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Twenty PLUS Years of Periodization Training Model - Tactical Fitness

stew smith mental toughness military online coaching periodization special ops training stew smith tactical fitness

ruckI 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.

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.

Tactical Fitness For the Athlete Over Forty


If you have been going hard for decades, consider this new Tactical Fitness Over 40 combination: 

1) Rebuilding the Foundation is for those who need to treat themselves like a beginner for a few months to recover from injury or inactivity.

2) The Tactical Fitness for the Athlete Over 40 is more advanced level BUT teaches you periodization and how to add in longevity / mobility / flexibility training into a challenging week of training and on the job fitness. 


Training is What We Do: 

Need Programming for Fitness Tests and Beyond?  We are all about getting you TO and THROUGH your future training program.  See how that works.  

There is More To than You May Know

(In fact, there are more than 40 books, 1000+ articles, online coaching - and more) 

Who is Stew Smith CSCS? Coach, Trainer, Writer, PodcasterI'm the former Navy SEAL that tactical candidates go to for books, ebooks and online coaching to prepare themselves to get to and through intense tactical assessment and selection programs and qualify for service in their chosen tactical profession.  See More at

Where to Find More Information About Optimal Performance Training Programs

When you start training again, consider the seasonal tactical fitness model.  I call it A WAY to train and obviously not the only way to train. But it offers the opportunity to never neglect your weaknesses, helps with flexibility and mobility, but will also put you at a level of physical abilities where you are happy with your overall ability to do just about anything. We have a system where the seasons dictate our training. When it is nicer outside, we tend to run and do more calisthenics. When it is colder and not so nice, we lift more, run less, and still maintain our outdoor activities with shorter runs and rucks. Check it out: Seasonal Tactical Fitness Periodization System.  

These Seasonal Tactical Fitness BLOCK Periodization programs will walk you through 4 x 4 weeks cycles with 16 weeks of each season in two programs. (32 total weeks)

Increase Strength & Crush the PST / PAST
3 Weeks Strength - 1 Week PT / Cardio Focus 
(16 weeks)

These programs will walk you through 4 cycles with 12 weeks of each season in two programs. 

The Specific Military / Special Ops Physical Fitness Workouts 

Navy SEAL Workout Phase 1
Navy SEAL Workout Phase 2 - 3
Navy SEAL Workout Phase 4  Grinder PT
Navy SWCC Workout

Army / Air Force Advanced Fitness / Special Ops 

Army PFT Workout (Prep For Rucking, OPAT, ACFT)
Army Special Forces / Ranger Workout
Army Air Assault School Workout
Army Airborne Workout
Air Force Special Warfare IFT / OFT / Selection Prep


Advanced Running Program - Special Ops Supplement Plan
USMC OCS / TBS Workout


The Combat Conditioning Workout
Air Force PJ / CCT Workout  Battlefield Airman Prep Course
The UBRR Upper Body Round Robin Workout / Spec Ops version


The Coast Guard Rescue Swimmer / Navy SAR Workout
The Service Academy Workout (West Point, Navy, Air Force Academy)
The Navy, Air Force, Marine Corp Boot Camp Workout


The Law Enforcement Physical Fitness Workouts

The FBI Academy Workout  |   FBI Workout Vol 2  
The DEA Workout
The FLETC Workout - Ace the PEB
The PFT Bible: Pushups, Sit-ups, 1.5 Mile Run
The Fire Fighter Workout - Ace the CPAT


Online Coaching Options

Online PT CLUB - Weekly Workouts created personally for you.

New Member's Only Content / Services Program!

If you want access to years worth of workouts, many of the top eBOOKs, favorite workouts of the week, free fitness APP, closed Facebook Group, video / picture library of exercises, and more access to LIVE Q/A sessions check out the Stew Smith Fitness Members Section

The dashboard below has the links to all the information, archives, videos, and links to workouts, podcasts, live Q and A lessons. 

Consider this! - A Membership Program and Gain Access to Exclusive Content
(click for Fitness Club Dashboard - members only)

Best of all, if you have questions, email Stew Smith himself (  Join the tactical fitness group discussions, latest articles, videos, podcasts at the Stew Smith Tactical Fitness Training Closed Group on Facebook.


Questions?  Just email -

At - List of Products and Services

  1. FREE Articles
  2. Podcasts and Swimming Videos (Youtube, TikTok, Instagram)
  3. eBooks
  4. Books and eBooks in PRINT
  5. Stew Smith Fitness Club membership site
  6. Online Coaching  

Stew Smith Fitness 



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