What is Seasonal Tactical Fitness Periodization (STFP)?
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.
STFP Fall Transition
STFP Winter Lift Cycle
STFP Spring Cals & Cardio / Strength
STFP Summer Peak Endurance / Muscle Stamina
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)
These programs walk you through these four seasons with 12 weeks of each season in two programs.
Latest Versions with Block Periodization Model
What is the Difference?
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)
If you want help, that’s what I do…. Check out these resources that have helped spec ops candidates succeed where others have failed for the last 20+ years!
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Who is Stew Smith CSCS? Coach, Trainer, Writer, Podcaster: I'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 StewSmithFitness.com
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.
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