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Spring Training - New Spring / Summer Phase 3:1 Block Periodization

Stew smith

3 Weeks Cals / Cardio Focus
with 1 Week Strength
(deload from running miles - high reps) Focus

New Spring Training Version of the 3:1 Block Periodization System similar to the Increase Strength and Crush the PST / IFT Winter Lift Cycle just completely opposite.  This Spring Summer Training program has a 3 week cycle of progressively more difficult Calisthenics and Cardio focusing on muscle stamina and endurance (PST plus Longer Timed run, rucks, swim) with a 1 week strength / running / high repetition deload.  This program is four cycles of these 4 week (3:1) progressive sets for a total of 16 weeks of training.

Book or Ebook

To and Through Selection 

No doubt you have heard me use this phrase as I see most people who enter these challenges only prepare to get TO the training and never consider the most important training phase - preparing to get THROUGH the training. If you want to graduate these tough programs, you have to spend considerable time preparing your mind and body for the challenges and reducing your weaknesses / liabilities. 

This is not just a PST / IFT Prep workout, this also mixes in events of selection that challenge the toughest students.  Longer runs, longer swims with fins, longer rucks, and some lifts that you will see during your training pipeline at some point - see Tactical Fitness Tests (Human Performance Test / Operator Fitness Test).  These new test include lifts, sprints, agilities, and other power movements. Preparing with some of these tests in mind will help you not only with the tests in your future, but build a stronger  / more durable body to handle the loads of rucking, logs, boats, and fireman / personnel carries / drags. 

This cycle worked so well last Summer, we decided to do it again as we had stronger test scores, faster runs, and fewer injuries (much less) with this 3:1 Block Periodization model. 

Here is How the 3:1 Block Periodization
Cycle Works

The start of this Spring Training Calisthenics / Cardio Progression Cycle, I decided to try something new as the normal long-term Spring / Summer strength training cycle (24 weeks) can get stale with performance plateaus, running aches and pains if you are not careful and actively pursuing recovery. You must keep everything in near perfect balance to fully recover from cycles of higher miles progression and calisthenics volume increases (nutrition, sleep, smart split routines, balanced overload principle with recovery / mobility days). You have a choice with this block periodization model:

You can do a de-load week which is an easier recovery week that is quite common during higher intensity training cycles, or you can do a modified de-load week and replace the high repetition calisthenics and cardio cycles focusing on the PST / IFT elements (timed run and swim, pullup, pushups, sit-ups) with a modified strength maintenance week.  We did this last year during the Spring / Summer Cals & Cardio cycle with exceptional results both mentally and physically.

That is what we did for 16 weeks of the Spring / Summer cycles:

4 Cycles of the following: 3-week PT and Cardio with logical running progression from 10 miles a week to 25+ fast miles a week by week 16 THEN 1 week strength with moderate cardio / calisthenics (mainly as warmups / cooldowns). The reduction in running for a week was a nice break to the trainees, but we still focused on speed but with reduced volume. Adding or subtracting miles per week is an individual issue and depends on your running history and prior progression. We also saw fewer running injuries using this method over previous progressions.

In the 16-week cycle. Here is what you get with the 3:1 Block Periodization PT Cardio / Lift cycle: Increase Endurance - Maintain Strength.

This yields 12 weeks of Calisthenics / Cardio (running progression) and 4 weeks of Strength (running deload) focus in a 16-week timeline. This is a moderately steep running progression at 15+% volume each week, however; there are non-impact options if you want to keep the miles down to 10 or less per week due to personal preference / abilities. Also you can replace the swimming workout with either more running (if you can handle it OR with another nonimpact cardio option).

If you are about 4-6 months out from a Special Warfare program / selection and you need to improve high PT test scores and overall endurance, BUT maintain your strength, this is a way to do it. You may find some improvements in both using the block periodization model not just maintaining current levels – many did see improvements in both strength and endurance with this model. 

Here is what you will see in your training performance:

- RECOVERY - In this program, having a strength week as a recovery week is difficult, but think of it more as a running / high rep calisthenics
de-load that is helpful for the joints and typical overuse injuries. In fact, during the PT weeks, the mobility day planned in the middle of the week was not really needed. Well, at least we did not feel like we needed it. We still did it and included a good swim confidence session as well. See Mobility and Drownproofing section of this program on the type of things to practice on “recovery / mobility day”.

The biggest thing we noticed is we felt like we needed a mobility day during each week of the strength cycle but did not feel we needed it during the PST weeks until the higher miles per week hit 20+. We still did the mid-week mobility day though as it was a helpful way to increase performance later in the week. Do not skip mobility day - it is extremely helpful with Days 4,5,and 6 performance. 

- PST scores (pushup, situps, pullups) were improved in most after first two cycles (3:1) Strength / PST/ IFT. 

- Cardio scores were also improved (run / swim) a few improved to run personal bests on timed runs and swims.  Running volume to help with overall impact durability was also increased throughout the program.

The 3:1 Spring Training cycle in a 16-week period was a difference maker for my guys who needed to maintain their hard gained strength during the winter lift cycle.  The problem usually backfires on many trainees who try to add in lifting during calisthenics and cardio cycles.  If not done carefully, you could have multiple days of same muscle groups getting worked hard (strength and high volume) mixed with increased cardio output at the same time.  This combination of “just adding in a lift” after one of the calisthenics / cardio days results is improving in neither lifting nor cardio performances. The 3:1 Block Periodization model works well for adding to a program.  So YES, you could actually do three weeks of the Spring / Summer Cycle and 1 week of the Winter Lift Cycle and get a similar model to this program.

The beauty of the 3:1 Block Periodization model vs. other types of models is with tactical fitness training those who had sufficient strength saw increases on strength-endurance and timed cardio events. Those who had sufficient endurance saw significant increases in strength and running speed with the block periodization system.   

Who Needs This? 

If you are preparing for the Navy PST or the Air Force IFT / OFT as well as other Combat Fitness Tests in our military, you need to try this method of training. This will help you not only get TO the training (Phase 1 of tactical fitness), but prepare yourself to get THROUGH the training (Phase 2 of tactical fitness) Also, if you are preparing for special ops training pipelines where all the elements of fitness (strength, power, speed, agility, endurance, muscle stamina, flexibility, mobility, grip) need to be highly developed, try 3-4 months of block periodization and maintain your strengths while building up your weaknesses.

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!

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 a 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


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

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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.


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