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Quiet Professional: “Mission First”

R-Day at the Coast Guard Academy.

By Rob Shaul

“To be clear. It’s not about you. Accept, understand and embrace this. It’s liberating.”

Like wearing a limited wardrobe, adhering to a strict diet, and living far within your means financially, putting mission first can greatly simplify your day-to-day existence, and in a weird altruistic way …. be personally liberating.

A cheesy personal story …

Our first day at the Coast Guard Academy we went through the typical military intake process – hair cuts, uniform issue, learning to march, etc. Around 2100 we all got called to the hallway for a quick 30 minute hazing, and then had 10 minutes to shower before lights out.

It was a locker room-style group shower, which opened into a long row of sinks in front of a long mirror.

Coming out of the shower that first night, it took me a while to find myself in the mirror. Not only did I personally look different with my new buzz cut, but every other cadet had the same hair cut. We all looked the same.

Many of my classmates bristled at the lack of individualism instituted with mandatory hair cuts and the same uniform. But I loved it.

At CGA we had dress uniforms, class uniforms, work out uniforms and study hour uniforms. Coming from high school where fashion was a big deal, I found not having to decide what color shirt (always blue), pants (always blue), shoes (always black), etc. I had to wear was incredibly liberating! Further, I didn’t have to decide what I ate, what classes to take, where to be, and when … all I had to do was study and train. Perfect for a grinder like me!

It’s easy to think that more choices = more freedom, but in practice this is not the case.  Lot’s of choices can muddle things up, be emotionally draining, disperse attention and burn unnecessary energy.

Putting “mission first” for your unit, team, company, family, can have the same liberating and clarifying affect military uniformity can.

Opposite of “mission first” is putting yourself first. I won’t lecture on the morality of this. Rather, just consider the energy being a selfish douche bag takes.

We’ve all done it, myself included, so you know first hand, like I do.

Putting yourself first means scheming and manipulation, worry that you’re “not getting yours,” regret, wasting energy complaining how life is not fair, and on and on.

Few selfish people are happy. It just takes too much energy.

Putting the mission first clears this all up. No longer must you worry about getting the credit, being recognized, getting your cut.

Scheming? Gone. Manipulation? Gone. Job roles don’t matter. If you see something that needs to be done, you do it. Easy.

Every decision begins with a simple, clarifying question: What is best for the mission/organization/team/company/family?

Rarely is the answer not obvious and the following action clear. This mental clarity is liberating.

Like all of these Quiet Professional principles, we all fail at at putting mission first from time to time and behave like selfish douce bags.

See it. Acknowledge it. Own it. Apologize to others, then forgive yourself.

Aim to do better next time, and move on.

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Packet Focus: Pirate Series for Tactical Athletes with Water Based Mission Sets

Water Confidence training at BUD/s.

 By Rob Shaul and Charles Bausman

MTI  developed the Pirate Training Packet specifically to meet the day-to-day training needs of multi-mission military and law enforcement units with a scuba, rescue, and other water-based mission set.

We have identified 5 Types of Tactical Athletes, and under our categorization, tactical units with water-based mission sets fall into the “Blue” category.

The four training plans in this packet are appropriate for USAF Special Tactics, Marine Reconnaissance and Raiders, Navy SEAL’s and EOD, SF Dive Teams, Rescue Swimmers, BORSTAR, etc. The programming in these plans effectively balances swimming/finning endurance with land based endurance, strength, work capacity, and chassis integrity fitness demands.

Each plan has a focus for increasing speed and/or endurance in the water while continuing to develop the other attributes with our tried and tested progressions.

Each plan is scheduled for training 5x/week, for 6 weeks. Do the plans in order, with a week of total rest between plans.

1. Barbossa
The first plan in the packet, Barbossa aims to increase swimming speed based on 500m swim assessments as well as refresh on water survival through treading and 25m underwater crossovers.

We’ll develop full body strength via our TLU Strength Progression, trained 2x/weekly along with short, intense repeat work capacity events. Chassis Integrity and Tactical Speed are trained 1x/week each.

Land based endurance is focused on developing the aerobic base for mid to long distance running at moderate pace.


2. Black Beard
Black Beard transitions to finning speed for the water-based endurance. It utilizes intervals based on 3x 1500m fin assessment at the beginning, middle, and end of the plan. It deploys our Density Strength Progression with a focus on Craig Specials and Push Press.

The work capacity efforts are longer in Black Beard, ranging from 20-30 minutes. You will rotate through work capacity efforts, with one assessed and trained weekly. Expect burning legs and burning lungs.

Chassis Integrity is trained 1x/week, and we transition to Tactical Agility with level and direction drills under load.

The land based endurance deploys a short ruck run assessment and follow on intervals to maintain speed under the ruck.


3. Captain Morgan
The third plan in the packet, Captain Morgan will develop swimming aerobic base. Starting at 2,000m and working up to a 2,500m swim, these efforts are intended to be conducted at moderate intensity.

We’ll move to two classic lifts, Bench Press and Back Squat, for our Super Squat Strength Progression. The Super Squat progression is percentage based, 1×20 effort. We’ve found that the time under tension (you can’t rack the barbell!) has great effect on increasing strength. These are hard.

Work Capacity is trained 2x/week in varying time domains with repeat efforts. Back to back work cap efforts train the body to recover quickly and increase your metabolic capacity.

In Captain Morgan, we’ll train both Tactical Speed and Agility – linear speed, direction change, and level change. Chassis Integrity is trained 1x/week to maintain core strength.


4. Madame Cheng
The final plan of the packet, Madame Cheng deploys our Gym Based Endurance in conjunction with finning, running, and rucking for a heavy endurance focus.

We combine finning and running in a modified Brick format – you will conduct a moderate distance fin, followed immediately by a unloaded run once a week. You’ll also train moderate pace rucking, working up to 8 miles by the end of the cycle.

Gym Based Endurance is trained 1x/week with a long effort at 40-60 minutes. These are constant movement efforts utilizing dumbbell/barbell exercises, sand bag exercises, running, step ups, box jumps, etc.

Madame Cheng also includes strength training 2x/week utilizing the RAT 6 Progression, focusing on the Hinge Lift and heavy Thrusters.


More on the plans below. Click the individual training plan links above to see sample training for each plan.


Questions? Email


You Might Also Like our Selection/School Specific Plans


Q&A 6.22.17


“Thank you for your amazing Rainier Training Plan.  I used it leading up to an attempt on Rainier’s Liberty Ridge. While we didn’t summit because of bad weather, I felt extremely strong and fit during the climb.  The training plan did a great job of focusing on every aspect of fitness that one would need on the mountain. My 35 pound back weight didn’t even phase me.  I was especially surprised and enjoyed the sandbag getups, the first few weeks they were murder, but by the end of the program I was just cranking through them.
I did find the amount of time required to be excessive, and had to add in an extra rest day each week to catch up on my “adult” responsibilities, but I’m sure other people will be able to manage.” Thanks again!



I have just completed valor and am wondering what program to follow next. I ship to USMC OCS in September so have about 17 weeks. I am planning on doing the USMC OCS plan immediately before shipping, what 2 should I complete in the meantime? Was thinking of doing humility & fortitude.
Also, I’ll be working through a 16 week 5k/10k running plan that was designed by a local running coach throughout this entire time (~20 miles per week, peaks at 39).


