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The Three Phase Recruit Success System - How Any Spec Ops Candidate Can Succeed

Stew Smith

The Three Phase Recruit Success System

- How Any Spec Ops Candidate Can Succeed -

                       pic from - @mcteams3842 Instagram

As a Special ops candidate, I'm confident that your dream is to serve in military or police special operations teams because in the end what you really want is to serve your country and community as a member of an elite team.

Maybe you have not gotten the results you wanted on your own or doing a program not specifically designed for your actual goals? In fact, if you're like most people, you’re concerned about starting down the wrong path with regards to training and either getting hurt or not achieving competitive fitness scores. This is common and can often stop people in their tracks and they waste time worrying about what program to even try.

The issue may not actually be your fault because there is so much information out there that is gets confusing. Do you do this strength program, running program, take swim lessons, lift weights or calisthenics only?  There are a lot of questions out there and truth be told the answer is IT DEPENDS!

These questions are so common among your peers that I got a T Shirt with the answer on it. The answer that fits your situation DEPENDS on many factors from your athletic history, training history, current abilities, goals, training facilities / equipment, time per day, days per week, and your strength and weaknesses specific to your goals. 

Well, here's some good news...

The thing that’s preventing you from reaching your goal is not thoroughly understanding the three phases of tactical fitness for the recruit on a special ops fitness level. It really is a step by step process and you have to give it time to work for you. 

Phase 1 of Tactical Fitness - Getting accepted TO the training is tough and with elite team selection programs only the best can get the opportunity.  Crushing the physical entry standards is a MUST.  There are no minimum standards - Exceeding the Standard - IS the Standard. A program that prepares you well for the PT test will look a lot like the exercises of the PT Test (plus some greater distances in run/swim/ruck and other resistance exercises to enhance and balance out the ones being tested. Specifics matter. 

- Assess Yourself Tool for To and Through Selection

Phase 2 of Tactical Fitness - Getting THROUGH the selection program is also a phase the recruit should focus significant time accomplishing.  This typically means longer runs, rucks, and swims with fins, pool skills, load bearing activities (logs, boats, people / equipment carry) and whatever your future training will require you to endure.  PS - there is NO 30 minute gym workout that will prepare you for a day of Spec Ops Training.  Put in your time!

Related Articles:  What is Good Enough Spec Ops?  (Run, Swim, PT)
                            What is Good Enough -Strength?  (Lifts, plus load bearing)

Phase 3 of Tactical Fitness - now you are the active duty operator that still has to train hard but different than the above two phases to maintain physical abilities, skills, but also learn alleviate the stresses of the job. One thing you will learn if this is your career, you will be older longer than you are younger in this profession. Your longevity matters.  

Getting these three phases confused can be detrimental to your success.  As a recruit, you could be doing some workout active duty operators are doing as you prepare for selection then realize you did not do enough cardio events (run, swim, ruck). You could also be an active duty operator that still does selection prep workouts all the time and wreck yourself from over-training as you age into the job. And when you are the student going through selection, it is too late to figure these things out. You may have to rely on pure will and gut check those weaknesses you neglected - hopefully you can still reach the physical standards.

See Venn Diagram for everything a tactical athlete must be good at doing:Remember,  the real problem here is SPECIFICITY - failing to prepare specifically for the events that bring you to your goal. Phase 1 and 2 can be worked together, but first you have to build up to crushing the PT test level before you can advance to running / rucking / lifting more and swimming with fins for miles as part of your workouts. 

But, don't worry because I have a system that works for any type of candidate athlete that I have been using for over 25 years. Together, the three phases of tactical fitness training and seasonal tactical fitness periodization can help you build the mind and body required to reach your goals and achieve your dream profession. 

Here's the answer for solving this issue with researching through The Special Ops Preparation Journey information once and for all. If you really want to serve your country and community as a member of an elite team, this NEW An article every spec ops candidate should read - and start your journey TODAY! makes it super easy for you! Check it out here at Seasonal Tactical Fitness. and see how
I arrange my training system throughout the year.

I do not have a workout of the day - I have a workout that fits into my year training cycle. That is why you have to be patient with your timelines and performance.  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.

 Which Program is Right For Me?
It Depends...
- Special Ops Candidates


Navy SEAL Workout Phase 1 Beginner Weeks 1-9 
Navy SEAL Workout Phase 2 - 3 - Intermediate Weeks 1-12
Navy SEAL Workout Phase 4 Grinder PT

Navy SEAL Weight Training Book
Complete Guide to Navy SEAL Fitness Book

The Pipeline of Training Options: 


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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