All posts by Rob Shaul

Fit Lab Rats Needed To Update Valor

By Rob Shaul

MTI is calling for fit remote lab rats to test an upcoming update to Valor – one of MTI’s more well known military athlete training plans.

Valor is an intense, 7-week, 5 day/week training plan. The training will begin Monday, March 9, 2021.

The deadline to apply is 1700 Mountain Time, Friday, March 6, 2021.

 

Details

All lab rats will complete the same, focused training cycle. Programming will be multi-modal, military-specific fitness including running, ruck running, chassis integrity, gym-based strength and single and multi-modal work capacity. Valor was last updated in 2017, and this update will incorporate the most recent evolution of MTI programming for military athletes. The lab rats will test the programming and provide data and feedbacks.

Valor is an intense program and potential lab rats need to be fit, have access to a fully functional gym, and familiar with rucking and ruck running. The update will the most recent evolutions of MTI strength, endurance, chassis integrity and work capacity programming. The current version of Valor has a slight work capacity emphasis.

We’re looking to get 6-10 committed, fit lab rats for this update and communicate frequently together during the program which will involve a group-only message board/forum, and may include an occasional zoom call. You’ll work directly with MTI Founder Rob Shaul for the duration of  of the study project.

Priority lab rat selection will be given to current MTI subscribers, ages 22-40.

What We Hope To Learn

  1. Is the program progression and intensity doable? Do athletes recover?
  2. The applicability of continued improvement modifications to MTI’s endurance, strength, work capacity and chassis integrity progression methodologies.
  3. Assessed improvement across multiple fitness attributes

Required Equipment

  • Fully outfitted functional fitness gym
  • 40# Sandbag (women), 60# sandbag (men)
  • Ruck with 45# of Filler

Cycle Duration

This study project will take 7 weeks. It will begin Monday, March  9, 2021. The program will end Friday, April 16.

 

To Participate

  • You’ll need to commit to training 5 days/week for 7 weeks, and follow the program as prescribed
  • You’ll need to commit to following only this programming as formal fitness training for the study project period.
  • You’ll need the required equipment (see above)
  • You’ll need to be 22-40 years old, and fit.

 

Want to be an MTI Lab Rat?

Please email rob@mtntactical.com, and put “Valor Lab Rat” in the subject line.

Please include:

  • Age
  • Bodyweight
  • Current fitness level and your current training plan/regimen
  • If you’re a current tactical athlete (military, LE, Fire/Rescue)
  • If you’re a current MTI subscriber
  • Which MTI plans you’ve completed in the past
  • Verify you have access to the required equipment

We’re hoping to get 6-10 lab rats for this study.

Priority lab rat selection will be given to current MTI subscribers, ages 22-40.

APPLY NOW

4 Weeks on a “Keto-ish” Diet

By Rob Shaul

Over the past 10 years I’ve been following consistently the nutritional recommendations we have published at mtntactical.com. These are simple and direct. These diet recommendations come from Gary Taubes’ book, Why We Get Fat. He’s a journalist, not a scientist, and in putting together this book and his other, Good Calories, Bad Calories, took a look at all the nutritional research and saw where it pointed.

  • Eat only … Meat, veggies, fruit, nuts, cheese
  • Don’t eat … refined sugar, wheat, bread, grain, rice, potatoes
  • Drink only … coffee, tea, water, zero-calorie drinks (bubble water, diet soda, etc.) Don’t drink sugar and drastically restrict milk/cream. No alcohol
  • No caloric restriction. Eat to saity. No need to count calories or ever be hungry – just eat “clean”.
  • Do this 6 days/week, then Cheat Like A Mother one day/week.

This is the diet I recommend for the majority of the athletes who contact me asking for advice, and literally hundreds over the years have reported losing fat eating “clean” as described above, 6 days/week.

However, as I moved into my 40s and now into my 50s (I’m 52) my metabolism has slowed and eating clean as described above 6 days/week has still left me with 5-10 pounds of fat regardless of my training at the time. This is one of the changes that comes with age.

Over the past several years I’d go through periods of skipping the “cheat day” and this would help, but I wouldn’t drop the extra weight I wanted.

Understand my interest in losing weight is not primarily appearance-driven. I’ve had foot fusion surgery, hip replacement surgery, and suffer from some fairly severe knee arthritis. Being “lighter” will significantly help with these issues.

My adult “natural” weight has been 160-165 pounds. I’m 5’7″ (on a tall day) … and have a mesomorph build – naturally muscular – which adds to my weight.

Taubes recently published a third nutrition book, “The Case for Keto” and I’ve been doing mostly following his recommended Keto diet for the past 4 weeks – and I’ve shed 5-10# pounds of fat in that time. I’m significantly leaner.

Below are Taube’s Keto Diet Guidelines:

  • Eat only … Meat (beef, pork, poultry, fish), veggies that grow above ground, berries in season, cheese, unsweetened cream and yogurt, eggs, avocados, tomatoes
  • You can eat this stuff in moderation – low sugar chocolates, nuts and nut butters (no peanuts), seeds and seed butters
  • Don’t eat … refined sugar, grains of any type (rice, wheat, oats, corn, etc.), no sauces that use corn syrup/sugar, no veggies that grow below ground, fruit except avocados, tomatoes and in-season berries, no beans or legumes, sweetened yogurts
  • Drink only … coffee, tea, water, zero-calorie drinks (bubble water, diet soda, etc.)
  • Don’t drink sugar/calories, including fruit/vegetable juices, milk
  • No caloric restriction. Eat to saity.
  • Do this 7 days/week

There are two main differences between Taubes’ Keto diet recommendations and the current MTI nutritional guidelines:

  1. Taubes’ Keto diet recommendations significantly restricts all types of carbs – not only “bad” carbs like bread and sugar, but also vegetables and fruit. The goal is to try and to reduce your carb intake to 20-30 grams per day. Vegetables are okay – but only if they are grown above ground … no potatoes, carrots, etc. Also, no beans, including soy and peanuts.
  2. Increase in fat consumption. Based on my age/bodyweight, the recommendation is that I eat 165 grams of fat per day. Sources of fat are limited – avacodos, olive oil, butter, nut butters, etc.

