This article’s purpose is to empower you, a special operations candidate, to decide what program you want to be following to reach your goals. There are lots of companies out there that claim to best prepare combat athletes for the grueling selection process. What we want you to do is see a program and decide not if it has the best name, or the coolest logo, but if it will ACTUALLY help you reach your goal.
It is worthy of noting that all of the programs we reference below are one week snapshots of ongoing and lengthy programs. We have, however, tried to represent each program as accurately as possible.
Online Program 1
This program does a great job of placing an emphasis on proper warm ups, cool downs, and breathing technique. The program above has consistently structured workouts which allows athletes to add in extra strength pieces they would like to work on in the strength section, physiotherapy exercises into the warm up, etc… Overall this workout is fairly low volume and focuses the work capacity sections of the workout on anaerobic circuit type workouts. This allows athletes to add in their own aerobic training outside of these workouts. However, this does defeat the purpose of having an all-inclusive program.
Online Program 2
This program is fairly easy to follow and the workouts themselves are fairly fast to complete. If you are looking for ideas for a quick in-and-out workout then this is a go to. The volume on this program is extremely low and spends the majority of the time on circuits at the end of workouts. This week of programming does include running, however, a general rule of thumb for running intervals is to allot 20sec for every 100m. So the day 5 workout prescribes a 2:1 work:rest ratio (for aerobic power we use a 1:1 ratio). This program, as with the first program, prescribes weights for strength workouts. Although this can be beneficial for pushing some athletes, it does not help the outliers on either end. For example, a bodyweight bench press x 3 may be over one athlete’s 1RM and may be a warm up for another.
Online Program 3
The above workout program is, as with the others, simply not enough volume to prepare a special operations athlete for selection. It does include running for distance and weighted running. However, as this program is based around Anaerobic Circuit style training, it is difficult to progress or regress these workouts without accruing injuries and/or boredom. Although there is some strength work in this program, most of the program focuses on anaerobic “push it to the max” type workouts where you are racing the clock. Over time, this will not contribute to success on selection.
Overall there are issues with each program, which can be broken down to these main issues:
Lack of Individualization
With group programming companies are not able to offer individualized programs. However, issuing one program for all Special Operations candidates is either misguided or irresponsible.
Our Solution: To combat the lack of individualization present with membership programs we have done the simplest thing possible: make more programs. When clients join our Team Room they are given a two-week baseline testing phase. These results are shared with our coaches and the athletes are given a recommendation of which program to follow based on their goals and current fitness levels.
Lack of Volume
I will keep preaching this until the cows come home. If you are going on a special operations selection you MUST accumulate volume. If you have a very tough 20 minute AMRAP this will not prepare you for a 5 hour ruck march followed by a 60 minutes gut chuck. Remember – hard work is not smart work.
Our Solution: We begin athletes on a low volume program to progress through. This means that our athletes begin with the Meso 1/ Cycle 1/ Week 1/ Day 1 workout and progress on to Meso 1/ Cycle 1/ Week 1/ Day 2, Meso 1/ Cycle 1/ Week 1/ Day 3, etc… This allows us to program our workouts knowing what the athlete has and hasn’t done previously. In Cycle 3 we can program a 200 minute Ruck with 40# because we know that the week before they did a 180 minute ruck with 40# and the week before that they did a 160 minute Ruck with 40#. Consider the difference between this and the alternative of “everybody does this workout because it is Tuesday and this is Tuesday’s workout”.
Lack of Aerobic Power/Endurance Work
This is where we will again cite the “hard work is not smart work” mantra. Performing a half marathon row is very hard, but it won’t make you a better powerlifter. Just because a workout has running and sandbags does not mean that it is applicable to combat athletes. The sections of the above workouts titled “work capacity” or “stamina” are oftentimes not aerobic in nature but are really more of a balls to the wall anaerobic workout. If you have any questions about the difference between the energy systems and their relevance for Combat Athletes, check out our article The Truth Behind Anaerobic Training.
Our Solution: We focus our energy systems training on the Aerobic system, while still touching on anaerobic portions of training throughout the week. This does not mean that our workouts are easy, in fact they are quite challenging. We always preach consistency and repeated tough efforts with our energy systems training over blowing the first round out of the water only to be crawling by the end of the workout.
Lack of Rucking
Depending on what selection you are preparing for, you will be rucking different weights over a variety of terrains for varying durations. One thing is sure though – you are going to carry stuff from point A to point B at some point during your selection.
Our Solution: The reason a lot of other programs do not prescribe rucking is because you have to progress it. Your first ruck – even if it is light and relatively short – will likely leave you with sore traps, feet, hips, back, etc… With our programs we start off short and light and progress towards long and heavy. Progressive overload is the name of the game.
Below are examples of three snapshots into what our programs look like.
Ruck Based Selection Prep Advanced
This is one of our most frequently used programs and is suitable for athletes prepping for CSOR, JTF2, SFAS, Ranger or any other land based special operations selection. As mentioned above with the other programs, this is only a demonstration of what a typical week would look like. The focus, intensity and volume of all sessions evolve as the program goes on.
Strength and Power Advanced
The purpose of this program is to improve full body strength and power using advanced periodization, dynamic resistance and a variety of complex programming variables. This is the “bells and whistles” program that will help experienced lifters get over plateaus that they have reached using progressive overload and basic training principles.
Improve Your PST Fast
This is the program that some of our members switch over to if they need to ace a PST coming up. Our other programs aim to prepare you for the rigors of selection: carrying odd objects, grip strength, massive amounts of volume, postural integrity, etc… With our selection prep programs your aerobic fitness, muscular endurance, strength and power improve and therefore so will your PST scores, however, this is not the primary objective. Switching to this program before an important PST will help give you the extra bump you need.
When selecting a program to follow look for one that:
- Properly doses volume
- Progresses you gradually
- Trains the Aerobic energy systems
- Will help you achieve your goals – whatever they are
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