Kudos and Q&A 12-31-14



Questions include:  substitutes for squat and deadlift, where are SF45 workouts, what is Cadillac, plans for putting on size, how to find 1RM, and more!


I really love what you guys are doing. Your programming has kept me in really good shape and injury free as I near 40 years old. I completely trust you guys, which allows me to not have to think about my workout. I simply do whatever you post and am confident that I am being thoroughly trained during an intense 60 minutes of work.  This frees up time for me to focus on other things in my life and stay fit. I also really appreciate the philosophy and the humility that accompanies the hard training you guys do out there. A very professional approach.


Today’s Operator sesh (12/30) was awesome! I hope to see more like these with a few tough strength circuits followed by a mini WOD to leave you smoked.

I am really benefiting off your programming. I’m seeing and feeling results in the gym and in the field.

The last few years I’ve struggled to find programming that directly correlates to my line of work (Border Patrol Agent). After years of following different CF programs I wasn’t seeing the results in the field that I should have. Decided to give this program a shot.

Since I jumped on Military Athlete I have more energy on a daily basis and I’m pretty sure I am more effective at my job. I feel good ending this year after only being on this program for a few months now.


Thanks for sharing the Fire/Rescue Fitness Assessment Training Plan with me.  I did the assessment last week and I really liked it.  I felt that the assessment was a very accurate assessment of fire ground work load.  I started the workouts yesterday and I was surprised at how well I moved through it.  Having struggled through some of your other workouts I was surprised how much recovery time was available in each round.  My initial thought is that this workout will be very achievable for any firefighter in my community.  I look forward to today’s work.



First, I want to let you know how much I’ve appreciated Military Athlete programming and have had great success with it myself as well as using it as a platform for my unit PT program. I’ve been doing MA and functional fitness of some sort since I entered the Army in 2008. I am a Captain in the Army and have served in the 82nd Airborne and 75th Ranger Regiment, and am currently stationed at Joint Base Lewis McChord. I have recently used the low-back fitness program with great success to help some of my guys get over chronic back pain.

Right now, I just finished the bodyweight portion of the 38 week SFOD training plan and have a question about the total rest weeks. Is it ok to do some light cardio and some stretching/yoga during the rest week? Also, I was thinking about doing some form work for the upcoming RAT 6 plan since I haven’t done some of these lifts in a few months. Really just looking for guidance as to how much I should or shouldn’t do during these rest weeks.


Total Rest = Total Rest. You need this physically and mentally. Enjoy it.



Came across your website looking at MA. I was thinking you might recommend a training program for me. Here the brief history of where I’m at physically.  Have done Crossfit and OL and now am looking for something a bit more personalized. Former Marine, now airline pilot, travel 3 days a week. Days at home I have access to a big box that has everything, also my own garage gym. When I’m on the road I have access to some great hotel gyms and some poor ones, that seems to vary.  I have been laying off running that last few years as it aggravates a small foot injury and some occasional hip pain. Im almost 49, but train regularly and still run. I also swim couple times a week…

Hard part for me is that if I join a CF box I’m only there twice a week. Each month I have a different schedule, so sticking with a plan is sometimes tough (unless it changes with me). I have no problem be consistent in working out but a problem with working consistently with a plan.

I read the post about SF45 and liked that. I am almost 50 and want to stay strong and fit, maybe run a spartan run or climb a 14er, do an open water swim, that kind of stuff….

Anyway your website said ask, I’m asking what you think…


I don’t have a perfect plan for your schedule and equipment restrictions.

What I’d recommend given your age and schedule is a shift to more endurance work, and less lifting.

Reasons: (1) chances are any recreational activity you do will be outdoors and endurance heavy (long hike, mountain run, mountain bike trip, etc.; (2) Cut mass – every extra pound = 5 pounds of impact on our joints – low back, knees, ankles. Cutting muscle mass will make you move and feel better; (3) This works better with your schedule – you can always run. So no matter what, you can progress and plan the endurance element of your training, which will help keep you engaged.

This doesn’t mean you should stop gym work. I haven’t, but I’ve cut it back.

Concerning Lifting – best would be to understand the muscles/body focus being training during a lifting session, and learning how to make due with the equipment at your disposal. What I’m hearing is you can always lift, but you can’t count on the equipment. I don’t travel as much as you by any means, but always try to stay at the Hampton Inn – because I can count on them having a full rack of dumbbells. With these, I can always strength train.

What this means is if the session calls for front squats, you do dumbbell front squats. If it calls for hang squat cleans you do dumbbell hang squat cleans, etc.

Options from stuff:

1) Subscription to the website, and follow the SF45 Sessions: Start at the beginning, the Cadillac Cycle – this cycle is a combo strength and endurance.

