All posts by SSD

Arete 2.15.18


The Major Flaws in Afghanistan’s Intelligence War, The National Interest
Air Force plans F-35 environmental study at Selfridge, The Detroit News
Women prove they’re up to the challenge of Marine Corps rigorous boot camp, USA Today
Big changes coming to the Marine Corps’ rifle squads and scout sniper platoons, Marine Corps Times
Don’t Retire Our Stealth Bombers, National Review
Advancements in Body Armor, Biometrics to Provide Protection, National Defense
U.S. MQ-9 Reaper Takes Out Russian T-72 in Syria,


Homeland Security / First Responder / Wildland Fire

What if North Korea Prevailed in the Korean War? War is Boring
FBI Director’s Shock Claim: Chinese Students Are a Potential Threat, Daily Beast
Experts: Drone incursion shows that Israeli-Iranian status quo is unsustainable, Homeland Security News Wire
Pentagon seeks to soothe Turkish fears over Syria border security request, Al-Monitor
The Yarnell Hill Fire lone survivor: Interview with Brendan McDonough, Wildfire Today
Possible explanation as to why Granite Mountain Hotshots left safety zone, Wildfire Today
Chicago Police Commander Fatally Shot While Pursuing Suspect,



Two Women Just Climbed One of America’s Hardest Routes, Outside Magazine
Ranking the Hardest Winter Olympic Sports, Outside Magazine
Meet Team USA’s youngest and oldest Winter Olympians,
What the Times Got Wrong About Cross-Country Skiing, Outside Magazine
Why Ski Resorts Are Getting Into the Utility Business, Powder Magazine
Prepping Skis for the Olympics Is Both Art and Science, Powder Magazine
Training with an Injury, TrainingBeta
When is an Electric Mountain Bike No Longer a Bicycle?, Outside
A Packraft That Rolls to the Size of a Paper Towel Roll, Gearjunkie
25 Places to See Before They’re Gone, Adventure Blog



The Curiously Elastic Limits of Endurance, Outside Magazine
The Cures That Are Killing Us, Breaking Muscle
‘Muscle Memory’ Exists at DNA Level, Science Daily
Clean Eating vs Flexible Dieting: Putting the Argument to Bed,
Podcast: Episode 381 – Dr. Nasha Winters – The Metabolic Approach To Cancer,
Brooks Koepka Is One of the Fittest Guys in Golf—Here’s How He Does It, Men’s Health
How to Run 100 Miles: A Total Amateurs Guide, Gearjunkie
10 Commandments of Gym Etiquette, Muscle & Fitness
5 Reasons Your Push Press Sucks, Muscle & Fitness

Top Book Recommendations from Scrum Participants


MTI SCRUM Participants, past and present, were asked for their current Top 3 Book recommendations for both, professional and personal reading. Their recommendations are below….


Joe Hogan, Fire Captain

Personal books

Bobby Sands: Writings from Prison, by Bobby Sands, M.P. This is a collection of writings smuggled from of the cell of political prisoner, Bobby Sands, during the years of the “Blanket Protest” and his eventual hunger strike to the death. I have been deeply influenced by the portrait on an indomitable will in the hands of a seemingly ordinary person. Sands’ devotion to his cause and his love for his comrades, in the face of horrific conditions and torture remind me that there is nothing stronger than the human spirit motivated by love. My personal takeaway from the book is summed in this quote, ” Nothing else seems to matter except that lingering constant reminding thought, ‘Never give up’. No matter how bad, how black, how painful, how heart-breaking, ‘Never give up’, ‘Never despair’, ‘Never lose hope’.”

Francis: The Journey and the Dream, by Murray Bodo, O.F.M. This is a somewhat poetic recounting of the life of Saint Francis of Assisi. I’ve found it to be the most personally relatable work on Francis. It brought to life for me the joy he uncovered in a life of radical poverty, humility, and sacrifice. It has motivated me to seek out simplicity and to find enjoyment and strength in reducing myself and building others.

The Grapes of Wrath, by John Stienbeck This is admittedly an unoriginal choice. While I am a huge fan of Stienbeck’s literary style (and this is arguably his best work), I chose this because of the themes. The value and nobility of the “common man” is something that is too often ignored. Reading this as a young man, and repeatedly as I’ve aged, has encouraged empathy and an admiration for those society ignores.


Professional Books

Report from Engine Co. 82, by Dennis Smith A chronicle of a year in the life of the busiest FDNY engine during the “war years” in the South Bronx. The book details the daily grind encountered by firefighters working some of the heaviest fire duty in the history of the fire service while also encountering some of the most crushing urban poverty in American history. Smith highlights the absolute commitment these men had to one another in unvarnished terms as well as sharing his own vulnerable thoughts and fears. I’ve not only seen this as am important legacy for all firefighters but also as a practical insight into loyalty, commitment and leadership under fire. As silly as it sounds, I’ve often asked myself how Engine Co. 82 might handle a given situation and tried to act accordingly.

3,000 Degrees, by Sean Flynn In a style similar to Sebastian Junger’s, Sean Flynn examines the landmark Worchester Cold Storage fire, which killed six firefighters. In doing so, he not only walks you through the tactics employed that night but he delves deeply into the lives of the fallen firefighters and some of the pivotal survivors. I find the experiences of the Worchester FD to be more relatable to my own department than FDNY in the 1970’s. The backstories of the men and their families remind me of the people who surround me at work and the events of that night could easily happen where I work. It has caused me to constantly evaluate my own readiness and to fear complacency above all things.

Battling Buzzards, by Gerald Ast This is the story for the 517th Parachute Infantry Combat Team, from their formation early in WWII, through multiple campaigns in Europe and eventually home. This is of particular interest to me because this was my grandfather’s outfit and he was my greatest role model. The book examines how this high speed unit was built and lead from the ground up. It provides tremendous insight into leadership and training. For example, the officers and senior NCO’s of the 517th were expected to lead in areas of basic soldiering such PT, marksmanship before being trusted with positions of command. They were also expected to be deeply involved in combat operations. I’ve tried hard to emulate this, “never ask a man to do that which you cannot or will not do yourself” style in my career.


Jacob McQuaid, Firefighter

Personal books

Extreme Ownership; Willink, Jocko and Babin, Leif This book is also in my professional list and I chose this particular title because of how the authors are able to apply lessons learned in an austere environment to daily living as well as into the professional realm, career and inter and intra-personal relationships. The simplicity of holding oneself accountable for preparation, success, failure, adaptability, and correction is essential for, in my opinion, holistic success.

Stealing Fire: How Silicon Valley, the Navy Seals, and Maverick Scientists are Revolutionizing the Way We Live and Work; Kotler, Steven and Wheal, Jamie I heard about this book from two podcasts that I subscribe.  The authors were interviewed and the thoughts and direction of their research is in alignment with my personal interests.  The premise of the book is how organizations create physical, mental and emotional states in order to achieve outcomes; such as learning a new language, creating and solving mathematical and scientific proofs, technical innovation that in early human development and cultures have taken decades to achieve.  The methods used range from brain wave stimulation to extreme sensory deprivation or sensory overloads.  One question that is not brought up and I have about this process is what is the long term effect of “hacking” these systems to achieve a short term goal.  A question that is never really addressed in the book or in the interviews that I have heard.

Little Toy Dog; White, William I read this book when I was in 7th or 8th grade.  My father is career Air Force and his job while I was growing up was an air crewman on an RC-135 as a signals analyst.  I remember asking him what he did at work all the time.  My friends dads were in the military too and they were pilots, military police, or chaplains.  All job descriptors that you knew what they did.  I didn’t know, and moving all the time as the new kid I was always asked by teachers “What does your dad do?”  and “I don’t know” was my standard reply.  My father let me borrow his copy of this book and told me that this book and the Cardinal of the Kremlin by Tom Clancy would answer some of those questions.  Little Toy Dog is about an aircrew aboard an RB-47 who were shot down by Soviet aircraft in 1960 and the two survivors, Capts. McKone and Olmstead, were held captive and charged with espionage by the Soviet government.  The book hints at and gives some information about the mission profile of this aircraft and the aircrews on board.  Not long after this incident took place, the RC-135 class of aircraft were commissioned and continued these types of missions.  This book is important to me because it allowed my father and I to strengthen our relationship because I had an idea of what he did, but more importantly why he did it.


Professional Books

Extreme Ownership; Willink, Jocko and Babin, Leif I was introduced to this book by a fellow fighter on my crew.  At the time we were having personal and professional challenges with our Engine Captain and we asked if as a crew we could read this book and begin to apply the lessons presented on our crew.  Myself and the other firefighter believed in and still use the principles discussed in the book and I can say they have given me a framework and definition for how I feel about leadership and a practical way to implement them.

Masters of Chaos: Secret History of the Special Forces; Robinson, Linda When I was a teacher, I would mentor students from Northern Arizona University during their student teaching experience. I would give this book as a reading assignment.  I taught History and Social Studies and the lessons learned from the ODA’s in the early part of the Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns had parallels in both the American Civil War and other engagements of counter-insurgency units throughout history which affected large powerful countries even to this day.  It also was a way to show them that audacity and thinking outside of the box to create positive change and success was sometimes a hard choice to make.  It was the right way, not the easy way and that during their careers in the field of education they would have to make those choices at some point.

Focus: Elevating the Essentials; Schmoker, Mike, EdD This book teaches a way to dissect text to truly understand the author’s intent as well as create a template for reading for deep understanding and logical argument.  Dr. Schmoker mentored me as a teacher and I used his technique for many years to help students get below the surface of historical documents, advertising, and other texts that we used in the class.


James Easton, Australian Army Officer

Personal books

Sapiens – Yuval Nohari I recently read this book and it has massively changed the way I perceive many things in my life. It is essentially a world history book that impartially discusses the existence of Homo Sapiens and how we have come to our current state. The biggest influence this book had on me was its impartiality and objective look at what are fundamentally subjective issues. It has made me reconsider how I interact with the world, in particular consumerist habits and constant wanting for things, and it has driven me to understand the variance in world outlooks.

Man’s Search for Meaning – Viktor Frankl I didn’t really consider understanding the why of life until reading this book. After reading this book searching for meaning was placed center stage in most of my actions and continues to do so. Frankl’s discussion of how meaning influences our existence drives you to seek out and truly understand your why. Through his own experiences in the Holocaust he demonstrates just how fundamental meaning is to our ability to persevere through suffering and our overall resilience. It is amazing to read through the stories that illustrate his point and was impossible for me not to reshape my own way of thinking to constantly reassess meaning in my life and stop wasting time with things that did not contribute to my subjective meaning.

Reach for the Sky – Douglas Bader For me this is one of the greatest stories of resilience and I have regularly returned to it since reading it 14 years ago. After losing his legs in a plane crash, Douglas Bader was one of the most influential pilots during the Battle of Britain before being shot down, captured and imprisoned by the Germans during WWII. It is tremendous to me how willingly Bader took up challenges after the trauma of losing his legs. Although, one of the big lessons is that it was not immediate. For some time following his survival he struggled to find himself but eventually did and the post-traumatic growth experienced provides an exceptional example for how, despite horrific incidents, we search out and execute things we love within the restrictions life has dumped upon us.


