer given a message by the President of the United States and deliver it to General Garcia of Cuba. That was the mission. Travel, lodging, food, location ALL THE DETAILS had to be figured out by young LT Rowan. He has become the epitome of 'taking the initiative' in the military and in the business world alike.
After receiving way too many stupid questions - yes there is such a thing - I made a humorous post on Instagram (stewsmith50) that "stewsmith50 is not google". This post either ruffled some feathers or caused others to laugh, but what I posted is truth and a serious matter. Here is why:
1 - I define a stupid question as one that lacks all initiative posted by someone too lazy to look it up themselves. Some classic examples:
- How many yards are in a 50m pool? Answer - do the math. - How many weeks in bootcamp? Answer - Go to google. - How long is SEAL training? Go to the SEAL website - www.sealswcc.com
As you can see, these are legitimate questions usually asked by a younger generation that may not know how easy it is to answer with a simple Google search. With questions like these - Take the Message to Google. It will save time and teach you something about taking initiative. If you need to confirm answers, by all means, feel free to ask as I am aware of all the information out there. But you have to learn how to sift through the mess and figure it out. The military wants people who know how to take the initiative.
2 - In the military, one of the first things we learned in basic military training was the Five Basic Responses. When someone asks you a question, you have five responses to choose from:
1 — the right answer 2 — yes sir / ma’am 3 — no sir / ma’am 4 — I’ll find out sir / ma’am - if you do not know the answer. 5 — no excuse sir /ma’am - if you did not accomplish a task / or know something you should.
The first three are self-explanatory, the last two are priceless to a member of any team. Answer number four is the best answer you can give if you do not know the answer to something. What you are implying by saying, “I’ll find out sir,” is not the more common answer, “ I don’t know”. This is the answer that will require you to do some research. Knowing the right answer and finding it out for yourself is a critical skill that will one day save your / others lives. Consider taking the initiative part of your military training prep.
The last of the Five Basic Responses is “no excuse sir.” We are all human and we make mistakes, forget details, or arrive late, and get frustrated, but instead of making up an excuse or developing an untrue story, simply let your leaders / coaches / teammates know that there is no excuse to your error.
Responsibility to your team / coaches / leaders becomes a habit when you start saying “no excuse or I’ll find out” to questions that your team needs answers to. You will also find that you will grow as a person when you learn to step up and take the initiative and learn to be responsible for something.
Try the events of the Dirty Dozen Fitness Test. Arrange in any order you prefer. You can take the test many different ways:
1 - Take the test in one day / one long training session 2 - Take 2-3 days to break up the events into - STRENGTH - SPEED/AGILITY - ENDURANCE 3 - Take the entire year to break up the events as above using periodization specific training to master each event over the year.
Share your scores / times in the in the comment section below:
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 an almost impossible 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
Agility Test - The Illinois Agility Test is a challenging 15-20 seconds test that requires the students to run fast, stop quickly, change directions, and move the body from a laying position to a running stride as quickly as possible. The course is 30 feet long and 15 feet wide. Place four cones 10 feet apart at the 7.5 ft. line and the first and fourth cone at the zero and 30 ft line.
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 7 min or less and max out the swim test. You can get extra points until the 12th 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:
Pass / Fail Criteria
4 mile ruck (50lbs)
1 hour maximum time (P / F)
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
Shuttle run 300yds
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? (P/F)
Yes / no
Swim 500m timed
7 minutes – 12 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.
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 2-3 sessions or challenge yourself and go for all events in one long testing session.
The term Tactical Fitness is a fairly new concept. It’s still being defined after a decade of varying programs that prepare candidates for challenging professions in military, special ops, police, SWAT, and firefighting organizations. Though all the jobs are different, they all demand one thing – fitness. In a tactical profession, fitness can be the difference between life and death.
Over the years, tactical fitness trainers, including myself, have focused on the types of training that help people acquire physically demanding jobs by passing basic entry level fitness tests. After admission, the programming advances so people can graduate rigorous, high-attrition training programs. Getting to and through Training is a very important part of Tactical Fitness. However, those who make it to their chosen line of work must maintain their bodies and constantly grow their tactical skills, such as shooting. When it comes to a basic skill like handling a firearm, typical fitness programming falls short.
The law of specificity applies to more advanced real tactical skills like shooting, moving, fighting (people, guns, fire, etc). I have found the following products to be unbelievably useful in building a stable fighting and shooting platform and working on sight alignment and trigger control. The unique safety of these products allows you to mix them with normal weight lifting, running, and PT workout programs in your home or local training facility which enables the user to shoot for accuracy while getting physically more exhausted each round of the workout. Here are the training devices that are not only useful, but really fun if you like to practice shooting but do not have time to go to the range.
SIRT Gun – This dry-firing pistol is used to mix with normal PT. This training tool does not fire any projectile, and uses an inert dual laser and functional features of the Glock 17/22. It includes standard sights, weighted magazine, and a carry case. Optional red or brighter green laser lights are available for indoor or daytime outdoor training.
Muscle Mount with resistance bands – Here is a quick training video I made using a classic Running and PT pyramid mixed with dry firing of the SIRT training gun and Muscle Mount Resistance Band Training System. These can be found here where they’re explained in more detail.
If you want to follow along, you can do a burpee or pushup/squat / crawl and run pyramid. Every fifth set you have to stop and shoot for one minute from various stances while aiming at different objects on the wall.
Building a Stronger Shooting Triangle
To get more information about the training philosophy behind the Muscle Mount, I asked SetCan Trainer Kelly Keith the following questions:
Why add resistance bands to a training weapon? We typically do dry firing with physically stressful workouts to simulate fatigue and stress. Is this different?
The advantage of adding resistance from left, right, up and down is that the shooter will increase the strength in the Shooting Triangle, thus making a more stable platform to shoot from. The importance of having a stable platform is greatly increased when you add in the recoil, movement, and balance issues that many times are part of a gunfight.
So working the shooting triangle muscles in isometric holds and sight picturing stances helps a shooter become stable?
The muscles worked will strengthen the shooters triangle, and the same muscles will be even more stressed if the shooter goes to a one handed shot. I liken it to someone only doing grip exercises to prepare for dead lifts. Yes the grip is important, but without working out the legs and supporting muscles, their grip is going to do little to improve their deadlift. And yes – isometric holds are excellent for enhancing stabilization as they target the area and muscles that we are trying to not only strengthen, but strengthen specifically to stabilize the platform while shooting. The muscle mount ensures that the specific muscles that will be needed to ensure a proper shooting platform are conditioned to deliver.
Any final comments on how we can add the SIRT gun and Muscle Mount to daily tactical training?
One thing you should do after training with the resistance bands is take all weight and cables off and do the drills without any resistance. This is imperative to ensure that we are not training our muscles to be slow while strengthening them. This is very similar to a professional baseball player that puts a bat weight on his bat before he goes up to the plate and goes through the range of motion. However, before he goes up to the plate, he takes the weight off and goes through the range of motion quickly.
This has been a fun review process for all of our trainers and trainees. It brought new energy to the training area and caused everyone in the group to work hard and focus on down-regulating their fatigue level and stress energy to gain accuracy in their shooting.
