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What Program is Right for Me? Special Ops Candidate

Stew smith

What Training Program is Right for Me? (Book, eBook, Online Coaching?)

This is a very common question and the answer is always - "IT DEPENDS."

It depends on your scores compared to other successful students.  See the Assessment Tool to Make it To and Through Selection and see where you stack up with all the elements of fitness - not just a PST score. 

Assess your weaknesses because they will be exposed during your first PST and especially during your first day of selection. 

Typical Transitions of Weaknesses That Must Occur

Special Ops Selection is specifically designed to expose weaknesses, and they usually get exposed near immediately as a failure to meet the standards or the individual getting injured is the usual outcome for underdeveloped weaknesses. You can avoid this issue by preparing for a cycle, or two focused on your weakness.  These are the typical weaknesses serious performing athletes have when preparing for any spec ops pipeline:

Strength / Power Athlete - Typical lifters, football players, and other power athletes, need more Endurance (run, swim, ruck) and often less mass (football linemen). The lifter lacks muscle stamina to crush high repetition calisthenics tests and workouts, the cardio endurance to run and swim for long periods, and fast timed run/swim events. If on the bigger side, the ability to run faster and do obstacle courses (grip strength/endurance) can be seriously challenged. 

However, rucking, load bearing, log PT, and equipment/boat carry is usually not an issue - well, at least these bigger folks do not get crushed by the weight like some lighter / less stronger athletes will. Maintaining strength is easier for most, even without adding a lift cycle to a full year of training. I advise this athlete to go straight into calisthenics and cardio with these progressive programs as many cannot run timed runs at a fast pace (6-7 min miles) for 1.5 - 5 miles. Anything over 100m is considered long distance. Many need to learn how to swim PERIOD so that can be some time just focusing on that. High rep calisthenics are not an issue for a set or two, but multiple sets and high volume workouts will crush them if they are not used to longer workouts outside of the weight room.  (Consider Calisthenics and Cardio Workout, Navy SEAL Phase 1Stew Smith's Spring Summer Cycle)STFP Spring Cals & Cardio / StrengthSTFP Summer Peak Endurance / Muscle Stamina)


Endurance Athlete - Need More Strength / Power / Mass(?) - Typical endurance athletes come from varying backgrounds but all are similarly challenged in needing to add strength, power, and mass (sometimes).  Focusing any of your preparation on getting even faster at your competitive events (running, swimming primarily) is a waste of time as most of you will be the best in the class at runs and swims.  However, runners typically lack upper body strength and load-bearing ability. They may need to work on calisthenics at higher reps first which is usually a fast transition, however, the strength and mass may take a cycle or two focused on getting bigger and stronger. (Consider  (Consider Weight Vest Workout,  Stew Smith's Fall Winter CycleSTFP Fall and Winter Lift Cycles, also the Block Periodization Model - Increase Strength / Crush the PST / IFT)


Swimmers / H2O Polo - The competitive swimmers typically have running impact weaknesses and lack ability to do load bearing and agility (logs, boats, o courses).  Consider Weight Vest Workout,  Stew Smith's Fall Winter CycleSTFP Fall and Winter Lift Cycles, also the Block Periodization Model - Increase Strength / Crush the PST / IFT)

Other Endurance Athletes - Depending on the sport, the heart and lungs maybe developed, but there are imbalances when they involve any strength training. The good news is that high rep calisthenics typically comes quickly so mastering a PST is not that difficult IF they can swim, but the muscle mass and load bearing activities of selection maybe a challenge if not fully prepared in the weight room with at least a season of weight lifting. (Consider Weight Vest Workout,  Stew Smith's Fall Winter Cycle,STFP Fall and Winter Lift Cycles, also the Block Periodization Model - Increase Strength / Crush the PST / IFT)

(click to read more)

STFP Fall Transition
STFP Winter Lift Cycle
STFP Spring Cals & Cardio / Strength
STFP Summer Peak Endurance / Muscle Stamina

Hybrid Athletes - Multi-sport athletes, decathletes, some middle distance runners, lacrosse players, soccer/rugby players, higher level Cross-Fitters,and wrestlers that get a good amount of fast paced running, hard work in anaerobic zones, and a combination of strength training are usually well-rounded athletes. If these athletes can pick up swimming quickly and do not injure themselves with increased volume of calisthenics and running miles, the process is relatively short. 

All of the above athletes need special focus on New Skill Technique / Work on any water weakness (Swim, tread underwater, diving) in order to specialize in many of the events they have not done during their years of athletic training.  

(Consider Navy SEAL Workout Phase 1Navy SEAL Workout Phase 2 - 3 Navy SEAL Workout Phase 4 Grinder PT - Four weeks before Hell Week


All Athletic Types Make It - IF You Prepare and Want It Bad Enough

All these types makes it! If they improve on their incoming weaknesses. Remember there are THREE phases of Tactical Fitness no matter what program you use. 

Learning the differences between the specifics Is the first part of this training education as many people do not realize the differences of each phase of training and train "out of phase" depending on their immediate and future goals. 
Phase 1 - TO the training,  (specifics to testing)
Phase 2 - THROUGH the training, (specifics to selection / training)
Phase 3  - Active Operator Maintenance / Stress Mitigation 

Seasonal Tactical Fitness Periodization is an answer to staying in the phase of fitness you should be focused as well as the improving the elements of fitness that are your weaknesses. 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."

New Block Periodization System to Maintain Strengths and Improve Weaknesses at the same time.  See 3:1 Block Periodization System for full details but here is a brief description:

Do three weeks of a cycle that you need the most work (weakness), follow it with a week of your strengths.  We did this over the Winter Lift Cycle this year and saw incredible results with people maintaining their PST scores as well as gaining strength during the lift cycle. 

Do three weeks of any strength training cycle followed by a PST Week.  We did this specific PST training week every four weeks during the winter. Some even improved runs and swim and PT scores during this cycle just by adding in the "deload week of calisthenics of cardio" in the lift cycle every 4 weeks.

There is More To than a You May Know

Who is Stew Smith CSCS? Coach, Trainer, Writer, PodcasterI'm the former Navy SEAL that tactical candidates go to for books, eBooks, local 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

(In fact, there are more than 40 books, 1000+ articles, online coaching - and more) 

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.  

Where Optimal Performance Will Be Tested Each Day

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


Online Coaching Options

Online PT CLUB - Weekly Workouts created personally for you.

New Member's Only Content / Services Program!

If you want access to years worth of workouts, many of the top eBOOKs, favorite workouts of the week, free fitness APP, closed Facebook Group, video / picture library of exercises, and more access to LIVE Q/A sessions check out the Stew Smith Fitness Members Section

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

Consider this! - A Membership Program and Gain Access to Exclusive Content
(click for Fitness Club Dashboard - members only)

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.


Questions?  Just email -

At - List of Products and Services

  1. FREE Articles
  2. Podcasts and Swimming Videos (Youtube, TikTok, Instagram)
  3. eBooks
  4. Books and eBooks in PRINT
  5. Stew Smith Fitness Club membership site
  6. Online Coaching  

Stew Smith Fitness 


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