Professional Books

The Mission, the Men, and Me – Pete Blaber I found this book amazingly easy to devour but it has really established the base for my approach in not only work but all aspects of life. Weaving insights and advice through anecdotes there is so much to take away from this book. For me it there are two significant insights. Firstly, the title of the book explains the mindset reinforced throughout and one that I continually strive to pursue and drive. Identifying what the mission is in all aspects of life and making that the focus, supporting others towards that goal, and maintaining myself in order to be able to complete those first two steps is an instrumental process in leading and commanding. Secondly, the process of saturation, incubation and illumination in both learning and executing has helped me to prevent immediately rushing into decisions or becoming frustrated with my own development. Overall, I find myself consistently referring to the lessons from this book and considering them in my approach to my professional life.

In Good Company – Gary McKay A memoir of an Australian platoon commander in Vietnam that stands out to me for a number of reasons. Perhaps the biggest insight that I took from this is the complexities of managing the relationship between superiors and subordinates. McKay provides anecdotes of regular disagreements with his Company Commander and discusses how he managed to balance appeasing his superiors with ensuring he did what was right by his subordinates. For me it reinforced the challenge of command in that on occasion despite your best efforts and intentions you must tow the party line and on others it would be abhorrent to do so. Another insight I took from this books various anecdotes was the requirement for innovation and how the acceptance of risk is essential to enable developments to flourish.

The Yompers – Ian Gardiner “Fortune favours the professional.” Repeatedly throughout this book Ian Gardiner, a Royal Marines Commando Company Commander during the Falklands War and retired Brigadier, refers to this adage and demonstrates how the professionalism of the British forces, in particular his unit 45 Commando, enabled success. Gardiner also discusses the reason, or at least his reasoning, behind the fighting in the Falklands and demonstrates how he strived to disseminate this among his soldiers. Contemplating on his phrase, ‘fortune favours the professional’, has really driven me in my work to instill the pursuit of excellence not only within myself but within my team(s). Equally, Gardiner’s drive to give meaning to his conflict reinforced to me the necessity to understand the purpose of our actions and this is closely linked, for me, to the pursuit of meaning in our lives.


Jason Ford, Fire Captain

Personal Books

Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry The greatest book ever written. Gus and Woodrow are a great picture of male friendship, at least for me. The two men are constantly giving each other a hard time, one upping one another, and overall just sharpening one another. They lead a cattle drive from South Texas to Montana with a rag tag crew of cowboys fighting Indians, the weather, the land, and each other. I’ve heard others say Lonesome Dove is just a book about a cattle drive, but that would sell it severely short. McMurtry wrote a book that helps you better understand yourself and others. It is almost comical how I’ve met some version of every character in this book in my personal life.

Tribe by Sebastian Junger This book does a great job of explaining our need for community. The central theory is that we as humans are meant to live in small groups/tribes in which everyone is necessary for the survival of the group/tribe. For those of us who have served in the military or work in small units (fire service and LE immediately come to mind), this way of life is the norm. Junger posits that we all should seek to live this way, and I wholeheartedly agree.

Deep Survival by Laurence Gonzales One of the few books I have read multiple times. Understanding our response to stressful situations is key to developing an appropriate plan of attack. Gonzales does a great job of explaining “Chaos Theory” as it applies to humans in difficult circumstances. The individual’s ability to detach and properly assess the situation, then make a decision based upon what is actually occurring prevents the chaos from becoming so great that it can’t be overcome. Learning how to manage chaos has changed my approach to every situation in my professional and day-to-day life. There a ton of little nuggets in this book for people that engage in high consequence occupations and hobbies.

Professional Books

Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin Easily the best leadership book that I’ve read. Jocko and Leif break down leadership into simple concepts that any knuckle dragger can employ. They don’t spend time in minutiae of theory, instead keeping simple decisions simple. Jocko’s mantra of “Discipline equals freedom” is a great example. Having the discipline to train every day in fire ground tasks/tactics translates to my crew having a high degree of effectiveness on scene. They move much faster with many tasks being completed almost automatically because of doing and seeing them in advance. All of the principles are to the point and easily actionable.

Fix Your Firehouse by Captain John Lovato It is a short read but much like Extreme Ownership, it has straight to the point principles. John is a sharp guy that comes off as a guy I would like to work for. His book has a great deal of detail for long term planning down to the day-to-day operations of your company. I have employed a few of his concepts, the one that sticks out the most is a pre-tour e-mail to each crew member. Before we leave for our 5 days off, I’ll send an e-mail out to the crew outlining what we’ll be working on next tour, special events, paperwork, continuing education, and a request for feedback. It took a couple of tours for this to take but my guys expect it now and do a great job with feedback and training ideas.

Leadership and Training for the Fight by Paul Howe Howe’s book is geared more for military and LE types but I was able to add to my toolbox by reading it. Howe is a special forces veteran and runs a high speed tactical training school up in East Texas. To say he knows his stuff is an understatement. In the book he explains his preparation for a mission by carrying a “layered offense.” The layered offense starts with his rifle (cleanliness, operability, etc.) and sufficient ammunition. Following this is grenades of assorted varieties. Next is his side arm, including sufficient ammunition and accessibility. Following this is his knife, then flashlight, then his final layer of offense being hand-to-hand combat skills. The concept applies to the fire service fairly well. On every fire call I wear my entire personal protective ensemble to include an SCBA. In my pockets I have carry a respirator in case I have an SCBA malfunction or run out of air, window punch, and nylon webbing for emergency escape. We should all avoid being so rigid to think we can only learn from those in our own profession.


Ben Higginbothom, Retired Army Officer

Personal books

Let My People Go Surfing, by Yvon Chouinard Chouinard founded Patagonia , and his book on the lessons he learned as a “reluctant businessman” are invaluable for you no matter your line of work. There’s a lot in here about succeeding in business, and about humble, quiet professionalism and servant leadership.
Zero to One, by Peter Thiel  Peter Thiel is a polymath who co founded PayPal, and later Palantir, and who was Facebook’s first outside investor (among a host of other notable achievements). His Zero to One is a great summary of “first principles” that grew from his experiences leading and investing in multibillion-dollar tech and finance companies. I translated many of the same principles in my own work in special operations. As one example, I  turned the “don’t compete monopolize” principle into a strategy for managing special operations in Africa.
The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien Straight up fantasy fiction, but it’s damn good writing that will inspire, educate, and influence you in positive ways. I still re-read this at least once a year, and get new things from it every time. The movies were awesome, but don’t hold a candle to the book.
Professional Books
Thunderbolt: General Creighton Abrams and the Army of His Times, by Lewis Sorley One of the best books on a combat leader that I’ ve ever read. This book and Abrams’ life and example (Patton called him the “world champion” in terms of leadership) had an impact on me throughout my military career. He was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel before he turned 28, and commanded the tank battalion that relieved Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge. He was “reverted” back in rank after WWII, and worked his way back up through the levels of command to lead MAC V in Vietnam, and ultimately to be the Chief of Staff of the US Army.
One of my favorites Abrams’ quotes from the book is this: “ Most of the Army, including many of its generals, cannot see very far ahead. There is a great tendency to compromise or temporize with the inevitable and then finally, at the last moment, do the same inevitable. It’s then done in haste without proper planning, coordination, and guidance it’s not well thought out, and it’s not well done.”
Words for Warriors: A Professional Soldier’s Notebook, by Colonel Ralph Puckett Ralph Puckett is a legend in my community. He earned two Distinguished Service Crosses and two Silver Stars, as well as a number of other awards. He was the Honorary Colonel of the 75th Ranger Regiment when I was there, and he visited the Battalions and went out on missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, and sat on every officer/senior enlisted selection board, even though he was nearly 80 at that point. After leaving the military, he was the National Programs Coordinator for Outward Bound. No matter your field, there’s a tremendous amount that you can learn from this phenomenal American.

Gods and Generals, and The Last Full Measure, by Jeff Shaara, and The Killer Angels, by Michael Shaara. Michael Shaara wrote one of the classic historical novels on Americans at war, and on leadership. His son, Jeff, picked up where he left off and wrote both a pr equel and a sequel that seem to have been written by the same author as the original. Even though I know how the story turns out, I learn new things about leadership every time I read these books.


Mike Avey, US Army Officer

Personal books

The Armed Forces Officer – United States Department of Defense This is actually an old Department of the Army Pamphlet, DA PAM 600-2. I would recommend this book for any leader, especially those in the military. This is a collection of short essays and passages that really highlight the human aspect and the endeavor of leading a complex organization that is not just a collection of machines, processes, and regulations.  This book really makes you think about leadership and why we as leaders do what we do.  It is a gentle reminder that we are part of a larger organization and that we are selfless leaders, not in it for a reward.  Reflecting back on this book from time to time keeps me grounded and reminds me why I do what I do.

How to Lie with Statistics – Darrell Huff & Damned Lies and Statistics – Joel Best This is actually two books, but they are short and go together very well.  Since reading these books, I look at everything more critically now, especially if there is a number or statistic involved.  There is so much bias in the media and numbers are thrown around to make you believe something that is not always true.  These books do a great job at helping dissect arguments with numbers to ensure you are consuming the right information, not necessarily what the author intended for you to understand.

Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error – Kathryn Schulz There is a certain infallibility of rightness, especially in hierarchical organizations.  It is easier to admit you are wrong on trivial matters than on important ones.  When we are wrong, it gets catalogued in our brain as an experience, not as “wrong”.  This book explains why we always feel the need to be right and why it is completely acceptable to be wrong.  The author highlights the reasons why we think we are always right and the reasons why and how we think others are wrong.  This book has helped me to look at situations through different lenses and with more compassion and understanding for other’s points of view.

Professional Books

The Mission, the Men, and Me – Pete Blaber Super easy read – a must read for all leaders. In an era of technology and real-time information, this book portrays a level of trust between leaders and subordinates to develop the situation further, and not be a slave to the higher headquarters that is always seeking answers.  Several other lessons abound in this book on leadership, management, and teamwork.  The main take-away for me is to let your subordinates on the ground deal with the situation and trust them. Abiding by this principle has paid off in Afghanistan on several occasions where I allowed the leaders on the ground to make decisions and not micro-manage them from a distance.  This led to timely and effective mission accomplishment and a strong senior-subordinate relationship based on trust.

On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society  – Dave Grossman Hands down a must for any combat leader, law enforcement officer, and those who train them.  Killing someone is not a natural human response, unless there is a present threat.  Even then, it is difficult to take another life.  This book explains how and why those who experience extreme violence have issues, but more importantly how to condition those same people to deal with the outcomes of violence in a healthy way.  My big take-away from this book was how to train Soldiers to be aggressive in combat and prepare them to deal with the psychological effects of having to take another human life prior to multiple deployments.

Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Some Don’t – Simon Sinek I really enjoyed reading this book. The messages about building teams and fostering healthy competition are timeless.  Going behind the psychology of teams and why some individuals perform and others don’t is extremely helpful when leading an organization and the diverse people inside it.  Not only dealing with the people, but the changes in the organization as it relates to the business climate are fascinating and how the organization changes is important to success. This has furthered my understanding that people are the foundation of any organization and if you take care of the people, they will take care of you and the organization will be successful. This book gives some good examples of how to get more out of people and understand why people act the way that they do in certain situations.