Stew Smith works as a presenter / editorial board with the Tactical Strength and Conditioning program of the National Strength and Conditioning Association and is Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS). There are also over 800 articles on Military.com Fitness Forum focusing on a variety of fitness, nutritional, and tactical issues military members face throughout their career.
I brought the Muscle Mount and SIRT gun into a recent workout with a group of military and police candidates and the device doubled the energy level with the workout immediately. Mixing a regular resistance / cardio and HIIT workout with a Muscle Mount shooting stance really gives meaning to Tactical Fitness when you cannot actually shoot / move at the range. The MM has been one of the best additions to my Tactical Fitness program that I have experienced in over 15 years.
This is a HOW TO / EXERCISE eBOOK that will help you learn how to take a fitness test. Complete with a six-week workout plus a testing week taper routine to get you "well rested - well tested" for the next fitness test you have to take.
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In fact, here's is the complete list of typical fitness test pitfalls and landmines we'll help you evade in this informative course:
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After the Mental Toughness (Art of Science) 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.
Here is a top ten list of common denominators in many people I know who have accomplished great things in their lives and continue to keep moving onto bigger and greater goals:
Daily Persistence / Focus – Never Stop! Do what you have to do every day even when you are tired, feel lazy, etc. It does not matter if it is physical training, studying for a test, working to a deadline, or just getting out of bed every day with a positive attitude – do it no matter what. Make MOVING a habit. You may find all you needed was a good meal and hydration to give you the energy required to stay focused and finish or start a new task.
No one becomes mentally tough overnight. It takes a lifetime. Some of the toughest people I have met in my life know they have some level of toughness, but still say they have to work at it every day. In the Navy SEAL Creed, there is a line that says, “I have to earn it (the trident) every day.”
Stay Motivated: Why do you put yourself through painful training, long hours working or studying? You have to answer this question – not me. It is no one’s job to motivate you, it is all SELF-MOTIVATION that keeps you moving. Have goals that you see each day getting closer and closer one step at a time into fruition. Prepare mentally for the weeks, months, or even years required to get to where you want to be one day.
Have a quote that resonates with you – There are many great motivating quotes to get and keep you going. Here are some of my favorites when I need that extra affirmation:
1 – “Mental Toughness is finding the fuel when the tank is empty.” (My favorite – it sums up what mental toughness is in so many ways)
2 – “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”
3 – “If you are going through Hell – keep going.”
4 – “Never Quit.”
5 – “Go for it now – the future is promised to no one.”
These are basically performance cues used by sports psychologists at every level of performance. There are many, many more to find online. Find one that works for you. Find a poster / make a poster – see it every day. Say it when you need it.
Train to Compete – Not Just Survive: In relation to special ops training programs, athletic events, or even business - this is the biggest difference in those who graduate training or succeed and those who do not. You should try to be in the type of shape and mindset that will allow you to win or be in the top 10% of the class in many events - at least some. Too many of us, in general, just get by each day “putting in their time” and barely living. Knowing that you are stuck in survival mode is a realization that can be the first step to learning how to change your life and compete for the first time in your life. I developed this saying, shortly before I ran a marathon for the first and last time. My goal was to finish a 26 mile run. I saw a skinny kid from Africa warming up and I realized he was about to run the same race as I was but his goal was to drop a minute off his best time. My goal was to survive the event. Who has a better chance and finishing the race? The kid who was in competition mode – not me. I succeeded with my goal and was able to use the Complete – not just Survive quote many times that day and ever since in my life.
Dissociation Training: There is a fine line between mental toughness and stupid, but when it is a life or death situation, there is no stupid method if it keeps you alive. Basically, how much pain, discomfort, and even fear can you play with? That is an immeasurable element of success. Dissociation refers to being able to take instructors yelling at you, cold water freezing you, sand chaffing you, and exhaustion slowing you AND not let it get into your head. There is a bit of “find your happy place” in these dissociation skills, but you still have to be focused on the mission at hand and not just be some zombie who cannot follow orders stuck in some Zen state. Maybe it is just being SO FOCUSED on the mission at hand – nothing else matters. That is why I put Daily Persistence and Focus as the #1 trait.
You can practice this skill with mundane, monotonous, long workouts like long runs, rucks, swims, high repetition pyramid PTs that can get pretty boring if you do not have an ability to think of something else besides counting reps, miles, and time.
Laugh: Finding humor in what happens to you daily is one of the best ways to get through the daily grind. Find humor in what challenges you. You would be surprised when going through a stressful event how a humorous comment or action will lighten the mood and keep you focused on the task at hand. In a group setting, finding humor and laughing can bond a team together like nothing else. By yourself, you have to laugh as it will help change your mood, gather yourself and get over any negative thoughts you may be having at the time.
Know your Weakness – Make it a Strength: You have to have a level of internal awareness and realize there will be things you are not naturally good at doing. I have found that when working on my weaknesses that I have to check in and use a certain level of mental toughness to keep going than if working on something I was naturally good at doing. For instance, prior to SEAL training, I was a powerlifting football player whose idea of long distance running was anything greater than 100 yards. It took me years, to get my running times down to where I could actually compete or at least stay in the middle of the pack of my class when doing beach runs. Running was something that I had to check in mentally each time I ran, where-as the calisthenics and swimming were not something that challenged me as much. Even this day, running is something I have to focus on to “stay in the pack”.
Plan your Dive – Dive Your Plan: In training, we learned how to “Dirt Dive”. This is a simple walk-through of a mission where we take each phase of the mission step by step and discuss how we achieve the desired outcome. Discussing and creating contingency plans is one of the outcomes that helps us to be immediately flexible in case something goes wrong. Create different routes for you to achieve your goal. There may be 3-4 different ways to get from point A to point B. Consider every possibility and don’t get discouraged if your original plan fails. Move onto plan B or even plan C. STAY FOCUSED ON THE END GOAL.
Big Goals with Sub-Goals: We all want to be successful in what we do. One event in my life that I knew was going to be a kick in the nuts was Hell Week – a 120+ hour evolution at SEAL training that requires everything out of you to complete. You eat every six hours with little or no sleep breaks the entire week. I knew if I broke up the week into twenty - 6 hour segments, it mentally seemed more obtainable that one 120+ hour / 5 day event. Parallel this in the business world by keeping track of weekly, monthly, quarterly goals and the next thing you know your annual projections can also be obtained even if you have to change course to get there. But you won't know to change course if you do not assess. Remember - "you get what you inspect, not what you expect."
Stay Positive: Positive thinking and planning goes a long way. If it is not in the schedule or plan it does not exist so make sure you stay positive with your planning and actions. You will always have negative thoughts and doubts that pop into your head every now and then. A trick to quit having obtrusive, negative thoughts is called “Name it and Tame it”. The next time a negative thought or doubt pops into your head or spoken by another on your team, give it a silly name like “dumbass”. Then tell yourself out loud so you say it and hear it, “I can’t think about “dumbass” anymore.” This may take a few rounds of practice, but it works to help you stay positive. Naming a thought takes away its power and shows you that you have control of your fears and anxiety. That is powerful.
This mental toughness top ten list works for me and many people I consider successful, motivated, and mentally tough that I interviewed for this article. I hope this list helps you. By no means are mental toughness tips and attributes limited to my top ten list. There are countless ways to build your mental toughness and resilience that will help you stay motivated, thinking positive, and handle stress / adversity throughout the rest of your life.