Over the past 4 weeks while I haven’t been strictly counting my grams of carb intake, I have been watching it closely. To put his in perspective, a single apple has 25 grams of carbs, and prior to dropping in to Taubes’ Keto diet, I was regularly eating 3-4 apples/day, plus berries, oranges, etc. So… a major difference for me has been an almost total elimination of fruit from my diet.

I haven’t done a good job tracking fat intake and I doubt I’m achieving the 165 grams/day. I found this olive-oil based pesto and lather all my meat in it (chicken, etc.) to bump up my fat intake. These last couple mornings I’ve choked down the “bullet proof” coffee – coffee with an added tablespoon of butter and artificial sweetener. And I try to eat 1-2 avocados day. But to put these in perspective, a tablespoon of butter only has 12 grams of fat, a single avocado only 21 grams … so I doubt I’m getting in the 160-170 grams/day I’m supposed to be getting and I’m not sure I’m in ketosis – where my body burns fat for energy all day. For breakfast I’ve been scrambling up 3x eggs and topping them with butter – again to help increase my fat intake.

Taubes’ Keto approach recommends eating to satiety and I do this. I don’t count calories or restrict foot – I eat when I’m hungry and just eat what’s on the menu: meat, veggies, fat, nuts. I do drink no-calorie, diet soda to give me a break from coffee and water. For “sweets” I eat dark chocolate – which has very few carbs.

I’ve experienced no negative side effects – training is as normal, no headaches, etc. One thing I have noticed is that I’m much less hungry. My food consumption has decreased significantly, and I eat less at meal time. I’m eating my breakfast later in the morning – 10 or 11am, and then skipping lunch because I’m not hungry. I’m pretty much down to 2.5 meals/day, and not hungry at all.

Again, I’m not doing this on purpose …. I’m never hungry. I just don’t eat as much, snack much less, and am don’t have the hunger I did when I was eating more fruit and less fat. This has been a welcome change.

I do drink alcohol 2-3x/week … but limit it to hard seltzers or hard liquor – which both have very few carbs. No beer or wine.

Below is what I ate/drank yesterday:

AM Coffee

1 Cup “bullet proof” coffee – coffee, 1 tablespoon butter, zero-calorie sweetener
1 Cup black coffee (no added butter)

Breakfast @ 1000

    • 3x Scrambled Eggs mixed with 1.5 slices of cheddar cheese, topped with butter
    • 1/2 Avocado

Lunch/Snack @ 1400

    • 1x Chicken Thigh topped with olive-oil pesto sauce
    • Handful of almonds and square of dark chocolate

Dinner 

    • Salad topped with fish
    • Square of dark chocolate
    • Can of hard seltzer

Other … 1 can diet soda, 1 cup “bullet proof”, water/bubble water,

Will this lead to a change in the current MTI nutritional guidelines?

I’m not sure yet. Our athlete target group are in their 20s and 30s and the current guidelines work fine for them. What I’ll likely do is create a second set of guidelines for athletes 40+ and move in this direction. Older athletes need more restrictions to stay lean.

The one concern I do have with Taubes’ Keto approach is it’s sustainability. I’m not having any issues with it so far, but again I’m not sure I’m meeting the fat intake recommendations and honestly don’t know if I can eat enough avocados per day to get there.

While I’m pretty happy with this diet, my partner isn’t happy. I was fairly strict on what I could eat before and this adds restriction, which limits dinner and breakfast choices significantly. This has caused tension with her.

Questions/Comments? Please add yours below.

 

 

Mini-Study Results: Lab Rats Increase Power per Bodyweight An Average of 15.7% Following MTI Power-Based Endurance Programming

By Rob Shaul, Founder

BLUF

Three and a half weeks of MTI power-based endurance programming increased power per bodyweight an average of 15.7%.

 

Background and Study Design

Until this mini-study, a significant part of  MTI endurance programming is pace-based. The athlete will complete a run, ruck, row or swim assessment, and follow-on intervals will be based on the athlete’s assessment pace. This system has proven very effective to improve endurance speed-over-ground performance.

This mini-study applied MTI’s pace-based programming to power, and measured the results.

Modern spin bikes, rowing ergs, and assault bikes can measure power, both in terms of total kilojoules produced, as well as current power output in watts.

Seventeen remote lab rats completed  a 3.5-week endurance training cycle on spin bikes, rowing ergs and assault bikes using power as a means of measurement and progression, rather than pace.

All lab rats will completed the same, 3-day/week programming. Below was the weekly schedule:

  • Monday: 30-Minute FTP Assessment or Threshold Intervals
  • Tuesday: No Bike/Row Training
  • Wednesday: Threshold Intervals
  • Thursday: No Bike/Row Training
  • Friday: 60-75 Minute Moderate Pace Bike/Row

Three times during the cycle, at the beginning of the training week, the lab rats completed a 30-minute “Functional Threshold Power” (FTP) assessment. Their most recent FTP was used to calculate intensity for 10-minute threshold intervals and longer, 60-75 minute moderate paced efforts.

The initial and last FTP assessments, and the athletes’ current bodyweight, were used to calculate “Power per Bodyweight” and the pre-cycle and post-cycle power per bodyweight calculations were compared.

 

Results and Discussion

A total of 17 individuals completed the entire training 3.5 week cycle. Below are the individual lab rat results.

 

To get the “Power per Bodyweight” score, we divided the FTP average wattage by the athlete’s bodyweight. For example, my post-cycle FTP was 217 watts (this was the average power output I managed over the 30-minute assessment). Dividing this FTP (217 watts) by my bodyweight (160 pounds) yielded a post-cycle Power per Bodyweight score of 1.36.

The “Power per Bodyweight” is also a way to normalize power production between athletes of various bodyweights. However, in this study, it would be wrong to assume that the athletes with the highest power per bodyweight scores are the most fit. Why? – because of the differences between machines. Making direct comparisons like this would only work if we were all using the same machine.

As well, it would be wrong to assume that a FTP score on one machine or mode will transfer to another machine or mode – bike to rower, for example.