2) Combine a Strength and Running Plan. I’d recommend the Kettlebell Strength Training Plan (http://mtntactical.com/shop/kettlebell-strength/) and the 4-Week Run Improvement Training Plan (http://mtntactical.com/shop/run-improvement-plan/). I’d run 3 days/week, lift 3 days/week with one 2-a-day – so you still get 2 days off for fun stuff. When traveling, if you don’t have kettlebells, you can use the motel’s dumbbells for the strength work.

3) Focus on Bodyweight with the Bodyweight Training Plan: http://mtntactical.com/shop/bodyweight-i-training-program/

Don’t be fooled by “bodyweight” – this plan is no joke, and is a great way to focus your programming. Again, however, I’d work in endurance. For example:

  • Day 1 – Run 60 min
  • Day 2 – Bodyweight Session 1
  • Day 3 – Run 30 Min, Bodyweight Session 2
  • Day 4 – Run 60 Min
  • Day 5 – Run 30 Min, Bodyweight Session 3
  • Day 6 – Rest or recreation
  • Day 7 – Rest or recreation



Found your site six months ago and absolutely love it! I am training for USMC OCS and hope to attend June of 2015. I have used your body weight program, hypertrophy for skinny guys, and RAT 6 and am in the best shape of my life! Thanks for all your hard work on the programming. I have two questions for you.

1) I purchased the USMC PFT program back in November. I am about to start it in preparation for an upcoming  PFT in February. I have maxed the crunches and pull ups and am mostly looking to improve my running, i’m running a 22 min 3 mile right now.  Looking through the plan, its seems to be almost exclusively crunches, pull-ups, and running 5 days a week. Should I be adding any supplementary work to avoid losing my gains from the last couple months?

2) After completing the PFT plan I will have around 18 weeks until I begin OCS. My plan  was to repeat RAT 6 and then either the USMC OCS plan or the Ruck Based Selection Plan. Does this sound about right and which of the two plans would you recommend to best prepare me for OCS?

Thank you for your time,


1) If you want to do your best possible at your PFT, do the USMC PFT Plan exclusively. This is the focus and power of sport-specific programming.

If you think you can score well with the push ups and crunches with minimal training regardless, just do the running portion of the plan and keep lifting.

2) Plan is solid. I’d recommend the USMC OCS Training Plan: http://mtntactical.com/shop/ocs-usmc-training-plan/



I purchased the Busy Operator II plan and I have a question regarding exercise substitutions for the strength work.

I have difficulty performing any bilateral squat/deadlift movement for heavy weight without some type of injury.  Most of the time it revolves around the hip flexor/SI joint/quadratus lumborum on the right side and it ranges from my SI joint getting out of wack to just abnormal/frustrating/painful muscle soreness and tightness. It mainly occurs on low rep – heavy weight work but can also on low weight – higher rep work.

I’ve been trying to fix this for years without success.  I did just watch your squat mechanics video and will give those drills a try but in the meantime I would like to find substitutes for the squats and deadlifts so I can perform the strength workouts in the training plan.

I have had some success with the Sumo deadlift not injuring me but it’s not guaranteed.

I tried subbing 1 leg split squats, lunges, and step ups but found that working to a 1RM was not ideal.  I was wondering if I should do a 3-5RM for these exercises? How would I adjust the 10 sets of 4 at 70% of 1RM?

Based on the plan, I need a sub for front squat on Monday, a hang squat clean on Wednesday, and a back squat and hinge lift on Friday.

I also can’t do any type of clean as I only have 90% of flexion in one of my elbows and can’t catch the clean with proper form.  I was going to sub dumbbell snatches or jumps for the cleans.  Does that work?

I know the ideal solution is to train my body to do these motions without injury but that has proved to be more difficult than it sounds.

I am a 39 y/o swat operator who’s decade on the team and 20 years of martial arts/kickboxing/sports injuries is catching up to him.  Between my elbow issue, my low back surgery, and a current shoulder injury from breaching doors I’m just trying to stay healthy so I can be on the team for another 10 years.  I want my fitness training to keep me healthy and improve my performance which hasn’t been the case when I perform these exercises.


Substitute Sumo Deadlifts for the Hinge lifts in the plan.

Substitute lunging movements for squats. You can chose the lunge variation, but don’t bother with a 1RM. Use “hard but doable” instead, and 3-5 Reps. So if the circuit says 10 Rounds of 4x Front Squat at 70% 1RM, do this instead:

10 Rounds

4x Lunge Variation – increase load each round until 4x is hard, but doable. Aim to be at the “hard but doable” load at round 3 or 4.

