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Tactical Fitness - What You Don't Know Can Crush Your Dreams of Serving

Stew Smith

Tactical Fitness - What You Don't Know Can Crush Your Dreams of Serving

What you ignore or don't fully understand about tactical fitness can crush you and your dreams of serving, especially in an elite spec ops unit. Sure, you played sports in high school and "know" you are in shape.  You look at the fitness test and say, " I can do that" and that is the end of your PT Test preparation. Then you show up to take the test for the first time and get CRUSHED!  It happens all the time - happened to me - and it is simply lack of proper preparation to become tactically fit. Getting TO the training is the easy part - Getting THROUGH the training requires true effort in preparation as well as some mental toughness hopefully ingrained in you along your life's journey.

Tactical Fitness is similar to athletic / sports training, but much more diverse and requires an athlete to get good at many of the elements of fitness he/she has not been required to do throughout their athletic history.  You will have a variety of skills coming into the military preparation training process that you can been able to develop through the years, but you may also have an opposite weakness that you have not even considered. Too many athletes these days specialize in single sports and are susceptible to burnout, inherent weaknesses, and overuse injuries.  However, even if you have a variety of sports and athletic history, there is nothing quite like SPECIFICALLY training for your future training to get you where you need to be as a Tactical Athlete:Get good at ALL the above elements of fitness throughout your journey!

All athletes (even non athletes) can do well at military training as well as spec ops selections, but you need to address weaknesses.  My Tactical Fitness Periodization program has been doing that for over 20 years now.  It is A way to maintain your strengths while focusing hard on your weaknesses in 12 week cycles. 

A Running Athlete

If you are more into track and field events, cross country, or road / trail racing, you may have all the skills you need for running, but that also depends on the events.  Many sprinters have a tough time doing military distance timed runs - even with 1.5 mile timed runs. Try 3,4,5 mile distances for timed runs seen in USMC, Navy SEAL training, and Ranger School and you will see that the amount of time to progressively work up to that mileage per week and speed is significant. 

An endurance running athlete is also typically weaker in upper body strength as well as lacks power production with the legs. Not having the durability and stability to carry heavy ruck sacks, logs, equipment and boats can literally CRUSH you. This is a pure strength component. Load bearing (rucking) is not the same as running.  You will need strength of both legs and the core system to be able to handle loads on your back to many, many miles. 

After running practices, get in the pool and cool down, working on techniques regularly if swimming is a weakness. Once your competition is done, you need to address these weaknesses and get into the gym, likely put on muscle mass, and maybe even get into the pool to learn how to swim faster (if new to swimming). 

Runners do well as long as they can lift and swim. 

How do you maintain your running endurance strength while working on other weaknesses?  Get in the gym, lift big, eat big, and swim.  Cut your running back significantly - many less than half of what you were doing or get on a program that does it for you.  Do a cycle or two of strength focus while you maintain your endurance in running and improve efficiency in the water. 

Tactical Strength
Navy SEAL Weight Training
Dude - You Are NOT in Swimming Shape

A Swimming Athlete

If you have spent your athletic career in zero gravity, you may have all the technique and conditioning needed to swim way above average on the swim test (Prior to BUD/S for instance).  But, you may break the first time you start a program that involves a running progression. 

Hyper mobile joints may also need some time in the weight room similar to the running athlete getting stronger muscles, joints, and bones.  This process can take significant time as well as boats, logs, rucking, and heavy equipment can be CRUSHING as well to the swimmer. Over the years, even during the season, you should add in short running workouts, just to prepare the bones / shins for gravity as swimmer's legs tend to break if the progression is too steep. 

Swimmers do well as long as they can lift and run. 

How do you get better at running without injury, gain mass, strength, and maintain your swimming skills?  It is likely you can avoid the pool for 6 months and still be in the top 3% of all swimmers in spec ops if you were a competitive high school / college swimmer.  But you need to get in the gym, lift big, run PROGRESSIVELY, and build up your durability.  Do a cycle or two of strength focus while maintaining your cardio endurance. 

Tactical Strength
Navy SEAL Weight Training
Stew Smith's Fall and Winter Lift Cycle

Power Athlete / Football (minimal running)

The power-lifting football player has master strength, power, speed, and agility and is typically quite durable under loads of heavy equipment, rucking and even swimming with SCUBA fins.  On the flip side, the endurance (run and swim) and muscle stamina weaknesses will affect the overall work capacity of this athlete when the days get long and turn into night. Also, when the running mileage is increased too quickly, the impact of running (while heavy) can wreak havoc on feet, shins, knees, hips, and even the back if the overuse is severe enough.  Once again a logical progression into running, daily practice of swimming, less time in the weight room and more time doing calisthenics is needed for this athlete.  For most athletes from this group (position dependent), weight loss is needed in order to keep up with the running, rucking, high rep calisthenics, and grip demands of obstacle courses. 

Power Athletes do well as long as they can run, swim, and PT (calisthenics) and are not too heavy to do obstacle courses (grip) and other events stated above.