Hang in there – and never, never give up.
For more information / fitness products - check out
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.
Dr. Morgan’s work has provided insight into the psycho-neurobiology of resilience in elite soldiers and has contributed to the training mission of Army special programs. His research on enhancing cognitive performance under stress in special operations personnel has been crucial to how we better understand the stress response. In 2011, Dr. Morgan deployed to Afghanistan as an operational adviser with the Asymmetric Warfare Group. (http://psychiatry.yale.edu/people/charles_a_morgan-2.profile)
From Don Mann’s Navy SEAL Survival Handbook: Morgan’s research was the first of its kind and produced some fascinating findings about the types of soldiers who successfully handled stress and stayed focused. Morgan examined two different types of soldiers: regular army troops and Special Forces soldiers. At the start, the two groups were essentially the same. But once the stress began, he saw significant differences. Specifically the two groups release very different amounts of chemical in the brain called neuropeptide-Y (NPY). NPY is an amino acid produced by our bodies that helps regulate blood pressure, appetite, learning, and memory. It also works as a natural tranquilizer, controlling anxiety and buffering the effects of stress hormones like adrenaline. In essence, NPY levels in Special Forces soldiers is used to block alarm and fear responses and keep from frontal lobe working while stressed.
Dr. Morgan also studied sailors going through stressful tests at Dive Training. He found that during the drownproofing and underwater navigation tests that were conducted, the ones who performed the best released a natural steroid called DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone). DHEA buffers the effects of the stress hormone cortisol and helps the brain with spatial relationships and memory. Divers with the most NPY and DHEA finished at the top of the class.
The question is: Does the training enhance this ability or is it genetic? This is the debate. Special Operators and scientists have been trying to figure this out for decades. In fact, recently DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) asked these very questions when recruiting special operations candidates. Even with Dr. Morgan’s study findings, there is no fool proof method of testing the perfect Special Ops candidate PRIOR to training. There is no scientific evidence that you are born with this ability, but there is statistical and anecdotal evidence that your stress coping ability can be enhanced during stressful training. As Dr. Morgan refers to it as a “stress inoculation.”
Can you further develop the ability to think while simulating stress? Yes. One of the physical ways is to design your workouts so you get significantly tired and winded (physically stressed) and then do some form of creative thinking or math. For instance, one of my favorite “stress – thinkers” is the standard pyramid workout. Do pullups, pushups, and situps. Each set builds on itself and you increase the reps by 1 for pullups, by 2 for pushups, and by 3 for situps. Set one would be 1 pullup, 2 pushups, 3 situps. The second set is 2 pullups, 4 pushups, 6 situps. Keep going up the pyramid until you fail and then repeat in reverse order. The math and keeping up with reps may seem easy while you read this but after 30-40 minutes of non-stop activity the ability to think becomes more difficult. See link: PT Pyramids For a more advanced version where creative thinking is required see this version of the Pyramid / Run Workout.
In conclusion, I have been helping candidates prepare for various types of training programs for over 15 years now. I have seen hyper-prepared candidates that I swore would excel in the Spec Ops training yet they quit due to something other than physical stress. Cold water, darkness, being yelled at by instructors, tactical proficiency, girlfriend / spouse issues can all play a part in a candidate's decision to quit training. However, I have seen others who were not “physically prepared” by fitness standards who successfully graduated SEAL or Army SF training programs simply by gutting out each day and meeting the standards.
My opinion is that you cannot measure someone’s heart and desire.
To date - the best definition of Mental Toughness I have seen is: "Finding Fuel - When the Tank is Empty".
Many people confuse the training programs groups like active duty Special Ops perform to maintain their fitness levels for the demands of the profession with how they preparefor challenging schools like BUD/S, SFAS / SFQC, and PJ training to name a few.
Here is a question to better describe a very common issue with candidate training program selection:
Stew, I have been watching some Youtube videos showing active duty special ops guys working out like SEALs, Rangers, SF, and others. They are huge and lifting very heavy weights so I have been lifting more and doing less cardio. Is this OK? I am preparing for BUD/S for the next year and trying to gain some muscle mass.
The short answer to your question is YES. This is fine. But you want to arrange the workouts where you decrease your cardio / increase your weight training so you cycle through this type of training for 6-8 weeks - maybe 12 weeks if you have a year to train. Where some special ops candidates make mistakes is they fail to drop the heavy weights and switch to higher repetition calisthenics to help with muscle stamina, and they fail to get good and running, rucking, and swimming at fast / high miles per week. Many people have said, including myself, that they never once wished they had lifted more weights at BUDS - they wished they had run more or had swum more with fins.
For the past 15 years, I have been teaching / performing personally a winter weight lifting cycle that reduces repetitions and running distances to give the joints a recovery period from high reps and impact miles. However, for BUD/S candidates I recommend this is a great time to add in a progressive swimming with fins cycle for extra cardio work. Add rucking in as well if your branch of service training specifically tests that skill too. See related article about how to incorporate periodization though the year.
Making it TO training programs requires you to specifically train for a fitness test. This has been where I have been specializing for over 15 years now. Preparing people for tactical professions:
PRE Training - Acing the fitness test / building a foundation of fitness so your body can handle the actual training (BUD/S, SF, PJ, Fire, Police academies is the specific focus on training you must have. This process can take 1-2 years depending on your starting fitness level or as little as 4-6 months depending on your athletic history. Regardless, you do not want to go to ANY training program without having reaching near the maximum standards of the fitness requirements. Otherwise, the likelihood of injury, failure, other delays are certain. You have to "train for the training".
Prepare for the Duration - Specificity is ALSO required to get THROUGH the training after you have focused much of your exercise on making it TO the training. If your training program requires graded 4 mile timed runs, 2 mile ocean swims, long runs and rucks, hundreds of reps of calisthenics (pushups, pullups, dips, squats, flutterkicks) several times a week, you need to practice those events and get your run / swim / ruck mile pace down to an acceptable level to insure success.
POST Training - After the shock of Special Ops Selections, Training, other bootcamps, and acadmies, you have to now focus on the demands of the profession - both tactically and physically. This is where the Teams, Ranger Battalions, and SF groups have advanced their programming by hiring actual strength / conditioning scientists / coaches to create functional programs / testing criteria to help make a better operator. There are many elements to consider to creating, building, and maintaining a Special Operator foundation of tactical fitness:
- The constantneeds of high repetition calisthenics, long miles of run, ruck, or swimming (or all the above) are decreased - now focus on speed, agility, balance, flexibility, strength, power, endurance, muscle stamina.
- This requires a series of training cycles to progress in each of these elements of the tactical athlete. Periodization is critical to the health and longevity of any athlete as the sports athlete has the luxury of pre-season, in-season maintenance, post-season recovery programming. There is no off-season for the tactical athlete.
- TACTICAL athletes have to get more creative to adjust the workouts so they can actively pursue recovery even during times of interrupted sleeping patterns, fast / ineffective nutrition options.
- Recovery from stress is the key. There has to be down times in your training cycles even if that recovery period is just moments of deep breathing / relaxing prior to sleep or cat-naps. Learn how to adjust workouts to fit your seasonal demands of the profession creating programs so peaking and recovering are logical progressions for you.