J.W., Federal LE

Both Personal & Professional books

The Bible: people have (and some continue to) die for this book and what it represents. Governments have banned it, society has scorned it and those that follow its teachings. Its message transcends time, race, culture, and socioeconomic boundaries as it remains the most popular book of all time. While often misunderstood and at times misappropriated, its message offers hope and guidance and warrants a lifetime of study. I am a confessed (and moving company verified) bibliophile so the remaining slots are tough but here is my best effort.

21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John Maxwell: I have seen his material everywhere from team rooms to board rooms – bite sized chunks of truth that can be implemented immediately

Start with Why by Simon Sinek: I think SS may have cracked the code to improved communication with a younger generation of co workers. (also Leaders Eat Last);

5 Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman (sage advice on probably the most important relationship you will have in your life. (PBS had a great special highlighting the topic)

Reason for God by Tim Keller: Thought provoking book focusing on relationship as opposed to religion or ritual.




Drew Hammond, Tactical Strength & Conditioning Coach

Personal books

Sapiens–not really anything related to performance/strength and conditioning/tactical training here, more of a broad overview of the “story of humanity” and how we all interact with and around each other. Maybe it was because I primarily read this book while in airports and on flights, but it definitely gave me an interesting optic through which to view the people and ideas around me.

Tools of Titans and Tribe of Mentors–I put these together because they’re similar books…and when combined give you about 800 pages of life advice. I’m a big fan of Tim Ferriss’ material and the ways in which he distilled lessons learned from thought leaders and subject matter experts was fantastic. The amount of tangible information you’re able to pull and apply from these pages is second to none.

Kiss or Kill: Confessions of a Serial Climber–If you’ve read any of Mark Twight’s stuff before, you’ll understand how cerebral he can get with his material. That aside, as someone who works alongside tactical type-A dudes that are always probing for weaknesses, this book gave me a great perspective. From both a personal and professional perspective, the ability to not only maintain confidence within yourself and your abilities BUT also know when to back down and when to readdress a challenge is paramount. This book does a great job of expressing those situations from the vantage point of alpine climbing.


Professional Books

Training for the New Alpinism–as a tactical strength coach dealing with PJs working in austere environments, I found this text to be the most applicable to the spaces within which my guys need to operate. Instead of simply providing tables and research relating to reps and sets, House and Johnston do an excellent job of examining the entire athlete and use stories and anecdotes to convey the applicability of their training methods.

Athletic Development: The Art and Science of Functional Sports Conditioning–Rob actually recommended this one to me at our Scrum. “Functional Fitness” is a bit of a buzz word in our world, but very few professionals have really grasped what exactly that means. Gambetta’s unique approach (a lot of this book is written in first person) as well as actual examples from athletes he’s trained not only made this book easy to read but also easy to apply to the training that I give my guys.

-Any Milo Strength magazine–I probably cheated here by being a bit vague, but that being said, Milo magazine is probably the de facto text for old school strength and conditioning training. In the age of social media and instagram athletes, it’s very easy to get trick by gimmicks, fads, and stupid movements. For some reason (and maybe it’s me), reading these issues every month helps to bring me back to the fundamentals and helps me keep my programming in check.




Danny Dumas, Firefighter

Personal books

The Five Love Languages, this book really improved my relationship with my wife and most other people I have come in contact with. It helped me see that what I think is the right thing to do can be the completely wrong thing to the wrong person. It has made relationships easier and really explains that most of the conflict I experience are not due to a total differences of opinion it’s more than likely a difference in communication.

The Count of Monte Cristo, It is just such an epic story of tragedy and purpose and revenge and forgiveness. It paints a great picture of how the world can be a fickle place.

The Bible, I think it’s important to have a baseline for making decisions. This is my baseline. I think it speaks for itself.


Professional Books

Extreme Ownership, Jacko Willink, The idea is simple if you want to do great things take responsibility for everything in your control. Is your boss an idiot, figure out how to make it work despite him. The guys you are in charge of don’t know what they’re doing after 100s of hours of training, train 100 more hours, or change the way you are training, make things work. I had fell into the trap of having some senior leaders that are terrible at their job, causing extremely dangerous things to happen and I just sat there and made a point to keep track of all the dumb decisions they made. This book changed the way I think, I now dont care if my leaders are idiots or geniuses I am going to make it successful I have extreme ownership

On Killing and On Combat I really see these are to volumes of the same book. These books opened my eyes to the potential training scars I was creating. It helped my understand some mistakes I had made because I had failed to control my stress level. It is helping an entire district of firefighters to train closer to reality and be prepared for the worst day with the best training we can come up with.

7 Habits of Highly Effective People. If your job involves dealing with more than one other person and you have any type time constraints this is a must read. It is a bunch of real advice on getting things done and understanding others.



Brad Kramer, US Marine Officer

Personal books

The Gift of Fear by Gavin deBecker– this was recommended by an LE instructor at a tracking and heuristics class I attended. Turns out it’s a great read about human behavior as it relates to interpersonal violence. It’s changed the way I look at the world and given me something to talk about with all the people in my life I care about.

The Works of Epictetus consisting of his discourses, The Enchiridion, and fragments by Thomas Higginson. Epictetus and Stoicism in general are the ideal for many in my profession. Much like Rob’s Quiet Professional essay, Epictetus’ way of living embodies an ideal that I’ll strive for and likely never truly master. One plus side of reading stuff like this is that you look like the damn Stephen Hawking of infantrymen when you get caught reading ancient Greek philosophy. Another plus is actually implementing the thinking. It’s so much easier to value your honor above your position in life when you’re a Greek with two goats and a barren hillside to his name, much harder to do as an American with a career, mortgage, vehicles, etc.

The Bible– I’m Catholic and a member of western society, so this book has definitely influenced my life. There’s always more to learn within it and I’ve been molded directly and indirectly by its teachings. I do attempt to live righteously according to how I interpret it.

Professional Books

The Ranger Handbook 1992 edition– Timing made this book my top choice, easily. I read this manual as a junior Marine. It covers the basics of patrolling and a number of other useful yet fundamental every professional soldier should know. At that time it taught me what to do on patrol. I read this book again as a 3-year Sgt. My experiences at that point gave me the context to analyze how brilliant the basics it conveyed really were. I was evaluating a unit with a contractor from Silverback Seven who had a copy in his ruck. We had some downtime for the unit to arrive at its ORP because they had gotten lost en route. After chewing the fat a moment with these great mentors, one guy pulled it out and offered it up to read while we waited. The unit took longer than expected to show up. I read some before they arrived and became engrossed. Watched them executed their movement to, actions on and retrograde from the objective and realized just how much they and so many units I’d evaluated would have benefited from just conducting the basics properly. I radioed myself out to range control and spent the rest of the daylight and a good portion of the night reading alone in the middle of the Sierras and analyzing the basics from this new lens. I read it several times on loop after that until I had actually memorized huge portions of chapters III, IV, and V. Once every six months after I read it to maintain a level in proficiency that proved devastatingly effective in many situations after that.   

Lying to ourselves: Dishonesty in the Army Profession by Leonard Wong and Stephen Gerras– An honest discourse on the problems that plague our services. It openly addresses task saturation, how service members tap-dance around the truths, knowingly accept untruths, and how we’ve done ourselves a disservice. While discussing this with peers is helpful, nothing beats reading what I know to be true on a taboo subject that undermines the foundations of my profession from people I’ve never met.

Bravo Two Zero by Andy McNabb– I’ve read a few books since that would fit well into this category, but stories about guys in the field always gets me inspired to try harder. Any well-written book that covers mission prep, execution, and fallout from skilled individuals is something any 03 gets excited about. Always. It’s not about the story, it’s that I like to see how top-tier professionals discuss situations and handle them as a measuring stick for my own actions. Reading books like this is also one of the cheapest/easiest ways you can expand your decision-making arsenal on your own.

Will Fuller, US Army Officer

Personal books

The Bible. If books and stories are human kind’s way of conveying wisdom or better living, then the most impactful and enduring of them must necessarily rise to the top. How do we overcome weakness and fallibility? How do we maximize our potential for goodness and minimize our potential for malevolence? The Bible has an answer. Regardless of your perspective on the metaphysical and faith (though I do believe that if one actually understands the test it is nigh impossible to walk away without a perspective on faith) The Bible is full of ancient wisdom applicable to us all.

The Count of Monte Cristo. Yes, I am stealing from Danny. Sorry. But this has been my favorite book since I was in high school. Ive read several versions several different times, and I love the movie starring Jim Kaviezel. Fictions give us archetypes and lenses with which to better understand and frame our world. This story is about a good man, put in awful circumstances through fate and his own naivety, who looses faith, but refuses to accept his fate. It is satisfying to see him redeemed, and watch his growth. It is about perseverance, redemption, and good fighting evil. I love the character of Edmond Dantes. And it is engaging and well written. It grants wonderful perspective to the reader.

This is a Toss-up for me between a book I am currently reading: “12 Rules for Life: an Antidote to Chaos,” and “Endurance,” the story of Sir Ernest Shackleton. The former is by a professor I particularly respect, whose dizzying intellect breaks down human nature into understandable stories and science, while laying out WHY we ought to live properly. The latter is the true story of one of the hardest men and best leaders in recent memory, who refused to acquiesce to nature’s deadly touch, and through leadership and force of will brought all of his subordinates home alive against all odds. Again, offers wonderful perspective.

Professional Books

Transforming Command. This book, by Israeli scholar Eitan Shamir, examines the origins and interpretations of the military concept of ‘mission command.’ It contrasts how three different armies, The U.S., British, and Israeli armies, understand, prioritize, and implement this concept in their fighting forces. It is a wonderful explanation of the genius of the original Prussian concept of Aufragstaktik, and how it is implemented today. I drew great leadership and management lessons from his descriptions and case studies that I apply in all leadership positions I am in. At a tactical level, the biggest take-away — for me — is that trust is a leader’s greatest currency. Without interpersonal and intra-organizational trust, we cannot maximize our collective utility or efforts.

Meditations. Marcus Aurelius, in the last years of his life, wrote his thoughts and musings in this book. A man who led an empire, dealt with maximal personal grief, put down insurgencies, and maneuvered in politics, masterfully did so with an underlying stoic philosophy. I have great respect and admiration for the stoics, and try my best to emulate their principles. Marcus Aurelius was one of the greatest Stoics, and his musings and lessons serve to guide our thoughts and actions. Alexander the Great carried “Meditations” with him during all of his campaigns. There are innumerable lessons, personal and professional, to be drawn from its pages.

Leadership. A professor (Dr. Samet) at my alma mater — where I am heading to teach in a few short months — wrote a book on leadership in which she took the most relevant clips of great and classic literature from across the ages and compiled them into one book. With excerpts from Milton, to Sun Tzu, to Thucydides, to Abraham Lincoln, she collected the thoughts and writings of great leaders and thinkers and philosophers and categorized them in intuitive and digestible portions. The stories are relevant to anyone on whom responsibility and power are thrust.


Ty Selfridge, Full Time SWAT

Personal books

Cold Mountain (Charles Frazier) – No, not the movie… the book. It’s full of incredible imagery and storytelling. Guns / war / love / survival / tragedy.