How do you maintain strength and get better at calisthenics, running, and swimming?  Get out of the gym and run, swim, PT near daily. Progressive running as above with the swimmer is important as you start to put in the miles per week you are not used to.  Do a cycle or more of cardio endurance and muscle stamina training and avoid the gym for a while. 

Complete Guide to Navy SEAL Fitness
Maximum Fitness
Calisthenics and Cardio 
Tactical Fitness 

Hybrid Athletes from Sports like Lacrosse, Rugby, Wrestling / Grappling

I list these sports together as students with these backgrounds tend to do very well in military and selection programs as long as they can swim (specifically BUD/S).  But the toughness of these sports is helpful when discomfort is the norm of the day.  Running is critical to the conditioning of these sports - both speed and endurance types of running. Weight training and higher calisthenics are also part of these programs or at least easy to transition into during the off-season if needed to balance out the tactical athlete needs. 

These athletes tend to do well because they work a variety of the elements of fitness on the Venn Diagram to include strength, power, speed, agility, endurance, and muscle stamina.  Specifically addressing the needs of their future training is typically minimal unless a poor swimmer and that may lengthen the preparation time.  Typically, once swimming is mastered, these athletes score very well on entrance physical screening tests for their career of choice. 

We all come into this game with a natural or neglected weakness.  Focus on what that is as it will be exposed within the first 24 hours of your selection program.  For the hybrid athlete, it could be a variety of more running miles, more strength, better swimming.  Be honest and assess.  Here is an assessment tool to show you a list of events and scores that put  you in good stead with other spec ops candidates.  

Physical Assessment Tool to Get TO and THROUGH Selection

Other Sports and Associated Weaknesses

There are many other types of athletes from other sports that can be categorized together.  Many of these tend to be tough and the mental game is important but the specialization of one or a few elements of fitness creates weaknesses.

Rowers - Mentally Tough, early risers, two a day training, cold weather, running and muscle endurance.  Tend to lack pushing power and overhead strength, however due to strong pulling focus.  Many lack swimming ability and conditioning and need to consider fixing any muscle imbalances in the gym and technique issue in the pool. 

Hockey - Mentally Tough, hard hitters, cold weather, impact athletes and know how to play with pain, but the non-impact of skating can lead to pains when starting a running program if too steep of a progression. Many lack swimming ability and conditioning and need to consider fixing any impact issues in the gym and track as well as potential technique issue in the pool. 

Baseball - Great athletes as hard as eye hand coordination, speed, and agility, but lack much of the conditioning needed to be good runners or swimmers.  Extra effort is needed to build strength, high rep calisthenics muscle stamina, as well as overall endurance to be competitive at running and swimming. 

The answer is IT DEPENDS.  It depends on your weakness on how you should prepare yourself.  Personalize any program for your abilities, facilities, equipment, goals, time per day, and days per week.  Make it address your weaknesses first and foremost BUT also maintain your strengths. 

Which Book is Right For Me - Special Ops

Tactical Fitness Trilogy Options and More INFO

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 specifics of 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

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There are many more options as well as personalized training programs member's only program and the new :

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Tactical Fitness Report 108 - The Perfect Prepared Student Prepares for BUD/S or other Special Ops Training programs. What does the perfect student look like?

Tactical Fitness Report 107 - The Over-Prepared Student Heads to BUD/S. What does the over-prepared student look like and what issues will he face?

Tactical Fitness Report 105 - The Under-Prepared Student Heads to BUDS. What do a majority of trainees looks like?  Are you under prepared? 

Tactical Fitness Report 103 - The Perfect Student - Any Age. Listen why...

Tactical Fitness Report 94 - Stew Smith and Jeff Nichols discuss the big guy who needs to lose weight before BUDS. Why and How?

Tactical Fitness Report 86 - Ideal Size for BUD/S. Tall, short, heavy, lean? What is ideal? But know - all shapes and sizes make it. 

Tactical Fitness Report 68 - The Hockey, Baseball, Rowing Athlete (and others) Prepare for BUD/S.

Tactical Fitness Report 67 - The X Games Athlete Prepares for BUD/S

Tactical Fitness Report 66 - The Non-Athlete Prepares for BUD/S

Tactical Fitness Report 63 - The Lax, Rugby, Soccer Player Preps for BUD/S

Tactical Fitness Report 62 - The Wrestler / Combatives Sports Athlete Preps for BUD/S

Tactical Fitness Report 61 - CrossFit Athlete Preps for BUD/S

Tactical Fitness Report 60 - Powerlifting / Football Player Preps for BUD/S

Tactical Fitness Report 59 - The Swimmer Preps for BUD/S

Tactical Fitness Report 57 - Cross Country Athlete Preps for BUD/S

Tactical Fitness Report 56 - PST Meal Preparation - Fitness Testing Nutrition

Tactical Fitness Report 54 - Tactical Periodization Wrap Up Discussion

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