Humility and Fortitude are solid.
Watch for overtraining with your running … i.e. don’t double up. Humility’s running is loaded (25#) and Fortitude includes ruck running and unloaded running. Try to combine the running in both these plans and your running-specific plan.
You want to go into OCS fit and fresh, not fit but exhausted.
Good luck! Excited for you!
– Rob


I’ve been slacking pretty hard the last few months- not entirely deconditioned, but my consistency and intensity have been a lot less than “full effort” and it’s time to get back on the wagon. My goals for the rest of the year are two-fold- I want to bring my APFT score back up into the 270s (90/90/90) by my next record APFT in October (I’m in mid 70s in all three events right now), and I also want to start climbing some Class 1 and 2 14ers in NorCal toward the end of the year, with some beginner technical/ice climbing.

I’ve run your Peak Bagger plan off and on for hiking here in SoCal and I liked it, so my first thought was to just substitute  Wednesday’s upper body strength with PU/SU intervals from the APFT plan, and sub the prescribed Peak Bagger runs with appropriate 800m/1mi intervals. However, I’m not sure this would be enough PU/SU training for the APFT, I’m worried it might be too much running on top of the bajillion step-ups, and I have no idea how well it will translate to my newbie mountain goals.

I also looked into doing your Ice/Mixed Climbing Preseason with some APFT supplementing, but I run into the same problem as above- my other limitation is that I don’t have any space for a systems board in my apartment. I’ve got just enough stuff for most of your limited equipment programming.

I feel like I don’t have the experience, especially on the mountain side, to know how to effectively attack these two goals side-by-side, so I figured I ought to reach out before I hurt myself or get stuck on the side of a mountain somewhere. What do you recommend?


There’s lots of points to consider in your note and here are some principals/thoughts I’d recommend to help prioritize your fitness training.
1) Train for the fitness demands of your tactical job first.
It’s unclear in your case if that’s LE or Military, but this should take priority as it directly relates to you and your team’s survivability. Recreational fitness and even PFT fitness should take a back seat.
2) Don’t try to train for 2 things at the same time.
Many Army athletes want to be able to score 300 on the APFT at any time, but also train for and build other fitness goals/attributes. APFT focus takes training time and can negatively impact gains in other areas – strength, rucking ability, sprinting ability, chassis integrity, etc. Why do Army members need to be primed for the APFT all the time when most know exactly when they’ll be taking the APFT? Rather than dividing training time and attention, we recommend taking 3-6 weeks directly before the APFT and focussing your programming on that event. After the assessment, move back into your other day-to-day training.
This principal holds true for mountain events/seasons also. Our Mountain Base programming concurrently trains mountain endurance (uphill movement/trail running), strength, work capacity, chassis integrity, stamina and climbing fitness. But doing our Mountain Base programming doesn’t prepare athletes for optimal performance for any mountain season/event. It lays a “base” of fitness upon which to build “sport-specific” fitness with a sport-focused plan directly prior to the event/season – for example the Peak Bagger Plan, Mixed/Ice Pre-Season Training Plan, Dryland Ski Plan, etc.
My recommendation for you?
– Train for your tactical job first. If you’re military with a known schedule for APFTs, schools, deployments, etc., and nothing is on your time horizon, it is perfectly okay to drop out of all military programming and do a sport-specific mountain-sport cycle (such as Mixed/Ice) directly prior to the climbing season to prepare, and once the season starts, drop back in to military-specific programming.
– This is more difficult on the LE side … as LE Athletes are always deployed, and face danger daily. My recommendation here is to pare back job specific programming to around 75% of your available training time and use the open 25% to train the most unique/essential components of the specific mountain activity.
For you specifically, if you’ve got a APFT coming up, complete the APFT Plan in it’s entirety and complement it with the climbing specific programming in our Mixed/Ice plan – time on the tools. Tool-specific grip strength is the key here. Second would be uphill hiking under load if you expect long approaches.
To do this effectively you’ll need a system board somewhere to train. I can’t help you with that. We haven’t found a way to train tool-specific grip strength best without system boards. We’ve done dead hangs – which are better than nothing, but not complete.
Hope this kinda helps ….
– Rob


I’m looking for some guidance on an upcoming training path I want to make. For a little background, I’m currently serving in the 75th Ranger Regiment with an intent on going back to college to get a Masters in the fall. I’ll be participating in ROTC when I get there (15 weeks out). I am finally in a position where I can do what I want for PT in the mornings so I grabbed an old copy of Strength and Honor that my first squad leader gave to me when he left in 2012. I’m in the last week of the Strength and Honor program and I’m searching for what to do next. I’m coming off rehab from a meniscus tear that had me out of the game for around 20 weeks. I was able to complete Strength and Honor (and feel better now than I ever did during rehab) but noticed that my conditioning was severely lacking.
Part of my ROTC requirements are monthly PT tests so I was considering starting the APFT train up 6 weeks out from school starting. I’m kind of lost as to what to do in the 8 weeks I have before I need to start that. (Probably the on ramp program but I’m seeking your advice in case there is a better option) Once I get to school, what programs should I be looking at then? I don’t want to just do the APFT train up over and over again so are there any programs that would be beneficial to the Military Athlete but also take care of that pesky PT test? I’ve already struck a deal with my liaison saying that I’m free to PT on my own as long as I score above a 290 each month so 300’s each month it is.


Be super diligent and never get far from APFT programming if they are facing a monthly assessment like you are.
If you are an APFT “natural” or your ROTC unit didn’t have a monthly assessment I’d recommend the training plans and order in our Greek Hero training packet of plans, beginning with Hector. These plans represent our most evolved military programming and concurrently train endurance (running, rucking), strength (mostly gym-based), work capacity (sprinting focus), chassis integrity (mid-section), Tactical agility and stamina. This programming is designed as the day-to-day programming for SOF personnel and other military athletes who aspire to this level of fitness.
If you are not naturally proficient at the APFT, I’d likely recommend a schedule of 2 weeks of the Greek Hero plans, 2 weeks focused APFT work directly before your assessment.
If you complete Hector, you’ll see our programming has evolved significantly from Strength and Honor.
– Rob


I’m an infantryman, but currently doing voluntold Drill Sergeant duty at the absolutely “wonderful” Ft Jackson. I get up every morning at 3am just so I can get an hour workout in before doing prt with the new privates. I was looking into possibly ordering your busy operator workout as I saw that it is for people like me without a whole lot of time every day, but then saw the link for grunt pt. What would be a better option for someone like me in your opinion? I don’t want to go back to the line in a year and a half and be that out of shape guy, and am looking to take over a sniper section so need to step up my game a bit. Thank you in advance


Grunt PT is solid, and the gym-based programming is designed to last 60 minutes. The endurance programming can run longer – depending upon how fast you can run/ruck – so you’ll have to plan accordingly.
All the Busy Operator sessions are designed to last 45 minutes.
I’d recommend starting with Grunt PT. It’s an incredible deal and you can deploy it with your section when you finish your drill sergeant duty.
– Rob


This is probably a really stupid question, but when the plan uses the # sign, does that mean pounds? It confuses me since I can see kg weights, and assume lb must turn to # on my computer.


Yes. # = pounds, so 25# = 25 pounds.

