Plan Focus: Ultimate Work Capacity I


by Rob Shaul

Intense bouts of cardiorespiratory and muscular stress at high, but sub-maximal levels best mirror the most dangerous tactical and mountain situations. We call this type of fitness “work capacity.”

Everything comes together during an intense Work Capacity Effort:

▪ Aerobic base

▪ Sprint cardio

▪ Raw strength

▪ Strength endurance

▪ Mental Fitness

Work capacity efforts, both in the field and in the gym, can be single mode (one exercise i.e. sprinting) or multi-mode (2 or more exercises … i.e. lift/sprint/jump, repeat.)

Tactical Mission-Direct Work Capacity Event Examples:

▪Sprint/Fireman’s Carry Injured Teammate 400m
▪Sprint/Stop/Shoot, Sprint/Stop/Shoot firefight
▪Extended, Forceful Suspect Apprehension and/or Hand to Hand Combat
▪Emergency Fireline Construction/Sprint uphill to ridge safety for Wildland Firefighters
▪Fire suppression in a super hot, very confined space for Urban Firefighters

Mountain Mission-Direct Work Capacity Event Examples:

▪Carrying an injured climbing partner to safety
▪Uphill sprinting/skinning to avoid worsening conditions
▪Mountaineering Rescue
▪Avalanche Rescue

Event Duration Variation

In terms of strength and conditioning program design, the duration of the work capacity events, and the modes/exercises deployed are important.

At MTI, we limit our work capacity event durations to 40 minutes. This is an artificial limit needed for structure and progression. In general, we feel fit athletes can burn hot for a max of 40 minutes, before pacing is required and the event changes from work capacity to endurance.

Programming various event durations below this 40-minute threshold is also important. Anecdotally, we’ve found programming all work capacity events for the same duration can create a “training scar” for athletes, which can affect performance when faced with shorter or longer events. For example, if we only program 10-minute work capacity events, we found our athletes don’t go hard enough when given a 5-minute event, and go too hard for a 30-minute event. Event duration variation helps prevent this.

Ultimate Work Capacity I deploys events of multiple durations …. 5 minute, 9 minute, 15 minute, 20 minute and 30-40 minute.

Modes which Transfer to the Mountain and Battlefield

All that matters is outside performance. On the fitness side, MTI aims to design programming which transfers to the mountain and battlefield.

In terms of work capacity, the “modes” or exercises, we chose for our events need to reflect the activities/challenges mountain and tactical athletes would likely face during the real thing. As a result, you’ll see an emphasis on sprinting/running, step ups, and other modes we feel transfer well in this cycle.

Program Details

Ultimate Work Capacity I cycle brings together many of our most proven work capacity events for mountain and tactical athletes into a single, focused cycle, and is a response to athletes who express an interest in this type of plan.

This is a very intense, 6 day/week, 7-week training plan for a total of 42x training sessions (week 7 is an assessment/unload week) It is designed for fit athletes, who want to spend several weeks focused on training work capacity.

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