To make this point, Lab Rat Trevor used a rower for the study and scored a post-cycle FTP of 256 watts. I asked him to rest a day, and complete a 30-minute FTP test on an assault bike. He scored 286 watts on the assault bike.

While the average Power per Bodyweight improvement for this mini-study was 15.7%, individual improvement ranged from a low of 1% to a high of 31%. Part of this wide range of improvement could be caused by lack of familiarity with the machine the athlete used for the study, and or power-based training.  There’s no doubt that a portion of the improvement many of the lab rats saw was caused not because of an increase in fitnesss, but rather familiarity with the machine they were training on, and/or the 30-minute FTP assessment itself.

But regardless, the 16.1% average power per bodyweight change found in this study matches the 10-20% improvement we have seen in the past using our pace-based programming for running and rucking, ultimately demonstrating that MTI’s endurance programming approach also works using power as a unit of measurement.

Next Steps?

One of the advantages of power as a unit of measurement is it eliminates the impact of the elements. For example, wind, heat and elevation gain/loss can significantly impact biking, running, and rucking pace from one assessment to the next. So pace-based programming can be impacted not necessarily by the athlete’s actual fitness, but by how windy is was on assessment day.

Power output is not impacted by these environmental issues, and thus can lead to more consistent and trackable progression. This is one of it’s advantages.

More specifically to this study, a handful of the lab rats reported difficulty making the prescribed threshold intervals following the Week 2 FTP assessment. As designed, lab rats completed the 30-minute FTP assessment the Monday of Week 1, 2 and 4. We re-assessed on week 2 knowing that the lab rats would be more familiar with the machine they were using as well as the FTP assessment itself, and this early in the cycle re-assessment would lead to a more accurate assessment of actual FTP.

From a programming perspective, this means the threshold interval progression we use for pace-based programming may be too aggressive for power-based programming. More study is likely tweaking the programming to find what is appropriate and doable.

 

Questions? Email rob@mtntactical.com
Comments? Please comment below.

 


You Might Also Like MTI’s 357 Strength Training Plan


MTI’s Best Selling Training Plans

Over the past 12 months, updated monthly:

 

Overall:

  1. Athlete’s Subscription Package (access to all plans)
  2. Gym Closure Training Plan
  3. Bodyweight Foundation
  4. Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT) Training Plan
  5. 2-Mile Run Improvement Training Plan
  6. APFT Training Plan
  7. FBI Special Agent Training Plan
  8. Core Strength Bodyweight Only
  9. Running Improvement
  10. Military OnRamp Training Plan
  11. Humility
  12. Ruck Based Selection Training Plan V5
  13. Fat Loss Training Plan
  14. Big 3 Strength + 2-Mile Run Training Plan
  15. 5-Mile Run Improvement Training Plan
  16. 3-Week Push Up & Pull Up Improvement Training Plan
  17. Chassis Integrity Training Plan
  18. Big 24 Strength Training Plan
  19. ACFT Limited Equipment Training Plan
  20. Ranger School Training Plan

 

Military

  1. Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT) Training Plan
  2. APFT Training Plan
  3. Military OnRamp Training Plan
  4. Humility
  5. Ruck Based Selection Training Plan V5
  6. ACFT Limited Equipment Training Plan
  7. Ranger School Training Plan
  8. USMC PFT Training Plan
  9. RASP 1&2 Training Plan
  10. USAF TACP Training Plan
  11. Fortitude
  12. USAF PFT Training Plan
  13. Service Academy Fitness Assessment (CFA) Training Plan
  14. Air Assault School Training Plan
  15. Rucking Improvement Training Plan
  16. Special Forces Qualification Course Training Plan
  17. Ruck Based Selection (SFAS) Training Packet
  18. SFRE Training Plan
  19. USMC Combat Fitness Test (CFT) Training Plan
  20. SFOD-D (Delta) Selection Course Training Plan

 

Fire Rescue

  1. Fire Academy Training Plan
  2. Fire/Rescue OnRamp Training Plan
  3. Wildland Fire Preseason Training Plan
  4. Smoke Diver Training Plan
  5. CPAT Training Plan
  6. Jaguar
  7. Fire/Rescue “Big Cat” Training Packet
  8. Urban Fire Fitness Assessment Training Plan
  9. Wildand Fire Storm King
  10. Wildland Fire Training Packet
  11. Wildland Fire Blackwater

 

Law Enforcement

  1. FBI Special Agent PFT Training Plan
  2. SWAT Selection Training Plan
  3. LE On-Ramp Training Plan
  4. DEA PTT Training Plan
  5. LE Academy Training Plan
  6. FBI HRT Selection Training Plan
  7. Border Patrol Academy Training Plan
  8. NTOA SWAT PFQ Test Training Plan
  9. FBI Academy Training Plan
  10. US Marshal’s Service SOG Selection Training Plan

Mountain

  1. Mountaineering & Hiking Prep
  2. Backcountry Ski Pre-Season Training Plan
  3. Peak Bagger Training Plan
  4. Backpacking Preseason Training Plan
  5. Hotshot Crew/Smoke Jumper Preseason Training Plan
  6. Dryland Skiing Training Program
  7. 25K Ultra Training Plan
  8. Backcountry Hunting Base
  9. Backcountry Big Game Hunting Packet
  10. Big Mountain Climb Training Plan

General Fitness

  1. Gym Closure Training Plan
  2. Bodyweight Foundation
  3. 2-Mile Run Improvement Training Plan
  4. Core Strength Bodyweight Only
  5. Fat Loss Training Plan
  6. Running Improvement Training Plan
  7. Big 3 + 2-Mile Run Training Plan
  8. 5-Mile Run Improvement Training Plan
  9. 3-Week Push Up & Pull Up Improvement Training Plan
  10. Chassis Integrity Training Plan
  11. Big 24 Strength Training Plan V4
  12. Hypertrophy Program for Skinny Guys
  13. Push Up Improvement Training Packet
  14. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) Training Plan
  15. Low Back Fitness Training Plan
  16. 357 Strength
  17. Gladiator
  18. Single Kettlebell or Dumbbell Training Plan
  19. Sandbag Training Packet
  20. Sandbag / Weightvest / Dumbbell Training Plan

 

 

Rock Climb Lab Rats Needed to Test MTI’s Pre-Season Training Cycle

By Rob Shaul

MTI is calling for remote lab rats for an upcoming, focused, 4 weeks, 6-day/week Mini-Study testing MTI’s Rock Climbing Pre-Season program design.