– Rob


I would like to prepare for some ultra trail/mountain runs/races with distance 50-60km and elevation gain over 3500 meters. Would you recommend me to go with the 50 mile ultra  plan [1] or is there a more suitable plan? (I was looking also at the alpine running plan [2].) So far I’ve completed the ultra pre-season plan [3] which I’ve really enjoyed … especially during my first race this season 🙂



Best would be Ultra Preseason with lots of hilly trail running for your long run training in the plan. You could do the same with the 50 Mile Ultra Plan though the distance there would over prepare you for your event.
The Alpine Running plan is focused primarily on FKT efforts for extended peak bagging. It’s focus is vertical gain/loss and I’m not sure would give you the simple volume needed for your race.
– Rob


I recently completed the 3rd APFT in the APFT improvement plan. I showed marked improvement on sit-ups and the run but remained stagnant in push-ups (55). I’ve noticed that I typically burn out in the 5th or 6th set when completing a set every 75 seconds as the plan prescribes.

Do you have any recommendations to help me improve? I read an article posted on the site on  February 12, 2016 regarding pushup improvement where multiple strategies were tested among four groups. Has there been any more research in this area?

Thanks for your time and any insights.


The 5th and 6th set “wall” is not unusual for push ups in this progression – what is unusual is no improvement. Everyone is different and different athletes can react different to the same programming.
Our own study was somewhat inconclusive and we haven’t conduced another recently.
Different things to try ….
– Hand width and placement
– Assessment technique …. My best score came by sprinting at first, but stopping with 5 or so reps in “reserve,” then knocking out sets of 1-2 until the time was completed
– “Grease the Groove” training… this comes from the kettlebell folks and essentially says do sets of pushus all throughout the day, but don’t come close to failure on any one set … so you might end up doing 40 – 50 sets of 5-10x push ups throughout the day.
– Other push up improvement programs … there are a bazillion other programs just for pushups a simple google search away. One might work better for you individually over our progression.
– Rob


I am a LEO from Melbourne, Australia, and will be undergoing selection for out Special Operations Group in approximately 12 months time.
I am seeking direction where to start with your programming.
I am happy to sign up to an athlete subscription, but I am unsure where to start from there.
I have a solid strength base, but running and endurance needs work. (Better power to weight ratio)
Which programs do you recommend I complete over the next 12 months, and in what order?


What do you know about the details of the selection? Duration? Major events? Is there a “gate” fitness assessment? What is the unit?
– Rob

The unit is called the Special Operations Group (SOG), which is the spec ops/CT unit for Victoria Police.

SOG barrier test consists of
3.2km run (2 mile) in under 13:30
AMRAP Bodyweight bench press, minimum 5 reps
10 pullups
60 situps
Weighted 400m run
400 meter swim

Selection is based off our SAS selection, with alot of running, and bodyweight smoke sessions.

Partner carry drills, carrying cinderblocks at extended arm carry, 1 mile lunges, sand sprints, etc. All part of it. There is also a few large rucks done at a fast pace.

The selection course runs for 12 days.

Then there is a training cycle of 13 weeks, where there is more of a learning focus, but still numerous daily smoke checks

The selection is run much like the military, which has raised some criticism recently, as some believe its too much for a police unit.


12 months = 52 Weeks.

Weeks      Plan
1-7            SWAT Selection Training Plan
8-36          Gun Maker Packet of Plans for SWAT/SRT
37-42        Valor
43             Total Rest
44-52        DEA FAST Selection Training Plan with these modifications:
                 – Replace the push ups with a bodyweight bench press in the assessment and follow on progressions
                 – Replace the 300m sprint with a 400m loaded sprint
                 – drop the Ruck Assessment Distance from 12 miles to 6 miles and the follow on progressions down to 2 miles
– Rob


I have been looking through your website and I love all of the programs that you have. Though I feel that most of it is above my skill level and I am not sure where to start, Ill explain.
I am a 68W NCO stationed overseas. Here is where combat medic skills and physical fitness take a back seat to hospital accreditations, inspections, mandatory trainings, and massive amounts of computer time and power point presentations.
My typical day is showing up to the hospital at 0700 and leaving around 1600. Which is roughly the same for many of the Soldiers and Airmen who work there as well. There is no formal PT sessions or mandatory PT. It is all on your own.
Now I understand there is an expectation of doing PT on our own, but many times it is really hard to get started after sitting in meeting after meeting or at the computer for an entire day.
Our APFT comes twice a year, April and October. You will see an increase in gym attendance and some of the craziest diets you can imagine, all two to three weeks prior to the APFT and H/W.
Sadly, I have fallen into this mind frame as well. Prior, I was in a combat arms unit and while deployed I workout out all of the time, either PT sessions or gym sessions with other Soldiers. At LRMC this is not overly possible due to hospital schedules.
Also personally for me, I do not have any Soldiers.
I just took my APFT and scored a 219. I was really tired after. Exhausted. I passed tape at 22%. I’m 32 and at 72″.
I need a program that either can be created or one already there to get a hospital worker back to higher standards of military life. Without injury as well. I see most of the programs you have are geared toward those in the field who are already in programs or in much better shape. I know that if I jumped into one of the programs, I would either hurt myself, or become depressed that I could not get through a days workout.
I would like to get a 270+ on my next APFT in October. I would like to not get taped.
Any advice would be awesome. Sorry for the long email. I just need some help.


I’d kickstarting your fitness with the Military On-Ramp Training Plan.
This plan is designed specifically for military athletes like you.
– Rob


Do you have a training program for an Everest Base Camp trek?


Not specifically, but from what we do have I’d recommend our Backpacking Pre-Season Training Plan.
– Rob


First of all, thank you for writing that study ( up. There aren’t many around that provide a concise review of the various waterproof fabrics and I found this article really useful.
Additionally, I must say your website is enjoyable to use.
I am doing the 3 peaks next month for the first time and wondered if you had a jacket recommendation based on a budget up to £240? Looking for a lightweight softshell, like the Rab Latok (Rab doesn’t seem to be wide enough on the shoulders for me).
eVent has been highly recommended although after reading your study Goretex may be the better option! Have you performed a secondary study yet?
If you would like to follow my hike I’ll be posting the walk on my YouTube channel (Digitally Perry).


I’m not a fan of softshell jackets because of their weight, and not being waterproof. Understand gore-tex, event and all the jackets we reviewed were “hardshell” and waterproof.
Also, from our study we found that the “breathable” element of all these fabrics is minimal … that’s why they all have pit zips!
In my personal kit I carry an Outdoor Research Helium Jacket. Waterproof, and super light, bomber and relatively cheap. OR also makes a gore-tex Foray Jacket which has been well received but is heavy at over 16 oz.
A great choice in the middle is the Arcteryx Alpha SL. You can never go wrong with Arcteryx gear.
– Rob


I’m a military athlete, I work with Naval Special Warfare. I’ve had some good success, and used twice, the DG Screener Prep and also with Busy Operator.

I just bought your Greek God package today, it seems really interesting and I’m excited to get started. I just have a few questions, apologies if this info is available somewhere; I just didn’t see it.

1. Do you recommend doing these separate programs one after the other?
2. If so, is the deload already programmed, or should I just take a slow week between heroes?
3. If so, what order do you recommend I do the programs? For example Hector followed by Achilles followed by Apollo etc…
4. If not, is the best idea to pick one and repeat it, calculating a (hopefully higher) new 1RM?
5. I continue my prep for DG. I see some real potential for growth here without continuously redoing the DG program.
– Do you agree?
– Where would be best to fit in my strength endurance push ups? I have the unfortunate attribute of quickly losing my strength endurance if I do not constantly stay on top of it particularly with push ups.

Don’t mean to bug, I appreciate any guidance.


