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What is Optimal? You and Your Efforts Determine What Works for You Best

Stew Smith

What is Optimal? You and Your Efforts
Determine What Works for You Best

When we are training for a specific goal, we seek programming and personalized workouts that we hope will yield optimal results. Typically, most programming can yield above average results if consistently applied into a long-term system of proven applications, but what is the optimal method for you, may need some changes for others to see the same results. These improvements come through personally testing and evaluating different methodologies, training systems, and individual workouts as well.

As a trainer for men and women who seek advanced levels of fitness in preparation for the tactical professions, I have seen people make common mistakes. They are simply explained – either they did too much or not enough – period. Now – this applies to EVERYTHING and all elements of fitness and finding the right balance is relative and different for everyone. My Tactical Fitness Periodization System allows for that delicate balance between too much and not enough with 20 years of use, practice, changes, and advancements.

Remember in the tactical professions, becoming a tactical athlete means you need to have a solid foundation in all the elements of fitness (above). That means the strength / power athletes need some muscle stamina and cardio endurance (running, rucking, swimming) as well as their overall work capacity for longer physical events that start in the day and keep going into the evening. It also means the endurance athletes need to work on their strength / power as well and overall durability for load bearing activities.

Turning weaknesses into strengths is a journey and typically not fun for an athlete who is really good or even great at one thing and who fails miserable at another. For instance, the competitive swimmer who needs to lift more and run more (smartly and progressively) and not spend hours in the pool each day perfecting his/her strengths. Or the power lifter who is afraid of losing gains in the gyms when he has to start running and swimming long distance.  These two types of athletes come to the table with obvious strengths and easy to fix weaknesses that requires time and effort doing things they are not good at doing. Improvement in these weaknesses will be equally rewarding if not more to the athlete as I have seen some swim across a pool for the first time ever then keep training and become Navy SEALs. That is rewarding for both coach and student.
See swimming common errors if swimming is a weakness. 

Common Errors - Doing TOO MUCH or NOT ENOUGH

Here is what happens typically when you do TOO MUCH or NOT ENOUGH of anything:

Ignoring weaknesses come at a cost that is usually not fully discovered until you are in your first week of real selection training. These weaknesses are usually exposed in the first few days and you have to live with failing to meet the standard or barely surviving on pure will and daily gut checks. One is devastating and the other is exhausting both physically and mentally. Don’t be the guy who did not prepare properly and did too little of the things you knew you were not good at doing.

Sometimes you will test yourself with tough workouts and border on doing too much and that is fine. Maybe you will even test your mental toughness by doing a gut check event. These have their time and place if you want to test your abilities with an endurance event (triathlon, marathon, adventure race, etc), but realize these events come with a price typically. After these events, running for a few months is reduced due to aches and pains of the event or a recovery phase that requires it. You may even break yourself as hips, shins, knees can get inflamed with tendonitis and bones can be stressed and even fracture. If you are close to your selection start date, you could be taking these injuries into a program that could re-injure them. Don’t be the guy who breaks himself and fails easily passable events just because of your injuries and de-conditioning caused by them.  Either of these can lead to below optimal performance or reduced optimal performance as you will see in the spectrum below:

Sub-Optimal – Neglected Weaknesses

Your body and its capabilities are underutilized. Your strengths may be good to go however, you have elements of fitness that are working inefficiently and could produce better overall results if you had specific training programs that focus on maintaining strengths and building weaknesses into strengths.  By increasing your efforts into one or more of your weaknesses, you can get more out of your body and produce better overall results that can get you TO and THROUGH the training.

Optimal – The Best You Can Be – Perfectly Balanced Strengths / Weaknesses

Your body is producing at full capability and efficiency. This means that there are no elements of fitness that you have not prepared or left to chance. Assess yourself as you need to know when you are here and able to not only reach optimal scores to get TO the training (PST), but also reaching above average scores in events that will be tested in order to get THROUGH the training.  Once you are here, maintain as needed, but taper down a notch if you have significant time before you start selection. Usually, peaking like this is perfect right before Basic Training as that will be a natural taper time – then you can use the Prep Course as a way to rebuild to where you were instead of being pushed to new levels before selection.  

Diminishing Returns – Burned Out on Strengths and Weaknesses – Over Prepared

Eventually, over-training symptoms start to appear and your body has stopped producing at its optimal state and you have lost capability and efficiency that is really a central nervous system overload.  You have either over trained or under recovered. Recovery is EVERYTHING when you are striving to be optimal in your performance as a few bad meals, a few bad night’s sleep, and being under-hydrated can start you on this downward slope of performance even if you are not over-training. Regardless, your body cannot adjust to all of the input being given, and so you will start to see diminishing returns no matter the effort given – until you have properly recovered.

See Tactical Fitness Report on Recovery with Stew Smith and Jeff Nichols

Assess Yourself Before Your Wreck Yourself

Learn how to assess yourself as a candidate throughout the process of preparing to get TO and THROUGH the training. Not just as an initial assessment, but this chart can help you see where you meet up on the spectrum of training that will place you in the top 25% of candidates in spec ops selection programs.  See Assessment tool article and video to help.

Related Articles:

Spec Ops Candidates – Is This Your Story?

Be a Better Recruit / Candidate

 Spec Ops Prep – One Stop Shop Research Article

Don’t Set a Timeline to Join - Set a Performance Starting Line

Asking Great Questions if You Need Assistance

What is – Specific Training for Tactical Professions

Complete List of Books, eBooks, Training Programs

New Rules for Tactical Fitness Over 40+

Change is Inevitable – Growth is Not

 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 - Four weeks before Hell Week

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 
personalized training programs member's only program and the new :


Try Our Stew Smith Fitness Members Only Club - #1 Best Selling Tactical Fitness Programs

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