How is Military Athlete different from the other training programs on MTI?

The Operator Sessions are designed as day to day programming for “deploy at a moment’s notice” special forces units. This is the most intense programming we offer, and is built around the fitness attributes we deem important for military athletes in general and special forces personnel in particular:

• Strong “Combat Chassis” – legs, lungs and core
• Sprinting ability
• High multi-modal work capacity
• TAC SEPA – Tactical Speed, Explosive Power and Agility
• High Relative Strength
• Military-Specific Endurance – especially rucking and ruck running
• Stamina for long events or multiple events (firefights) over a long day
• Durability for a long career

In addition, these sessions are specifically designed to address the “Burden of Constant Fitness” through planned and programmed variety. They are generally on a 5 day on/2 day off training schedule.

Importantly, these are the day-to-day training sessions we recommend for current special forces operators. They are not designed to prepare soldiers and others for specific fitness tests, training courses or selections. We have build several sport/event-specific training plans for these types of events. These plans are available through the website store.

What is Fluid Periodization? Tell me more about your programming:

Contact Info?

Find us: 

  • 3535 South Park Drive, Jackson, WY 83002

I’m having trouble logging in to my account.

Login button at the top right of the screen (head icon)  will direct you to the login portal. If you signed up on one of our other sites (Military, Mountain or LE Athlete), the same username and password will work. If not, use the “forgot your password” link to be emailed a link to reset your password.

Still not working? Contact

I just purchased a plan and can’t find/open it. Help!

If you’ve purchased a plan, you should have received an confirmation email with the plan details inside. Once you’ve purchased a plan, you’ll be able to access it again by logging into your account.

How can I train with you?

You can train with us several ways:

  1. Sign up for an online subscription. You’ll get 4-5 days/week of daily training year round for all of our programs (Military, LE, Mountain, Fire/Rescue) plus access to 120+ Individual Training Plans (Click here for a full list of included plans).   You can find video demonstrations of any exercises you may not be familiar with in our exercise video library HERE.
  2. Purchase a training plan. Our plans vary in length from 3-12 weeks in duration, and you can use them again and again. They range from plans that prepare you for a specific event (a competition or expedition), a sport (climbing or running, for example), or are focused on training a particular fitness attribute (strength, work capacity).
  3. Take a course. We offer various courses throughout the year at our Jackson, Wyoming facility. Often the courses focus on learning to design your own training programs. We also travel to teach custom courses to various military units, law enforcement departments, or fitness coaches around the country.

What makes your program different? Is it like CrossFit?

Here are the ways our program differs from CrossFit:

  •  Focus in on field performance, not gym performance: CrossFit is “the sport of fitness” – and gym numbers/exercises are paramount. We understand that for Mountain Athletes, all that matters is outside performance. This allows us to constantly modify/change/improve our programing as we learn and evolve.
  • Programming Detail: Military Athlete training sessions are thoroughly periodized, programmed and designed. Nothing is random about our training sessions.
  • Fluid Periodization: Military Athlete mesocycles have a cyclic emphasis which rotates between strength, work capacity, stamina, endurance, climbing fitness and durability. To our knowledge, typical CrossFit programming does not deploy periodization or mesocycles of any type.
  •  Bias toward Strength: Mountain Athlete programming has a bias towards relative strength, as opposed to the work capacity emphasis of CrossFit programming.
  • Volume and Training Session Length: Mountain Athlete programming pushes more volume, and its training sessions are longer than typical CrossFit WOD’s. Strength, Work Capacity, and Climbing sessions are designed to be 60 minutes long. Stamina and Endurance Sessions can be 60-120 minutes long, and include 2-a-days.
  • Durability Included: Mobility and durability drills are included in these training sessions, sometimes worked into strength circuits, and sometimes worked into durability-only circuits.
  • Focused Core Strength Training: Several sessions included dedicated and focused core strength training circuits. We believe a strong midsection is essential to durability and our programming reflects this.
  • Not every training session or circuit is a race: Circuits or other training session parts which are “for time” or are to be sprinted through are clearly indicated in this training plan. Unless the training plan calls for “for time” or “sprint effort” work briskly, not frantically. In general, these sprint efforts will be relegated to parts of Work Capacity training sessions.

What are your strength standards?


LIFT                                        MEN               WOMEN
Front Squat                             1.5x BW     1.0x BW
Dead Lift                                 2.0x BW       1.5x BW
Bench Press                           1.5x BW      1.0x BW
Push Press                             1.1x BW       .7x BW
Squat Clean                          1.25x BW     1.0x BW
Squat Clean+ Push Press    1.1x BW    .7xBW

What equipment do you recommend for a garage gym?

Here’s the equipment we recommend:

1x “Econ” barbell – should cost less then $150
4x 45#
2x 25#
2x 10#
Iron Plates:
2x 5#
Pair @ 25#
Pair @ 35#
Pair @ 45#
Pair @ 55#
Kettlebells (check in local fitness stores to avoid shipping):
1x 28kg
Squat Stand – “Econ” – go with Rogue Fitness Squat Stand that includes a pull up bar
Flat Bench (can purchase via Rogue). Buy a welded bench!
Climbing Rope (if possible)
Dragging Tire – see our video
Situp Mat
GHD – it sucks how expensive these are. If you want one, try to find one in the $500 range and look for shipping deals.
Interval timer –  Timex 100 Lap Ironman Watch is best
20x24x30″ Plyo Box – Build your own

Equipment Supplier? We use and have had great luck with them.