Training hard for these programs is how to prepare obviously, but understanding the differences of the training required to ace the "entrance exam" or PFT / PST / PRTs depending on your branch of service to get TO the training is critical to your success. The training required and fitness foundation needed to make it THROUGH the training will build off of the PFT scores and should advance with the specifics of the training required (PT, run, ruck, swim, logs, boats, etc). Finally, the training you will need to perform the actual job of the tactical operator will differ tremendously and it should take you back to the days of sports training where you focused on speed, agility, balance, flexibility, strength, power, endurance, muscle stamina that helps you perform a specific skill at your optimal level.
PS: Here is a related audio interview I did recently much about this subject: AUDIO File
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?
In my personal experience and after talking with recent graduates as well as failures from various SOF training programs that include: BUD/S, EOD, Ranger, Army SF, RECON, AFPJ, and various SWAT training programs, I have developed the following list of reasons why people do not make it through SOF training. Let’s call this the Top Ten Reasons Why People Fail in Special Ops:
There are many ways to fail out or quit any of the Special Ops programs utilized by our military as well as city, state, and federal police departments. But typically the biggest reason someone fails is the candidate is not prepared in some way. Here is a list of reasons why most people do not make it through the various Special Ops training programs available:
Physical / Mental Toughness Failure: I have discussed this term “mental toughness” and tried to define it many ways, but it is critical in your success in any of these programs. You have to understand that the physical challenge gets so overwhelming that you have to dig deep into your “how much you want it” pocket to find the fuel when the tank is empty. It does not matter how great a runner, swimmer, lifter, shooter, etc...if you are not tough mentally - you will likely not make it through training. See related articles: Top Ten List of Mental Toughness / Science of Mental Toughness.
Physical Reasons People Fail:
Running – Face it – it is a running man’s game out there. You have to be a good runner with a solid foundation of long distance / fast paced running no matter what your size. I have seen 220+ lbs men run 18 minute 3 mile runs and sub-200lb men fail. If you cannot run well, you will be the first to leave typically – either by failing to keep up or by over-use injury caused by not being physically prepared to run. I list this one near the top, because almost every graduate I talk to comes back and says, “I wish I had run more – it is a running man’s game.”
Swimming – You do not have to be a world class swimmer to ace even the toughest Spec Ops swimming programs including BUD/S and AFPJs, but you have to be in good swimming condition, have solid technique, and be comfortable in the water. Failing to swim well typically keeps you from getting INTO Spec Ops training, but one of the less likely events to fail during training. Now the swimming skills – that is a different story. See water confidence below.
Rucking – If you are training for the Army and Marines, you will be rucking. The Special Ops world is the same. Even at BUD/S that used to start rucking once doing land warfare (3rd phase) are now rucking in every phase to prepare their graduates for future rucks in mountain / sandy regions of the world. So start rucking if you have not started yet. Finding how to wear your ruck, how to pace yourself for longer distances is as critical as conditioning yourself for endless rucking days. Most people who fail rucks did not practice rucking, had weak legs and core strength to carry the ruck at a passing pace. See - What is a Ruck article.
Lack of muscle stamina / endurance – It is great to be strong, but having the ability to move your body weight countless times up and down, over and under objects comes with specific training. High repetition calisthenics is needed more than heavy weight training. I am not saying you should not lift, in fact you should do both, but with a focus of muscle stamina not 1 rep max lifts.
Injury – Injuries happen sometimes due to lack of preparation for runs, rucks, swim, carrying boats / logs, sometimes it is an accident that could happen to anyone. Sometimes it was not meant to be. It is true but injuries happen to the best candidates. If you have performed well to the point of your injury, you will likely be rolled and allowed to heal and join the next class. However, if you are borderline failure or failed a few events (eventually passing) over the course of training and you get injured, you will likely be kicked out of training due to failure / performance combination.
Ocean / Land Navigation / Tactical Skills (physical / academic tests) – Some find it difficult to do proper ocean, land navigation or underwater navigation for that matter and fail tactical training tests. There are several academic tests one must take when navigating land, ocean, sub-surface (SCUBA) as well as combat medical courses, dive physics, weapons system nomenclature and more. All of which are stressful and many are oral / performance tests under duress. The academic tests can also be tough to someone who is a poor student and the tactical tests can be stressful when placed under the clock and you have to perform to a certain standard.
Mental reasons why people fail:
Water confidence – Like I said earlier, you do not have to be an All-American swimmer, but you have to not be scared of water and be able to move comfortably in any situation. Drown-proofing, life-saving, underwater knot tying, SCUBA, underwater swimming are just a few of the skills a maritime Special Ops candidate will have to endure. These claim many Special Ops candidates statistically and probably one of the biggest deterrents why some people choose not to attempt Special Ops programs that involve underwater operations.
Fear (water, darkness, claustrophobic, underwater at night, heights) – If you are a student at a Special Operations school, you will be introduced to many of your fears and forced to deal with them. Many people fear cold, wet, and dark water forcing you to either successfully navigate through the fear and conquer it or the fear will conquer you. I remember our first night swim (boogie man swim they called it), we had quitters that night and they were not even wet yet. I personally never liked jumping out of airplanes, was near ill every jump. Many others and I shared the same feeling and somehow dealt with it until it became more natural to us and actually felt weird landing in an airplane. What is your fear?
Instructor / Event Intimidation (aka mind-game) – Usually the instructors will make every pass/fail event one of the toughest events ever that no one ever passes. Having an instructor critique you constantly and making you pay physically for any errors or indiscretions is stressful and can get under your skin if you cannot handle negative feedback. You will be told you are the worst student ever and it is up to you how to process that and come back stronger.
General Physical Discomfort (Cold, Hunger, Exhausted, Sleepy, Wet, Sandy) – This last one is borderline mental and physical. Sometimes the thought of being cold or wet or both can cause people to quit while still dry. Sometimes you just cannot handle being cold, wet, sandy, and being tired anymore and just want to call it quits. This one is part mind-game and part physical pain / discomfort. Spending days uncomfortable and tired will either make you stronger and appreciate those nice warm nights under a blanket, or completely break you mentally so you lose focus and cannot continue.
As you can see, there are many reason why people do not graduate Special Ops programs. In fact, there are many more than these I just listed like not being a team player or mature enough to handle high levels of stress. Though pre-screening of Special Ops candidates has advanced over the last few decades, the REAL TEST is the actual training course. Testing to get TO the training will never insure someone gets THROUGH the training. Though all Special Ops recruiters are getting better at picking those that have the highest potential for success, there is no test to date that can measure a candidate’s heart and will. It is the Special Ops training course that does that.
This workout was done years ago using calisthenics only while deployed on a submarine for a few weeks doing OPS in the Med. Many people ask about good underway workouts so the calisthenics version is a great one. The second version that we did this week is a combination of many calisthenics exercises and lifts:
Calisthenics version: Reverse Pyramid from 25 to 1. Start off with 25 reps of a few exercises that focuses on legs, abs, lowerback, and upperbody. An advanced challenge is the following:
Squats, Pushups, Crunches / Situps, and Plank pose (rep per second) - do 25 of each, then 24, 23, 22,21, 20...all the way down to 1. Totals 325 reps of each exercise. For an added break, every 5 sets do a 5 minute cardio of run, bike, or elliptical.
