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Advice for Early Teens About "Getting Ready to Serve"

Stew Smith

Preparing to Serve in the Military, Police, Fire Fighter Services as a Teenager

Many of us knew we wanted to serve our country in the military or our community in the police or fire services when we were young.  For many, this desire starts early and keep growing each year. One of my favorite emails to receive is from an early teenage boy or girl asking for advice on what to training to get ready to prepare for service.  Here is a list of my advice from training, activities to do, and general adolescent growth guidance to get through your teens able and ready to serve when it is time. 

Play Organized or Neighborhood sports - Get out and stay physically active as much as you can. Whether you play sports or just run, bike, skate around it does not really matter - just get moving and keep moving. If you want to add in calisthenics (pushups, pullups, squats, lunges, plank poses, etc) on a split routine where you do an upper body day, a lower body day, and a sports only day - You can add is running some after the resistance session as well. This every other day split routine will allow for your muscles to recover and not risk overuse aches and pains in your joints that typically occur when people do high rep calisthenics daily. 

Sports, Activities, School, Work - I remember when I was 13, I knew I wanted to serve one day, but I focused more on sports and doing well in school first. Then I also worked part time doing manual labor jobs - newspaper delivery, lawn mowing neighbors yards, and when I got big enough, I was able to work on a local farm picking up and throwing water melons into a truck (16+ yrs old). In other words, don't get caught up so much on preparing to serve, that you miss out on group activities, team sports, and just good old-fashioned work.  If you really want to prepare your self for these jobs - these core activities build an excellent foundation. 

Team Activities - Whether it is through sports, clubs, band, or theater, you can get experience working with others as a team / group effort. Obviously, if you are seeking challenging tactical jobs in your future, you will want to add in significant training or manual labor activities to your day if you are not training for sports or in sports seasons. The main reason we say - PLAY SPORTS - is it offers the opportunity to workout hard, train specifically for team / personal goals, and have a common mission with others. The other activities can offer the same team values you need but not so much the physical training and created durability / mental toughness that goes with sports. 

Personally, 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, did a school play, was in service clubs. I was never exceptional in anything, but good enough to be part of a a team. I even made team captain and had a few leadership roles in clubs 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.

Get Some Leadership Skills - Whether you are a team captain, class president, or head of a club or 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 in important and you can practice this daily. When someone has a "great idea" to do something dangerous, stupid, or illegal, stand up and get your friends to change their path. Plus, it is difficult to get criminal (even juvenile) records cleaned before joining the military. It may prevent you from serving. 

You may find opportunities in JROTC programs, Sea Cadets, Civil Air Corps, and the Young Marines.  Sea Cadets and Young Marines  Civil Air Corps for military style training and leadership / followership opportunities that you enjoy. 

Study Hard and Stay Out of Trouble - Don't be stupid. Make sure you graduate high school, perhaps get some college (good but not necessary), and study a foreign language. But also know how to speak and write in English as you will be writing and presenting often in the tactical professions. 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 Military Dive Training / shooting. 

*NOTE - Do I even need to say stay away from drugs and alcohol as it has no purpose in this training.  Do not get a criminal record or DUI / DWI! 

I have seen many kids have a record and not get accepted. Due to the large amount of applicants some units within the tactical professions can be very selective. (Special Ops, special programs, etc) 

Transition from Sports to Tactical Fitness - This process may take extra time too.  Just because you played three sports in high school does not mean you are specifically ready for your next selection challenge in the tactical professions. 

Also realize getting GOOD at everything is a requirement for tactical fitness - however getting great at a few elements of fitness is required to make sports teams.  So rounding out your abilities as you transition out of sports and into the tactical professions must also be realized.  You now have to get good at strength / power, speed / ability, endurance / muscle stamina, grip, and flexibility / mobility as pictured below:

We All Grow At Different Rates. 

I was done with height and muscle mass growth at 18 years old and started early at age 13 with extra workouts outside of sports. I still had issues putting on muscle (hard gainer), but compared to other kids in my age group, I was moving pretty fast but they all caught up to me by age 19-20. Together with finishing growing, athletic history, and focusing on improving any weaknesses that will be exposed in tactical fitness training programs, you will be good to go. 

Age 8                                                   Age 18

Finally - Make Sure You Are Grown (or finished growing before you join) - Especially if you want to go in spec ops selection programs, you are going to need to not only be prepared physically with training, but being done with puberty is also helpful. There is a big difference between a person from ages 18-22 - especially young men as they tend to keep growing into their early 20's. If you are a late bloomer, do not be in a rush to join the military. Get on a lifting program late in high school and you may hit a growth spurt at the same time as lifting and see big results in size and performance.  But THEN - get on specific training programs for your goals about a year out from when you want to join. 

When you are still growing, your legs, arms, spine are stretching muscles / tendons and your bones are still soft.  It takes a few years to make up the lost flexibility / mobility from quick rates of growth.  It also takes a few years to add in mass to help support the new height you created for yourself.  The added mass you gain from strength training / eating BIG, will help you become more durable during future training programs found in the tactical professions. But, your daily work habits, physical activities, and ability to work well with others (team sports) will be the foundation of your success in this journey.  You are training for future service and may not even know it yet.

If You Want to Go Into Special Ops Programs - Check out the Pipeline of Training Options below: 

Here's the answer for solving this issue with What Every Special Ops candidate Needs to Know once and for all. If you're a Special ops candidate and still have questions, this an article every spec ops candidate should read - and start your journey TODAY! Get all the FREE details here. This Spec Ops Candidate article link gives proven path of advice on training preparation to crush the PT test without failure to get TO the training as well as how to get THROUGH the training pipeline without wasting your time not seeing results.

