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What REALLY Matters in Spec Ops Selections?

Stew smith

Getting THROUGH the Selection / Training:
What Really Matters?

Obviously fitness is important as there are physical standards that apply to just getting accepted into the tactical professions.  However, the high attrition rate spec ops level programs like BUD/S, SWCC, EOD / Diver, Air Force Spec War, Army Special Forces / Ranger, Marine RECON / MarSOC, and other challenging programs throughout the tactical population, requires much more than just being above average fit.  

So, What Really Matters if Fitness is
More of a Baseline Necessity? 

Did you know there are people who are the fastest at running, rucking, and swimming, can do more pullups, lift more weight than anyone in the class and yet they still do not graduate the training? They also said they would never quit before starting their selection course and yet still decide the journey to get to where they want to be and what they want to become is too long and hard. Yes there are some bad luck stories when severe illness and traumatic injuries occur to good people who have everything that it takes, but this time it was not in the cards for them.  So, what really matters???

Getting Tougher

From @McTeams3843 Instagram -

IT MATTERS IF - you are tough in every way.  Yes, this means mentally tough, physically tough, and emotionally tough or stable. Not only do you need to be strong, durable, and fast (run, ruck, swim), you need to be able to handle feedback in a useful manner.  This means you do not let negative feedback get into your head, make you doubt yourself, because once you start doubting whether or not you belong there - you are right, you don't. If you can be talked out of your dreams, then they really were not dreams of yours in the first place.

There is NO one event, motivational poster, movie, meme, or saying that makes you instantly mentally tough. This process is truly a consequence of disciplined habits of doing things that are hard, uncomfortable, and consistent.  You get TOUGH from the daily and consistent grind of preparing for that event - training when you don't feel like it, getting up early in the morning to run in the cold rain, or enduring the heat of the day. You build mental toughness one spoonful at a time, one day at a time, not all in one shot.  After all, there is a fine line between mental toughness and stupidity. For instance, running a marathon or 100 mile race when unprepared for it is not going to build mental toughness - it will more than likely build aches, pains, and injuries that will most likely prevent you from training for months to follow.

Getting Physically and Mentally Tougher:  Outdoor Workouts in Uncomfortable Climates is Also A WAY...

The Stages of Building Mental & Physical Toughness

Inspiration Phase: We develop a mental and physical toughness skill through initial inspiration and motivation - something must resonate with you in order to make good habits that allow for you to expend excess energy chasing this dream. During this phase, we can use this motivation to start working, doing research, and building habits.

Habit to Discipline Phase: Once the initial motivation is gone, there will be days when you are not particularly energetic or motivated to work toward a goal, this is when your movtivation has to evolve into discipline. Training even when you don't feel like it is a big growth moment in this process. Without this discipline and will to work even when you are tired, mental or physical toughness is not developed. 

Mental Toughness Phase: Self-discipline, confidence, and the ability to create new habits will get you through any challenging goal and you will find it will transfer into all aspects of your life. Your perceived limits are no longer holding you back with your physical development or any challenge for that matter. 

Work Well With Others - Team!

IT MATTERS IF - you are a strong team player. Your focus going through this type of training has to be on you fitting into the team (swim buddy, boat crew, class, and eventually team / unit) and being a good team player for each of your classmates and future teammates. In the end, you will find you all have to be able to rely on each other and have each other's back because you will win / lose and live/die as a team. You have to care about your teammates. It is that serious.  As a student, you may see people who are not doing well and not really fitting into your class well. Help them as you can as it is not your job as a student to get people to quit, however, at some point that classmate may not have what it takes and your efforts may prove futile. Eventually, the standards of performance will catch up to them or they will meet the standards. Then, everyone in the class has to move on with or without that person.  


IT MATTERS IF - you are consistent with your preparation timeline, training, recovery, competitive nature, and assessmentsWere you consistent with your training EVEN when you did not feel like training? Training when you do not feel like it is a mental challenge and it happens near daily if you are training hard enough. You do not build mental toughness by a single event, you demonstrate your mental toughness by single events. You BUILD your readiness by being disciplined and training consistently. The power of waking up early and training hard when most people are not, no matter the weather, or how you feel cannot be overestimated on making you a more mentally ready person. Follow that up with a long day of work, school, sports (or all three) and you have a recipe for building the resiliency you need through a solid work ethic.

How Serious Are You Really?

IT MATTERS IF - you are mature enough to understand that this journey is not a kid's game. Weaknesses are exposed in the first week of training. It is a serious profession with serious people doing dangerous things. You have to be serious in your thoughts, deeds, preparation, and training as you will have to draw from it all at some point to get through the toughest of days. Though the immature mind maybe attracted to all of those elements of the job, the immature mind is typically over-confident in their abilities and usually do not last but for a few weeks of a multi-month (even years long) training pipeline.

IT MATTERS IF - you can find the fuel when the tank is empty.  There will be a moment when your will is put to the test when you are exhausted and do not see the end to a particulatly long day and night evolution.  Yes, it is true you cannot quit but in fact you cannot even consider that thought.  You have to have an answer for finding the fuel when the tank is empty and to be honest, you will not know that answer until fully tested. Never quit and keep on going. 


Quick Learner (Under Stress)

IT MATTERS IF - you can learn new skills quickly.  For many it may be the first time SCUBA diving, shooting, handling explosives, or even using a map and compass.  These are skills that will inevitably be taught while enduring tough physical training.  Your ability to have a high fitness level will enable you to be able to engage the thinking / remembering part of the brain during these stressful programs.  If you are quickly flustered, cannot concentrate, adapt, learn, and duplicate profiency of these type of tactical skills, your time will be limited in the training pipeline.  It is not all pushups and running. Having a brain capable of learning quickly really matters. 

Twenty PLUS Years Perfecting A Seasonal Tactical Fitness Training Model So You Can Get Good at Everything...

Spring - Calisthenics and cardio workouts. Run / Swim Progression.  But there is a mix of weighted regressions, and progression of calisthenics and running.  As the days of the year get longer, so do the workout times and running / calisthenics volume. (Element focus: Hypertrophy, muscle stamina - strength mix, aerobic / anaerobic endurance - fast timed run / swim / ruck pace) 

Summer - Calisthenics and cardio workouts (advanced). Run max / PT Peak, Swim progression. But with supplemental lifts for people who need some strength focus more than a high mileage focus (runners, triathletes, other endurance athletes). (Element focus: endurance (run, swim, other), muscle stamina (high reps) of calisthenics and some load bearing events. 

Fall - Calisthenics and running volume start to decrease. Non-impact cardio workouts start to replace some of the running (bike, swim, row) However, rucking and swim with fins progressive throughout the Fall and Winter to maintain cardio conditioning especially for people who need to lose weight and not focus so much on strength training (powerlifters, football players, strength athletes)
(Element focus: Hypertrophy, muscle stamina - strength mix, aerobic / anaerobic endurance - fast timed run / swim / ruck pace) 

Winter – We still warm-up with calisthenics, but this cycle is heavy weights, weight vest calisthenics, more non-impact cardio workouts. Some rucking / More Swim with fins peak.  Most people put on 10-15 lbs in this cycle (of muscle and gains in strength) but maintain about a 8-10 miles per week of faster paced running. (Element focus:  Hypertrophy, strength/power, speed / agility) - endurance maintenace)

My most recent programs that walk you through these four cycles with 12 weeks of each season in two programs. 

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)

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 PFT Workout (Prep For Rucking, OPAT, ACFT)
Army Special Forces / Ranger Workout
Army Air Assault School Workout
Army Airborne Workout


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.


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