1. Yes. Best to follow the plans in the order recommended in the Greek Hero Packet.
2. Yes. Plans are 7 weeks long and week 7 is a deload.
4. See above
5. No. Best to complete the DG Plan directly before selection. The Greek Hero plans will train all important elements except swimming. We’re currently designing a packet of SOF plans for units with SCUBA and other water mission-sets … should be out soon.  
6. Push Ups … work up to be able to do a deck of cards 2-3x week, in the evenings or after a regular training session. If I remember right, there are over 500 push ups in a deck. Start by turning over 2x cards … face cards count as 10x Reps. Aces count as 15 Reps – all other cards count their number. 3 of clubs = 3x reps, etc. 
Start with 1/2 a deck and keep working up. With work you can get to a full deck in about 30 minutes. Rest around 30 seconds between sets. 
When you can get a full deck turning over 2 cards at a time, move to 3. 
– Rob


Two questions. I have worked through a few of your workout plans that are excellent (Valor, LEO Whiskey, etc) and I am wondering about right progression. You usually suggest 25# dumbbells for the men… is that ever subject to change? I know you are concerned about muscle that does not benefit out in the field, but I just wanted to know if this is something that should never change, or if it can vary from person to person. Same would go with other weights recommended in the progr3ams as you progress through the sessions.
My second question is about running. I have a lot of concrete and roads where I live (I workout in my garage) which means most of the running I do (sprints, or a few miles) might be considered high impact. Have you seen any damage done by doing this over a long period of time?
Thank you Rob,


1. I’m assuming you’re referring to most warm up and specific exercises like Scotty Bobs, Renegade Man Makers, etc. You can increase if you like, but we’ve found 25# for men to be solid for these exercises. I wouldn’t go much above 35#.
Our strength circuits deploy scaled loading – so it automatically adjust to your strength level.
We do prescribe loading for the work capacity efforts. Don’t adjust the prescribed loading … this isn’t crossfit and our focus here is work capacity, not strength.
2. No. But we do recommend Hoka One One running shoes because of their awesome cushioning.
– Rob


I am starting week 6 of Fortitude tomorrow. Loving this plan, seen some significant improvement thus far, however, there are a few areas I could use a little bit of work. I’d like to get my APFT scores up. What would you recommend doing, in conjunction with Fortitude, to improve calisthenics/running speed?


Nothing. After Fortitude do the APFT Training Plan.
– Rob


Rob, currently doing BWF. Can I train grip strength on the side? I need more than the program is giving me. Thank you.


Sure. We’ve had success with heavy farmer carries for time – 75# plush dumbbells or a 60# sandbag. Increase the time as you get stronger.
– Rob


Hey Rob…need a decent starting point…you have a LOT of training options.  I’m 55 and wanting to get back into fighting shape.  I had a spinal fusion in 1999 and have neuroforamianl narrowing (means I get some nerve stuff into my legs sometimes).  I’m not asking for medical advice but am thinking back squats and/or deadlifts might not work.  I can do deads off a rack and feel comfortable doing front squats and/or lunges.  Anyway, I need to get strong again, and at the same time, be able to function, move, and do what I need to do…including Spartan races.  I appreciate your advice.  I had a previous subscription but thought I’d wait until I had my MRI.  Basically, the MRI said what it always says so I’m ready to get going.


I’d recommend Bodyweight Foundation to start.
– Rob


Just purchased the Bodyweight Foundation package and look forward to getting started Monday. Quick question on a substitute for one of the exercises as I’m trying to avoid doing sit-ups based on previous back issues. Is there anything specific you recommend I do instead of Sit-ups?


Replace sit ups with the Pull Up Bar Heel Tap. Killer…..
– Rob


I know the Grunt PT scheduling is designed for the line and your Greek Hero
series is designed for SOF personnel. I want to get myself to an SOF
standard of fitness, but I am just a grunt in the line.

If I follow the Grunt PT scheduling am I limiting myself to lower


The equipment and scheduling issues of line unit reality constrain
somewhat the exercise and programming flexibility I have with Grunt PT

But it’s wrong to think this programming is as well thought out,
mission-direct and effective as our Operator Sessions.

Grunt PT is designed for enlightened line unit military leaders at all
levels – Squad leaders and up, who are not satisfied with the drudgery
and mission-direct limitations of regular PT, institutional inertia
and understand that they are also responsible for their subordinates’
physical preparedness.

Grunt PT is an affordable, sharpened tool they can implement
immediately with their team if they have some equipment
resourcefulness and fitness insurgent approach.

– Rob


I am writing to you to ask for advice. I have finished the whole Ruck Based Selection training plan and swim improvement training plan, which I have bought from you last year.
Unfortunately, my selection has been postponed due to my posting abroad and finishing the Military Academy. I will attend the last ruck-based selection phase (6 days in the mountains) in October/ November 2017. I am a little bit confused on what to do now (which plan should I stick to). I have between 20 and 24 weeks until the selection takes place.
Due to small amount of time in next 6 weeks i was thinking about such training cycle:
1. Weeks 1-4 Run Improvement Training Plan + Bodyweight Training Plan (Bodyweight training after running?)
2. Weeks 5-6 + 2 more weeks after graduation- Swim Improvement Training Plan + Ruck Improvement Training Plan + Core focus
3. 12-16 weeks left…. no idea what than?
What do you think about it? I have also Gymnastic Rings and Kettlebells (2x 16kg, 1x 24kg) which i can use. The only possibility to train for me is my room, swimming pool and running inside the unit. There is no possibility for training in the gym right now. I struggle to sleep 6-7h due to huge workload, that is why i cut the time on driving to the gym and back (~45’up to 1h).
Sorry for my poor language skills.


You want to repeat the 8-week Ruck Based Selection Training Plan directly before selection … so work back from there. Also – you don’t want your training to get stale.
Here’s what I recommend:
Weeks    Plan
1-7          Gratitude
8             Week Total Rest
8-14        Humility
15-16      Weeks 1-2 of Swimming Improvement and Weeks 11-12 of the Running Improvement Plan
– Rob


About 9 months ago I hurt my wrist olympic lifting, but was never able to really rest it or get treated due to a deployment, training for Ranger School, and Ranger School (I was successful).  I was finally able to confirm that I tore several ligaments in my wrist, and though I’m still waiting on the final verdict for treatment, I will almost certainly be sidelined from using my right wrist seriously for 4-6 months.

I am a Platoon Leader in the Regular Army (Stryker unit) so I need to preserve my abilities as a tactical athlete, but plan to take a step back from my regular Crossfit heavy schedule and re-focus on triathlons and distance (1/2 and Full Marathon).

What is the best plan(s) or plan pack to focus on endurance and that avoids (or is easily scaled to avoid) two arm or wrist heavy movements (even burpees are very hard on my wrist).


I’d recommend Humility with common-sense exercise substitutions.

For push ups and pull ups use dumbbell bench presses and 1-arm Bent-over dumbbell rows. For the assessment use a 35# dumbbell.