For the Calisthenics and Weighted Version: This is where it gets more advanced as we add several challenging exercises throughout the 25 to 1 pyramid.
First 5 sets is a calisthenics warm up: 25 - 21 reps of Pushups, Abs of choice, and Squats
Then take a 5 min cardio break of tabata intervals on bike, elliptical, rower (20 sec fast / 10 sec slow)
Second 5 sets is calisthenics again but tougher: 20-16: Pullups, Dips, Abs of choice / plank *note - if you fail at pullups / dips do remainder on pulldown machine / rows or pushups for dips
Take a 5 min cardio break of your choice: run, bike, elliptical, row, etc
Third 5 sets is a tough calisthenics and weighted cycle: 15-11: Pullups, Bench Press, Wt. Squats, Abs of choice
Take a 5 min cardio break of tabata intervals on bike, elliptical, rower (20 sec fast / 10 sec slow)
Fourth 5 sets is a combo of weights / cals as well: 10-6: Pullups, bench press, power clean or hang clean
Take 5 min cardio break of your choice
Fifth 5 sets of calisthenics / heavy lifts: 5-1: Pullups, Dead lifts, Squats *heavy is relative - if you can add more weight then do so.
This is a great challenge to keep up with pullup reps while in lifting cycle. We basically use calisthenics as a warmup for the lifts, keep focus on core balance (abs / planks), and get some legs and full body exercises in the mix. This is one of those workouts that you feel like you did something afterwords and still had enough juice to do more cardio cooldown for 30-40 minutes if you had the time.
During the winter cycle, we start to add in more heavy lifting workouts but we always like to keep with the "heavy weights of the PT exercise world" - the pullup. You can also add in some weighted pullup sets if you prefer.
Here is a fun cycle of building up to near 1 rep max level weight in the following lifts:
5 min warmup / stretch
Bench 10,8,6,4,2 30 total pullups during bench sets as rest Squats 10,8,6,4,2 30 total pullups during squat sets as rest hang clean 10,8,6,4,2 30 total pullups as rest dead lift 10,8,6,4,2 30 total pullups as rest
(total pullups = 120 but if you prefer the weighted version, cut that number in half)
Cardio transition: 5 min tabata interval on bike or elliptical
A recent training opportunity with a high school baseball team allowed me to develop a challenge week with their coach. Not only was the Challenge Test a team building gut check, but it had a system built in that helped calculate overall winners. This system is the very same method we have used for decades to determine a total score in a physical screening test within the Special Ops community. This allows for the selection board to determine who has the overall best score as well as the winners in individual events.
The screening test we use for Navy SEAL candidates seeking a chance to serve the country is the following:
Navy SEAL Physical Screening Test (PST)
500 yd swim 10 minute break to prepare for next portion of the test pushups 2 minutes - rest 2 minutes situps 2 minutes - rest 2 minutes pullups max reps 10 minute break to prepare for next portion of the test 1.5 mile timed run
The test is graded the following way:
Add the Run and the Swim together in seconds. For instance, say you get a 8:20 minute swim and a 9 minute run – that total 17:40 minutes or 1040 seconds.
Then you add the pushups, situps, and pullups (x5) together. For instance say you get 80 on each on the situps and pushups and 15 pullups= 75 points. This totals 235 points. (Pullups get 5 points per rep)
Now you subtract the 235 points from 1040 to equal 805 total points. The way this scoring system works is to rank as many people who take the test and this lowest number wins.
Run / swim faster and get a lower cardio number. Do more PT reps to get a higher PT number. Lowest wins!
Now – how do you do this for high school athletics and make it useful for coaches?
The baseball coach wanted to break the test into three different days where we would evaluate strength / muscle stamina of core, grip, and fullbody, speed and agility, and have a gut check endurance day on the last day. Here are the exercises we came up with and the justifications for each and why they work for a baseball player:
Weight__________(take weight of players to determine weights to be used during lifts)
Day 1: Strength / Power (sample scores)
Reps / Distance
75 (5pts / rep)
Bench Press (50%BW)
25 (1pt / rep)
65 (1 min)
65 (1pt / rep)
Hang Cleans (50%BW)
35 (1 min)
35 (1pt / rep)
Farmer Walk (45lb plates – walk fast / no run)
150 (1pt / yard)
Pullups – Pulling your own weight is a tough exercise for high school students. It will test pulling strength, muscle stamina, and grip. You get 5 points per rep.
Bench Press (50%BW) – We selected 50% of the bodyweight (BW) of players as many are not heavy weight lifters. You could also use pushups as the test for 1 minute. Or you could use 75 – 100% BW with more experienced lifters but give 5 points per rep like pullups. Hanging KneeUps – From a pullup bar, hang and bring your knees up so your thighs are parallel from the floor. Straighten the hips so your knees move through the 90 degree angle for as many reps as you can in 1 minute. Tests grip, hip / ab strength / stamina. Hang Cleans (50%BW) – We selected this movement and lighter weight to work the players fullbody mechanics, using the legs and quick movement of the shoulders, elbows, wrists. Challenges grip as well. Farmer Walk (two 45lb plates) – Carry plate in each hand but you can only pinch the top of the plate on the lip with your fingers, not the handle. This tests shoulder girdle, posture, legs, core, and of course grip. Walk until the plates fall out of your hands.
Add up your total repetitions (pullups x 5) and the winner of Day 1 will be the one with the HIGHEST Score.
* Note if you want pure strength, you can pick a few lifts like squats, dead lifts, bench press and take their one rep max and add the weight vs the reps. This would work great for football and other power sports - not so well for baseball.
Day 2: Speed / Agility (sample scores)
70 (1pt / 1/10 sec)
Pro agility test
45 (1pt / 1/10 sec)
6 x 50yd shuttle run
500 (1pt / 1/10 sec)
Illinois Agility Test
155 (1pt / 1/10 sec)
After a good team warmup, start the Speed / Agility Testing Day
60yd sprint – Classic baseball speed test. Pro Agility Shuttle Run – Short 5-10-5 yard that lasts mere seconds but tests speed and change of direction agility. Illinois Agility Test – (pictured) Another classic military and police / swat team agility test. You could also do the 120 ft or 120yd (4 x 30ft / m) shuttle runs.
6 x 50yd shuttle run – this is a challenging longer distance shuttle run that usually runs 50-60 seconds long. Tests longer full speed ability. Do it twice for more of a challenge with a 1 minute recovery time.
* NOTE - It is best to give ten points per second or a point or TENTH of a second for the speed / agility to get more points to match up well with the endurance challenge.
Day 3: Endurance (Devil’s Mile)
This event can be a variety of longer events. You want to test the ability to do something at a moderately high intensity for 20-30 minutes. This can be a 3-4 mile timed run, a long suicide drill using every 5 yd line on a football field, and many other options to include swimming, biking, and elliptical machines for distance. We decided to push the reigning Champions of their league a little more as well as teach them some skills to strategize, pace, and carry and crawl a fairly long distance. Yes, this is called the Devil’s Mile. A workout used by many Special Ops candidates preparing for these actual events in their selection programs.