Lord of the Rings (J.R.R. Tolkien) – No, not the movies… the original trilogy. The books are massive and terrifying. A world of wonder and incredibleness live in these tomes.

My Side of the Mountain (Jean Craighead George) – I read this book as a boy, and found a used copy for $2 a few weeks ago. So I’m reading it again. A life of wild food, a trained falcon, and freedom from the bullshit of a “normal” life. It made me grateful to live in the Cascade Mountains. I wish I was Sam Gribley

Professional Books

The Gates of Fire (Steven Pressfield) – This is my favorite book of all time. I’ve read it several times and have several passages underlined. The most influential thing about the book are the lessons on leadership, fraternity, and love. It changed my perception on what being a true leader looks like. In addition, it heightened the standards I set for myself as a soldier, father, and husband.

No Country for Old Men (Cormac McCarthy) – No, not the movie… the book. The most influential thing about this book is the fact that no matter how prepared you think you are – there is always someone better than you (i.e. Anton Chigurh). That lends itself to humility, integrity, and the unquenchable desire to never quit.

On Combat (Dave Grossman) – This book opened my eyes to the science and psychology of my profession. This led me to further training, reading & research from places like the Force Science Institute and the Direct Action Resource Center.






Peyton Holtz, US Army Officer

Personal books

Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. I think that Dagney Taggart may represent the Quest Professional best of any character I have ever seen. Ayn Rand was prophetic in the 1960s; who could have known how true a picture she was painting of what the nation would become?

A Land Remembered by Patrick Smith. This is historical fiction. Great book that reminds you that simplicity and hard work are the keys to success. This one will also make you reconsider your “needs” regularly. As we have “progressed,” we have become a weak people.

Folks This Aint Normal by Joel Salatin. I actually read this one week after the last Scrum based on the recommendation from Jim. Joel Salatin is a vanguard for the sustainable/regenerative food movement, but more importably his ideas should challenge us to look backwards in many cases to find a better way to live in the future.


Professional Books

Once An Eagle by Anton Myrer If we agree that we all ultimately reason by analogy, then we ought to load up on analogies. This book provides a plethora of analogies that, even though fiction, can prove useful throughout at least half of a career of leading humans in garrison and combat.

The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil by Philip Zambardo This book showed my how some Stanford college kids could turn into abusive criminals in a matter of hours when identities aren’t carefully managed. If we strip a people of their identity, we run the risk of them assuming something dangerous in that vacuum. Powerful implications for training a cadre of young NCOs to take care of their Soldiers in garrison and to treat enemy humans well in combat.

Article: “Twitching” by Mark Twight. This is only an article but has been the most powerful and consistent touchstone work for the last 10 years of my life. Here are a few of my favorite lines: “If you cannot grasp the consciousness-altering experience that real mastery of these disciplines proposes, of what value is your participation?” “Give up this renaissance man, dilettante bullshit of doing a lot of different things (and none of them very well by real standards).” “Once you’re committed the truth will come out.”




Roxanne Vogel, Sports Nutritionist

Personal Books

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho: fictional novel that highlights the role of following your own personal legend and being fearless in your pursuit. It made me want to live more fully and embrace the unknown even though it can be scary to jump when you don’t exactly know where you’ll land.

Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills: ultimate guide for all things mountaineering related. I am a nerd and will just read sections from it at night for fun. I like learning how to tie different knots, build anchors, whatever. Useful and practical.

100 Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez: Fictional novel that tells the story of a family over the course of multiple generations in Latin America. Marquez is one of my favorite authors…his writing is poignant and it describes the human condition with all its great complexity. This book is one of the few that I read purely for enjoyment in the past several years. That’s got to count for something.

Professional Books

Presence by Amy Cuddy: talks about how we can become better speakers, mentors, humans in general by learning to use our physiology to influence our behavior. Things like taking a more powerful stance, changing your posture, etc can shift how you feel about yourself. I practice some of these techniques before presentations, interviews, whenever I feel intimidated by a situation…tends to help.

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson: talks about letting go of the little things that we tend to get bogged down with so we can focus on more important things in life. The point is to stop giving so may “f’s” about stupid stuff. This has been huge for me. I’m actively working on only focusing energy on the few things in life that really matter. It’s also a pretty hilarious book at times.

Blink by Malcolm Gladwell: talks about the power of decision making based on little information, how we make snap decisions based on intuition and instinct. Made me realize the process of knowing without understanding why is a real psychological phenomenon rooted in past experience and bias, but the decisions that come as a result are justified on some level. Made me feel more comfortable going with my gut instincts…you may not know why you feel inclined to act a certain way but you subconsciously have pretty legitimate reasons.




Ryan Phillips, Sheriff’s Deputy

Personal Books

Blink, by Malcom Galdwell – Just a fun read that I found fascinating and I love to learn more about how peoples minds work, and why.

Freakonomics, by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner – This book breaks down all sorts of things, from using the rise of the KKK to explain the power of hoarded information, to asking the questions “whats more dangerous a gun or a swimming pool” and then providing empirical evidence to support the answer.  It talks about Roe v. Wade and its impact on violent crime and other just very interesting topics discussed and evaluated in a way that I never would have thought of.  All backed by statistics that make their arguments nearly impossible to argue with.

Where the red fern grows, by Wilson Rawls  This book just depicted my childhood.  A kid who loved nothing more than to be outdoors with his dogs, and who would stop at nothing to do what he loved and was loyal to his dogs.  It had a lot of good life lessons throughout the book.  I still read it pry once a year.

Professional Books

On Combat, by Lt. Col. Dave Grossman – This book goes into great deal on the physiological and psychological aspects of combat and how it all acts and reacts with the human body and mind.  It gave me a lot to thing about as my training developed in my L/E career and as I progressed through SWAT and some violent fugitive units.  Learning how to deal with that type of stress, how to process certain thoughts and ideas you get after doing some of these “Tasks” and knowing that the thoughts are normal and don’t make us sociopaths.

Blink, by Malcom Galdwell – This book is on my personal list too.  I love this author and have read all his books.  This one just really opened my eyes to the way people think, consciously and unconsciously.  It helped to explain how people can make split second decision with apparently little to no information, but in all actuality, have already gone through a lengthy thought process to come to their decisions.

SWAT Operations and Critical Incidents: Why people die, by Stuart Meyers – This book was very interesting and provided some great insight for my progression in SWAT.  It is basically a critical incident debrief of multiple incidents from around the world and how the mission broke down due to various factors.  From administration fails to operator fails, lack or mis-communication, or people trying to be the boss when they shouldn’t be on scene at all.  It lays out a good foundation of things to try and first recognize and then avoid in your own missions in order to achieve the missions goals.



 Rob O’Neill, US Marine Corps Officer

Personal Books

CHASING EXCELLENCE by Ben Bergeron: I appreciate the training philosophy and necessary attitude to succeed at the highest levels of sport (in this case, the CrossFit games). I find much of it applicable to my own physical training, but also applies to my training and leadership philosophy towards my Marines.

DISCIPLINE EQUALS FREEDOM FIELD MANUAL by Jocko Willink: I found the bluntness and philosophy Jocko presents in this book to be a brutally honest approach to training and “mental toughness.” Jocko is big on putting in the work regardless of circumstances and late nights: something that I have really taken to heart and applies over the past months as I try to balance work, family, and preparing for BRC.

CONSCIOUS COACHING by Brett Bartholomew. In this book, Bartholomew talks a lot about creating buy-in, learning effective communication, and using social intelligence to create outstanding athletes. I find everything he talks about to be applicable for personal communication to anyone, but also training Marines.

Professional Books

THE MISSION, THE MEN, AND ME by Pete Blaber. I really like this book and it’s take on simple yet profound leadership principles. I read the book during a difficult and frustrating period as a platoon commander and it spoke volumes to me. I really appreciated Blaber’s principles (namely listening to the guy on the ground and it’s not reality until it’s shared) and it was extremely helpful during this difficult time.

SCALES ON WAR by General Bob Scales and OUT OF THE MOUNTAINS by David Kilcullen. Scales and Kilcullen’s books have been the foundation of my military thinking, my beliefs in the future of combat, and how we need to train Marines. I truly believe we are not as good as we could be, and that the fight is coming in megaslums against competent hybrid threats.







Jason Lapadula, US Marine Corps Officer

Personal Books

Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman:  Arguably the father of behavioral economics and modern decision theory. I got into this book on my first deployment and almost every page made me rethink every risk decision I’ve ever made. A must read for anyone who gets paid to make decisions – especially when those decisions could be life and death.

How Bad Do You Want It? by Matt Fitzgerald:  Unlike most of the self-motivation BS that seems to sell well to the businessman/military decision maker, Matt Fitzgerald follows up unbelievable anecdotes with real research on endurance athletes. Good insight into the mental side of sports performance, and I’d argue high performance in general.

The Design of Everyday Things, by Dan Norman:  Most people I’ve met seem to perpetuate the blame game (its higher headquarter’s fault, the boss is f’ed up, etc.). This book makes you take a look a process and how to enact human centered design. The problem in most cases is an error in design, and creating better processes enables better execution.

Professional Books

Matterhorn & What It’s Like to Go to War, by Karl Marlantes: Both books are good accounts of the human factors in war (rain, jungle rot, racism, people/power dynamics). If anything, Matterhorn will make you happy you never had to fight in the jungles of Vietnam. What It’s Like to Go to War is the author’s memoir of returning from war, and is a lesson on how to treat our combat veterans (it’s like Tribe by Sebastian Junger but better).

The Soldier’s Load and the Mobility of a Nation, by SLA Marshall: How light infantry is supposed to be conducted, and the importance of logistics. A common saying in the Marines is, “good officers think tactics, great officers think logistics,” – this book makes you understand why. Also good for junior warriors to understand why they need fitness for long rucking distances.

The Passion of Command by Col BP McCoy: Straightforward lessons on combat leadership and training for combat. Leaders need to pursue personal mastery and treat themselves as professionals in every aspect if they are to lead their subordinates in the application of violence.



Q&A 2.15.18



read your article titled “Don’t get too far from your purpose” and found it interesting. In my line of work we have these discussions often. Your article reminded me of a recent discussion with a colleague who introduced the Japanese concept of Ikigai. The attached graphic illustrates it quite well. Maybe you will find it useful.”


I’m trying to find a good fitness plan that will help me stay alive and stay in a fight. I’ve done some power lifting, I’ve tried SealFit, over all I’m pretty fit in comparison to the average LEO.

What workout plan do you recommend? I hate running more than 2 miles, but I’m fine to walk for a few miles with a weight vest.

I look forward to your response.


I’d recommend Whisky from our “Spirits Packet” of plans for full-time LE Patrol/Detectives. These plans concurrently train strength, work capacity, chassis integrity (core), upper body Hypertrophy (mass) and tactical agility.
Here’s the link to Whiskey:
– Rob


At the end of this past year, I completed the SWAT/SRT H&K program to increase my overall physical fitness. The program worked as promised and I saw great improvement from the first week to the last. To gauge my progress during the program, I completed an FBI PFT Assessment which resulted in overall scores well below where I had anticipated. At the end of the program, my improvement was obvious by my ability to crush my previous FBI PFT scores but I recognized my ability to improve upon those scores.

