Most Proven Work Capacity Training Events by Athlete: Mountain, Military, LE, Urban Fire/Rescue, Wildland Fire

Movement under fire – the most dangerous work capacity event in combat.

By Rob Shaul

We define a work capacity event as a hard, threshold event lasting 30 minutes or less. Below are my top work capacity events by athlete type, with my reasoning behind each. I also include 2 “honorable mention” events for each athlete type.



Event: Loaded Step Ups, Sprints, Rope Climb Circuit

8 Rounds for Time wearing 25# Pack

  • 20x Step Ups @ 20” Box
  • 6x 25m Shuttle Sprints (3x Round Trips)
  • Rope Climb (18-21” Rope)

Most mountain movement begins with the legs … uphill hiking under load, running, etc. As well, just about all mountain movement is loaded with a pack of some weight.

This event brings together the leg and lung dominant element of most mountain events, as well as a significant upper body climbing component with the rope climb.

This past winter my lab rats on both the mountain and tactical sides got to know step up + shuttle sprint circuits well, as we experimented with all types of combinations of loading, step up height, etc.

This event deploys a 20” box for step ups – which we’ve found to be significantly more difficult than our standard 17” bench height. The 25# load is heavy for a fast/light peak-bagging push, but light for a full-on alpine assault or backpacking trip – it’s a good load in the middle.

Our lab rats don’t seem to feel the load much during the step ups, where it starts to hit is during the shuttle sprints – 3x round trips of a 25m course, and really on the rope climb. I’d be looking for my most fit mountain athletes to finish this circuit just under or at 20 minutes. The “crux” will be the round 7 and 8 rope climbs.


→ Honorable Mentions

(1) 30 Minute Step Ups at 20” wearing 25# Pack, for Total Reps
More of the same here with the emphasis on legs, lungs and uphill movement. Again, the 20” box will make this effort significantly more demanding than our regular 17” bench.

(2) 30 Bouldering V-Sum, (4-Problems)
Our standard V-Sum is a 50-minute effort with the climbers top 8 problems counting toward the final V-Sum score. This shortened, more intense version meets our 30-min or less work capacity event duration standard and is a great way to train both rock climbing technique and work capacity.



Event: MTI Tactical Athlete Work Capacity Assessment

Simple, minimal equipment event which is easy to administer and score, and assesses movement under fire work capacity. 11-minute event with 9 minutes of total work. 


→ Honorable Mentions

(1) Power Cleans + Shuttle Sprints
12 Minute AMRAP wearing 25# Weight Vest or IBA

  • 3x Power Clean @ 95/135#
  • 75m Shuttle (3x 25 lengths)
  • Walk Back to Start

This event tests explosive power, sprinting ability, mental fitness, and recovery and mimics the fitness demands of movement under fire, under load.

The “crux” of each round are the shuttle sprints. Set up 2x cones, 25m apart, and after the power cleans, sprint down 25m, back 25m and back down 25m. Then walk back 25m to the start. This walk back is your recovery between work efforts. The goal is to sprint through the work and recover on the walk back.

Myself and long-time lab rat, Cody, tested this event last week – for 20 minutes. We managed 18 rounds in 20 minutes. I’m 49 and he’s 45. Not bad for old guys, given we’ve both got really high training age and have been doing this stuff for years …. See clip below:


(2) 1.5 Mile Ruck Run @ 45# + Rifle or 10# sledge/dumbbell
I love this event for military athletes. Ruck running combines strength, aerobic fitness, core strength and mental fitness. This is killer. Top athletes will finish around 13:30 minutes (that’s 9-minute miles!!)



Event: MTI Tactical Athlete Work Capacity Assessment

Simple, minimal equipment event which is easy to administer and score, and assesses movement under fire work capacity. 11 minute event with 9 minutes of total work. 


→ Honorable Mentions

(1) Loaded Box Jumps + Scotty Bobs
6 Rounds for Time wearing 25# Weight Vest or IBA

  • 10x Box Jumps @ 20/24”
  • 3x Scotty Bobs @ 15/25#

The most dangerous real-world work capacity demands for law enforcement are close quarters,  rapid and violent. This event is not only designed to mimic these “struggle for the weapon” events but also train the aggression needed to be successful.

Loaded box jumps at 20” will take explosive power, and high horsepower.

