What is Tactical Fitness Seasonal Periodization?
Why Is It Important?
A Training System Developed by Stew Smith CSCS
Throughout my life from high school athlete in multiple sports, to military fitness, college sports, special ops selection preparation, and then as active special ops member, I recognized the importance of seasonal training. Creating an off-season in sports was naturally built in with it's own periodization cycles (pre-season, in-season maintenance, post-season) no matter what sport or multiple sports you doing / preparing for. This was not the case for any tactical profession.
But in any of the tactical communities, there is no off-season. Sure, there maybe deployment cycles, busier fire or crime seasons depending on your geographic location, but there is no real off-season for the tactical athlete to utilize. Often this leads to overuse injuries, shortened careers, and general poor health and wellness in a relatively short time span.
Whether you call it block periodization or seasonal periodization, the training cycle largely focuses on developing all the elements of fitness important to not just get getting TO and THROUGH the selection training (boot camp, police / fire academy, spec ops assessment / selection), but also the third phase of tactical fitness - the operational maintenance. Learning the differences between the specifics of phase 1 - TO the training, phase 2 - THROUGH the training, and phase 3 (Active Operator), is the first part of this training education as many people do not realize the differences and train incorrectly depending on their immediate and future goals.
Remember the tactical athlete has to be GOOD at all the elements of fitness - not GREAT in one or two to the detriment of others. If you look at many people's athletic history, you can see the inherent weaknesses created by athletic specialization many people come into this tactical fitness training world with.
Why break up the elements of fitness into cycles? Well - it is difficult to see success with running timed run / longer run pace distances while lifting heavy weights and vice versa. You can do both, but the progress of both is rather limited and your recovery takes a hit. We train elements of fitness that go well together like - speed /agility and strength and power (Fall / Winter). Endurance and muscle stamina go well together too (Spring / Summer). We maintain sufficient strength even while doing more calisthenics and cardio. We maintain a cardio base even though in a strength / power cycle.
These elements of fitness can be viewed in the diagram below:
Strength, Power, Speed, Agility, Endurance (multiple modes), Muscle Stamina, Flexibility, Mobility, Grip are the physical elements that the tactical athlete has to engage to remain "good at everything."
Seasonal Tactical Fitness Periodization Explained
It all started more than 20 years ago, when I realized I needed a break from an aggressive Summer running program. But to be honest, I had been running similar to this for years - year after year after year. So I started a downward regression that matched the time of day. As the days got shorter in the Fall and Winter, my runs did too. Replaced running with non impact cardio options and lifting weights for the first time in nearly 15 years of training (at age 30). It was my first winter lift cycle. It rebuilt me. Increase joint stability, strength, power, and was ready to try running again in the Spring - but this time was a logical progression of about 10-15% volume increase each week.
This was my first year of training with out injury in a very long time and for the past 20+ years I continued to not only use this method of training myself, but have taught it to thousands of tactical athletes in person and even more through books, ebooks, and online coaching. (see below for more info).
Here is the way I arrange my
workouts throughout the year.
I do not have a workout of the day - I have a workout that fits into my year training cycle. I think of the four seasons 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 spread throughout the year. You will find you can still be above average in ALL the elements of fitness which is invaluable to your success in any Tactical Profession.
Spring - Calisthenics and cardio workouts. Run / Swim Progression. But there is a mix of weighted regressions, and progression of calisthenics and running. As the days of the year get longer, so do the workout times and running / calisthenics volume. (Element focus: Hypertrophy, muscle stamina - strength mix, aerobic / anaerobic endurance - fast timed run / swim / ruck pace)
Summer - Calisthenics and cardio workouts (advanced). Run max / PT Peak, Swim progression. But with supplemental lifts for people who need some strength focus more than a high mileage focus (runners, triathletes, other endurance athletes). (Element focus: endurance (run, swim, other), muscle stamina (high reps) of calisthenics and some load bearing events.
Fall - Calisthenics and running volume start to decrease. Non-impact cardio workouts start to replace some of the running (bike, swim, row) However, rucking and swim with fins progressive throughout the Fall and Winter to maintain cardio conditioning especially for people who need to lose weight and not focus so much on strength training (powerlifters, football players, strength athletes)
(Element focus: Hypertrophy, muscle stamina - strength mix, aerobic / anaerobic endurance - fast timed run / swim / ruck pace)
Winter – We still warm-up with calisthenics, but this cycle is heavy weights, weight vest calisthenics, more non-impact cardio workouts. Some rucking / More Swim with fins peak. Most people put on 10-15 lbs in this cycle (of muscle and gains in strength) but maintain about a 8-10 miles per week of faster paced running. (Element focus: Hypertrophy, strength/power, speed / agility)
My most recent programs that walk you through these four cycles with 12 weeks of each season in two programs.
Calisthenics and Cardio - No Equipment Needed Guide For Body Weight Exercisers and maybe a good option for people of all fitness levels to stay home or get outside and train.Calisthenics and Cardio Workout is built with beginners, intermediate, and advanced in mind and focuses on limited equipment. It would definitely fall into the Spring / Summer part of the programming:
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).
Programs that follow Seasonal Periodization Training
BOOKS – Eleven Published Tactical Fitness Books and more than 30 other printed programs specifically designed for a special test, event, or selection training program or training cycle.
Tactical Fitness - Walks through all the phases / seasons of tactical fitness
Tactical Strength - This is my Fall / Winter Lift Cycle with more of a strength / power lifting cycle compared to Maximum Fitness Winter Lift Cycle.
Tactical Mobility - You have to do mobility regularly - year round.
Warrior Workouts Vol 1 | Vol 2 | Vol 3 - All three books of Warrior Workouts contain 100 workouts each. They are organized by calisthenics only, cardio, weights / cals mixed, and weight only. Warrior Workouts 1 is organized with seasonal periodization is mind. These are individual workouts you place into your program ala-carte. These books are not part of system or program - just individual workouts for your choosing each day.
The Complete Guide to Navy SEAL Fitness - This is ALL calisthenics and cardio (run / swim). Basically a high rep / moderate to high volume of running and swimming with SEAL training specifically in mind. It is essentially a Summer training cycle.
Navy SEAL Weight Training Workout - This is a Fall / Winter training cycle with SEAL Training in mind - complete with cardio (run, swim, ruck), lifting for logs and boats, as well as still maintaining calisthenics scores.
Maximum Fitness - This is a 52 week program that was my first full year of Seasonal Periodization as discussed above. The Winter Lift Cycle is more of a hypertrophy body building routine with some isolation exercises as it is meant to help rebuild the joints, put on mass in the Winter. But the Spring, Summer, Fall are similar to other programs - just different.
The SWAT Workout - Is a mix of PT Test Prep for Academy training that advances into SWAT Tryouts, and active SWAT Team member. It is a mix of Spring / Summer and Fall / Winter with the Run / lift cycles. But much of the running can be replaced with non-impact cardio if needed.
Special Ops Workout - Is a mix of foundation building program for aspiring Special Operators with specific training programs for Army Ranger / SF, Navy SEALs, and Air Force PJ. This program was written before MarSOC was part of SOCOM, so we offer the MarSOC / RECON workout EBOOK for free with the purchase of this program. I would call this a good intermediate to advanced level of fitness preparation.
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