For the dumbbell strength work in the plan, use a dumbbell in your good arm.
You should be good with the running and IBA runs in the plan.
– Rob


MTI Training Plan Tree

Greek Hero Series
Virtue Series
Time Constrained
 Busy Operator I
 Busy Operator II
New Athlete
Military On-Ramp
Shipboard Training Plan
Daily Operator Sessions
Afghanistan Pre-Deployment Training Plan
Urban Conflict Pre-Deployment Training Plan
US Army
Ruck-Based Selection (SFAS)
US Navy
US Air Force
US Coast Guard
Rescue Swimmer
US Allies
German KSK
Australian SASR
US Army
Upper Body Round Robin
US Navy
US Air Force
Battlefield Airman - TACP
All Services
Service Academy CFA
Mountain Tactical
Operator Ugly
MTI Relative Strength Assessment
US Army
Air Assaut
Army OCS
Combat Diver (CDQC)
Ranger School
Sapper Leaders Course
Special Forces Q Course
Marine Corps OCS
Basic RECON Course
US Air Force
TACP Technical School
Best Ranger
USMC RECON Challenge
Bataan Death March
Range Fitness Mid-Range Carbine
Rucking Improvement
Running Improvement
Swimming Improvement 
Operator Pentathlon
MTI Relative Strength Assessment
Rat 6
Big 24
Work Capacity
TACP Technical School
Ultimate Work Capacity I
Core/Tactical Chassis
Chassis Integrity Training Plan
Ruck-Based Selection Training Packet (SFAS)
SFOD-D Section Packet
BUD/S Training Packet
USAF CCT/PJ/CRO Selection Packet
Rookie Training Packet
Greek Hero Packet
Virtue Series Packet

Spirits Series
Daily LE Officer Sessions
Gun Maker Series
BORTAC Selection
DEA FAST Selection
Cooper PFT
LE Athlete Fitness Assessment
Border Patrol BORSTAR
Border Patrol BORTAC
US Marshals SOG
MTI SWAT Selection
Patrol/Detective Spirits Packet
SWAT/SRT Gun Maker Packet
LE Academy Training Plan
LE On-Ramp

Big Cat Series
CPAT Training Plan
Urban Fire/Rescue PFT
Cooper PFT
Urban Fire Fitness Assessment
Fire Academy Training Plan
Fire/Rescue On Ramp
Hotshot/Smokejumper Pre-Season
Wildand Fire Pre-Season
Smokejumper Selection
Big Cat Packet

357 Strength
Big 24 V4
Eccentric Strength
Rat 6
Super Squat
TLU Strength
Single Limb Strength
Ultimate Meathead
Hypertrophy for Skinny Guys
Kettlebell Strength
MTI Relative Strength Assessment
In-Season Strength for Endurance Athletes
Off-Season Strength for Endurance Athletes
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Training Plan
SF45 Alpha
Swimming Improvement
Fat Loss
Running Improvement
Ultimate Work Capacity I
Meathead Marathon
Low Back Fitness
Post-Rehab Leg Injury
Arm Injury
Leg Injury
Spartan Sprint
Tough Mudder
Goruck Challenge
Goruck Heavy
Goruck Selection
Chassis Integrity Training Plan
Core Strength Bodyweight Only
Core Strength for Runners
Low Back Fitness
Bodyweight Foundation
Bodyweight Build
Dumbell/Kettlebell Larry
Dumbell/Kettlebell Curly
Dumbell/Kettlebell Moe
Sandbag Ethos
Stuck in a Motel 
Dumbbell/Kettlebell Three Stooges
Limited Equipment Training Packet

Greek Heroine Series
Daily Mountain Base Sessions
Backpacking Pre-Season
Peak Bagger
Alpine Climbing
Alpine Rock Pre-Season
Alpinist Fitness Assessment
AMGA Alpine Guide Course
Big Mountain
Denali Training Plan
Rainier Training Plan
Expedition Mixed/Ice
Peak Bagger
Rock Climbing
Rock Climb Pre-Season
Warbonnet Cycle
AMGA Rock Guide Course
Ice/Mixed Pre-Season 
Expedition Mixed/Ice
Lift-Assisted Skiing
30-Min Per Day Dryland
In-Season Ski Maintenance
Monster Factory Strength
Dryland Skiing 
Backcountry Skiing
Backcountry Ski Pre-Season
Randonee Race Pre-Season
AMGA Ski Guide Course
Ultra Running
Ultra Pre-Season
100-Mile Ultra
50-Mile Ultra
Mountain Running
Alpine Running
Running Strength
In-Season Strength for Endurance Athletes
Backcountry Big Game Pre-Season
Kayak/Paddling Pre-Season
Mountain Bike
Mountain Bike Pre-Season
Mountain Guide
AMGA Alpine Guide Course
AMGA Rock Guide Course
AMGA Ski Guide Course
Mountain Guide (Alpine) Pre-Season
Wildland Firefighter
Hotshot/Smokejumper Pre-Season
Wildand Fire Pre-Season
Smokejumper Selection
Back Country Big Game Hunting Packet
Greek Heroine Packet



3-30 Work Capacity
369 Work Capacity
Gym-Based Stamina


Strength and Honor


Bodyweight I
Bodyweight II
Core Strength II
Sandbag/Weight Vest/Dumbbell

BUD/s V1
Military Athlete Endurance Cycle
Squad PT

Patrol Officer Training Plan
SWAT/SRT Kickstart

Pingora (Rock Climbing)

In-Season Girl’s Volley Ball
Mountain Athlete for CrossFitters
CrossFit Murph Training Plan
SSD For CrossFitters


Learn more about MTI and our Programming HERE


MTI’s Top 3 Strength Exercises By Category

Above: The Craig Special + Push Press is MTI’s favorite Total Body Strength exercise.

By Rob Shaul

Here’s the Quick List. Explanations follow:

Total Body Strength

  1. Craig Special + Push Press
  2. Power Clean + Push Press
  3. Mutant Maker

Lower Body Press

  1. Front Squat
  2. Leg Blaster
  3. Back Squat

Lower Body Pull

  1. Walking Lunge
  2. Hinge Lift
  3. Box Squat

Upper Body Press

  1. Push Press
  2. Bench Press
  3. Kettlebell Floor Press

Upper Body Pull

  1. Rope Climb
  2. Pull Up
  3. Lee Special

Total Body Strength

I define a “total body” strength exercise as one which includes a significant level change and/or has a Olympic lifting power element.

Do you suck at Oly lifting? No matter … I’ve found the exercises below to be great strength builders no matter the athlete’s Oly lifting proficiency. Technical ability allows athletes to lift more weight, but everyone increases strength doing these exercises. Athletes with poor technical ability just don’t need to load on as much weight to increase their individual strength.

How? Take my long-time lab rat, Cody, as an example. Cody has been training with me for 4+ years, and simply cannot figure out how the clean movement, no matter how much I coach him. Yet, his nick-name in the gym is “Cock Strong.”

Younger, smaller, more athletic lab rats will rep power cleans at 225# with perfect form and crisp movement.

Cody’s “power clean” is really a dead lift + a reverse curl. He reps 185#.  You try reverse curling 185# …..

Here are my top 3 Total Body Strength Exercises:

(1) Craig Special + Push Press

Hang Squat Clean + Front Squat + Pause at top then + Push Press

The Craig Special + Push Press combines many of the great elements I like to see in a total body exercise:

  • Trains the ability of the athlete to take “impact” via the “catch” of the hang squat clean
  • Includes two simple, non-complicated strength elements with the front squats and the push press
  • Inlcudes a significant level change – with the push press to the load overhead
  • There is a significant Mountain/Tactical Chassis demand – think midsection strength.

After a good warm up, complete 9 rounds of 2 reps of this exercise – working up rapidly until 2x is “hard but doable.” Aim to be at that load by round 4 or 5 and get in a good stretch between rounds.

