Top 5 Exercises for Military Athletes Training Plan


  • 5- Week Training Plan, 5 Days/Week
  • Uses our most recommended exercises for the Military Athlete – Craig Special, Push Press, Sandbag Get Up, Rope Climb, and Ruck Run
  • Total Body Strength & Conditioning Program – Strength, Work Capacity, Endurance, Chassis Integrity
  • This training plan is one of the 130+ Plans included with an Athlete’s Subscription. CLICK HERE for more info.


One of our most popular articles over the years has been ‘Rob’s Top 5 Exercises for Military Athletes’. We’ve decided to utilize only these exercises in this 5-week training program. Each exercise trains the fundamental aspects of military fitness attributes – strength, work capacity, endurance, and chassis integrity.

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….

Strength Progression
The strength work will be based on your 1 Rep Max (1RM), conducted in the first training session. The following strength sessions in the training plan use a percentage based, linear progression to immediately scale to your strength numbers.

For example, Session 3 calls for:

(1) 8 Rounds
2x Craig Special @ 80% 1RM from SESSION 1
3rd World Stretch

So, if your SESSION 1 1RM was 185#, find 80% of that load by multiplying your 1RM by 80% (185 x .80 = 148. Round up to 150.) 150# is your working weight. Use the first three rounds to work up to 2x 150#. Rounds 4-8 should be conducted at the working weight, or in this example, 150#.

The strength circuits each include a stretch or durability exercise. Consider the stretch or mobility exercise your rest between rounds. There is no more rest between circuits more than what is required to change equipment and load barbells. Understand the strength circuits are not mini CrossFit-like WODs. Work briskly, not frantically.

How to find your 1 Rep Max
Craig Special- After the warm up, load up the barbell with a weight you can lift 3x. Then add weight, and complete 2x reps. Then add weight and start doing singles, adding weight rapidly until you reach your 1 Rep Max (1RM). Record your 1RM.

Push Press – After the warm up, load up the barbell with a weight you can lift 5x. Then add weight, and complete 3x reps. Then add weight and start doing singles, adding weight rapidly until you reach your 1 Rep Max (1RM). Record your 1RM.

Use Common Sense working up to your 1RM – Be smart and safe while working up to your 1RM. Don’t risk injury. Be smart and safe. And don’t linger – you need to complete each session in 45-60 minutes.

Ruck Run Progression
This training plan deploys a 3-mile ruck run assessment and uses assessment performance for the follow-on progressions. In this way, the plan automatically “scales” to the incoming rucking fitness and speed of each individual athlete.

Once you have completed the 3-mile ruck run assessment, you will utilize the MTI Ruck Calculator to find your interval pace for follow on sessions.

For example, Session 4 calls for:

(1) 2 Rounds
1-mile Ruck Run @ per mile Interval Pace using results from SESSION 2 Ruck Assessment and the MTI Ruck Calculator
Rest 8 minutes

CLICK HERE for the MTI Ruck Calculator. Set the assessment distance to 3-miles, and input your final time. The calculator will then provide you with your ‘per mile’ interval time. This is your goal time for each interval. Complete the mile ruck run, rest for 8 minutes, then complete the second ruck run interval.

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


How Long do the Sessions Last?
45-60 min.

What if I miss a day?
If you miss a day, make up the session you missed the next day and follow the programming as prescribed. The programming is progressive – it builds upon itself. Don’t skip ahead.

Where do I find unfamiliar exercises?
See our Exercise Library HERE. The Ruck Calculator is listed as an exercise.

What about nutrition?
See our Nutritional Guidelines HERE.

Can I see sample training?
Click the “Sample Training” tab to see the entire first week of programming.

Questions? Email

Required Equipment

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

Sample Training


Obj: Assessment

Warm Up:
3 Rounds
Barbell Complex @ 45/65#
Instep + Hip Flexor Stretch


(1) Find 1RM Craig Special


(2) Find 1RM Push Press


(3) Max Sandbag Get Ups in 10 Min. @ 60/80#



Obj: Assessment


(1) Ruck Run 3-miles for time @ 45# Ruck + 10# Sledge or Dumbbell



Obj: Strength, Work Capacity

Warm Up:
3 Rounds
Barbell Complex @ 45/65#
Instep + Hip Flexor Stretch


(1) 8 Rounds
2x Craig Special @ 80% 1RM from SESSION 1
3rd World Stretch

(2) 8 Rounds
3x Push Press @ 80% 1RM from SESSION 1
Lat + Pec Stretch

(3) 10 Rounds
10% Sandbag Get Ups from SESSION 1 Assessment
30 sec. Rest

If you completed 50x Sandbag Get Ups during the SESSION 1 Asessment, you will do 5x Sandbag Get Ups (50 x .10 = 5), then rest 30 seconds. Repeat for 10 rounds total.


Obj: Ruck Run Intervals


(1) 2 Rounds
1-mile Ruck Run @ per mile Interval Pace using results from SESSION 2 Ruck Assessment and the MTI Ruck Calculator
Rest 8 min.

Load: 45# Ruck + 10# Sledge or Dumbbell

CLICK HERE for the MTI Ruck Calculator


Obj: Work Capacity

Warm Up:

4 Rounds
3x Sandbag Get Up @ 60/80#
5x Hang Squat Clean @ 45/65#
5x Push Press @ 45/65#

Lat + Pec Stretch


(1) 5 Rounds
7x Sandbag Get Ups @ 60/80#
1x Rope Climb
Rest 30 sec.

Rest 2-3 minutes, then…

(2) 5 Rounds
5x Power Clean + Push Press @ 95/115#
Rest 30 sec.

(3) Foam Roll Low Back
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1)  Mission Direct

Gym numbers mean nothing. All that matters is mission performance. 

To this end, MTI's fitness solutions and programming are not boxed in by convention, tradition, orthodoxy, public opinion or any other artificial constraint driven by inside or outside forces.

We begin with the raw fitness demands of the mission and build a fitness solution which directly prepares the athlete for those demands.


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The Fluid Periodization methodology we deploy to concurrently train multiple fitness attributes is completely original and has continued to evolve and improve over the years.

Our mid-section training methodology, Chassis Integrity, is also original, as is our endurance programming, 7 strength training progressions, tactical agility, and work capacity programming.

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Over the years hundreds of athletes and coaches have taken our advanced programming and unit fitness leader programming courses and MTI is widely recognized within the mountain and tactical professions and fitness media as a thought leader in fitness programming for military and tactical athletes.


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→ Research: MTI begins program design with extensive research of the fitness demands of the mission, sport or event, identifies the exercises and progressions which sport-specifically meet those demands, chose end-of-cycle goals, and program backward to design the training plan.

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MTI exists to "Improve Mountain and Tactical Athletes mission performance and keep them safe." To that end, we have developed a unique research methodology aimed at identifying real world areas of improvement and identifying immediately deployable mission-direct solutions. Click HERE to learn more about MTI's Mission-Direct Research methodology, and Here to read about just few of our research efforts.

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We've developed selection-specific training plans for Canadian, UK, Australian and German Special Forces Selections and worked with individual military personnel from Scandinavia, South, and Central America.

Canadian, Australian, UK and western European law enforcement and fire/rescue athletes have used MTI programming for mission-direct fitness.

On the mountain side, Alpinists from Japan to Slovakia have consulted with MTI and used MTI's programming to prepare for mountain objectives.


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This focus on “mission direct” solutions, enhancements and improvements drives our work and research and extends beyond fitness solutions to include training, leadership, gear, team culture, and safety. 

Fitness is just one area of our work.

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- Rob Shaul, Founder


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By Rob Shaul

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