Loaded Scotty Bobs will demand upper body press and pull strength.

Both will require mid-section engagement and strength.

I’d expect top athletes who attack this event to finish in under 4 minutes.

(2) Power Clean + Push Press + Shuttle Sprint
9 Minute AMRAP

  • 3x Power Clean + Push Press @ 95/135#
  • 75m Shuttle (3x 25 lengths)
  • Walk Back to Start

A similar to my number honorable mention event for military athletes, for LE I drop the duration to 9 minutes, drop the weight vest/IBA, but change the lift from just a power clean to a power clean + push press. This is great work.



Event: Lunge + Burpee + Keg Lift w/Sandbag

10 Rounds for Time

  • 5x In-Place Lunge with 40/60# Sandbag (5x each leg, 10x total)
  • 5x Sandbag Burpee @ 40/60# Sandbag
  • 5x Keg Lift @ 40/60# Sandbag

Urban Fire/Rescue at it’s most dangerous (fire suppression) brings together a total body-mix of lower body, upper body, mid-section and heart/lung demands. This event is designed to test all in an intense but simple, event.

During the lunges, athletes can hold the sandbag anyway they want, though most will likely place the bag behind their neck and across their shoulders. These are in-place lunges, 5x each leg for 10x total.

Sandbag Burpees will add a significant upper body pressing and pulling element with an odd-object.

Finally, the Keg Lift tests mid-section rotational and grip strength. Use a 48-inch ledge.

At 10 rounds, this is an extended event by design. Top athletes who push will finish right around 20 minutes.


→ Honorable Mentions

(1) Sandbag Clean and Step Over – Max Reps in 9 min, 60# sandbag, 18″ Bench, in Turn Outs Gear & SCBA
I borrow this event from our Urban Fire/Rescue Fitness Assessment but extend the duration from 5 to 9 minutes and add the bunker gear and SCBA. Full on, athletes will not only have to push for reps, but manage effort as to not run out of air on their SCBA. Click HERE to see a video of the Sandbag Clean + Step Over exercise.

(2) 6 Minute Sandbag All-Four’s Drag, For Distance, wearing 25# weight vest and pulling an 80# sandbag.
Heat prevents fires from being fought standing up. It also requires much movement to be completed duck walking or crawling. This event mimics pulling a fire victim to safety, below the heat. Set up 2 cones, 30 feet apart and go for total distance in 6 minutes.

The weight vest will push midsection strength and strength endurance and the 80# sandbag upper body pulling strength. I’ve never personally tried this. Don’t want to….



Event: Step Ups, Run, Scotty Bobs

30 Minute AMRAP, Wearing 25# Pack + Sledge/Pulaski

  • 25x Step Ups, 20” Box
  • Run 200m
  • 3x Scotty Bobs @ 15/25#

I push the duration of the Wildland Fire work capacity event to the max allowed under our definition of work capacity. I want to test not only horsepower but also power endurance and mental fitness.

Like military and mountain athletes, Wildland Firefighters move nowhere unloaded – hence the 25# pack.

The 20” step ups will test uphill climbing under load ability. The 200m runs wearing a vest and carrying a Pulaski will test leg strength and lungs.

The Scotty Bobs will test upper body strength, and while wearing the pack, also core strength.

I’d expect top athletes to score 10-12 rounds.


→ Honorable Mentions

(1) Sandbag Getup & Run, Sandbag Burpee Circuit
8 Rounds for Time

Simple, hard circuit which tests leg, core and upper body strength and heart/lung horsepower in a tight, simple, brutal package.

Each round of 2x Sandbag Getup & Run at 25 would be  4 sandbag get ups, 100m total running round. Start with a getup, run 25m. Do another get up, run back 25m to start. Do a getup, run 25m. Do another getup, and run back 25m to the start, then roll into the Sandbag Burpees.

I’d expect fit athletes to finish around 16 minutes.

(2) Box Jumps + Kneeling Sledge Hammer Sandbag Slams
3 Rounds for Time

While the first two events are relatively long work capacity events, this effort is short and unloaded. Box jumps to kneeling sledge hammer sandbag slams  – back and fourth for 3 rounds.

Lower body strength and power is tested with the box jump. Upper body strength and core strength are tested with the kneeling sledge hammer sandbag slams.

I’d expect fit athletes to finish around 3 minutes.


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