Plan Focus: Top 5 Exercises for Military Athletes Training Plan


By Rob Shaul and Charles Bausmann

Some training plans can use a wide variety of exercises to train the elements which we believe are criticial to the Military Athlete – Strength, Endurance, Work Capacity, and Chassis Integrity. This plan utilizes a simple list of five exercises inspired by one of our most popular articles, Rob’s Top 5 Exercises for Military Athletes with straight forward, scaled progressions to train those fitness attributes. Keep it simple, train hard, and get the results you’re looking for.


This training plan is straight forward, no-brainer solution for Military Athletes looking to improve their overall fitness. It includes an initial assessment in Week 1, and percentage based progressions in the following weeks to immediately scale to the athlete’s fitness levels. Week 5 is a reassessment to record your improved scores.

The 5 exercises are as follows:



  • Sandbag Get Ups –  the best overall exercise to train a military athlete’s “Combat Chassis” – leg, core, and lungs. With each rep, the athlete works core flexion, rotation, and extension. He or she also must do a loaded lunge or squat to stand up, and finally, at high reps, his heart and lungs will be burning through the work capacity hit.
  • Craig Special – 1x Craig Special is a Hang Squat Clean + Front Squat and is my favorite total body exercise. Technique issues can quickly crop up with Olympic movements, and I’ve found the hang squat clean to be the easiest for athletes to master. The clean trains explosive power, and catching the heavy barbell in the squat helps train the athlete to take impact – a valuable attribute for a military athlete. Finally, with each rep, the athlete gets in 2x front squats – my favorite squatting movement.
  • Rope Climb – My original lab rat, Josh, called the rope climb the “sled push for the upper body” – and it’s my favorite pulling movement – even when using the feet. I find the rope climb more functional than the traditional pull up – plus it’s a 3-for-one exercise …. pulling strength, grip strength, mid-section strength, and when loaded (weight vest or IBA) all of the above plus leg work. The Rope Climb is a great total body exercise
  • Three Mile Ruck Run for Time @ 45# ruck, plus 10# sledge, hammer, dumbbell or rubber rifle – Rucking is a huge fitness demand for military athletes and the best way to improve rucking is to ruck. The mid-distance 3-mile ruck run is long enough for fitness to transfer to longer efforts, but short enough that the athlete can ruck run the entire distance and train overall rucking speed. Finally, ruck running with this load further trains the “Combat Chassis” – legs, core and lungs.
  • Push Press – While the old meathead in me lusts over the Bench Press, the Push Press is the top upper body pressing exercise for military athletes because of its total body element and simple, mission-direct transferability. Strength Coach Pat O’Shea called the Push Press the “King” of upper body exercises. A vertical pressing movement to balance the vertical pull in the Rope Climb, the Push Press is really a total body exercise with an upper body finisher. Everything gets worked – legs, core, chest, and shoulders. Even better, this exercise can be completed with just about anything heavy – sandbags, dumbbells, kettlebells, big rock, barbell, girlfriend….

Weekly Schedule

  • Mon: Strength (Craig Special, Push Press, Rope Climb)
  • Tues: Ruck Run Intervals
  • Wed: Strength / Work Capacity (Craig Special, Push Press, Sandbag Get Ups)
  • Thurs: Ruck Run Intervals
  • Fri: Work Capacity (Sandbag Get Ups/Rope Climb, Power Clean + Push Press)

Required Equipment

  • Fully Equipped Functional Fitness Gym (Barbells, Bumpers, Climbing Rope, etc.)
  • Sandbag @ 60# (Women) or 80# (Men)
  • Ruck with 45# of Filler + 10# sledge, hammer, dumbbell or rubber rifle
  • Track or course of known distance for Rucking
  • Timer or Stopwatch


Questions? Email