In preparation for applying to the FBI this year and seeking additional improvement, I then started the FBI SA PFT program. Comparing my most recent assessment to the starting assessment for this program, some of my scores have actually decreased. A friend of mine who is also doing the program has also experienced a decrease in his scores. We are not having any difficulty getting through the daily program and have actually added the addition of pull-ups and the occasional swim to help increase our overall performance; however, we both feel as though our performance has only decreased.
Below has been my progression so far. The November date is my first assessment during the H&K program. The December date was the initial assessment starting the FBI SA PFT program. The January date is the most recent assessment.
  • Sit-ups – 44
  • 300 Meter – 50.8
  • Push-ups – 43
  • 1.5 Mile – 11:37
  • Pull-ups – 10
  • Sit-ups – 51
  • 300 Meter – 46.6
  • Push-ups – 62
  • 1.5 Mile – 11:00
  • Pull-ups – 17
  • Sit-ups – 47
  • 300 Meter – 47.5
  • Push-ups – 62
  • 1.5 Mile – 10:30
  • Pull-ups – 14
While I realize these numbers are close, for FBI PFT scoring those changes led to a loss of 4 total points. I expected to be observing additional progress, even if only very slight during each assessment. Is there anything we should change, modify, just do differently to continue to see improvement. My friend and I are both applying to the FBI  Tactical Recruitment Program with future aspirations of applying to HRT and thus want to max out the PFT assessment as much as possible.


From a strength and conditioning perspective, there are three things to consider here.
First – The H&K plan is not a sport-specific plan for the FBI SA PFT – so it’s ability to increase scores for the plan somewhat limited. H&K and the other Gun Maker plans are designed as Mission-Direct, day-to-day programming or “base fitness” for full-time SWAT/SRT operators.
Second, your FBI SA PFT improvement from November to December was dramatic. This shows the power of sport-specific programming. Your taper off of improvement and even decrease in some events for the January assessment shows the downside of doing one type of programming again and again …. accommodation and overtraining. In our world, “everything works, but nothing works forever.” We’ve seen this many times in our gym and with remote athletes – your body “accommodates” to the stimulus from the training program, and stops improving, or worse, gets overtrained and decreases.
For example, if you weren’t a runner but one day decided to run 5 miles every day for a year, after a few weeks, you’d quit improving. Often I’ll get emails from guys asking if they should repeat a PFT plan or selection plan again and again to see continued improvement and the answer is no. There will likely be dramatic improvement at first – as you saw, but then the improvement will taper off and decline with overtraining.
Third – even with the best programming, fitness improvement eventually plateaus based on genetics. Train as hard as I might, I’ll never be an Olympic sprinter….
What does this mean for you moving forward?
First, go back to the Gun Maker plans now. Your “base fitness” has declined with all your emphasis on the FBI SA PFT events, plus you must be bored out of your mind. I’d recommend Beretta.
Next – you didn’t send your height/weight. My guess is you’re not fat, but could possibly lose some mass. The distance work in Beretta may cut some muscle from you. Even dropping 3-5 pounds of muscle will increase all your FBI SA PFT scores.
Finally, plan to repeat 3-5 weeks of the FBI SA PFT plan directly before your application PFT.
– Rob


Hope you are well.  Could you please recommend a program for in and out of season soccer for my 12 y/o son??  He plays mostly defensive midfielder position.


Start him with Bodyweight Foundation.
– Rob


I just read your article about the SAFT and this is definitely a test I want to try with my guys soon. However I have a question about the scoring, I saw you list the scores 1-10 and that a score within a specific range means Poor, Good, Excellent. I wanted to know how you calculate the score for each event separately so I can get the total you have for those categories. So if a guy does 15 pull-ups how many points does he get in that event? Thank you for your time.


Scroll down below the Poor, Good, Excellent chart, Matt, and you’ll the specific points awarded for each event. 15 pull ups would score 7 points on the 1-10 point scale for each event.

Event                  Reps      Points
Pull Ups              12           6
HR Push Ups      42          7
Heel Taps            7            3
WC Assess         49          4
Ruck Run           33:15      7
Total Points                       27 or “Good”
– Rob


Have you posted anything regarding the use of sleds?  If so can you direct me to those articles?  Big thanks!


We have sleds but they are not a huge component of our programming and I’ve never build sled-only cycles.
– Rob


Mr. Shaul,

I’ve read your recent articles pertaining to new standardized tests in the military.  I’ve been training tactical athletes for 5+ years now and have been required to use either the THOR3 test or the new battlefield airmen assessment.  I agree with many points you made.  The cost alone for the equipment and personnel will be staggering.  As I looked through what you had to offer as a substitute I found myself asking a couple of questions:
1) Do we even need any type of pressing test?  Push-ups have already been shown to have minimal correlation with the successful completion of most tactical tasks.
2) and this is my primary question…Do you train running under load often and, if so, have you seen any negative impacts in terms of increased joint pain in the knees or shin splints?  I’m not trying to be critical at all, I’m honestly very curious.  I’ve found several studies that show an immediate increase in anterior pelvic tilt and sharp increases in pressure in the knees when weight is placed on the body.  For that reason, any time I’ve used weighted vests to peak individuals for deployment I used them in conjunction w/ a heavy sled push or jacobs ladder to slow them down and reduce impact.  I honestly would rather be doing short sprints under load to better train RSA in a more realistic fashion but I just didn’t have any evidence that it was safe enough from a training standpoint.
Thank you very much for any help, advice or even research you could throw my way!!


1) Press… I feel it’s an important measure, but the Marines don’t… Marines can do Push ups or chin ups for their PFT.
2) I’ve never seen a study that says loaded movement is good for you and common sense tells me it obviously increases impact on joints and the low back and in the long run will likely pre-maturely age these joints for tactical and other athletes who move under load (mountain). I’m not sure we need a study to tell us this.
So why have athletes train under load?
– It’s what they do in the real thing and the last thing you want to have happen as a strength and conditioning coach is to send an athlete to the “real thing” and expose them to loaded movement without knowing what it felt like before and not being conditioned for it.
– Will sled pushes and jacobs ladder and other work transfer to loaded movement without the joint impact? Perhaps, but at some point early on, I’d wager, the athlete quits adding to loaded movement fitness and just keeps getting better at sled pushes and jacobs ladders. We do know sled pushes and other exercises don’t train the “combat chassis” in a mission-direct way like loaded movement does.
– Running with a 45-75# ruck probably isn’t good for you, but neither is getting shot because you’re too slow and can’t get to cover fast enough and you’re not fast enough because your strength and conditioning coach didn’t have you run and sprint under load in your train up.
I can’t and won’t risk this with my athletes.
– Rob


Signed up for a goruck tough that is on June 1. Was planning on getting your goruck specific plan for five weeks before. In the meantime what would you recommend to get me ready.


Start with the Military On Ramp Training Plan, then move to the plans/order in the Greek Hero series, beginning with Hector, until you begin the GoRuck Challenge Training Plan.
– Rob


Hi guys, love the website.

I’m 40 yrs old, Infantry Officer, will command an infantry battalion next year.  Any special training considerations for over 40 athletes?


Congrats on command!
Our concerns start at 45, but our SF45 programming is no joke and is what I’d recommend for you at 40+ – close enough.
Start with SF45 Alpha.
– Rob


I’ve been perusing the different strength plans you off looking for a strength focused overall maintenance plan. At this point in time, I don’t have any specific event I’m training for and simply want to develop (or purchase) a plan that I can use over the next 6-7 months. I’m planning on doing some trekking in Nepal in October/November and will likely use the Peak Bagger plan I’ve already purchased which worked great for my last trip. I’m currently working my way through the Ultimate Work Capacity plan and when I’m done with it, I want to get back to the barbell and do some strength training. My desire is to do strength training 2-3 days, and incorporate at least one day each of work capacity, chassis integrity, and a 5-mile run (which I do with a group of guys every Friday). 357, TLU, MTI Relative Strength, Super Squat…all look like great overall programs. Having a hard time figuring out which one fits best and whether they can be adapted for a longer time progression. Any advice?


Based on your schedule and duration, I’d recommend TLU Strength. Another option would be Fortitude – but do the ruck run unloaded.
– Rob


Hey mtn tactical coach, first off love your guy website. Articles and the Question and answer forums. So I am a Recon Marine in North Carolina at 2nd Recon and I am looking for a program that will improve everything cardio, strength, agility and to be better than my teammates ha but also for durability. What programs would you suggest? Thank you for taking the time to read this and keep putting up awesome content!!


I’d recommend the plans and progression in the Pirate Series. These plans are designed for SOF and other tactical athletes whose mission set includes water stuff. These sessions will get you in the pool 1x/week, in addition to concurrently training strength, work capacity, running, rucking, and core. Start with Barbossa.
If swimming isn’t important, complete the plans/order in the Greek Hero Series – starting with Hector. These plans are designed for SOF without a water-based mission-set.
– Rob


Hello and thank you for all the great information and knowledge you share!

I am very impressed with your way of thinking and program design (and field tested research to back it up!). My plan right now is to purchase a fitness plan for myself and a program design course to further my education. Once I’ve completed/ingested those, sign up for the monthly subscription. The reason for not subscribing right away, is not to “test you guys out” but to keep me focused, I feel that I would bounce around too much with all the information you offer. However, I am not sure as to which to choose and would like your recommendations.
So, a snapshot  of me, who/how I train, and a few questions:
I am 36, very active, been a “runner” since high school (coached Cross Country/Track for 10+ yrs after), but also play rugby and surf. My run programming has been the typical 4 phase (base, threshold,speed ,taper type), high mileage, strength training consisting of only body weight/light weight exercises (never any real gym work), filled with ebbs and flows of semi decent success (podium finishes but never on top, sub 20-5K, sub 40-10K, 1:30-1/2 marathon), aches, pains, and injuries. In the middle of my debut marathon training last January, I realized my goal of sub 3 hours was not going to happen. So I shut it down and the plan for last year was to fix my imbalances and start fresh. Got into a my own interpretation of Strongman training (bought 2-50lb bags of sand and a 90lb bag of concrete), and really enjoyed that type of conditioning, but never followed any type of program. Signed up for a Strongman comp only 30 days out, and had a blast but was totally humbled being probably the world’s weakest strongman competitor.The rest of the year was mainly focused on learning, and trying new things to implement into my clients programs. Most of them are novice, intermediate runners and general population “get in shape is my goal” type. I have trained a few Military/Law Enforcement but none too serious and am in talks with some firehouses about doing some conditioning/assessment type work for them.
On to the questions- What would be your suggestion for my personal fitness plan? I would like to keep endurance as my focus (without running 60-80 miles/week) but know strength is my weakness. I really like your “Grinds” and thought supplementing that with rucking (I’m new to that)/running would be nice. But am totally open to a different opinion.
As for courses, I was looking primarily into TLU or 357, with the possibility of Density Strength. What would you think would be a good starting point?
If you made it this far, sorry for the novel and thank you so much for all that you do!


From our stuff I’d recommend you complete begin with Humility. This is the first plan in the Virtue Packet for tactical athletes and should help lay some strength for the barbell work coming next, and also give you a taste of multi-modal training.
Online Course? TLU
– Rob


I’m wondering if you have an appropriate plan for me that can work within my physical and equipment limitations?