The Devil’s Mile is measured by seconds. This particular version takes roughly 30 minutes with the winner typically breaking 28 minutes and the last person maybe 33-35 minutes depending on the group’s condition. These exercises must be taught properly to avoid improper form and injury. If you take out the 1/4 mile runs in between events, you can make this event 8-10 minutes shorter in time.
¼ mile Fireman carry (switch partners as needed)
1 second = 1 pt
Total time in seconds __30_min = _1800 seconds total seconds =
¼ mile run
¼ mile Bear crawl
¼ mile run
¼ mile Walking lunges
¼ mile run
¼ mile Burpee jump or Burpee forward roll (combo)
¼ mile run
Fireman Carry – This is just a tough exercise that tests core and leg strength and ability to follow instructions of proper procedures. Starting off with the fireman carry, teaching the players how to carry a partner of equal / near bodyweight, the players take turns carrying each other around a track. Ideally each partner will get 200m each, but a stronger partner may carry more if desired. Teach partner being carried how to act like a good backpack and support the lower back and not be dead weight.
¼ mile runs – If you are a good runner, this is a place to make up time and run the ¼ miles as fast as you can or at a good solid pace so you can recover from the previous event.
Bear Crawls – This is a full body movement, challenges the legs, core, and shoulder girdle. The goal is to just keep moving – even if you have to crawl on all fours like a baby. Just keep moving. This one is tough. Keep most of the weight on your legs vs your shoulders / arms for obvious reasons.
Walking Lunges – Walk around the track using big steps and lunging so your hips are even with your front knee in the down position. Stretch as needed but just keep moving. Challenge leg stamina, but a good time to catch your breath.
Burpee jump or forward roll – Every movement should move in the forward direction. Drop down into a pushup position with chest to the ground, hop up and jump or roll forward covering as much ground each time as you can. This is full body exercise and very tiring for both the upper / lower body and lungs.
Finish with the last ¼ mile run. Gut Check Complete!
Add the points from Day 2 and Day 3 together. This will be a big number
Grand finale score: Day 2 + Day 3 = __2570_______ pts 770 + 1800 = - Day 1 =__350_______ pts
Subtract Day 1 from (Day 2 + Day 3) = _2220______ pts (lowest points win)
The winner was a senior who was top 25% in the strength day, but not the strongest of the group. He did above average in the speed / agility and came close to winning the longer shuttle runs, but crushed the Devil’s Mile beating most of the Day 1 / Day 2 winners by 3-4 minutes. This method of grading gives the coach a method of ranking total physical ability as well as individual event winners. Also the test is a way to get the team together, compete with each other, and build some bonding over hard work and effort. You can definitely tell who has been properly preparing for the upcoming season and help the players see their weaknesses that they can focus on prior to Spring Training. Enjoy the test!
Stew Smith CSCS - Former Navy SEAL and Fitness Contributor to Military.com. See his catalog featuring more than 40 programs to specifically prepare for any military, police, and fire fighting program that requires a fitness test to enter. Stew's Latest Book features the Dirty Dozen Tactical Fitness Test - The book titled - Tactical Fitness is on sale now!
Often, I receive emails from parents looking for information about Navy SEAL training for their usually pre-teen / early teenage sons. Here is an email from a Dad of a 13 year old boy who has wanted to serve in the SEAL Teams since he was 8 years old:
Stew, I have a son (13), who has always wanted to be a Navy SEAL. I know he may change his mind later but what can I do now to encourage him and set him up for success in a program that many "wanna-be's" don't make it?
Having a young member of the family who wants to serve their country is very special. The fact that you want to support him is also equally refreshing. Thanks because service starts at home!
My first recommendation for you and your son to thoroughly get familiar with is the OFFICIAL NAVY SEAL WEBSITE - you can find this at www.sealswcc.com. Here you can find ALL the information you need to know about HOW to get into the training program. Plus there are many cool pictures and workout standards on the site too. Even though you have several years before you see a recruiter, you need to learn your options. Keep visiting the site, as there are new programs for recruitment quite often. But, before you even see a recruiter or enter high school, you can start preparing now for ANY form of military service.
Get Some Leadership / Followership Skills - Whether you are a team captain, class president, boys scouts / eagle scouts, or head of a community service group - all of these skills will help you understand what it means to lead and to follow orders. Being a good leader is important but being a good listener and able to follow rules and other leaders is just as important. Leading the way with your friends is important and you can practice this daily. Here are my recommendations:
Learn to be a team player - I cannot emphasize this enough as it requires experience and an understanding of being part of a team. Knowing how to work toward a goal whether that goal is to drive a ball down the field or to train for an event with other team members is important to your future. When I was young I played five sports and was never exceptional at them all but good enough to be a team captain when I became a senior in high school. I truly feel that my training for these sports enabled me to understand what it means to work hard toward a goal and be a better leader and follower. Study Hard -Make sure you graduate high school, perhaps get some college (good but not necessary), and study a foreign language. Any foreign language is fine at this level in high school as it is more understanding how languages and other cultures work that will help you with more important languages later (Chinese, Russian, Arabic, etc). Also understand Algebra and Science, as you will see this math and physics in Dive Training when you apply Laws of Physics to the body while diving. Specifically, Charles Law and Boyle's Law will be used learning how to SCUBA Dive in the Navy.
Stay Out of Trouble - When someone has a "great idea" to do something dangerous, stupid, or illegal, stand up and get your friends to change their path. It is difficult to get criminal (even juvenile) records cleaned before joining the military. That means, if you get into trouble with crime, drugs, alcohol, you can really screw up your chances in joining the military.
Enlist Right After High School - The Navy prepares SEALs right after Boot Camp. Unlike the Army and the USMC, there is no infantry / combat arms that helps prepare you for the Special Ops programs in the Navy. You can go right after high school and enlist, go to boot camp, pre-BUD/S, then BUD/S.
Enlist After College - Many college grads go to BUD/S with college degrees as enlisted sailors. Getting college over with is a great option if you have the ability and means to do so. Go to college and enlist or try out for an even more competitive officer billet. With college under your belt, you can try for an officer slot through Officer Candidate School for many years as a SEAL. You can also apply for ROTC or the Naval Academy if he is a good student and wants to compete for scholarships that the Navy will pay for college and you apply for SEAL Training your junior/senior year through a new program called SOAS - SEAL Officer Assessment and Selection. (see link for more details)
Working Out - Working out for your sports should be primary so you do the right exercises to help you become a better football player, baseball player, lacrosse player, rower, wrestler, runner or swimmer or OTHER. There are many options for your son to do and try and see what he likes the most. I have many workout programs that work for both Special Ops preparation as well as sports, but you may want to limit those to out of season training when doing sports. At the young age of 13, I would recommend mainly a workout program of calisthenics, running, and swimming. Adding in lighter weights within the next year is ideal for future growth in high school athletics. Once in high school, the team coaches / weight lifting classes will likely address heavier weight training programs. If not - there are options in the Stew Smith Article Archive / Catalog too.
See more information on training for any military, police, fire fighter program that requires a fitness test to enter and challenge training and selection programs to finish.
Tactical Fitness is a new fitness genre, which I personally define as: The ability to perform military, police, fire fighting and other personal survival-related skills, such as running, rucking, swimming, buddy rescue, climbing, jumping, and equipment carry, which require full-body strength, muscle coordination, stamina, speed, agility, and cardiovascular conditioning.