What about nutrition?

Our view of nutrition is contrary to most. First, we find the goal of proper nutrition can be and is used as an excuse not to train hard. There are many people with great diets who are severely deconditioned. Likewise, there are many people who have terrible diets, but are very fit.

We do believe that a bad diet will limit and hinder your fitness. Eat well, train hard, get plenty of sleep, and you’ll make great gains. It’s an element of your training.

Second, proper nutrition is intuitive, it isn’t rocket science. You know when you’re eating junk.

Third, we believe strict, onerous diets are not sustainable over the long run. And we’re in it for the long run.

Finally, “event” nutrition is different from daily nutrition. If you have a long run, big climb, or tactical mission ahead, carbo load or you’ll likely bonk.

Here’s our Nutritional Guideline:
6 Days a Week: Eat lean meat, vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, and drink water. Don’t eat carbs (bread, spuds, rice) or sugar.
1 Day a Week: Cheat like a mother! Beer, pizza, ice cream – you name it! We’ve found you can’t eat clean over the long term without cheating. We’ve also found the longer you stick to this diet, the less you’ll “cheat” on your cheat days, and the more cheating will hurt you – i.e. stomach ache, gas, etc.


I’m just visiting Jackson. Can I attend a training session?

Most the time, yes. We have followers around the world and many want to see the place in person and train with the Lab Rats while on vacation in Jackson. We generally do our best to get them in.  Email us to check.

What is Operator Ugly?

“Operator Ugly” is a Fitness test designed for Military Operators. There are five parts plus a warm up. The test is designed to be completed in 90-105 minutes.


Warm up:

4 Rounds
8x Front Squat @ 45#
8x Push Ups
8x Sit ups
Instep Stretch


(1) Max Reps Front Squat @ 185# (men), 95# (women)

Protocol: Do one warm up set of 10 reps @ 135# (men), 45# (women). Then do a second warm up set of 5 reps @ 165# (men), 65# (women). Then load up 185# (men), 95# (women)  and do as many reps as possible. You can “rest” in the standing position, holding the barbell on your chest in the “rack” position. I sprinted through the first 7 reps, then started doing singles with a pause at the top to rest and psych up for the next rep.

The athlete must lower the barbell until his thighs are at parallel or below. If you have a dynamax medicine ball, place it below the athlete, and have him touch the ball with is butt for the “bottom” position. The top of the range of motion is standing with the hips locked out at full extension.

The athlete may hold the barbell on his chest which his hands and arms in the “clean” position, or crossed in the “body building” front squat position. Clean position is preferred, but not required.

(2) Max Reps Bench Press @ 185# (men), 95# (women)

Protocol: Do one warm up set of 10 reps @ 135# (men), 65# (women). Then do a second warm up set of 5 reps @ 165# (men), 65# (women). Then load up 185# (men), 95# (women) and do as many reps as possible.  You can “rest” holding the barbell up, off your chest in the elbows locked out position as you fight for more reps. For example, I sprinted through the first 5 reps, then started doing singles with a pause at the top to rest and psych up for the next rep.

The barbell must touch the athlete’s chest for each rep, and finish with the elbows locked out. Feet must remain on the floor, and the athlete’s butt cannot lose contact with the bench – no excessive arching!

(3) Max Reps Dead Stop Hinge Lift @ 225# (men), 135# (women) in 60 seconds

Protocol: Do one warm up set of 10 reps @ 135# (men) 65# (women). Then do a second warm up set of 5 reps @ 185# (men), 95# (women). Then load up 225# (men), 135# (women) and do as many reps as possible in 60 seconds. NOTE THAT THESE ARE DEAD STOP HINGE LIFTS – NO BOUNCING! The barbell must stop completely on the floor after each rep. Watch the clock, and when the second hand hits 60 seconds, stop.

Range of motion starts with the barbell resting on the floor and ends at the top of the lift with the hips fully extended. The athlete may rest by setting the barbell on the floor and standing up without it.

Safety – Each athlete is responsible for his safety and proper lifting technique. If you feel your lower back beginning to “break” it set, I strongly advise you set the barbell down and rest before attempting another rep. However, a full range of motion determines whether or not a rep counts. “Ugly” lifts count, but expect to have a very sore lower back the next day.

(4) 4 Rounds for total Reps
60 second 25m sprint
60 second rest

Protocol: Each full length counts as 1 rep. Each full round trip counts as 2 reps. No partials! The athlete has to sprint a full length to get the point for the rep. On each of my 4 rounds, I ran out of time just a step or two from finishing the last rep – they didn’t count.