This mini-study will begin Monday, February 22. The deadline to apply is 1700 Mountain Time, Friday, February 19, 2021.

 

Details

All lab rats will likely complete the same, focused training cycle. Programming will be focused on rock climb-specific fitness and technique. However core strength, work capacity, and endurance (running) will also be trained. In addition, athletes will be required to follow a specific diet during the course of the training cycle. Overall, this will be an intense, full-immersion, 6-day-week rock climb specific training cycle for committed athletes.

What We Hope To Learn

  1. Is the program progression and intensity doable for remote athletes?
  2. The effect of work capacity and endurance programming plus dietary restrictions on weight loss and the impact of weight loss on climbing improvement.
  3. Assessed improvement in climbing proficiency from the programming.

Required Equipment

  • Bouldering Gym access, and/or Moon Board Access or similar wall allowing the ability to complete a Bouldering V-Sum.
  • Campus Board and/or system board for threshold climbing intervals.
  • Hang Board
  • 40# sandbag (women), 60# sandbag (men)
  • Indoor and/or outdoor space for shuttle repeats

 

Cycle Duration and Schedule

This MTI Mini-Study will take 4 weeks plus 1 day. It will begin Monday, February 22, 2021, with the initial assessments and progressions. On the Monday of Week 5, March 22, 2021, lab rats complete their final V-Sum assessment and the study will be complete.

Weekly Schedule

    • Monday: Bouldering V-Sum
    • Tuesday: Climbing Strength, Work Capacity
    • Wednesday: 1.5-Mile Run Assessment or Threshold Intervals
    • Thursday: Bouldering V-Sum, Upper Body / Core Strength
    • Friday: Climbing Strength, Work Capacity
    • Saturday: Moderate Pace Distance Run

 

To Participate

  • You’ll need to commit to training 6 days/week for 4 weeks, and follow the program as prescribed
  • You’ll need to commit to following only this programming as formal fitness training for the mini study period.
  • You’ll need to commit to following the prescribed nutritional guidelines (no sugar, etc.)
  • You’ll need the required equipment (see above)
  • You’ll need to be an experienced rock climber and fit athlete.

Lab rat candidates need not be expert rock climbers, but cannot be new to rock climbing.

Want to be an MTI Lab Rat?

Please email rob@mtntactical.com, and put “Rock Climb Lab Rat” in the subject line.

Please include:

  • Age
  • Bodyweight
  • Climb rating you can onsight (i.e. 5.7, 5.9, etc.)
  • Verify you can commit to the 4 weeks plus 1 day, 6 day/week training cycle
  • Verify you have access to the required equipment

We’re hoping to get 6-10 lab rats for this study.

 

APPLY NOW

Streaming Series Worth Every Minute

By Rob Shaul

In no particular order …. and avoiding the obvious Sopranos and Game of Thrones, below are streaming series I found worth the streaming time. Suggest your favorites in the comments, below ….

Friday Night Lights
Taylor Kitsch plays Riggins on FNL.

A 5-season (2006-2011), NBC television series centered on high school football in a small Texan town, FNL did the impossible and added to the quality book and great movie of the same name. Touching and heartfelt, the series gave rise to the future acting careers of Connie Britton, Taylor Kisch, Kyle Chandler and Jesse Plemmons. Yes, it’s a dramatic series about teenagers and high school football, but great acting, writing and memorable characters make it special. I may have shed a tear or two while watching.

Battlestar Galactica
Katee Sackoff plays moody fighter pilot, Starbuck, in BG.

I’m old enough to remember the original, clunky Battlestar Galactica Television program with the chrome robots and red eyes. It was nothing special … but the series reboot which ran from 2005 to 2009 is special. A small fleet of the remaining humans race from pursuing robotic Cylons in ragtag spaceships protected by one warship – “Galactica.” The series is surprisingly deep and engaging. I was doubtful, but loved every minute.

 

Peaky Blinders
Cillian Murphy plays gang leader, Tommy Shelby.

Netflix, period series which begins in 1919 and follows a gang family in Birmingham, England, Peaky Blinders centers on gang leader, Tommy Shelby, and his goal to both improve his families fortune and move up the social class ladder. Raw, violent and impossible to watch without subtitles, you’ll blow through the 5 seasons (2013-2019) and wait, with me, anxiously for the sixth!

The Expanse
Actress Shohreh Aghdashloo dominates her screen time in The Expanse.

Amazon Prime, Science Fiction series with a believable space-based future. Earth is in predictable ecological decline, run by the UN. Most are unemployed and unhappy receiving universal basic income. Mars has been colonized and become independent, and risen as a military rival to Earth. Between are the “Belters” – an oppressed population who live and work mining raw materials for both Mars and Earth on the asteroids in the belt around Saturn, and yearn for respect and independence. The Expanse features solid acting, believable plots and great special effects.  Iranian actress Shohreh Aghdashloo stands out as a ruthless politician bent on protecting earth as does Wes Chatham as a violent, good guy, sociopath.

 

The Bureau
Mathieu Kassovitz plays a French intelligence officer in The Bureau.

Approachable, 5-season, series centered on a French spy bureau. Best is it’s characters look like real people, the plot is unpredictable, and acting is solid. No trite James Bond characters, plots or wiz-bangery. Find it on the Sundance Channel.

 

Patriot
Patriot’s main character, Intelligence Officer John, also sings folk music – and it works!

Recently cancelled after only 2 seasons, Patriot manages to be incredibly funny and brutally tragic at the same time as it traces the ongoing struggles of an American intelligence officer trying to influence an Iranian Presidential election. Delightful in it’s originality, creativity and artistry. Ambitious and unpredictable – I’ve never seen anything like it.

Honorable Mentions
The Tunnel
The Tunnel stars Clémence Poésey as Elise Wassermann and Stephen Dillane as Karl Roebuck.

Crime series which highlights the partnership between a British detective and his female French colleague, what makes this series is the slightly autistic French character, Elise, and the intellectual plots.