I have a history of back pain. I’ve been through physical therapy and have been deadlifting for a couple of months now and that’s going fine but I’m not yet ready for faster lifts like kettlebell swings. I also have a history of shoulder problems. I can do most things but certain exercises bother it more than others.  This is probably related to a surgery from long ago which left the left half of my diaphragm paralyzed and also missing some ab muscle.
My goals are to develop pretty much everything – Strength, work capacity, endurance but my dream is to enjoy long hikes on rugged trails again and do some short distance (5K or so) running. I’m like the world’s worst runner and until recently haven’t been able to pursue it because of issues related to the back pain and stuff.
I’m home based and have barbell, kettlebell, and dumbbells but no bench or squat rack. The basement ceiling is too short for overhead presses but I can bring a dumbbell upstairs for that.
Sorry for rambling, looking forward to your reply.


From our stuff I’d recommend you start with the Low Back Fitness Training Plan.
Take a look at the required equipment and sample training – if the equipment is an issue, or it looks too intense, I’d recommend the Bodyweight Foundation Training Train.


I’m currently in the military I’ve been training for over 8 years I’m looking to gain massive amounts of strength with a good amount of hypertrophy as well as increase my endurance what’s the best plan for a military athlete looking for these goals


I’d recommend the plans and progression in the Greek Hero training packet  – beginning with the Military OnRamp Training Plan.
These concurrently train strength, work capacity, endurance (running/rucking), chassis integrity (core) and tactical agility. They don’t train hypertrophy, however, as we don’t feel hypertrophy is an important fitness demand for military athletes – and actually diminishes endurance because of the unneeded mass.
– Rob


I’m appreciating your Rainier Prep Plan. My trip is coming up the first week in Feb. My question is- what should I do afterwards?
The only event I have on the calendar right now is a GORUCK Tough July 22. That’s 23 weeks after my trip. What plans should I do in the meantime? I’d like to improve my pull-ups and running speed (when it’s warmer) as well maintain my gains from the Rainier plan.


You’ll want to do our Mountain Base programming found in the Greek Heroine series of plans. These plans concurrently train strength, work capacity, mountain endurance (trail running, uphill hiking under load), chassis integrity and climbing fitness.  Start with Helen.
6 weeks out from your GoRuck event, complete the GoRuck Challenge Training Plan.
– Rob


I have been an MTN Athlete for about a year now, and can only thank you all for your work.  But I have a question.  I am interested in hitting some (for lack of better words) “Crossfit” type workouts.  I have been enjoying some Olympic lifting based workouts, but would like to add some cardio in the mix.  I’ll throw down on some rowing, box jumps, and power clean type mixups about once a week.  But was wondering if you guys have a HIIT type strength training program?  I look forward to the suffering. Hahaha.


Take a look at 357 Strength. If you want pure work capacity – look at Ultimate Work Capacity I.
– Rob


I am a 13 year Air Force vet and I’m looking for some advice. I do quite a bit of running, rarely more than 5 miles, but don’t do strength, mostly because I find traditional weightlifting very boring.
I am looking at your virtue packet and was wondering if it would be a good choice for me. I have access to the base gym, so that’s not a problem.
A little background before you give your advice. I want to be fit and strong. I tend to be extreme when I do things fitness related. A few years ago, I would do insanity, followed by P90X, then run 5 miles. I know your program isn’t like these and that’s what I like. I’ve done numerous GoRuck events with much success.
My best and worst event was a GoRuck HCL, where I was med dropped from the heavy 12 hrs in due to heat exhaustion and moving toward heat stroke. It was bad. I ended up eating and staying up, going back to finish the challenge and the light. That’s a little about how much heart I actually have.
I’m looking to be my best, be more fit than I’ve ever been, get my ass kicked, and have a blast doing it.
Also, if during a program I have questions or need advice, are coaches available to help?


I’d recommend you begin our stuff with Valor.
Valor will get you in the gym training strength and multi-modal work capacity, and also push your endurance with assessment-based unloaded running and ruck running. The plan also includes our chassis integrity (core) training methodology.
– Rob


I am trying to decide the type of programming that will best fit my goals.

I am an active duty logistics officer currently attending graduate school at Ohio State… so my access is to more of a standard style gym with plenty of weights, racks, platforms… but not much in the realm of kettlebells, bags, and other non-standard type of equipment.

My goal is to get myself into the best level of fitness I can manage from now until I return to an active duty unit in June.   I want to continue to increase strength while improving overall military conditioning.

I have had knee issues in the past.  These issues seem to have diminished since drastically reducing my running in school and transitioning to a ketogenic diet,  however, I still have issues with squats (my depth limit is just above parallel).

I appreciate the variety you offer when it comes to programming but I’m a bit perplexed where to place my dollars.


I’d recommend the plans and progressions in the Virtue Packet of training plans starting with the Military OnRamp training plan. You may need to build a sandbag depending upon your gym – be resourceful.
Email back on the other side of OnRamp.
– Rob


Hello, I’ve experienced great success utilizing MTI programming and education in the past.

I’m seeking MTI insight to choose my next program.

Current situation: 5 months post op from surgical repair for traumatic quadricep tendon tear (MFF landing).

I’m continuing supervised / progressive physical therapy 3 days per week.

I’m up to a slow jog for 1.5 mi / tread mill, functional moves without “cutting” or aggressive shifts.

Appreciate that any input does not supersede medical advice.

Thank you for your time


Take a look at our Post-Rehab Leg Injury Training Plan. It may too aggressive for you right now as it’s designed to be transition programming between full release from PT and intense training, but it would be the first plan I’d recommend from our stuff.
– Rob


I was looking at the big 24 strength program and was wondering if there is a conditioning program I could pair with it just to maintain engine/endurance?


Don’t underestimate the intensity of Big 24. Completing the final progression is the closest I’ve ever come to throwing up in the gym!!
The plan includes shuttle sprints on Wednesdays. You could an in a 5-8 mile run on Saturday.
– Rob


Hi Rob,

I’m very interested in your programs but do not know where to start and what is best for me. Can you help?
If so, below is a bit about me to help you understand more about me and what might be best:
  • I am a 43 yo male with a variety of athletic experience (i.e. ball sports growing up, transitioned to endurance oriented activities like tri’s such as Escape from Alcatraz, 1/2 Ironmans, marathons, adventure races). More recently I pick a big goal and train for it (i.e. 2 years ago I climbed Mt. Rainier, last year I rode from Telluride to Moab)… I’m not a fan of exercise for the sake of exercise… I like to train for a goal
  • From April to September I will be racing mtb’s 1x a week in a fun but challenging series for 45 min to 1 hours per race
  • There is a chance I can schedule a climb (Grand Teton or a local Seattle mtn)
  • Will likely find 1 challenging mtb or gravel ride 75 – 90 miles
  • Next winter my goal is the Steep and Deep Camp at JH – If I can make that happen, I want my fitness to be an asset, not something that holds me back!
  • Have a demanding schedule – Sales with travel, 2 and a 5 year old and a working wife
  • My WO time is typically between 5 – 5:45am in my garage with kettle bells, body weight, TRX and a Wahoo Kickr bike trainer (new to it and a huge fan of the Power meter)
  • Generally healthy but have lingering lower and mid back issues resulting from a cyclocross accident where I fractured my c1, t3 – t5, ribs, etc. I have medical clearance and have been very active since but do feel like I am deficient in muscle development since the crash and experience lower back muscle strains occasionally after dead lifting and other Olympic movements (probably need some focus there and noticed your back program)
  • Garage workouts with basic kettle bells, bum bells are what I’m working with
  • 1 to 2x per week I cycle to the office between 15 and 25 miles each way
  • Family and work demands, plus age are making things more and more challenging!
Bottom line is that  l am looking for a long-term plan that provides a platform that allows me to tweak and specialize for a few weeks depending on a particular adventures vs doing an adventure, taking off, getting out of shape and starting over again. Recently my training has been very random and I need direction and consistency.
I see a few of your programs that could work but I’m wondering if there is a particular series/ progression that you’d recommend given what I’ve explained above.
If you made it this far into the email, THANK YOU.


The closer to the season or sport, the more sport-specific your programming should be.
The further you are away from the season the more “general” your programming should be. General isn’t just anything for mountain athletes. All mountain sports and event have the same basic fitness demands – solid relative strength (strength per bodyweight), good work capacity for shorter (30 min) intense efforts, chassis integrity (functional core strength), climbing fitness, and mountain endurance (trail running, uphill hiking under load).
In our programming, this general fitness is called “Mountain Base.”
You …. 8 weeks from April 1 and your mountain bike season, complete the Mountain Bike Pre-Season Training Plan. As an endurance athlete, you know you have to train long to go long – which means you’re going to lose some sleep to get in the mileage necessary to prepare for your season. You may need to join a gym for the strength work in the plan.
During your mountain bike season, given that your racing on the weekend, maintain your non-bike fitness by completing 2-3x sessions/week from Mountain Base Artimes. You’ll likely need to build a sandbag.  When traveling, you can complete sessions from the Stuck in a Motel Training Plan.
6 weeks prior to your peak bagging trip in the summer (Grand, etc.), complete the Peak Bagger Training Plan.
Good luck!
– Rob


Quiet Professional: Resilience

By Rob Shaul

Bouncing back from unforeseen injury, setback or tragedy is the Hollywood definition of Resilience.

Less celebrated is the day-to-day grit needed to keep at the grindstone, in the face of distraction, self-doubt, spiritual uncertainty, lack of recognition and always threatening discontent.

Maintenance work like this isn’t sexy. Work on the fundamentals isn’t exciting.

Movies aren’t made about the grinders in the trenches shoring up the walls and pumping out the water.

But this day-after-day maintenance work brings with it a thousand small failures and setbacks and with each the opportunity to build the habit of dusting yourself off, hopping back on the horse, and giving it another go.

Certainly, we need the capacity to bounce back from the major setbacks, failures, and tragedies. But this capacity must be built by steadfast day-to-day maintenance when no one is watching.

Resilience after unforeseen, external setbacks is hard. Rebuilding after a hurricane, starting from zero again after injury – these are events that “happen” to us often through no fault of our own.

The singular benefit of an externally-caused setback is we aren’t to blame. Our attention and energy can turn immediately to starting over. Often others are there happy to help and root for our success.

Self-imposed setbacks or unforgivable personal failures are a different animal.

Infidelity which leads to divorce, career incompetence which leads to job termination, lazy lack of preparation which leads to non-selection, nasty hubris which leads to business failure …. these setbacks can’t be blamed on fate or randomness or enemies. Before starting to rebuild we have to understand, and own, what happened.

This is not easy.

The endless loop of denials, blaming others, and “if only’s” are an instant obstacle to clear-eyed reflection, deconstruction, and ultimately understanding the big and small of our failure.

Next comes paying the deserved penance, asking forgiveness from those we’ve hurt, and hardest of all, forgiving ourselves.

All this takes unavoidable time and hard effort digging around in the scary, dark spaces of our character.

Only after owning it, doing our penance, exposing and understanding the deepest roots of our failure – only then can begin to rebuild.

Even then, rebuilding when we are to blame is lonely toil.

Instead of cheering us on, others who’ve watched judge us, doubt our intention, hope we fail.

This is all too much for most. Too humiliating. Too revealing. Too much ownership.


