MTI’s Fitness Assessments

By Rob Shaul, Founder


A few years ago I visited Fort Bragg and was taken by a Green Beret and friend of MTI to his unit’s THOR3 gym. It was lunchtime, and I’d expected the gym to be busy – but there were just a few guys training with the THOR3 assistant coaches.

I was introduced to the head coach and asked him what strength, work capacity, endurance and other fitness/mobility standards he’d established for the soldiers he worked with.

He hemmed and hawed some, and when pressed, couldn’t identify any specifics. He didn’t have any. I don’t mean to criticize this coach – he was a contractor working for a bigger company, and it could be that company didn’t have any standards.  Nevertheless, I was stunned.

In simple terms, it’s hard to know how you’re doing if you don’t know where you’re going.

First with Mountain Athlete, then Military Athlete and now with MTI, assessments have always been key to our programming – not only at the macro level but also at the micro level – many of our individual training plans include assessments and assessment-based progressions.

At the Macro Level, we’ve developed several Assessments for the athletes’ communities we work with – all are described below. Send your feedback/comments to


  • All Around
    Operator Ugly Fitness Assessment – Operator Ugly is our first tactical fitness assessment and has endured over the years. The goal was to develop one test of relative strength, work capacity, mental fitness, stamina and endurance which was relatively simple to administer and score. Operator Ugly is no joke – for men, the assessment includes max rep bench press and front squat reps at 185#, max hinge/dead lifts at 225# in 60 seconds, max pull ups, a shuttle sprint assessment, sandbag get up effort, and finally, a 3-mile run for time in a 25# weight vest. I’ve administered Operator Ugly to 30 military athletes in 90 minutes.


  • Strength
    MTI Relative Strength Assessment – I developed this assessment a few years ago after receiving several questions asking, “Am I Strong Enough?” The MTI Relative Strength Assessment answers this question for both mountain and tactical athletes (military, LE, Fire/Rescue).Mountain and tactical athletes are not strength athletes like Olympic weightlifters or competing powerlifters. What is most important is relative strength – or strength per body weight. Too much strength impacts other important fitness attributes for these athletes – including work capacity and endurance.The MTI Relative Strength Assessment deploys 1 Rep-Max efforts for these classic barbell exercises: Bench Press, Front Squat, Power Clean. Also tested are max rep bodyweight pull ups. Exercise 1RM’s, max pull ups and body weight are thrown into a formula which spits out an athlete’s Relative Strength Score.


  • Work Capacity
    I’ve been working for years to develop a simple, effective, and mission-direct work capacity assessment for tactical athletes, and this year, finally cut through all the possibilities to develop the MTI Tactical Athlete Work Capacity Assessment.Set up 2 cones, 25m apart. Military athletes – wear a 25# weight vest or your IBA – and start prone. On “Go” come to your feet, and sprint down to the far cone. Drop to prone on the other side, and sprint back to the starting cone. Drop to prone, and repeat … for 3 minutes.Take a minute rest, then do another 3 minutes. Take a minute rest, then do a final 3 minutes.Scoring: Each 25m length counts as one rep. So a round trip = 2 reps. Only full lengths count …. record the total reps from all 9 minutes of work intervals.MTI Coach and Researcher, Charlie Bausman, a mutant in his own right, took this assessment a couple weeks ago. Here’s the text he sent me after finishing, “The Work Capacity Assessment ….. is a soul crusher.”


  • Endurance
    The MTI 3/3/3 Military Athlete Endurance Assessment is my recommended replacement for the typical 12-mile ruck assessment used at many military units and schools. I developed and tested this assessment this Spring. What makes it unique is it tests endurance over 3 loads.The test begins with a 3-Mile Run for Time carrying a rubber rifle, 10# sledge or 10# dumbbell.After a 6 minute rest, next is a 3-mile Ruck Run for Time at a 45# Ruck, plus a rubber rifle, 10# sledge or 10# dumbbell.After another 6 minute rest, athletes finish with another 3-mile Ruck Run for Time at a 75# Ruck, plus a rubber rifle, 10# sledge or 10# dumbbell.Total distance is 9 miles.