 

Bordertown
Chief investigator Kari Sorjonen from Bordertown.

Finish cop drama made unique by the main character, Kari. Unlike the tough-guy stereotype American cops, there’s nothing macho about skinny-jean wearing, Karl. He’s tall, quiet, intellectual, and doesn’t like blood or guns. Karl and his unique approach to solving crimes, plus a noir filmmaking approach and solid supporting cast, make the series unique.

Preparation and Training for Ranger School: A Female Perspective 

By Sarah Ferreira

 

As of August 2020, 54 women have graduated Ranger School and a very select few have earned both the Ranger and Sapper Tab. One of those phenomenal women is MAJ Natalie Mallue, an active duty Army Engineer Officer, West Point Class of 2009 graduate, and native of Damascus, Oregon. I’ve been lucky to call Natalie a friend since our time at West Point and it’s been amazing to watch her blaze a trail since her commissioning. She graduated Sapper school in 2013 and then Ranger school in 2017.  I thought it would be a great opportunity for the MTI community to hear Natalie’s perspective, lessons learned, and training process throughout her Ranger school journey. Below is our question-and-answer session.  

 

Q: Can you describe your athletic and training background? What were your physical strengths and areas where you needed to improve prior to Ranger? 

A: Prior to attending Ranger school I was a devoted 3-year member at a CrossFit gym, and I worked out 4-5 days per week with my unit. I’ve always been strong with rucking, upper body strength, agility and coordination. My biggest weakness is definitely running and speed. I’ve never naturally been a gifted runner, so I knew that training for the RPFT 5 mile was going to be an important aspect of my training plan. I also knew that going into Ranger I needed to optimize my body composition, decrease fat and increase lean muscle mass in order to improve my strength to body weight ratio. 

 

Q: What was your training methodology to prepare for Ranger School? Did you follow a prescribed program, or did you make your own? 

A: I began training for Ranger school one year before I attended (Jan 2016-Jan 2017).  I did not have a set training plan or schedule, but I did have an evolving methodology based off my own strengths and weaknesses. I did about 40% of my workouts with my unit in the morning, 50% with a CrossFit affiliate, and only about 10% on my own (this was mostly testing myself for the RPFT).  My priorities during train up were as follows: 1. Train for the RPFT 2. Train for strength to carry a ruck, 3. Train for endurance 4. Train to prevent injury.  After listening to some advice from a coach who was ex-MARSOC, I decided to test out his theory that you do not need to ruck and run often to prepare for ranger school (it also helped that I don’t care for conditioning runs or rucks). I believe this worked for me, but what works for one person may not work for everyone.  

 

Q: What was successful about your training and preparation? What worked well and what do you wish you would have changed or altered? 

A: After learning that many women fail out on the 12-mile ruck march I intentionally increased my workout volume as much as I could without being destroyed and unable to walk by Wednesday (which happened a lot in the beginning). Because I had a long period for train up, I was able to learn my line between maximizing training and overtraining.  I struggled with overtraining in the beginning because my workouts during morning PT sessions often conflicted with the CrossFit programming in the evening workouts. I eventually started picking and choosing who I would do PT with during the morning workouts based off what was programmed at the gym in the evening. I understand that most people cannot pick and choose who they want to do PT with in the morning, so for those who cannot choose, it’s important to have a chat with your commander about your train up plan or offer to run a ranger train up within your company. 

Injury Prevention: one of my biggest fears during train up was getting injured.  I had invested so much time and energy into my train up that I sought out ways to prevent injury which would also (hopefully) translate into injury prevention at Ranger school as well.  I subscribed to ROMWOD (Range of Motion Workout of the day) which is a daily 15–25-minute yoga-like routine which increases mobility and also aids recovery.  Yoga will also do the same thing.  I also owned a copy of “Supple Leopard” by Kelly Starrett.  This book is great because it’s organized by sections of your body. If you are sore in one area, turn to that section and it will have a list of activities you can do whether you want to speed recovery, have an ache/pain, or just want to improve mobility. I’d usually choose a section of my body to work on every other day before working out.  

 

Q: After Ranger school how did you get back into shape? How long did it take you to get back to your baseline of fitness? 

A: Within a week of returning to my unit after Ranger school I was back in the CrossFit gym. I thought I was ready to get back into my old routine, but I quickly realized that jumping right back into working out was a bad idea. I was definitely not ready, mentally or physically, to dive back into a training routine. My body needed time to heal and recover. I was battling some plantar fasciitis and had recurrent back and leg pain. I had to drastically reduce my training volume and focus on rebuilding my muscular strength, especially my upper body strength. I did ROMWODs and other injury prevention protocols to ease back into it. Overall, it took me about 7 months to get back to my normal baseline of fitness. 

 

Q: What did your spouse and family think about your decision to attend Ranger School? Did you have the support from your friends, peers, and leaders at your unit? 

A: My husband is also a Ranger school graduate and he was extremely supportive of my decision to attend the school. He assisted in my train up, helped grade and critique my push-up form, as well as offer tactical advice. It was great to have his full support. My parents and siblings don’t come from a military background and they really didn’t have any idea about what Ranger School was, but they were proud of my decision to attend and offered all the assistance and encouragement they could offer. I had a very close-knit community at the CrossFit gym I attended, and all my gym friends and colleagues were a great help in keeping my motivation high during some of those brutal workouts.   

When I attended Ranger school, I was serving in an Infantry Brigade Combat Team (IBCT) where Ranger School is very much a part of the culture of the unit and is held in very high regard. A large percentage of Officers and NCOs in the unit have their Ranger tabs.  I was fortunate to have the full support of my chain of command. As part of the process, I had to attend a 2-week pre-ranger course at my unit. It was super physically demanding and it prepared me very well. My unit’s pre-ranger course appeared very selective, and they consistently had a very high Ranger School pass rate. 

 

Q: What was your primary motivator to attend Ranger school? How has it impacted you personally and professionally? 