(2) Power Clean + Push Press
About 12 years ago I spent a week shadowing Dan John when he was still a High School strength and conditioning coach in Salt Lake. Dan had a simple formula for getting strong. “Take something heavy off the ground and put it over head.” This is the definition of the Power Clean + Push Press.

Note that I don’t chose the Push Jerk. Why? The push press is harder, plus I personally have never been able to do a “jerk.”

(3) Mutant Maker
Hang Squat Clean into a Thruster. Another, great, total body exercise which will get athletes strong no matter their technical lifting form and ability. this is just simple, hard, work.

Lower Body Press

(1) Front Squat
Most efficient, effective quad strength training exercise I’ve found. The front squat also has an incredible core strength demand and is safe compared to the back squat … if the athlete fails he/she can simply “dump” the barbell forward to escape.

One issue with this exercise is many men, especially guys in their 30-40s, have wrist flexibility issues and can’t get the barbell in the “rack” position. These athlete can try our 2-Finger Front Squat Technique, or simply use the body-building crossed arms technique to hold the barbell.

(2) Leg Blaster
I believe in the Leg Blaster’s ability to build leg strength so strongly that during the current “Geek Cycle” we’re running with our Tactical Lab Rats, we’re actually running a mini-study comparing the leg-strength building abilities of Leg Blasters to the Front Squat.

The power of this complex of bodyweight leg strength exercises is it’s ability to train eccentric leg strength. Leg Blasters have been a go-to exercise for years at MTI to train skiers for skiing, alpinists for downhill hiking, and soldiers with Afghanistan deployment orders for the demands of mountainous patrols.

I recall an email I received from a MARSOC Marine about 8 years who was using our Afghanistan Pre-Deployment Training Plan to train his team for an upcoming deployment. Being the high-achieving SOF guy he was, he decided not to follow the leg blaster progression in the plan and skipped ahead to the last week – and completed 5x Full Leg Blasters with a short rest between.

“I could barely walk for a week” he wrote. Be careful with these.

(3) Back Squat
A few years ago I rarely programmed in back squats – favoring front squats instead. What changed was our experimentation and development of our Super Squat strength training progression. Super Squats deploys back squats, and we simply saw incredible strength gains from this exercise and the super squat progression.

Many coaches consider back squats a total body strength exercise and it’s hard to argue with them. There is a reason the back squat is a staple in college strength programs nation-wide. It is a classic, powerful lower body strength building exercise which hammers the quads, butt, and hips.

Lower Body Pull

(1) Walking Lunge – Loaded
The older I get and the longer I coach the more I love the simple, loaded walking lunge.

Reason #1: No learning curve. Grab a pair of dumbbells/kettlebells and start walking, tapping your down knee to the floor each rep. Step through … don’t stop in the middle.

Reason #2: Trains quads and butt/hamstrings at the same time … during the exercise athletes feel their quads. The next day they feel their butt and hamstrings. It’s the best 2-for-1 lower body exercise I’ve found.

Reason #3: Anything heavy will work. No dumbbells? … use a barbell. No gym? Use a sandbag? No sandbag? Pick up a heavy rock …. you get the idea.

After a good warm up, complete 8 rounds of 3 reps of this exercise (3x = 3x steps each leg, 6x total). Again – work up on load rapidly and aim to be at your “hard but doable” load by round 4 or 5. Your butt will not like you in the morning.

The butt/hamstring soreness is why I consider the walking lunge a lower body “pull” exercise.

(2) Hinge Lift
Our version of the dead lift. Great hamstring/butt work.

(3) Box Squat
I’m not sure why, but I’ve found the box squat really trains the hips and butt – more so than the similar back squat.

Chose a box height which gets the athletes thighs to parallel or slightly below, and be sure to sit on the box and unload the legs – don’t touch and go. This unloading and subsequent firing really engage the hips.

Upper Body Push

(1) Push Press
As an old (49) meathead and gym rat, it pains me to put the Push Press ahead of my beloved Bench Press in this list. Not only do I love bench pressing, but I absolutely suck at push presses.

But …. I believe the Push Press is the most functional and transferable upper body push strength exercise for mountain and tactical athletes. Transferable = what will best transfer to the type of upper body pressing these athletes will do in the “real” world.

(2) Bench Press
Whenever the young tactical lab rats in the gym consistently beat me in some lower body strength lift or work capacity event, I strategically program in bench presses for the next training session. The old lab rats in the gym, specifically James and me, love to bench with the young guys.

Nothing makes my day like crushing some young man, 20+ years younger than me by 50# in the bench press. Nothing.

HERE are my “Super Secret” bench press secrets. Do not share this link!

(3) Kettlebell Floor Press
Single-limb upper body push exercise which also has a significant core strength element. Awesome exercise. Can be completed with either dumbbells or kettlebells.

Upper Body Pull

(1) Rope Climb
My original lab rat, Josh, called the rope climb the “sled push for the upper body” – and it’s my favorite pulling movement – even when using the feet. I find the rope climb more functional/transferable than the traditional pull up for mountain and tactical athletes. Plus it’s a 3-for-one exercise …. pulling strength, grip strength, mid-section strength, and when loaded (weight vest or IBA) all of the above plus leg work.

The Rope Climb is not only a great upper body pulling exercise – it is a great total body exercise. MTI’s Rope Climbing Technique

(2) Pull Up

We do ours “strict” – no kipping/bucking or chicken-necking. Full elbow extension to chin above the bar. Tactical athletes should train unloaded and with weight – 25-45 pounds.

(3) Lee Special

Another exercise I suck at, the Lee Special is a great single-limb pulling exercise with a significant mid-section strength component. Great training!




Want More? Read  MTI’s Seven Different Strength Progressions



Arete 6.22.17

How U.S., South Korean Special Ops Would Join Forces in a New Korean War, Cipher Brief
Qatar Crisis And The Fight Against Terrorism, Small Wars Journal
US shoots down another Iranian UAV over Syria, Long war Journal
Multi-Domain Battle: Airland Battle, Once More, With Feeling, War on the Rocks
How could this happen? The Fitzgerald, the U.S. Navy, and Collisions at Sea, War on the Rocks
How NATO endures in the twenty-first century, Modern Warfare Institute

Homeland Security/Terrorism
Applying the Economic, Homeland and National Security Analysis Framework, Homeland Security Affairs
Cognitive Defense: Influencing the Target Choices of Less Sophisticated Threat Actors, Homeland Security Affairs
Colombia: Bombing At Mall Kills 3, Including French Woman, InHomelandSecurity
Homeland Security Market Analysis By Type (Aviation, Maritime, Border, Critical Infrastructure, Cyber, CBRN and Mass Transit) And Segment Forecasts To 2024, Grand View Research
Terror in London seems to confirm Muslims’ growing dread, Washington Post

First Responder
Grenfell Tower: Hero firefighter shares powerful personal account of London tragedy,
5 ways the GI Bill can help you earn a job as a firefighter, Fire Chief
London fire harbinger of looming challenge for fire departments, Fire Chief
Decision Fatigue and Why It Should Be Understood by Law Enforcement Leadership, Police Chief
Designing the Future of Wildfire Modeling, Wildfire Magazine