Comments/Feedback? Email


You Might Also Like The Original Article What Does It Mean to be a Quiet Professional 


Arete 2.8.18


Medal Of Honor Recipients To Be Honored At Super Bowl LII,
Donald Trump Puts China and Russia First, War is Boring
The U.S. Army’s Bradley Fighting Vehicle Might Get Even Bigger, War is Boring
How America Could Accidentally Push Russia into a Nuclear War, The National Interest
U.S. To Sell Naval Missiles to Finland for the First Time, Defense News
Precision kits will help Army artillery rounds hit targets without GPS, Marine Times
USAF assembles new team to explore EW across electromagnetic spectrum, Airforce Technology


Homeland Security / First Responder / Wildland Fire

Texas smugglers say Trump’s border wall wouldn’t stop immigrants, drugs from pouring across the border, Homeland Security News Wire
Wildfire in Chatham Islands burns thousands of acres, Wildfire Today
Judge Acquits New York Officer of Police Brutality,
Fort Worth Police Change Procedures After Viral Video,
More details emerge in shooting that killed Colo. deputy,


Why Even Sunscreen Users Get Burned on Ski Trips, Men’s Journal
Tested: Black Diamond’s Momentum Climbing Shoes, Outside Magazine
First Freeride World Qualifier to Take Place in the Middle East, Powder Magazine
Rock and Ice: Improve Your Pinch Strength, TrainingBeta
Meet the First Guy to Chuck a Bomb at an Avalanche Hazard, Adventure Journal
What you need to know about the Winter Olympics, Freeskier



Why The Patriots Always Come Back, The Ringer
Got High Blood Pressure? Try the Sauna, Men’s Journal
Skeptical About Meditation? Read this and You Won’t Be, Men’s Journal
8 Foods to Calm a Weak Stomach, Outside Magazine
The Best Energy Bars, According to You, Outside Magazine
Can I Train Both Powerlifting And Olympic Weightlifting? Breaking Muscle
Crash Diets and Heart Function, Science Daily
Aerobic Exercise May Mildly Delay, Slightly Improve Alzheimer’s Symptoms, Science Daily
Sleep your way to optimal performance in just 7 days,
Cell phone radiation study finds more questions than answers,

Q&A 2.8.18


“As a follow up, I completed the long biathlon and used Gratitude as my training base.  A few deviations to tailor it more towards this event and my weaknesses:  1)  All runs were done with 27 # (plate carrier and hydration pack) 2)  My Long runs were longer than prescribed, longest being 14 miles (I’m accustomed to running with weight so wasn’t concerned about the extra stress)  3) During the last 2-3 weeks I integrated rifle/pistol dry practice into the grinds since that mimicks shooting done in a biathlon.

Loved the program, less physically intense than Humility but perhaps mentally harder, i.e., knowing you have to do 45 minutes of KB swings and 75m shuttles can wear on your mind.

Little scared going into this event because I won it last year but trained heavily on running.  This time I didn’t run near as much.  No problem on race day, felt strong throughout and shot very consistent, 1 of only a few competitors that cleared all 14 stages.  Did a negative split on the 2nd ½ and outran the 2nd place competitor by 21 minutes and took 1st place again.

Next up is a Kentucky 10k biathlon, I’ve chosen SWAT H&K to prepare for it.  Will keep you posted.

Thanks for all you do.”


I’m doing your APFT improvement plan and fat loss plan. I have very high relative strength (I did your test) but need to drop some fat. I’m 248lbs 24% BF . I want to get lean but still have strength to through push and carry.
Will these plans and your diet get me there? What about supplements?


80-90% of fat loss is diet related. Clean up your diet to start. Here are our recommendations.
The APFT Training plan isn’t designed to cut weight – it’s designed to improve your APFT score. To specifically cut weight, complete the Fat Loss Training Plan.
– Rob


Currently planning on training up for selections this fall.  I’ve been working through the spirit series since last fall with a little additional running and light rucking to slowly build mileage on feet and knees.  I’m planning on doing the MTI 9-week workup and finishing up the spirit series (just finished week 4 of vodka with tequila and bourbon to go).  I’m looking for something to bridge the gap between the spirit series and train up (about 10-12 weeks).  Anything you have that you recommend for that time frame?


I’d recommend the plans/progression in the “Gun Maker” series for full-time SWAT/SRT.
Start with Ruger.
– Rob


First of all I would like to say how impressed I am with you and MTI.  I bought the SF45alpha program last year and absolutely loved it.  Since I am 41 and in the Ak Army National Guard as an infantryman, it was just what I was looking for.  Years of heavy squats were taking a toll on my knees.  Lunges are a love/hate thing for me but I persevere.

The issue I’m struggling with now is that I just broke my hand on Christmas Day and just had surgery with a couple pins put in this past Tuesday.  I was wondering what suggestions you would have to work around this injury.  Continue on lower body lifts and what can I do for “grinds” workouts. Just really frustrated right now and am not the type of person to just sit and wait to heal.  I have a rower at home and elliptical as well.

Any advice is helpful.


I’d recommend our Training Plan for Athletes with Arm Injury. This plan isn’t a rehab plan for your hand, but rather trains the rest of your body around the injured limb.
– Rob


I am a volunteer for Team Rubicon with Wildland Fire Training in 10 weeks. I have the Wildland fire training plan from you guys, but have not been actively training. I have a few questions on how I could modify the plan in order to meet that deadline.

First, I do not have barbells but I do have an 80# sandbag. Can I use the sandbag in place of barbells? If so how would I use it in place of a bench press?

Second, I work full time as a paramedic, 3 days a week, I have 3-4 days to dedicate to the training. How, would you recommend I conduct the training in the time I have available?

Thank you for your help in this matter.


1) Skip the bench press and do 10 rounds of the following bodyweight circuit (up from 4 rounds).
2) Follow the training sessions as scheduled – don’t skip ahead. Get in as many as possible before you depart.
– Rob


I am wanting to start the Mountain Heroines series and wondering if they go in any particular order to find which I should start at.
Thank you in advance for any help as always,


Follow this order:


I am 45yo, 24 years LEO looking for some new programming.  Done the crossfit thing and not feeling that anymore.  I am not sure what route to take as I have to work around some injuries most recently a small labral tear in the right shoulder.
I would certainly take any suggestions you have on what may be a good program for me to start with.


I’d recommend our SF45 programming – which is designed for high impact athletes ages 45-55. Start with SF45 Alpha.
– Rob


I am a full-time structural Firefighter/EMT and I have been using your various Fire and LE programs the past couple of years with good results.
I am also 33 years old now and have been lifting pretty consistently since my late teenage years, and my body is starting to show signs of mileage.
I am wondering what you recommend for replacing some power movements, namely any sort of clean movement, where the bar lands on my upper chest and my wrists are folded back in a stretched and vulnerable position.
My body has never “agreed” with these kind of movements, my wrists have never been that flexible in that position, even with consistent yoga, stretching, and years of working on my form, I have never truly felt comfortable with these lifts.  Throwing and catching heavy weight and working up to one-rep maxes over the years has also impacted my knees.
As I am still somewhat early in my career, my goal is preserve my body as long as I can while maintaining strength and power.
I have no problem deadlifting, squatting with a safety squat bar, or doing pus-presses (when I do these I typically don’t let the bar come all the way down to my clavicles to “catch” it).
Just wondering what you recommend for replacing these lifts given my situation.
Please reply when you have some time.
Thank you!


Loaded squat jumps and/or loaded box jumps. You can do the squat jumps with a barbell across your back – but don’t go heavy – nothing above 135#. You can do loaded box jumps holding dumbbells. You may also want to try a Clean Grip Snatch, and 1-Arm Dumbbell Snatches. And of course, if you can, a hang power snatch, and hang clean snatch are great power moves if you’ know these exercises. Neither causes you to catch the barbell in the rack position.
– Rob


Is there any type of AD military discount? Additionally, wanting to purchase but am still rehabilitating from a knee surgery. Have not started running but will be next week, treadmill work or possible anti gravity machine. Is there a plan for anything like that? I can push weights in the gym, I walk a few miles at night. Looking at your fat loss program, just worried about the endurance run. I can step up but no box jumps or anything like that. Thanks in advance.


No discount. Sorry.
If you’ve been released from PT and given the okay to train, you may want to look at our Post-Rehab Leg Injury Training Plan.
– Rob


I hope all is well up in God’s country.  I grew up in Cody, WY (graduated high school in ’85) and spent as much time in the Teton/Jackson Hole area as I could.  That is definitely some of the most beautiful country in the world.  I actually did a summer internship while in college at Jackson Lake Lodge.  Love it up there!
I’m an avid hunter (have hunted AK several times, apply for 50+ tags in 9 western states and Maine each year, etc.).  Unfortunately, I am in the IT industry and spend a lot of time at a desk and behind a computer screen.  Over the years I have put on weight and am now 60lbs heavier than my college football weight.  I have a long-standing goal to get to 192lbs and sheep shape… my physical fitness goal.  Ultimately I want to be lean, strong and physically fit enough to complete 1-2 week spring turkey hunts and fall elk/deer/sheep/goat/moose hunts and feel as good at the end as I feel at the start.  I”m not getting any younger… turned 51 last week.  I want to find a way to make this happen.
Clearly, the weight needs to be the focus, and I’m working on that (paleo type diet).  But, I also want/need to establish a year round mountain hunter training program.
I just listened to a couple of your The Hunt Backcountry podcasts.  I’m interested in your big game hunter program/other programs or combination of programs but have a few questions…
  • Based on a review of the program, I doubt I am in good enough shape for the program at this point.  And, it doesn’t appear it is meant to be a repeating year round hunter program (e.g. repeat every 2 months)?  Based on relevant sections of the podcast, it appears a year round mountain hunter fitness program approach would be to use multiple programs/combine programs to make up a year round program?  What would this look like?
  • I need to be able to scale for my weight, age and current conditioning.  How can I do that with your programs?
  • I invested in a complete crossfit garage gym a few years ago, so want to leverage that investment in my program while still getting outside as much as possible. Your program seems to be focused on minimal equipment, which concerns me a bit.  I get it, but also want to continue to improve strength (in a measurable way such as squat weight, etc.), keep some crossfit type wods in my program, etc.  So, just wanted to get your thoughts on that.
  • Could you help me form a year round program, factor in my weight and condition as I progress toward my 192lbs/sheep shape goals? Are your programs that flexible and configurable?
Just wanted to say “hi” and see if your programs would fit my vision/goals?