A: I had several strong reasons for wanting to attend Ranger School. First and foremost, I felt a strong obligation to attend the school because I was serving as a Company Commander in a Ranger coded slot; meaning that the position I was in was normally held by a Ranger qualified officer. It felt hypocritical to be serving in an IBCT and Ranger slot without actually having the credentials to be in that position. I also wanted to set a strong personal example to my Soldiers, by showing them that you’re never too busy to invest in your professional career. Even with all the demands of being a company commander, I could still find time to train and attend Ranger School. I felt it was best to lead by example. Personally, I’ve always enjoyed and sought physical challenges and I was curious if I could make it through Ranger School.

One of the most professionally rewarding experiences since graduating Ranger School is the amazing opportunity, I’ve had to mentor young Soldiers and Officers. It’s been great to be able to impart some coaching and guidance and in turn I end up learning so much from them as well. 

Personally, I know that every day I need to live up to the Ranger values and uphold the high expectations of a Ranger qualified officer, and that brings about some personal challenges. I’m about to go back to the line as a battalion XO or S3 after having two kids in under two years. I certainly feel pressure to get back in the right physical shape and mindset needed for the job and mission, which is stressful when trying to think about how I’m going to balance the job requirements with family life. 

 

Q: Being one of the very few female officers with both a Sapper and Ranger Tab, do you feel pressure to act a certain way? What is the best and worst part about the experience? 

A: I don’t feel external pressure to be anything other than my genuine self. Any pressure I feel is internal. One cool part about the experience is that I got a unique opportunity to serve as an on-set military advisor for the film Monster Hunter staring Milla Jovovich, who played a Ranger in the film. 

 

Q: What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome throughout the process for Ranger? What was the most difficult phase of Ranger for you? 

A: One of the earliest challenges was getting my body composition where it needed to be for optimal performance. Naturally, I’m not super lean and thin so I had to be very disciplined in my training and nutrition. By the time I started Ranger I got down to 20% body fat and 36% lean muscle mass. It was also a challenge to avoid getting into an overtrained state and avoid injury. Many days I was doing two workouts on top of my company command responsibilities, so I had to be smart about how I trained. 

Physically, mountain phase of Ranger school was the most difficult for me. I went through Ranger during the winter months and the long-distance rucks were absolutely brutal. My body was lacking the calories I needed to sustain myself and I was losing fat, so I was always freezing cold. 

Mentally, Florida phase was the most challenging to me. Florida was the only phase I had a to recycle. I didn’t do well on my initial patrols and while many of the factors were in my control some were not, and that was frustrating at the time. Mentally, I knew I had to own the situation and take the lessons learned into my second attempt at Florida phase. It was a total mental suck to have to stay in Florida while watching all my squad and platoon mates move on to graduation. 

 

Q: How were you treated at Ranger school by the cadre? How did your male peers view you? 

A: The Ranger School cadre were professional the whole time and I was not treated differently due to my gender. My male peers viewed me as just another Ranger student. I think that Ranger school is a good place to integrate women into combat arms because you can change the minds of so many young Soldiers and Officers. Everyone is too tired and hungry to worry about gender. The only thing that matters is “Can this person carry their load, can they stay awake through the night, and can they do what is required of them?” The keyboard warriors don’t exist in those types of extreme conditions.  

 

Q: How did you and the other females handle personal hygiene? 

A: First of all, thank you for not asking me “How I handled my female issues”.  I think most people who haven’t lived the experienced with a woman in their platoon tend to think these accommodations impact operations more than they actually do. I was the only female Ranger student in my platoon and some very simple accommodations like hanging a poncho liner or adjusting the position of wall lockers allowed me to change in privacy without making my male peers uncomfortable. Since there was only one area for showers, we simply planned for me to shower either before the men or immediately after; that way no one was inconvenienced by a disrupted shower schedule. 

In the field environment, ponchos were hung around the slit trench for privacy and honestly, I think that the majority of Ranger students, both male and female, enjoyed some small level of privacy when having to utilize the trench. The Ranger Instructors also appreciated not having the slit trench open for all to view. The only downside was the poor person who then had to carry around the “poop poncho” in their pack. In order to be able to pee while standing I used a FUD (female urination device)- very similar to a GoGurl. It’s essentially a small rubber channel that’s simple to use and allows women to discreetly pee while standing up.  

When it comes to menstruation, again, I think people tend to make this a big deal when it’s really not. Many women attending the school already actively manage their menstrual cycle and will take different forms of birth control to minimize the inconvenience. Some women won’t get a period at all during Ranger due to physical exertion and loss of body fat. Dealing with your period is not any different than using the bathroom.  

 

Q: Top piece of advice for other women attending Ranger school? 

A: Set some realistic and achievable goals for yourself and prepare to the best of your ability. I can’t emphasize the preparation piece enough. I truly think that my deliberate train-up and then attending pre-ranger were huge contributors to my success at Ranger school.

 

 

 


You Might Also Like MTI’s Ranger School Training Plan


Convention Isn’t Physiology

By Rob Shaul

 

In the strength and conditioning world there are established “conventions” – almost dogmas – concerning proper programming, that are rarely challenged.

General conventions include …

  • Mobility and movement patterns must be perfect before loading or else the athlete will be injured doing light back squats
  • Dynamic warm ups are required, and must be lengthy
  • An athlete’s basic strength and fitness must be built before beginning basic PFT-specific training plan
  • Bodyweight strength must be built before any loading
  • Going to 1RM on any strength exercise is dangerous
  • Other than mobility/movement assessments, fitness assessments should be mostly avoided

More specific programming conventions include ….

  • Tabata Intervals are the best
  • The only way to train endurance is either fast and short or long and slow
  • Training more than one rep above 85% 1RM is impossible

Many of these conventions are found in the specific programming methodology of the most influential coaches. I’ve read all their books.

What seems to happen is a particular coach with a particular group of athletes has improvement success with a specific programming approach. He publishes the programming, other coaches jump on board, have some success, and it becomes convention.

Importantly, physiology is not physics. The laws of physics – like gravity for example – work the same and always in every scenario.

Not so with physiology. I can apply the same exact programming to two athletes with the exact same training age, incoming fitness level, sleeping schedule, diet, etc., and get significantly different results. Physiology can be significantly individualized.

Physiology can also vary for the same individual! What worked for me in my 30s doesn’t work in my 50s.