Bowhunting Hacks,
Land in the Sky: Accidents in North American Mountaineering, Mountain Gazette
Found: Skiing’s Soul, Powder
American Katie Bono Gets a Denali Speed Record, Gripped
Stian Hagen – Cutting Teeth in Chamonix, Arc’teryx Blog
New Female FKT for Denali, Gripped
The Music of the Open Road, Adventure Journal
Climate Study Suggests Skiing’s Days Are Numbered, Powder
Can Western States Stop Doping in Ultra Racing?, Outside

The Case for Burly Hiking Boots, Outside
How to Quickly Make a Bow and Arrow, OutdoorLife
The Best New Tactical Gear From the 2017 Shot Show, Popular Mechanics
The 10 Coolest Adventure Rigs, Outside
The Best Scopes of 2017, Outdoor Life

4 Things Top Performers Do Daily, Outside
What Two Weeks Off Exercise Really Does to Your Body, Mens Journal
How a Kiteboarding Daredevil Trains, WSJ
How a Collegiate Rodeo Athlete Trains, WSJns
Freesking, the Mental Game, MTI
Back Pain? Try Yoga, NY Times
Meditate 12 minutes. Train Harder in the Gym., NY Times
6-Step Plan to Getting Mentally Tough, Mens Journal
How To Mentally Recover from Injury, Outside
Four Things Top Performers Do Every Day, Outside – Science of Performance
Today’s Paleo Diet Looks Nothing Like What Cavemen Used to Eat, Outside – Performance Plate
Diet with a combination of high protein and high total antioxidant capacity is strongly associated with low prevalence of frailty among old Japanese women, Nutrition Journal
Music Might be Your Next Prescription Drug, Outside
10 Foods for Athletes, Outside

The Mountaineer: My 3 Most Dangerous Mountain Mistakes

Ryan on route. Andy Bardon photo.

By Ryan Burke

Death is not something mountaineers talk about frequently.

The micro-crimp on pitch three can be debated for hours, but discussing the possibility of our own demise is pretty much off limits. Why? Maybe it’s superstition that keeps our tongues tied or possibly we need the over confidence that a false sense of safety provides.

There are plenty of ways to die in the mountains: avalanches, grizzly attacks, hypothermia, drowning, rock fall, etc, etc, etc. Living in Jackson Hole, I read about these incidents frequently as the paper describes in detail their final fateful decisions.

However, what I really want to know is what happened before all the drama went down. What was the first domino that lead them to their last breath?

I don’t necessarily want the details from hours before. I want to know what happened days, months, or even years prior, that brought them to that point. As mistakes that end in the mountains usually start someplace else.

Therefore, tracing my three biggest mountain mistakes back to their origins could help save my life.

Mistake #1) Starting an Instagram Account

My rational brain is horrified by my decision making skills when a camera is present, but it’s hard to hear common sense while my inner voice loudly debates various witty hashtags for my upcoming post.

When asked what I’m thinking about while running up and down mountains, I usually fumble out a cover story of “being in the zone” and “focusing on my breath.” While the true story is that often I’m mentally editing my future Facebook post so that it will portray me as badass but not boastful.

I know I’m not alone in selectively managing how I’m perceived, but I’m not proud of it either. 

Fact is, being overly concerned with my summit selfie has gotten me into a lot of trouble. The mountains deserve respect and if my mind isn’t where my body is, my mountaineering career could come to a dramatic halt.

One example:  If I wasn’t distracted by my ego I would have called it quits after summiting the Grand Teton, but instead I thought it was a good idea to extend my day and swim across Jenny Lake

Barely reaching the opposite shore my mind finally stopped fantasizing about imaginary “likes” as my legs staggered to stay upright. The world suddenly went dark as I hit the ground just inshore and reality caught up to me. Stirring from my daze, I stumbled towards my bike and rode back to town, chastising myself for my social media tunnel vision.

In hindsight, my mistake wasn’t trying to capture the adventure in digital form. My mistake was that my motivation for documenting had become dangerous.

I was pursuing local celebrity status and let future glory clog present judgment. I had forgot that the payout for finishing a goal is internal growth, not external validation.

Accolades are useless when printed on a posthumous trophy.

I sought out the “perfect post” in order to connect with others but all I found was separation from myself.


Mistake #2) Celebrating my 35th birthday

I have no major injuries and I can still outrun some of the twenty years olds at the gym, but getting older is messing with my athletic vanity.

My speckled gray beard and full time job remind me that time is running out. Often my thoughts wonder in the direction of “if not now then when.” 

From a self-diagnosis perspective, I’m exhibiting symptoms of weekend warrior disease crossed with Peter Pan syndrome. In the back of my head, I can hear the impending doom of children’s voices restricting my climbing trips and feel the future aches that will undoubtedly stall my progression.

Rushing to fit it all in before old age arrives is anxiety-provoking and downright dangerous.

In the office on Mondays, I optimistically check five different weather websites searching for the one that tells me what I want to hear. On route, I forget that there will be a tomorrow or a next year and push forward without patience.

Somehow I keep ahead of my aging psyche and return home safely, only to be greeted by friend’s wedding and baby photos that motivate me back out the door for one more lap – always convincing myself that “the next summit” will finally fill that void that complains it isn’t satisfied.

Creeping closer to athletic irrelevancy isn’t a mistake that I could have avoided, but knowing when to pass the baton onto the next generation is a skill. It is a cruel shame that right as I’m reaching my mountaineering maturity my expiration date draws closer.

However, when I meet my maker I want to tell stories of my grandchildrens’ first steps and make him blush when I retell the events of my wedding night.

By then, hopefully, I will have forgotten that route I didn’t finish or the elusive summit that was outside of my aging ability.


Mistake #3) Putting All My Identity Eggs in One Basket

Growing up on the East Coast, the word “mountaineer” was foreign to me so I never imagined the label would come to define my way of life.

There is a ton of pressure that comes with the title, mainly the expectation that danger is something you’re familiar with. At dinner parties, the conversation tends to eventually gravitate towards “my next big objective.”

If my answer doesn’t elicit a startle response, then I usually feel like I have disappointed the questioner in some way. After unintentionally adding their expectations they casually go back to their meal, where as I start to fantasize about riskier ways to put my life on the line and live up to my “mountaineer” title.

My therapist would tell me to not care about what others think of me, but the look of approval from your peers is a hard drug to kick. Status is intoxicating and the desire to please others can motivate me much further than self congratulations.

I both love and hate being known as a mountaineer. The label sometimes influences me to take unnecessary risks because that is what I’m “suppose” to do.

Other days I’m rewarded with prestige and credibility for fulfilling my role. Most of the time the danger seems worth it, but when I witness the depth of suffering that comes from a mountain death my justifications for continuing ring hollow.

When I look in the mirror I want to see more than just a mountaineer, as centering my identity around a hobby that could easily kill me is a recipe for an early death. I once read that you should spend 10,000 hours on a skill set in order to become one of the best in your field. Well count me out, because Sunday afternoon I’m going to read a book and Monday I intend to find a way to flirt with that girl from yoga class.

Mountaineering as a lifestyle is important to me, but it is a mistake to make it my everything.


About The Author
Ryan is an accomplished mountaineer who lives in Jackson, Wy. He is a former MTI Crux Award Winner.




You Might Also Like MTI’s Mountain Guide Pre-Season Training Plan


The Chassis Integrity Exercise Menu

Pro Mountain Guide Sheldon and Sponsored Mountain Athlete Ryan train rotational chassis integrity with the sandbag keg lift.

By Rob Shaul

I’ve written before about MTI’s core strength programming to our “Chassis Integrity” methodology.