The Pipeline of Training Options: 

Start off with calisthenics and work your way up to high reps, weights, running, swimming, etc...


As You Advance Into Spec Ops Level of Fitness...


It depends:  The Complete Guide to Navy SEAL Fitness is a classic and focuses on high rep calisthenics and running and swimming base.  You will build up your running over 12-18 weeks to 20 miles but very fast paced focus on both the 1.5 mile run for the PST and the 4 mile timed run for weekly run test at BUDS. If you are an athlete with a strong power / strength background in lifting and not running or swimming, Navy SEAL Fitness is ideal for you. IF you need some place to start Navy SEAL Fitness is ideal for you as well because a calisthenics base / running / swimming progression is a good place to build a foundation.  Though you will likely need to spend some time in the Navy SEAL Weight Training Book OR if Navy SEAL FItness is too challenging, go with Navy SEAL SWCC, EOD, Diver, PST Phase 1 Workout.  Phase 1 is a good starting point if Navy SEAL Fitness program is too tough. 

Navy SEAL Weight Training - This is part two (winter lifting phase) of my SEAL Prep program. If you have done the Navy SEAL Fitness (12 weeks to BUDS) program a few times and need a break, this is the next program that integrates lifting with the Navy SEAL Prep training. This is ideal for people who have come from an endurance athlete background.  Athletes like swimmers and runners will also require some strength training as you will be exposed to challenges under logs and boats during the first phase and many miles of rucking 50+ lbs of backpacks and gear in 2nd and 3rd phases of BUDS.  Do not skip lifting in your year of training prep.  However, if you are coming from a powerlifting / football background, supplementing a few lifts into your endurance / muscle stamina focus plan is something you may enjoy especially if training for a year or more during your prep phase. 


Navy SEAL / SWCC, EOD, Diver Program Series - Phase 1 is what I call a beginner guide, but it is still challenging.  It is geared toward those who are scoring minimally or failing their Navy PST test - 500yd swim, pushups, situps, pullups, 1.5 mile run.  It is easier than The Complete Guide to Navy SEAL Fitness and a good prep course before attempting it. 

Phase 2 and 3 of the Navy SEAL / SWCC, EOD, Diver program is about the same level of intensity as Navy SEAL Fitness and is also a good follow-up plan after Phase 1

Phase 4 ot the Navy SEAL Key to Mental Toughness is by far my toughest workout ever created.  It resembles a day of BUDS, complete with "wet and sandy", runs after eating, high rep punishment push-ups, 4 mile timed runs, 2 mile swims with fins, log PT simulation, and even a HellWeek Simulator with 3 workouts a day.  

Other EBOOKS (Military, Police, Fire Fighter, Special Ops, General Fitness– Most of my programs tend to focus on getting TO and THROUGH a specific tactical training program.  So you may see a mix of all the seasons in some of these books, but if you are training long term, you can take advantage of Seasonal Periodization and save yourself some of the over-use, long term pains that tend to follow many of the tactical preparations - especially on the spec ops level of training. 

Start training today with workouts that focus on the specifics of getting to and through tactical profession training from firefighter, police, swat, military to special ops. We have programs to help you get TO and THROUGH training. We also have training programs to help you with training as you age in these professions (Tactical Fitness 40+ series).


Tactical Fitness Series - Tactical Fitness, Tactical Strength, and Tactical Mobility is an ALL-encompassing program that focuses on lifting, calisthenics, run, ruck, swim, speed, agility, and flexibility / mobility. Many people focusing on USMC (OCS, RECON, MarSOC) Army Ranger / SF, Air Force Special Warfare, SWAT / Federal Law Enforcement, and Navy Special Warfare have done very well focusing on the Tactical Fitness Series and developing themselves into an all-round Tactical Athlete

Tactical Fitness - At the core of this program is the Tactical Fitness Test which measures 12 standards for your physical capacity, including: cardiovascular conditioning, strength, muscle coordination, and stamina. Tactical fitness means having the skills needed to save lives and extend the limits of your endurance whether you are in the military, police, firefighting professions, or just an everyday hero. Also featured in the Tactical Fitness Test called the Dirty Dozen.

Tactical Strength - Tactical Strength is the lifting program used by Stew Smith and his Military, Police, Fire Fighter fitness program called the Heroes of Tomorrow. It is designed to build strength in the upper body, legs, and core to prepare you better for any load bearing activity (rucking, boat carry, log PT, etc). The program also does not neglect cardiovascular activity and will end workouts with rucking or swimming (or other non impact options (row, bike, elliptical) if needed. The cardio workouts will be quick and fast focusing more on speed and agility than long slow distance. We also use the Tactical Strength Test to test elements of speed, agility, and strength / power.

Tactical Mobility is a comprehensive fitness guide for greater mobility, flexibility, and performance—designed for the men and women serving in military, special ops, law enforcement, emergency services. Tactical Mobility is a perfect fit for any fitness program as a stand alone "Mobility day" supplemented into your regular routine and will help you reach the pain free level of fitness. Gaining flexibility and mobility is the goal of the program and it will help with performance and help reduce injuries.

The Warrior Workout Series - If you are solid with making your own workouts, but need some ideas.  This three part series has 300 workouts (100 / book) to pick from focusing on all the elements of fitness and training programs. Each book is organized with periodization cycles in mind along with calisthenics only, weights / calisthenics mix, cardio options and more. Warrior Workout 1   -  Warrior Workout 2  -   Warrior Workout 3. 

Personalized Training Programs
There are many more options as well as 
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