Few test convention programming against other approaches.

Testing programming is at the heart of MTI’s research efforts. We not only test conventional programming against other types of programming but programming we’ve developed against our own programming. The goal of our research is not to find the “single answer” – but constant improvement.

But … convention is powerful, and it can have significant influence on experienced coaches and even athletes.

One of the steps we deploy in hiring coaches is to give candidates a programming assignment regardless of their experience or credentials. A programming assignment tests several things for us – the candidate’s professional humility, their attention to detail, follow-through, communication skills, and project completion reliability. It also tests their anchoring in convention, willingness to program outside this box, and how they take criticism.

Most candidates follow a similar education path: BS in exercise science, MS in exercise science or kinesiology, college weight room experience. Their paradigm is built around team sports and conventional sports performance approaches.

A typical programming assignment is to build a 6-week program, 5 days/week, to prepare an athlete for a military PFT involving max rep push ups, sit ups, pull ups, 300m Shuttle for time and 3-Mile Ruck Run for time.

Ninety-five percent of the candidates will spend all 6 weeks of their program having the athlete do back squats, deadlifts, front squats, power cleans, basic plyos, and unloaded running.

“So let me get this straight,” I’ll ask them when reviewing their submission, “the first time your athlete will actually try the PFT they’ve been training for, for 6 weeks, will be at the actual event?” You can see how the conversation will go from here.

I’ve found convention also influences athletes. Strength athletes will purchase our Density strength program, look at the programming, and decide before even trying the programming they’ll never be able to complete the progression – because they’ve never done it that way before.

Recently we’ve begun a mini-study with remote lab rats applying MTI’s endurance programming approach to using power instead of pace. Spin cycles, rowers, and some assault bikes have power meters and make this possible.

The “convention” for power-based programming begins with a 20-minute threshold assessment for average power over that 20 minutes. You then take this average power, minus 5 percent, and use this number as your “Functional Threshold Power” for follow on power-based programming intervals and efforts. You’re supposed to use this number for 5-6 weeks, then re-asses.

In the ongoing MTI mini-study, I used a 30-minute threshold assessment, and use the full power average (not minus 5%) as the athlete’s “functional threshold power” for the following programming calculations. As well, the athletes test not only on week 1, but again on week 2. I know that many will improve their FTP with the second test just based on familiarity with the assessment and the machine they are using for it.

What was interesting is when I first sent the programming to the lab rats, those with power-based programming experience questioned the programming based on convention. They wanted to verify that I wasn’t using the conventional 20-minute assessment, and why I wasn’t subtracting 5% from the FTP.

These experienced individuals had completed power-based threshold training before, and doing the calculations in their head, knew the 30-minute threshold assessment and the following power-based intervals in the lab rat programming would be more difficult than what they had done previously using the conventional approach.

I made note of their questions and predicted these individuals would report difficulty completing the programming as prescribed. Not because they couldn’t do it based on physiology, but rather that their minds would think it wasn’t possible and this doubt would influence their performance.

Sure enough, this occurred. A few of the lab rats with the most power-based programming experience reported failure in following the prescribed programming – they reported that they couldn’t make the intervals at the prescribed power levels in the plan.

Those of us ignorant to convention (myself included – I’m doing the program) made all the intervals as prescribed.

Importantly, not all of the most experienced power-training lab rats reported difficulty. Some made the intervals and reported they were surprised they did based on their experience with the conventional programming. Convention was in their pocket, but not blocking their performance. They approached the programming with an open mind.

Long ago I learned the hard way that every time I became righteous about one specific programming method, I turned out to be wrong. While we’ve established consistent success with specific programming methods for most athletes, I would never say our approach is the “best” or that it will work for every single athlete. And I’ll continue to test it looking for improvement.

Should programming convention be tossed aside? No. Rather, think of it as a handy baseline to test other approaches against.

 

 

 


You Might Also Like The Tyranny of the FMS


Mini-Study: 357 Strength matches Density Strength in Strength Improvement; Outperforms for Endurance

By Rob Shaul, Founder

BLUF

MTI’s 357 Strength progression methodology matched MTI’s Density Strength progression in strength gains, and in a cycle that paired strength training with endurance, outperformed in endurance performance.

 

Background and Study Design

We conducted a 3.5-week Mini-Study using remote lab rats to test the effectiveness of MTI’s 357 Strength progression to MTI’s Density Progression.

One group of remote Lab Rats completed the study in January, 2021 and their results were compared to a similar study on Density Strength conducted previously.

357 Strength combines the proven strength training methodology we’ve developed at MTI, with the hormonal “flush” theory experienced by CrossFitters. Heavy strength is followed by complementary, short, intense, work capacity efforts designed to follow up the max effort, central nervous system-focused strength training with a complementary hormonal flush.

The key to 357 Strength is the complementary work capacity effort. Varying in duration from 3 minutes, 5 minutes, to 7 minutes, these work caps utilize the same exercises conducted in the strength portion to create a “hormonal flush.”  This shocks the body to overcompensate during recovery, resulting in greater gains than if the exercises were completed in the same volume, but with less intensity.

357 Strength is one of our most successful strength training programs, and also one of our most fun. However, we’ve never formally tested our 357 Strength theory until now.

This study piggybacked on another mini-study we completed in the Fall of 2019 which compared MTI’s Density Strength and Super Squat Strength methodologies. That study found that Density Strength leads to greater strength gains.

This study deployed the same Density Strength programming as the 2019 study, with one change. The Monday, Wednesday and Friday strength work was be followed by a 3-7 minute short, intense work capacity effort deploying the same muscles and movement patterns and designed to create the hormonal “flush” – turning this programming into 357 Strength.

All lab rats will completed the same, 5-day/week programming. Strength programming was built around a 1 Repetition Maximum Back Squat, Bench Press, and Hinge Lift. In addition to strength work, the lab rats complete a 1.5 mile run assessment and follow-on 800m interval repeats. Below was the weekly schedule:

  • Monday: 357 Strength
  • Tuesday: 1.5 Mile Run Assessment or 800m Interval Repeats
  • Wednesday: 357 Strength
  • Thursday: 800m Interval Repeats
  • Friday: 357 Strength

Results and Discussion

A total of 19 individuals completed the entire training 3.5 week cycle. Below are the individual lab rat results.