To review, in 2015 we abandoned our former core/midsection programming because we found while it did a great job of strengthening the mid section in isolation, it did not do an adequate job transferring that strength to the entire tactical or mountain “chassis” which extends from the shoulders to the knees.

Specifically, we found our programming build a strong lower body (legs) and mid section (core) but the “integrity” between the two areas did not follow.

This caused me to re-think our core-strength training methodology and lead to our Chassis Integrity theory.

Out were isolated ground-based core exercises like weighted sit ups, face down back extensions and EO’s and circuits completed for rounds and reps.

In were functional mid section strength exercises completed from standing or kneeling only, and completed for time to train both strength and strength endurance.

Cycle-to-cycle Chassis Integrity programming varies, but in general, if we are able to train Chassis Integrity two time per week, one day we do an “ART” circuit of three exercises and the second day we do a Low Back circuit of 3-4 low back/extension focused exercises. Both circuits are done for time – 10-20 minutes.

“ART” is an acronym for 3 types of Chassis Integrity Exercises – Anti Rotation, Rotation and Total.

On cycles were we only train Chassis Integrity once per week, we generally program a single “ARTE” circuit – which trains an Anti-Rotation, Rotation, Total and Extension core strength movement.

All the exercises for all 3 types of circuits (ART, ARTE and Low Back) are from the standing or kneeling position and all are done for time, not rounds and reps.

Below is and example of each type of circuits and further below is the exercise menu I pull from for each type of Chassis Integrity Exercise Category.

You’ll notice the extensive use of sandbag exercises in this menu. We’ve found sandbag to be incredible chassis integrity training tools.

Questions/Feedback? Email


ART Circuit Example:

20 Minute Grind …

5x 1-Sided Dead Lift @ 15/25# (Anti-Rotation)

5x Sandbag Keg Lift @ 40/60# (Rotation)

5x Sandbag Getup @ 40/60# (Total)


ARTE Circuit Example:

20 Minute Grind …

5x Cauldron @ 15/25# (Anti-Rotation)

10x Standing Slasher to Halo @ 12/16kg (Rotation)

5x Sandbag Toss & Chase @ 40/60# (Total)

10x Good Morning @ 55/75# (Extension)


Low Back Circuit Example:

15 Minute Grind ….

15/15 Standing Founder

10x Hinge Lift @ 65/95#

15/15 Low Back Lunge

10x Swing @ 20/24kg




Total Body Chassis Integrity Exercises

Sandbag Get Up

Sandbag Toss & Chase

Power Clean + Push Press

Sandbag Clean and Push Press

Sandbag Burpee

Sandbag Squat Thrust

Sandbag Pickup and Carry

Sandbag Get Up and Run

Sandbag Clean and Run

Dumbbell/Kettlebell Snatch or Clean and Push Press

Hang Power Snatch


Rotational Chassis Integrity Exercises

Keg Lift

Med Ball Wall Slam

Band Rotation

Slasher (kneeling and standing)

Slasher-to-Halo (kneeling and standing)

Standing Russian Twist


Anti-Rotational Chassis Integrity Exercises


Kneeling Sandbag Halfmoon

1-Sided Dead Lift

1-Sided Barbell Walk

1-Sided Farmer’s Carry – self explanatory.

Band Press Out


Extension Exercises

Hinge Lift (light weight, high rep)

Swings (kettlebell/dumbbell)

Ab Wheel or Barbell Rollout

Standing Founder

Kneeling Founder

Low Back Lunge

Good Mornings


Learn more about our Chassis Integrity Training HERE

Plan Focus: Hypertrophy For Skinny Guys


By Rob Shaul

The Hypertrophy Plan for Skinny Guys is one of the few plans in our history that has never warranted an update. I nailed it’s design first time out.

The goal of “hypertrophy” training is not strength gain, but increased muscle mass. In general, to get strong, you want to lift heavy, but few reps per set – 5 or less.

To build mass, you want to lift moderately heavy, but increase the reps per set to 8-15.

This plan deploys 3 set rep/schemes: 8×8 (8 sets of 8 reps), 6×10 and 4×12 – every training session. Further, the plan deploys old school “super sets” – two exercises per circuit, for example front squats and dumbbell push presses – which target two different body parts.

This makes the programming super-efficient in the weightroom and really packs in the volume in a 60 minute training session.

It builds hypertrophy for both the lower and upper body.

The plan includes a mid-week core and work capacity day on Wednesdays.


  • Monday: Leg and Arm Hypertrophy
  • Tuesday: Chest/Shoulders/Back Hypertrophy
  • Wednesdays: Work Capacity/Core
  • Thursday: Leg and Arm Hypertrophy
  • Friday: Chest/Shoulders/Back Hypertrophy
  • Saturday and Sunday: Total rest.


Who is the plan for?
I rarely, if ever, recommend the plan for mountain athletes. Often I’ll recommended it for young men already in or heading to the military who have some obvious need to add muscle – think 6-footers who weigh 160 pounds. It can also be a great plan for high school athletes – not only does it increase mass, but because of the high reps, athletes get lots of practice with the exercises.

Finally, several veteran tactical athletes who don’t really need the mass, but simply like to train body-builder style will complete the plan from time to time because they miss simply throwing iron around in the weight room. Many have repeated the plan several times.

Overall, the Hypertrophy Plan for Skinny Guys is a focused, direct, super efficient and “fun” (for meatheads) training plan on our general fitness side.


Here is what some of our customers said after completing the plan:

"Coach, I wanted to say nice job on Hypertrophy & Rat 6.
Started the two right after SFAS, at 150lbs. Ate everything during Hypertrophy, finished it at 165-168 depending on time of day. Ate clean, but lots of carbs through rice. Did a 1 week deload, then started Rat 6. Weights are before-after
Bench 245-275
Strict Press 135-165
Power Clean 200-225
Clean & Jerk 200-245
Front Squat 220-295
Deadlift 315-375
*I replaced squat clean with full c/j, and hinge lift with full deads.
Current weight is about 175, below 10% body fat.
Planning on doing valor again next then restarting the 3 over again in order. Thanks again coach!"


"I am one week away from completing my third military athlete program and am once again more than satisfied with the results.  To date I have completed the body weight, skinny guy and am one week away from completing the 357 plan.  I am sure you get inundated with emails so as a refresher my initial goals were to increase strength and to add some mass.  I started at 158 and am now somewhere around 174 (I am 6'1" and 32 years old); so I am headed in the correct direction. I would like to eventually get back up to a weight of 190; where I was prior to training for/running a marathon a couple of years ago.  I have also seen strength gains via the 357 plan and feel fitter and healthier overall."


"I'm excited to write this email, because this will be the second military athlete program I have completed. The first being the Afghanistan pre deployment program. I am currently on a rest day anxious for week 4 of the Hypertrophyprogram. I have been following the meal plan and eating everything I can and can tolorate. As far as protien and peanut butter I just re supplied myself with the help of friends and family in the states. I wanted to get advice from the man himself, on what workout would be beneficial to keep gaining size and overall strength and durability.  I went from 134 to 148lbs. I recently scored a 300 on a pt test here in Afghanistan about a week ago with my 2 mile time sitting surely at 11:52. I'm happy with where I'm at for running that has always been part of a weekly schedule. What program(s) though would you recommend for me, whether it be part of LEA, MA, or MA it doesnt matter to me. Im actually looking into SWAT once I leave the military this next summer. Look forward to hearing from you!"



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