(5) Max Strict Pull Ups

Protocol: These are dead hang and strict, chin above bar pull ups. No kipping, no chicken necking, no bullshit. The athlete can “rest” while hanging on the bar with both hands in the bottom position. There is no set warm up for this test. The athlete may do a couple warm up pull ups if he likes. I didn’t.

(6) 80# (men) or 60# (women) Sandbag Get up, max reps in 10 minutes

Protocol: Start standing with the sandbag on one shoulder. Lay all the way down, then “get up” any way you want. The “finish” position is full sanding position, knees and hips at full extension, feet shoulder width apart. The athlete may or may not switch shoulders with the sandbag as he wishes. I switched shoulders every 5 reps to help me keep count. Do as many reps as you can in 10 minutes.

(7) 3 Mile Run wearing Body Armor or 25# Weight Vest within 30 minutes.

Protocol: Start within 10 minutes of finishing the Sandbag Getups. Time the run. You have to finish within 30 minutes.

Test Notes and Explanation:

Reps vs. Max Effort Strength – An issue I struggled with in designing this test was how to test strength. The obvious way was to do a 1 rep max strength test. Issues arise with this – safety for one. Also, standardizing how to score the result is difficult. I’ve been intrigued by the 225# for reps bench press test the NFL uses at its combine for the draft, but knew that 225# for reps was too heavy for military athletes. Thus – I chose 185# for loading. A military athlete should be able to bench press 185# for reps.

Why bench press and front squat? – One of the most interesting things about strength is when an athlete is balanced, his front squat and bench press 1 rep max will be very close together. The same is true for max reps, like this test. With the front squat test, I’m not only testing leg strength, but also strength balance between upper and lower body. I got 10 reps for both the bench and front squat.

Hinge Lifts – The hinge lift is a great test of overall, full body strength. I chose not to test a 1 rep max because of time constraints. I found 60 seconds to be about right for time.

Sprints – The 60/60 25m sprint for reps tests anaerobic endurance and the athlete’s ability to recover metabolically. I chose sprints as the “mode” to test anaerobic endurance and recovery over other means because I feel sprinting is a key fitness attribute for military athletes. Plus, no special equipment is needed for this test.

Pull ups – This is one carryover from typical military fitness tests. Pulling power is another needed attribute for military athletes. We don’t do kipping pull ups in my gym or programming. I much prefer strict pull ups.

Sandbag get up: This is a great, functional exercise for building and testing core strength. Doing the sandbag getup for reps over a relatively long interval, 10 minutes, also test the athlete’s work capacity. The sandbag getup is a full body exercise, which when done in high reps for time, will make you breath like a mother.

Loaded 3-mile Run: This event pushes Operator Ugly into a stamina event. Running 3 miles within 30 minutes in a 25# weight vest or body armor is not difficult as a single event, but after a solid hour of intense work leading up to the run, finishing in 30 minutes is no joke.

Rest between sets and exercises – Work through the test briskly enough so you can complete it in 60 minutes. For the bench press, front squat, and dead lift, there is no set rest period between sets. Rather, perform the test with a partner, or pretend that you are. By the time each guy does the set, plus weight changes, you’ll be getting enough rest for these tests. Also, use the same barbell for each lift. The time it takes to unload the plates, re-set the racks for the front squat, and or, take off the barbell for the dead lift, etc, will give you the right amount of rest before starting the next exercise.

After the dead lifts, the athlete can take time to get a drink and catch his or her breath before starting the sprints. After the sprints, rest 3-5 minutes before doing the pull ups. You can take another couple of minutes between the pull ups and the sand bag get ups. Start the run within 10 minutes of finishing the sandbag getups.

Exercise Substitutions:

3-Mile IBA Run – run is prefered, but if weather/conditions don’t allow, substitute 700x stepups in IBA at 16″ bench or box.

25m Shuttle Sprints – Sprints are prefered, but if weather/conditions don’t allow, substitute 8 Rounds of 30-second 40-Foot Shuttle 30-Second Rest, for reps. Each length counts as one rep. Divide total reps by .66 for final score.


Bench Press reps x1
Front Squat reps x1
Dead Lift reps x1
Sprints x1
Strict Pull ups x1
SBGU /2.
3 Mile Run within 30 minutes (Pass/Fail)

Here’s an example on how to score the test:

Bench Press – 10 reps = 10 points
Front Squat – 10 reps = 10 points
Dead Lift – 18 reps = 18 points
Sprints – 36 total = 36 points
Pull ups – 18 reps = 18 points
SBGU – 52 reps/2 = 26 points

TOTAL: 10+10+18+36+18+26 = 118 points


Minimum passing score is 100, and finishing the run within 30 minutes.

For male athletes less then 160#
– 110 is a respectable score
– 115 is a good score
– 125+ is a great score

For male athletes between 160# and 200#
– 125 is a respectable score
– 140 is a good score
– 150+ is a great score

For male athletes greater than 200#
– 145 is a respectable score
– 160 is a good score
– 170+ is a great score

For female athletes 125# and under
– 110 is the standard

For female athletes between 126# and 150#
– 130 is the standard

For female athletes 151# and over
– 150 is the standard

– Rob Shaul