Below is a comparison to the 357 Strength improvements and the Density Strength improvements from the 2019 Mini Study:

The minor differences in Strength improvements for the individual exercises between Density and 357 Strength are not significant enough to discern a winner.

The significantly greater improvement in the 357 Strength lab rats’, 1.5 run assessment is surprising. The only difference between the two cycles was the 3-7 minute, primarily bodyweight, work capacity effort each Monday, Wednesday and Friday in the 357 Strength study.

The “hormonal flush” theory did not pan out in the strength improvement results. However, it seems this minor addition of short, threshold work capacity did not hurt strength gains and seemed to “juice” the endurance performance of the training plan.

From a programming perspective, especially in terms of improving multiple fitness attributes across a single training cycle, knowing that short work capacity transfers to endurance as demonstrated in this study, is significant.

Next Steps?

The study results do not show that short, complementary, work capacity efforts following strength training increased strength gains. However, the results hint that short, work capacity efforts can lead to significantly increased gains in endurance when combined with regular, MTI mode-specific endurance programming.

This could lead to programming changes at MTI.

Two plans, in particular, Big 3 + 5-Mile Training Plan and the Big 3 + 2-Mile Training Plan are ripe for the addition of short work capacity efforts following strength to improve/enhance the endurance increase/training in the plan.

As well, a potential study in the future would be to include short, work capacity efforts in endurance-focused plans. It’s possible these short efforts would minimally impact recovery and fatigue, yet could improve endurance improvement.

Look for a mini-study analyzing this idea in the future.

 

Questions? Email rob@mtntactical.com
Comments? Please comment below.

 


You Might Also Like MTI’s 357 Strength Training Plan


The Difference Between “Working Out” and “Training”

Long-time MTI Lab Rats Cody and James conducting a mini-study on the effect of load on uphill movement.

By Rob Shaul

The decision to term MTI daily fitness a “Training Session” and not a “Workout” is intentional.

Athletes who follow MTI programming don’t “workout.”

We “Train.”

The difference includes purposeful intention, program design, a focus on outside performance, and cycle-specific progression.

In the fitness world, “workouts” stand on their own. Crossfit’s WOD, Peloton’s 30-minute spin classes, or Beach Body’s daily pump stand independent of the workout the day before and what follows the next day. Athletes may drop in and out of these workouts as their schedule or motivation dictates.

The goal is to get in daily exercise – not “train” toward a fitness goal. Get your “workout” in, and move on to something else.

Often, the motivation for “working out” isn’t fitness improvement at all, but physique improvement (looking good). There’s nothing wrong with this as 99% of the fitness industry is based on vanity, but again, focused fitness improvement is MTI’s the goal, not physique improvement.

MTI’s fitness programming is laser-focused on improving mission-direct fitness for outside performance. I’ve answered dozens of emails from first responders or military athletes who want to improve their mission direct fitness, but also increase the size of their chest and arms. I always take time to explain that these may not be the same thing.

MTI’s Daily Training Sessions are part of a bigger meso-cycle (multi-week) plan/goal at a minimum, and for our base fitness programming, a small part in a much larger macro-cycle (multi-month) plan.

MTI’s Training Sessions are progressive – i.e. they build upon one another. Often that day’s programming is based on a previous assessment. Its position in the week “fits” with the other training sessions scheduled for that week.

Meso-cycles (multi-week) have specific training goal outcomes. For our event-specific plans like tactical PFT plans, selection plans, mountain sport pre-season plans, and our fitness-specific plans like running and strength plans, these training goals are directly tied to the event or fitness goal. Every exercise, progression, run, or ruck distance in the Ranger School plan is specifically prepared to prepare the athlete for the fitness demands of Ranger School. Every training session in the MTI Relative Strength Assessment Training Plan is specifically designed to improve the athlete’s front squat, bench press, hinge lift, or pull up strength.

Base fitness meso-cycles, like the tactical Greek Hero, Gun Maker, Notorious Prison plans are designed to work together with each other to build and maintain the athlete’s mission-direct “base fitness” level. The same is true for the mountain athlete Greek Heroine plans and the mountain professional Wilderness plans.

Fitness is not a sport for us. It’s a means to an end … specifically, outside performance.

A unique reality for the mountain and tactical athletes we work with is they can and do get severely injured and even perish, doing their mountain sport, mountain professional job, or tactical duties. Mission-direct fitness can help our athletes avoid injury, if they do get injured, not get hurt as bad and recovery quicker. Fitness aimed at survivability is a clarifying focus for MTI programming.

I don’t deny that turning fitness into a sport is great for business – look at the success of CrossFit or the leader boards on Peloton – or that it engages athletes. Often, athletes who’ve come to us after CrossFit have missed the daily competition and ranking, as well as the sense of community many of these gyms have.

I’ve been asked many times to do a CrossFit-like record board/forum for training sessions but have resisted. From a strength and conditioning perspective, I’m more interested in the individual athlete’s improvement from the beginning of the cycle to the end, as well as his/her performance on the job-specific fitness test we’ve developed for him/her.

I’ve also received criticism for the lack of variety of the programming in a specific plan. For example, someone purchases the Dryland Ski Training Plan and complains there are too many leg blasters and touch/jump/touch intervals.  I try to explain the basics training transfer to the real thing and progression in laymen’s terms (“same thing, only harder”) but some athletes are simply not ready to start “training.” They are happy “working out.”

MTI doesn’t program for “fitness athletes” or physique improvement, but rather for professional mountain and tactical athletes and others, who have learned to be professional about their fitness, and understand all that matters is transfer to the real thing outside the gym.

Some who come to MTI from these other platforms comment negatively about our old school exercise videos and bare-bones phone application. Long ago I decided not to try and compete with the software coders designing wiz-bang electronic interfaces, but rather cut out the noise and put 99% of my attention on designing and improving our own strength and conditioning programming.

This is why we conduct research, and constantly read, learn, test programming and update existing training plans. Continuous programming improvement is at the heart of what we do.

MTI programming is not flashy, trendy, or designed to entertain. It just works.