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Why You Typically Need Time to Transition Into Tactical Fitness - Special Ops Levels

Stew smith

Turn Weakness Into Strength - Be Fully Prepared For Spec Ops Selections

Pic from McTeams Instagram / Book

It takes time and hard work to reduce weaknesses and smart programming to maintain your strengths at the same time. Every athlete who seeks to serve will start this process with a few strengths and more weaknesses than they may realize. Assess your strength and weaknesses!  Depending on the job they want to do in the military, some preparation training will take longer than others. If an athlete seeks to serve in regular military jobs (not special ops), the transition may not require a significant transition time as most people in decent shape and a good athletic history can join most branches of service and be ready to go. However, the US recruiting pool does not look like a large group of former athletes - quite the opposite actually. 

It is now more difficult to enter into the military and meet the height / weight standards than it is to have a high school diploma, pass the ASVAB, or not have a criminal record. Not that this is a source of pride nor has anything to do with this article, but guess which generations had the most difficulty with criminal records - Gen Xers and Boomers baby! Well not anymore - it is height and weight standards - time to get moving folks EVEN IF you do not want to serve. 

Do Not Get Too Fat to Fight

Joining as a deconditioned and non-athletic candidate will lead to multiple issues typically with overuse injuries (tendonitis, rhabdomyolysis, shins pain, etc) when enduring boot camp, basic training, police/fire academies. You do not have to be an athlete to be above average fit but you have to work hard to get conditioned - like your life or your buddy's depended on it. The time it will require to build a decent foundation of fitness so you do not get hurt during training and able to meet the standards will take a few to several months for this subset of the population.  Though the level of fitness requirements are different between the regular military and special ops, the time preparing the deconditioned for the military will be similar to the time it takes an athlete to develop strengths out of weaknesses capable of handling more physically demanding special ops selections. 

Typical Transitions of Weaknesses That Must Occur

Special Ops Selection are 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 on 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 quite often less mass (football linemen). The lifter lacks muscle stamina to crush high repetition calisthenics tests and workouts as well as the cardio endurance to run and swim for long periods of time 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. My advice for this athlete is go straight into calisthenics and cardio with these progressive programs as many lack the ability to run timed runs at a fast pace (6-7 min miles) for 1.5 - 5 miles. In fact, 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 1Complete Guide to Navy SEAL Fitness,  Stew Smith's Spring Summer Cycle)

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 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 Tactical Fitness, Tactical Strength, Navy SEAL Weight Training Workout, Weight Vest Workout,  Stew Smith's Fall Winter Cycle).  

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 Tactical Fitness, Tactical Strength, Navy SEAL Weight Training Workout, Weight Vest Workout,  Stew Smith's Fall Winter Cycle but also progressively build running into higher volume with Navy SEAL Fitness later). 

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 Complete Guide to Navy SEAL Fitness / Navy SEAL Weight Training Combo, Warrior Workout Vol 2, Special Ops Prep - Seasonal Periodization Trilogy, and Spring, Summer, Fall Winter Combo.)  

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 Fitness, Navy SEAL Workout Phase 1Navy SEAL Workout Phase 2 - 3 Navy SEAL Workout Phase 4 Grinder PT - Four weeks before Hell Week depending on initial PST scores, and a cycle of Complete Guide to Navy SEAL Fitness / Navy SEAL Weight Training Combo).  

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. 

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



For Those Beginners Seeking to Serve
- Start Here - 

Boot camp or basic training can build up most recruits, but spec ops candidates will get out of shape at most basic training programs.  See the programs below so the transition from recruit to active duty is not riddled with failures and injuries that prolong your first few months: 

List of Beginner, Intermediate, and Basic Military & PT Test Prep Guides

 Beginner / Intermediate Fitness Guides 

The Beginner / Intermediate Guide to Fitness
Reclaim Your Life  Erin O'Neill Story (beginner / intermediate)

Circuit Training 101  Beginner / Intermediate Guide to the Gym
NEW:   Calisthenics and Cardio (only) (Spring / Summer Cycle)
Tactical Fitness (40+) Phase 1, Phase 2



Basic Military Physical Fitness Workouts

Army PFT Workout (Prep For Rucking, OPAT, ACFT)
The Navy, Air Force, Marine Corp Boot Camp Workout
The PFT Bible: Pushups, Sit-ups, 1.5 Mile Run
 (Army, Navy, AF, CG PFT)


High Intermediate Military / Advanced Spec Ops
Building Programs:
 Which Program is Right For Me?
It Depends...
- Special Ops Candidates

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. 

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

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

Questions?  Just email me at

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