Plan Focus: Gratitude

MTI’s Tactical Lab Rats grind through a gym-based endurance circuit of Sandbag Clean and Run, Sandbag Clean and Push Press and Step Ups @ 20″.

By Rob Shaul

We’ve been experimenting with gym-based, multi-modal endurance programming with our Wyoming lab rats (myself included) for the past several weeks.

In the process we’ve been revisiting some of our old theory and training session design.

In brief, gym-based, multi-modal endurance sessions are extended (45+ minute) constant movement efforts which can include dumbbell/barbell exercises, sandbag exercises, box jumps, step ups, short sprints, sled pushes, etc. Think a work capacity event, but much longer, and at a lower intensity.

First, Some background ….

For several years we had a “Stamina” training mode. See the chart below from an old programming course manual:

Our old Stamina Cycles were the most intense training we did, and had two goals:

1) Train Recovery from long events – It’s been our experience that relatively short, intense, work capacity training does do a good job of preparing an athlete for a single, long, endurance push. But he’ll be trashed the next day. Short, intense events don’t train recovery.

2) Train mental attitude toward long events or multiple events over a long day – Mountain and Tactical events are most dangerous when everyone is tired and beat down, and this is when athletes must be the most sharp. This is mental stamina. Also – long, extended events, and multiple events over a long period work to grind down athletes. This is where attitude stamina comes in. This is the ability to face each event with an enthusiastic, professional sense of duty, no bellyaching, and setting the example for others.

Our old Stamina Sessions are generally loaded, extended (60-120 minute) “gym-based” training events designed to use the efficiency of gym training to mimic the volume (legs/core, mostly) an athlete would experience on a long mountain or patrol day.  These sessions were long – 75, 90, and 120 minute Efforts.

Question: Why did you stop doing Stamina Sessions?
Answer: Garbage Reps

“Garbage Reps” are low to moderately loaded, deep squatting or lunging movements. Last year I became concerned about the long term effects of this type of work on knee health, and began to eliminate this type of programming from my work capacity programming. “Garbage Reps” were a key component of our old stamina programming … where we were trying to hammer the legs and mid section with lots of volume to condition recovery. Once I committed to eliminate “Garbage Reps” from future programming, our Stamina programming and sessions were orphaned. (More HERE).

Gym-Based, Multi-Modal Endurance

Our move to experiment with gym-based endurance was driven by my desire to implement some of the non-garbage rep aspects of our stamina programming (overall grind, mental and attitude stamina) and the simple realities of the hard winter we’re experiencing and it’s impact on our scheduled endurance work.

Note on intensity … on the cardio side, we want this to feel like a moderate-paced run … comfortable but not easy. I instruct my athletes to “grind” through. On the muscular side, where we feel it most is the midsection. It’s never sharp, but at the end, our entire mid-section is fatigued and the next day, our sides and low back are a “sore in a good way.” 

Here is a comparison to our old “Stamina” an the new “Gym-Based, Multi-Modal Endurance”:

More Mission Direct?
In terms of strength and conditioning, “endurance training” generally refers to training single mode efforts – running, rucking, swimming, biking, etc.

For the Mountain and Tactical Athletes we work with, we understand there is another kind of constant movement endurance which can be multi-modal, and is often loaded. Examples on the tactical side include long team events at military selections and line clearing for wildland firefighters. An example on the mountain side could be hours digging out tent placement locations on big mountain alpine climbs.

Often these efforts have a significant demand on the “combat chassis” – the musculature between the knees and the shoulders, and Chassis Integrity. “Chassis Integrity” is the MTI mid-section programming methodology of functional, transferrable core strength programming to the battlefield and real world.

We built our gym-based endurance programming around these demands … loaded, multi modal and with a significant chassis integrity emphasis. Below is an example of a 75 minute, Gym-Based Endurance effort. There is no rest between Parts (1) & (2) or (2) & (3).

 (1) 25 Minute Grind …

  • 5x Sandbag Getups @ 40/60#
  • 160-Foot Sled Push (unloaded sled, turf floor)

 (2) 25 Minute Grind …

  • 3x Keg Lift @ 40/60# Sandbag
  • 6x 40-foot Shuttles (3x laps) with Sandbag

 (3) 25 Minute Grind …

  • 5x Sandbag Clean + Push Press @ 40/60#
  • 20x Step Ups @ 20”

Gratitude is a 7-week, 5 day/week limited equipment training program with a strong focus on mission-direct endurance. It is the fifth plan in our “Virtue” series for tactical athletes and joins Humility, Fortitude, Valor and Resilience.

Gratitude deploys our new Gym-Based Endurance programming, as well as unloaded running to train an athlete’s endurance.

The gym-based endurance events you’ll experience in Gratitude extend from 30 and 45 minutes in Week 1 to 60 and 75 minutes in Week 6.

In addition to gym-based endurance, Gratitude also trains single-mode endurance in the form of unloaded running. You’ll run two times per week. Tuesday’s runs are at a “moderate” pace and extend to 7 miles. Friday’s runs are at an “easy” pace and extend to 10 miles at Week 7.

The first 4 weeks of the plan you’ll also train body weight strength, power and strength endurance. 


  • Monday: Gym-Based Endurance, Upper Body Strength, Power, Strength Endurance
  • Tuesday: Moderate Run which builds to 7 miles in Week 6
  • Wednesday: Gym-Based Endurance, Upper Body Strength, Power, Strength Endurance
  • Thursday: Gym-Based Endurance
  • Friday: Easy Run which builds to 10 miles in Week 7


  • Monday: Gym-Based Endurance
  • Tuesday: Moderate Run which builds to 7 miles in Week 6
  • Wednesday: Gym-Based Endurance
  • Thursday: Gym-Based Endurance
  • Friday: Easy Run which builds to 10 miles in Week 7

Click HERE for more on the plan, including the entire first week of programming.


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