1. Mountain Base Plans from the Greek Heroine Series until 7 months out from your hunt/season, then complete the plans and order in the Backcountry Big Game Training Packet.
2. The fitness demands for a backcountry big game hunt don’t change for your age – so the programming is the same. You may need longer to recover from the training sessions – but the programming is designed around the fitness demands of the hunt, not the individual athlete. All of our programming is designed this way. Your current level of fitness is another matter – and at 60 pounds overweight, you’ve got some work to do. From our stuff, fix your diet and start with the Bodyweight Foundation Training Plan.
3. The further away from your season, the more general your fitness training can be. The closer to your season, the more sport-specific it needs to be. In general, crossfit programming does not have nearly enough endurance to prepare you for mountain movement. Our Mountain Base programming includes gym-based strength and work capacity work, but also a solid dose of mountain endurance programming (running, uphill hiking under load).
4. We don’t do individual programming … but you don’t need it. See my recommendations above. Prove to yourself that your serious by fixing your diet, shedding weight, and sticking to a training plan. Both will take discipline. At 51, you’ll want to be lighter than your college football weight.
– Rob


Hope you are doing well. I wanted to connect regarding your eccentric leg blaster routine.
I am a former professional tennis player. Unfortunately, my singles career ended due to knee pain in both my knees in the patella region. I’ve been struggling with this for the last 10+ years and have modified my activities.
I now do some coaching and one of my students introduced me to your workout which I started today. I did a good 10-12 min warmup and got into the mini blaster routine. For the first 3 sets, I barely had any range of motion on the single leg lunges due to the stiffness and pain in my knees. But I did what I could and kept moving forward. Then after I completed the air squats in the 4th set, I suddenly could go all the way down on the single leg lunge and had no pain. This was the case for the remainder of the sets.
I noticed the same when I was competing that I would struggle with the knee stiffness and pain for the early part of a training or match, then things would ease up, and the pain would be back after the session when I cooled down.
– Have you seen what I’m experiencing with other athletes?
– Do you have any recommendations for me such as an extended warm up or any movements I should do in warm up to build the range of motion?
– Might you have any other advice for me?
Thank you and I’m excited to learn about eccentric strength and feel that it will help me overcome my knee issues.


I’m not a doctor, but it sounds to me like you have arthritic knees which loosen up when you warm up, and tighten up when you cool down. My knees are the same.
There’s nothing you can do about it to my knowledge.
– Rob


I’m broken between Soflete selection prep and Marsoc A&S. Both programs are particularly fresh so I haven’t heard any success from either. In your professional opinion why is the MTN Tactical method of going “sport specific” and training twice a day, rather than only rucking once a week with training once a day like Soflete? I want to be subscribed, but I also want to train the best way for success.
Thank you for your time.


Our programming is designed to prepare athletes sport specifically for what they’ll face at the respective selection. The programming is designed to prepare you not only for the initial gate events, but also the long days and long weeks you’ll face, –  esp. the first 3 weeks. We use 2-a-days and weekend mini-events to these ends.
– Rob


Humility was awesome – from 46 burpees initially to 88 burpees at the end, and that final test was done three hours after my final PT test.

Now I’m on my second week of resilience. Im not timing between the main sets but just recovering decently to where I’m not out of breath.

What’s your recommendation for time between the compound Olympic lifts? Also between bench sets?



Each strength circuit includes a stretch or mobility exercise. This is your “working rest” between strength sets.
See below from Session 1 – the Hip Flexor Stretch is your “working rest” between rounds of craig special + push press and the rope climb.
 – Rob

(1) 8 Rounds

2x Craig Special + Push Press- increase load each round until 2x is hard, but doable

Rope Climb or 2/3x Tarzan Pull ups

Hip Flexor Stretch

– Rob


I used the Expedition Ice/Mixed 8 week plan to train for two very demanding climbs in Scotland last week, including a summit of Ben Nevis via Tower Ridge and North Buttress on Buschaille Etiv Mor. Had I not used your plan, I’d have been screwed. But instead I climbed better than ever.

I was wondering what plan you suggested I do now? I plan to continue ice climbing this season, and no doubt some winter climbs are on the horizon.

Thanks so much!


Congrats on your climb and glad our stuff worked for you.
More to the Mountain Base programming in Helen.
– Rob


I’m a Civil Affairs NCO with the Army, in decent shape ( 280s APFT ) looking to push my fitness to the next level this year.

Tomorrow I’m starting your Military On-Ramp Training program, but wasn’t sure where to go afterwards.  The Greek Hero series

and Daily Operator sessions both caught my eye, but I wanted your opinion.  As a side note I should be getting the opportunity to

go to Air Assault School in August/September so Ill be completing that program the prescribed number of weeks out.


Move to the Plans and order in the Greek Hero series – starting with Hector.
– Rob


I have a few training questions that I am hoping you could help with, I have set a personal goal for myself to hit a 500lbs back squat by May but I also have a APFT in April that I would like to score a 270 on. I have done fortitude and really enjoyed the program, I have adopted that as a foundation for kind of my own version of it which I have opted to do Deadlifts and add in another day for Squats and Bench. I have kept the 2 run days and the Ruck Run as well. Am I wasting my time with trying to do all these movements in a training cycle if so how would I best hit my target by April/May?

I really appreciate you taking the time to read my questions and the work you do.


Best is to train specifically for the APFT directly before the APFT using the APFT Training Plan.
Fortitude and the rest of our day-to-day programming is designed to train multiple fitness attributes at once – those needed by military athletes. The goal is to improve your “base fitness” – relative strength (strength per bodyweight), work capacity, chassis Integrity, endurance (running, ruck running) and tactical agility.
I’m not sure where you are on your goal for a back squat, but this is an arbitrary strength goal – not important for tactical fitness by itself. Understand that running, work capacity etc. will retard pure strength gains. So, if you want to really focus on your back squat strength, stop running.
What to do now?
I’d recommend a pivot to the Super Squat Strength Training Plan until 4 weeks out to the APFT, then complete the APFT Training Plan, then back to the Eccentric Strength Training Plan in prep for your May back squat goal.
Understand that during this time your tactical “base fitness” will decline – esp. endurance.
– Rob


I was recently introduced to your website by someone who used one of your programs to train for a GORUCK Challenge event and was extremely happy with the results.  I’ve looked through your available plans and I’m definitely interested in learning more.

The specific event that I am training for is the Blue Ridge Adventure Race, to be held in North Georgia this May.  As with most adventure race, this is a multi-discipline, off-road race which will incorporate trekking/running, mountain biking, and paddling (either light whitewater or lake) with navigation throughout.  The race timeframe is 24 hours over an unknown distance.

My current training plan is cobbled together from strength training programs, a few run training schedules and HIT workouts.   My fitness level is probably a little better than good (knowing there’s a lot of room for improvement) after 20 years in the Marine Corps and training for/participating in several obstacle races over the last few years.

You clearly have a wide variety of fitness plans, but I would like to solicit your opinion on which of the plans would be most suitable for my event.

Thank you for your assistance.


I’ve never designed an adventure race plan – the reason being the events are so similar to a triathlon from a fitness perspective – I defer to that programming. For your race, I’d recommend a significant focus on endurance, and the running and cycling programming from a 1/2 Ironman plan – trail run with your pack for the runs, and mountain bike, if possible for the cycling. If not, road biking/spinning will suffice.
Paddling in these events is a little tricky – and in our own kayak/paddling pre-season plan we recommend intervals on a lake or against the current in a stream/river. Swimming will have a limited transfer. I have seen people in a pool tie their kayaks to the side and just paddle – drudgery, but it works.
Finally – Orienteering – get it dialed. You know this already, but the civilians who compete in these races and orienteering comps are better then the military guys. Learn from them.
I’d plan for 10-12 week train up.
– Rob


I am a leader in an Air Force desk-job office. We plan to do a Teddy Roosevelt / JFK 50 Mile Challenge (walk 50 miles in 20 hours) on Memorial Day. There is no ruck weight requirement, but everyone will have at least Camelbaks and snacks. Some of us will ruck moderate weight (e.g. 30 lbs). I drafted a training plan to correspond with our office Tuesday and Thursday PT sessions. The plan is pasted below.

Is this plan reasonable? Any recommendations?
Tues Thurs Sat/Sun
Week 1 2 miles 3 miles 5 miles
Week 2 4 miles 6 miles 10 miles
Week 3 (Deload) 5 miles 5 miles 5 miles
Week 4 7 miles 8 miles 15 miles
Week 5 9 miles 11 miles 20 miles
Week 6 (Deload) 10 miles 10 miles 10 miles
Week 7 12 miles 13 miles 25 miles
Week 8 14 miles 16 miles 30 miles
Week 9 5 miles 5 miles Rest


Looks okay but you want the Sat/Sun effort to all at once. Don’t split it up.
– Rob


Best strength plan using dumbbell s not barbells?



Hi there. I’m a road cyclists getting ready to start my base training period for cyling in which I’d like to be doing 2-3 workouts a week of 3 x20 minutes at 85-90% of threshold so I can build my FTP.
I want to add that work into a plan that will get me fit for a ski trip to British Columbia that will involve some CAT skiing, slack country and general charging downhill. Any recommendations?



I am testing for the German Arm Forces Proficiency Badge on 24-25 Feb. 2018 (roughly 7 weeks away). I have never taken this fitness test and I was wondering what plan or combination of plans from MTI that you would suggest me to do.

I am a 2LT in the Army National Guard, so I have to get the highest score and get the gold badge.

Thanks in advance.


You’re the second person this week to ask about this badge – but in 12 years …. it’s the first time I can remember being asked!
So I don’t have a plan specifically for this test. From what I do have I’d recommend the Air Assault School Training Plan and adding the flexed arm hang to the APFT events and progressing it the same way as the push ups. You should also complete the shuttle sprint assessment 4x every wednesday, with a 4 minute rest between efforts.
I’ll look to build a GAFPB-specific event.
– Rob


Quiet Professional: Gratitude

By Rob Shaul

Gratitude bears two gifts:

1) Perspective.

When things are hard, stepping back, breathing, and identifying the good in our lives in general, and the specific situation in particular, puts stuff in focused perspective.

Things can get bad – but never so bad that we aren’t blessed in some or many ways, and can’t express gratitude accordingly.

In this way, gratitude is a potent weapon against despair; a single, beautiful flame in the darkness.

2) The Present.

Gratitude forces us to take stock of our current situation, and in doing so, makes us be in the glorious present. This is not easy, as past regret and future anxiety constantly nip at our heels begging attention.

A grateful person can swat away past regret and future anxiety, freeing space for the here and now.



Quiet Professional: Embrace the Suck

US Ski Team Member and Olympian, Resi, and World Champion Freeskier, and Professional Mountain Guide, Jess, soldier on.
By Rob Shaul

This isn’t the “Embrace the Suck” you see on a morale patch or obstacle course t-shirt, which advertises how much the wearer likes to suffer and how this makes him or her special and a badass.

But rather, “Embrace the Suck” is an acknowledgement that life is hard in general, doing important work is harder still, and along the way regardless, you’ll face adversity.

So don’t fight it.

With age and experience, I’ve learned not to waste energy hoping “The Suck” won’t arrive. Rather, I know adversity and struggle are on their way, and wait to “embrace” them when they do appear.

Yes. This makes me a pessimist … but a happy one. The great thing about being a pessimist is you’re either right, or pleasantly surprised.

Now, when I’m doing something and “the suck” is taking it’s time to arrive, I grow suspicious an impatient – not good. When it finally appears I work hard to welcome and embrace it.

I’m not always successful. I know whining, complaining and fighting against “The Suck” is fruitless and exhausting and only makes thing worse – but too often find myself doing this anyway.

“The Suck” will laugh at your struggle. It’s best to join in and laugh at yourself as well. When I’m at my best I’m able to smile at “The Suck” when it arrives, and ask, “what took you so long?”

Better still, appreciate “The Suck” as a great teacher. Perhaps none is better.