Clean Substitutions – Options include Hang Power Snatch, or Barbell Jump Squat – if you do the jump squat, don’t go heavier than 95#. Another option is box jumps holding dumbbells – 20″ Box, 25# dumbells. With the Barbell Jump Squat and loaded box jump variations, don’t worry about increasing weight – aim to jump higher and be more explosive.



I am interested in the SF45 workouts but it seems they are not available? Is there a way to get the workouts as they become available?


We offer subscription access to the SF45 sessions, but I’ve yet to publish a plan for purchase yet. If you’re a subscriber you can get access to the SF45 sessions – under SSD.



I am just a guy that enjoys lifting, and I am looking for a new training plan.  Generally speaking, is “Falcon” an appropriate plan for lifters/weekend warriors?  Thank you!


Yes. Falcon would be a good choice.



BLUF: I’ve been researching the newer SSD programming and am curious what the Cadillac program is under the SSD subscription? Please explain when you have the time. Thanks.

On a side note, I would like to commend you on the SFOD-D Selection packet. I jumped into it when I had a relatively short period of time to train up for the selection but the process you put together had me moving very fast with a hell of a lot of weight. Unfortunately, I suffered an IT band injury due a terrain related fall during the course and was forced to withdraw.  I have recovered and am getting back into the programming mood.


The SF45 sessions are designed for guys 45 years old and older. SF45 = Strength & Fitness 45.

Cadillac is a strength and endurance cycle for guys my age.

Thanks for the note on the SFOD-D plan. Sorry about your injury.



I’m contemplating purchasing one of your workout programs. I’m a little unfamiliar with some of the exercises in the examples and the way they are written. For example:

  • 5/8x Bench Dip
  • 7/10x Push up

I’m assuming this is for girls/guys? And some of the exercises I’ve never heard of – poor mans leg curl?

Not looking for an answer per se, but I’d like to know if the work out programs go into detail on the exercises (photos, explanations, tips, etc) and details about the workout as a whole.  Or will I be spending time searching YouTube?

You’ll have to forgive me, as I’m coming off of bodybuilding.com workouts which are very user friendly. I’d like to do something more practical/functional but I don’t want to be left scratching my head at the end of the day.  Thanks in advance.


Yes – the first number is for women.

We don’t hold your hand through our training sessions. If you know your way around a weight room, many exercises will be familiar. Some won’t and new athletes will follow our exercises tab and watch the exercise videos to learn them.

Also, our cycle and training session design is unique. It will take you some time to learn the structure, flow and intensity.



I have been working out with Military Athlete for quite a while.  Recently I changed to the ski program to train for a few ski trips (which worked fantastic).  I wanted to get in really great shape – without doing two-a-days.  Can you recommend which program will put me in the best overall shape?  I’m not training for anything specific, just want to really tone up and look good.


Please understand our training focus isn’t appearance – so in general, I’m not sure we’re the right choice for you. If you want an advanced general fitness program, follow the SSD Sessions with your subscription.

If you want to move away from subscription or you don’t have one, I’d recommend 369 Work Capacity: http://mtntactical.com/shop/369-work-capacity-cycle/



I’ve been subscribed to your operator sessions since mid 2011. I saw in your Q&A posted yesterday that you are developing a training plan for DEA FAST. Currently I am gearing up for the FAST selection course (FAIC) scheduled to begin in March 2015.

I recently purchased both your SFAS and HRT Selections plans, hoping to build a plan from these workouts that is better suited to what I am about to face in March. I finished up the last Operator Session Strength cycle about 2 weeks ago and am currently working through the bodyweight/APFT sessions that began on 02.28.2013 until I hit 9 weeks out. At that point I am planning on working through a combination of the 2 plans up until selection begins. Not sure how far along in your FAST plan development but any guidance or input would be greatly appreciated.


The DEA FAST selection plan is next on my list – I should start it next week. It will be a 6-8 week plan, and will be done in plenty of time for your selection. I should have it done mid-January.



Just want to put some size on in the gym. Which program is suitable?


Hypertrophy Program for Skinny Guys: http://mtntactical.com/shop/hypertrophy-program-for-skinny-guys/


Ultimate Meathead Cycle: http://mtntactical.com/shop/ultimate-meathead-cycle/



Just wanted to let you know how I am progressing with the Operator Sessions. I did the 7.28 session through that six week cycle, and I had mostly good results, I think. I got my bench up by about 10-15 pounds for 3 reps, and the same on my hinge lift. My push press went up by 30 pounds, but I attribute that to having never done it before and acquiring the learning curve. My pullups went from 15 dead hang to 19. At any rate, my only real area without progress was my front squat. I figured this was because I was running and rucking so often, so for the last two weeks of the cycle, I capped the long runs and rucks at 5 miles, to see if I could tweak it a bit. I did not succeed; in fact I made no progress at all. I do have a previous knee and ankle injury on my left leg.