Tactical Fitness primarily applies and refers to the type of fitness needed to assist active duty military, law enforcement, fire fighters, and other first responders. However, it also applies to those seeking the first responder professions. We call them the Heroes of Tomorrow. Tactical Fitness also applies to everyone who wants to be in better condition to survive. Whether it is surviving natural disasters or rescuing your family from a burning home before fire fighters and paramedics arrive, Tactical Fitness is the difference between life and death in these circumstances. Are you fit enough to save yourself or your family from dangerous situations?
Who Does Tactical Fitness Apply To?
Many of those in the business of defending our country and our communities are required to know how to correctly prepare their workouts to best suit the needs of their demanding schedules and jobs. For those not in the military, police, or fire fighter professions, just having the ability to save themselves or rescue family members from situations requiring endurance, strength and physical disciple (such as by carrying them or swimming with them out of danger) is reason enough to train in a certain manner, to a certain standard.
So, how can you train to improve your tactical fitness? Standard physical fitness tests (PFTs) like pushups, situps, 1.5 mile runs, sit and reach tests, blood pressure tests, and body fat measurements are common enough, but serve primarily as basic health and fitness tests; these standard PFTs are not Tactical Fitness Tests. Passing a standard PFT simply means that you have the upper body and core strength, as well as cardio health, to perform your job at a basic level. This “basic level” is defined as the level of fitness required to be able to operate to a minimum standard, and not die from the exhaustion of your efforts.
The differences between standard PFTs and Tactical Fitness Tests (or job performance tests) are vast. There are multiple physical dimensions required in tactical fitness which are not tested for in a standard PFT. This is primarily because those in professions which benefit from tactical fitness are often called upon to go above and beyond the level of fitness these standardized indicate. Therefore, in order to create a job performance foundation to be “tactically fit,” it is essential to incorporate some elements of the job itself as part of the test. This not only ensures the accuracy of the test and the value of passing it, but will also grant the ability to perform well in some of the most dangerous jobs in the world—defending and protecting our country and communities.
Who are the Heroes of Tomorrow?
We all are! While men and women in tactical professions (such as firefighters, military, and law enforcement) are required to use tactical skills every day, we are ALL Heroes of Tomorrow. You never know when you may have to save someone or fight for your own life. This can include fighting against Mother Nature in extreme weather, combating another human, or any other dangerous situation where you unexpectedly find yourself having to protect yourself or your loved ones. Are you ready for this fight? The Heroes of Tomorrow
Program will get you in shape to help you prepare for any situation!
About the Heroes of Tomorrow Program
While working as an instructor at the U.S. Naval Academy, I saw the caliber of students who were selected to attend the four year military college. Amazed that over 50% of the incoming freshman class failed to meet the minimum physical requirements of the Navy Physical Fitness Test (PFT), I began to investigate the present physical levels of the “heroes of tomorrow” in other military branches and law enforcement agencies. It was not shocking to learn that as our nation grows increasingly overweight and obese, our young men and women who seek military or law enforcement careers are doing the same and failing even the minimum physical standards.
I saw this as a serious issue affecting men and women across the country—not only those professionals themselves, but those who rely on them every day. If many of our young people are not capable enough to perform 20 push-ups or 40 sit-ups, or run a mile in under 7-8 minutes, how can they perform physically demanding jobs and protect the safety of our nation in times of war or civil unrest, during natural disasters, or in other dangerous situations?
I originally developed the Heroes of Tomorrow Program based on my database of workouts designed to help people pass the physical fitness standards of several military occupations and law enforcement agencies.
The Heroes of Tomorrow program is dedicated to creating a community where we honor the heroes of yesterday and today, including the thousands of firefighters, law enforcement officers and military personnel who have dedicated their lives to protecting the citizens of the United States and the world.
The Heroes of Tomorrow program was intended for young men and women who seek to better their physical fitness to pursue a career in the armed forces, law enforcement, or public safety. But we are all Heroes of Tomorrow and anyone can benefit from the Tactical Fitness workouts in the Heroes of Tomorrow Program. Our primary mission statement—setting yourself a standard of physical excellence that not only meets your minimum requirements, but allows you to work to your full potential—should resonate with anyone.
By following the workouts in this book, you will be able to accomplish the following:
1) Greater chance of surviving dangerous situations or completing tactical training. 2) Be less stressed at physical events 3) In fact, physical events are stress relievers, not stress increasers 4) Have greater ability and confidence for any situation 5) Develop a mindset where striving for the minimums is not an option 6) Be strong enough to compete - not merely survive life / training
Plus it is fun! Requires weights, calisthenics, but you can utilize optional methods such as ropes, tires, logs, TRXs, sandbags and back packs for rucking / lifting, and sledgehammers. Plus you will love the Tactical Fitness Test - Dirty Dozen and the plan to prepare / test a twelve challenging events.
A few of the events in the Tactical Fitness Test - Dirty Dozen include sprints, shuttle runs, and agility tests. More fitness programs in the military and police as well as special operation groups of both are focusing more on speed and agility than longer distance runs.
Fitness tests are evolving from the standard pushups, situps, 1.5-2 mile run into more speed, agility, and combat conditioning throughout the military as well as in law enforcement pre-employment hiring phases.
Many people think that after high school or college athletics, there will be little need to keep running sprints and over time will either become a lifter who never runs, or a long distance runner who never lifts. To be a tactical athlete today, you have to be well rounded and train in a way where you still have endurance and muscle stamina, but also strength, speed, and agility. Very often, obtaining and sustaining employment in many tactical occupations (military / police / Special Ops / SWAT), you will need to add some sprint and agility training into your current training plan.
Many military members leave the service and join local or federal law enforcement. The change from testing just 1.5 mile – 3 mile timed runs in the military and having to run sprints and agility tests may seem easy, but can be very challenging to compete on a high level without injuring yourself. If you were not a part of the few military groups that actively train and test speed and agility, these tests are difficult for first timers or those who are not used to sprinting.
Here are many of the events used to test both speed and agility and the agencies that utilize these testing events to monitor candidates and members alike:
300m sprint – Many law enforcement agencies around the United States to include the FBI.
Shuttle Runs – 100m (4 x 25m) – UBRR – Upper body Round Robin – used by many tier one units in the military.
Illinois Agility Test - Used by Federal Law Enforcement and our Tactical Fitness Test. (pictured to the right)
120yd shuttle run (4 x30yd) - Used by DEA
120ft shuttle run (4 x 30ft) – Used by Military Service Academies
Beep Test – a version of the shuttle run done on “beeps” at decreasing intervals each lap – Various Police departments around the world.
These tests are relatively easy to train for. Basically, after a thorough warmup, do a few of the tests at 50% full speed to get the motions of the event understood and continue to make the warmup more specific to the test. Then build up to 100% full speed once or twice for the day. Continue on with the remaining sections of your workout. If you do this 2-3 times per week, you will see big improvements in your times.
Depending upon the route you are choosing for your profession, it is recommended to do your research and find out what the testing elements of your training will require. As you age, you definitely want to make sure you add running fast with directional changes into your weekly routine. Otherwise, tight hamstrings not accustomed to sprinting and ankles not ready for quick changes of direction will fail you too quickly costing you success in advancing into certain programs or failing to get hired.