  • All Around
    MTI’s Alpinist Fitness Assessment assesses strength, uphill hiking under load fitness, aerobic capacity, climbing fitness, and endurance. I believe it is the most accurate and comprehensive fitness assessment in existence for professional and high level recreational all around mountain athletes.The plan deploys bodyweight bar dips and strict pull ups to assess upper body strength. Next comes a hard, 40 minute step up effort for reps wearing a 40# pack.A 300m shuttle for time is used to assess aerobic capacity, and 50 minute Bouldering V-Sum used to assess climbing fitness and technical level.The assessment concludes with a 15 kilometer run for time.Altogether, the assessment takes 2.5-3 hours of solid work. The long run at the end is by design – many alpine events require this type of end-of-mission stamina – and in this way, the assessment also assesses mental fitness.


  • Strength
    MTI Relative Strength Assessment – Same assessment used for tactical athletes, but the scoring for mountain athletes is different. Mountain athletes don’t have the same strength demands as tactical athletes.
  • Backcountry Hunting
    The MTI Backcountry Big Game Hunting Fitness Assessment is one of our most intense, non-tactical assessments. It measures relative strength via a 1RM front squat, bench press and max rep pull ups, core strength and work capacity via a sandbag getup AMRAP effort, and 3 modes of endurance: (1) unloaded run; (2) loaded step ups, and; (3) heavy ruck.



  • All Around
    The MTI SWAT/SRT Fitness Assessment was developed after extensive research into the fitness demands of SWAT/SRT, and the most common events at various SWAT/SRT selections at both the local, state and national levels. The 7-part assessment tests strength via 1RM Bench Press and Front Squat, and max rep pull ups in a 25# weight vest.Max push push ups and sit ups assess muscular endurance, and the Devil Dog Assessment measures anaerobic power.Endurance is assessed via a 1.5 mile run for time at the end.





  • All Around
    The MTI LE Athlete Fitness Assessment will take approximately 60 minutes to administer, and measures upper and lower body relative strength, muscular and anaerobic power, and mid-section rotational strength. For strength, we revisit the bench press and front squat, but dictate the assessment at bodyweight for men for both, and do a test of max reps in 60 seconds.Max Rep Pull Ups assess upper body pulling strength. A 300m Shuttle for time in a 25# weight vest assesses anaerobic power, and max rep box jumps in 60 seconds assess muscular power and power endurance.




  • All Around
    The MTI Correctional Officer Fitness Assessment  will take approximately 60 minutes to administer, and measures upper and lower body strength and strength endurance, grip strength, anaerobic power, mid-section rotational strength and tactically-specific work capacity. For strength/strength endurance, the assessment deploys a bodyweight bench press for reps, and a in-place lunge effort for reps holding 25# dumbbells. The assessment also tests strength (grip assessment), power (max box jumps in 20″ and repeat sprint work capacity.


  • All Around
    The MTI K9 Handler Fitness Assessment is a 7-event assessment which will take 60-75 minutes to administer. Three of the events include the dog – two short work capacity efforts, and a long 3-mile run at the end.



  • All Around
    We purposely designed the MTI Urban Fire/Rescue Fitness Assessment to require minimal equipment found at most firehouses. The assessment is not only designed to assess the fire/rescue athlete’s ability to fight an urban fire but also complete the overhaul after the fire is out. Equipment needed to include a pair of dumbbells, sandbag, and 16″ bench or step.





  • All Around
    Wildland Fire Fitness Assessment – Tests relative strength, functional core strength, loaded, sprint-based work capacity, and mission-direct endurance.




  • Endurance
    The Wildland Fire 3/600/3 Endurance Assessment is MTI’s recommend replacement for the typical unloaded running assessment in shorts and a t-shirt conducted at most Wildland Fire units. The 3/600/3 MTI Wildland Firefighter Endurance Assessment is similar to our military endurance assessment and we feel a more mission-direct test of Wildland endurance over a 5-10 mile unloaded run.The assessment begins with a 3-mile run carrying a 5 pound tool (ax, pulaski, etc.). This is followed by 600x step ups for time wearing a 45 pound pack. The assessment finishes with a 3-mile ruck run at 75# to mimic a smokejumper pack out.