Anyway, my time on the rucks improved, and my run times remained steady or improved very slightly. I am hoping to attend selection in April, so I obviously prefer ruck progress to squat progress. My ruck time dropped from a 1:06 five mile to a 56 minute five mile, with 50 pound pack, 10 pound sledge, and in my uniform. My front squat, on the other hand, stayed at 155 for 3RM, and my 1RM dropped from 195 to 170. I am curious to know if this has been a trend with any other of your athletes; that is, seeing little or even negative progress on leg lifts while doing ruck/run intensive programming. Have you or your lab rats had issue with this, or am I the only one? If so, what would you suggest as a solution?


I wouldn’t worry too much about your Front Squat numbers. A focused strength cycle without the high volume running/rucking would help there. Us older athletes have the training age to take this volume, but some of the new lab rats are still developing it.

Improvement on the ruck and run is impressive, and the most important.



I’m am training for Navy EOD, I’m in decent shape for an USMC Infantryman, but need to get to the level where I feel confident I can make it through the pipeline.  Looking at your existing programs which one would you recommend to fit my needs?  Thank you for any advice you can give.


BUD/s V2: http://mtntactical.com/shop/buds-training-program/

You need to get comfortable in the water, in addition to pushing your running/rucking/work capacity. This plan does it all.



1: Awhile ago, I had asked which training plan would be best suited for someone who is not in shape, wants to establish a base, and isn’t training for anything in particular.  I accidentally deleted that email, but I seem to remember you saying it was the 357 plan?  Would that still be your recommendation?

2: What is your set/rep recommendation to find your 1RM?

3: I know that Step-ups are relatively simple exercises, but everything always comes down to technique.  I was wondering when doing Step-ups, where should the “fatigue” be felt (quads, hams, calves,etc)?  In other words, how do you know if you’re doing it incorrectly?

I hope you have a good day and thank you for always taking the time to answer these emails.


1) OnRamp Training Plan: http://mtntactical.com/shop/on-ramp-training-program/

2) After the warm up ….

  • Round     Reps
  • 1                5, add weight
  • 2                3, add weight
  • 3                1, add weight
  • 4                1, add weight
  • 5                1, 1RM, or add weight
  • 6                1, 1RM

3) Legs and lungs. Don’t overthink it.



So I’m looking to apply for MARSOC A&S soon. I trust MA’s programming as I’ve seen incredible results from it. I have the BRC prep program. I saw the sample workouts for the A&S program and they didn’t seem too dissimilar from the BRC program. Would I really need the A&S prep program? Does it really differ that much from the BRC one?


We don’t build one plan, and retread it into another. Our reputation and professional integrity demands we begin with the fitness demands of the specific event, and program accordingly. Both programs were designed individually.

Both events involve the USMC PFT, rucking and swimming. Both deploy our proven programming approach of assessment, progressions, re-asses, as well as individual work cap and endurance progressions, depending upon what we could learn about the fitness demands of the event.

The overall approaches are similar – like the events – the differences are in the details based on what we could learn about the specific events.

You’re a professional athlete and your fitness and preparation for A&S is your responsibility.

Should you purchase the A&S plan? Not if you feel BRC is similar enough to A&S that a plan designed for BRC will prepare you for A&S.



I found your website through a reprint of the article in Men’s Journal magazine and have an interest in learning more about individualized programs. I am a 56 year old business exec looking for a general fitness program that has a big component of strength training as its foundation.  I am a former high school wrestler and football player who has been living a sedentary lifestyle for too long—I need to get myself “battle hardened” going forward—2015 is my starting point.

Do you have programs for someone at my age?


I’d recommend you begin with our On Ramp Training Plan for LE Athletes: http://mtntactical.com/shop/on-ramp-training-program/



I hurt my ankle about 3 months ago it was a pretty bad sprain. Since then I have no problem doing Operator Session or anything like that except my run times are terrible. I’m barely passing my 2 mile runs. I’m coming in at around 15:50 which is completely unacceptable for me and what I want to do. What are your suggestion on what i should do?


Only ways to improve running are to (1) lose weight and (2) run more.

Options –

1) Start doing two a days with the Operator Sessions – say 4x/week (run 1 day on the weekend) – Operator Session in the AM, Run in the PM – I’d recommend a mix of longer distance and sprints. Say 2 days of 5 miles at an easy to moderate pace, 2 days of 4x 400m and 2x 800m sprints – for two miles total.

2) Purchase the Run Improvement Training Program and double up with the Operator Sessions: http://mtntactical.com/shop/run-improvement-plan/ – or cancel/suspend your subscription and purchase and do this plan exclusively for 4 weeks.



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