Stew Smith is a former Navy Lieutenant (SEAL) who graduated from the United States Naval Academy and Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training. He has been personally training, testing, and writing workout books and ebooks that prepare people to ace fitness tests for over 25 years now. People from all levels of fitness use his military preparation products to lose weight, prepare for basic training, as well as advanced level athletes who are training for Special Ops. His next book. Tactical Fitness, is soon to be released in Dec 2014 featuring many current and highly effective Tactical Fitness elements used by many of the world's best special operation units within the military and law enforcement.
Stew Smith Fitness has teamed up with Game Plan Nutrition to produce a nutritional supplement package to help people training for very advanced fitness training programs like Special Operations type professions to rebuild, recover, and stay healthy. Borderline over-training can occur with the best laid training programs and if you do not focus on rest, recovery, nutrition, and hydration, you can experience many of the symptoms of over-training and soon see negative performance results. Give this a try and see how you like it. These are perfect items to add to your food plan especially if you are burning the candle at both ends and maybe not resting like you should.
Basic Training Nutritional Package - Many people who are training to join the military, police, and fire fighters first have the hurdle of losing weight to meet the height / weight requirements. Losing body fat, building muscle, cardio endurance, and passing fitness tests have to occur at the same time. Adding a solid food plan to help you lean down (SEE LINK), basic workout plan to help with calorie burn and fitness performance is usually enough. BUT if you find you need some nutritional supplements to help with meal replacement, weight loss / fat burn help, as well as recovery for the next workout day, check out this Basic Training Package.
I used to take supplements as a teenager trying to gain weight for football and powerlifting and quit during my Navy career. However, after turning 40, I have found my recovery is not as good as it used to be and I am seeing good results with extra protein / amino-acids for muscle rebuild, anti-oxidants for stress / cell repair, and omega 3 for inflammation. Hard workouts with young Spec Ops candidates takes its toll on the body, with some recovery focused supplementation and a foam roller, I am tearing it up again.
I personally love the Whey protein, the Healthy packs with Omega 3s, and recovery powder.
START ADDING RUCKS FOR FIRST PHASE BUD/S BOYS! RUCKING ON THE BEACH = PAYS TO BE A WINNER. FIRST PHASE ATTRITION RATES ARE HIGH AS EVER! IF YOU ARE NOT USED TO RUCKING / RUNNING / HIGH REP PT - IT COULD PUT YOU IN THE MAJORITY. SEE Ruck / Run Progression Article
For many, the term “ruck” is a new word. Defining RUCK is difficult to someone who has never moved out with 50+ lbs in a backpack for many, many miles. The definition can be as simple as walking around with a backpack on a hike or as difficult as moving fast with all your military gear, loaded for bear, over rugged terrain, infiltrating to your objective. But the terms, ruck, hump, or forced march, all really mean getting your gear from A to B in a backpack. It also happens to be one of the newest fitness trends with people all over the country doing races with backpacks, GORUCK challenges, and even obstacle course races with backpacks. Here is a question that prompted this discussion:
Stew, I am adding backpacking to my workouts — usually 20-25lbs. My buddy told me I was “rucking.” After a google search, I see that is what I am doing, but I really have no idea what kind of pace is a ruck. Is it a fast walk, slow jog, nice and easy walk so you can go all day? How should I incorporate it into my workouts? Does adding more weight actually burn more calories? Is it ok to do?
I typically do this test every year, just to see where my three rucking paces are:
This is a three mile ruck test and it goes like this:
MILE ONE: Easy pace / hike — I walked a mile with my 45lb pack, carrying my phone, making calls, answering texts, completely distracted from any challenging pace. It took me 18 minutes to walk a mile. To put this in perspective, the Army minimum standard requirements is 15 minutes per mile. So a slow walk will still be a workout, but it will not challenge your cardiovascular system. I call this easy, conversational pace. Too slow for a good workout but fine for walking the dog on a nature trail, enjoying the scenery. Also this is a perfect beginner way to start with rucking as it makes your walks just a little bit harder. Starting with 20-25lbs is a good idea. 10-15% of your bodyweight is a good start for your first ruck.
MILE TWO: Fast Walk Pace — The second mile was a faster walking pace — similar to power-walking. This pace requires some effort, but nothing overly challenging and you can still hold conversations with minimal effort. This mile took 14 minutes to walk and it is very maintainable for many hours / miles. This pace is a good pace to master as it is typically a fall back pace when you need to take a breather from the faster pace below. This makes for a descent workout if you have a few hours for fast walking. If you are a runner already, this fast walk pace is fine to experiment with as you get used to moving with additional weight on your back.
MILE THREE: Slow Jog / Rucking Pace — Now this is what I would call “rucking”. That is — moving out at a pace that is only sustainable if you are conditioned for it. It looks like a combination of a fast walk / slow jog. This mile took me under 11 minutes to complete which is about right as I typically take 42–45 minutes to ruck 4 miles. Personally, any faster for me hurts my knees / back more than my lungs, so I back it down just a notch so I am faster than the minimum rucking standard but slow enough to maintain for longer distances without structural pain.
How About the Calorie Burn?
Whether the enemy is a terrorist in the mountains or a wild fire on a high desert plain, some people ruck for a living. If you compare the calories expenditure of rucking to normal walking or running you will see a significant difference. For people with not much time to train each day and prefer not to run, here is a way to get more out of your normal walk.
Walking at 4mph with / without weight
I just went to a calorie calculator online and did a 60 min walk at 4 miles per hour for my weight of 200lbs — I burn 468 calories. With 50lb pack I would weigh 250lbs and I would burn 585 calories for the same pace.
So it looks like you can add in 100–150 calories by adding a 40–50 lb back pack to a 4 mph walk.
Jogging at 5 mph with and without weight
Since walking with a ruck at 4mph is the bare minimum standards for military rucking — here is a good test if you put out a little more. Try 5mph or a 12 min mile with 40lbs. Still not blazing fast but a better indicator of effort with / without a ruck. If you input a 60 min jog at 5 miles per hour for a weight of 200lbs — I burn 768 calories. With 50lb pack I would weigh 250lbs and I would burn 960 calories for the same pace. So it looks like you can add in 100–200 calories by adding a 40–50 lb back pack to a fast walk/jog depending on your weight and pace.
Now there is a calorie burning standard for backpacking, which is typically a weighted stroll at a much slower pace of 1–2 mph. At my weight of 200 lbs, I burned 670 calories “backpacking” and 840 calories burned if I place an extra 50lbs on me. So — yes it makes sense that you would burn more calories by either going faster than “backpacking pace” which I would average out at 4–5 mph as well as when you are carrying even more weight in a ruck.
So a precise answer is tough as this is a bit all over the place. I think a safe calorie estimate for rucking with 40-50lbs is to add 40 — 50% to what a walking / jogging calorie burn would be at that pace. So if you are burning 450 calories just walking at 4mph, then you would add 180–225 calories to that number of 450 and get roughly 630 — 675 calories burned an hour with rucking.
Progress logically with a back pack and walking – only increasing the time/weight and distance performed each week by 10-15%. Give yourself some time under pack before attempting any races or GORUCK events.