Q&A 9.24.20

QUESTION

I would like to pass the FBI Physical Fitness Test in 4-5 months and I already have the MTN Tactical subscription for it. Should I wear a weight vest while running and doing the push ups and sit ups? If so, how often? My weight vest is 10-12 lbs.

Thank you for your time.

ANSWER

No. I’d recommend completing the plan now, then completing Humility (you can wear your weight vest for it), then re-completing the FBI SA PFT Training Plan again directly before your official assessment.

– Rob


QUESTION
Thanks for continuing to produce great content, I especially loved the recent article on athleticism.
Two quick and related questions:
1.  One of my buddies forwarded an article from his workout provider detailing that they recommend minimum strength standards before starting any of their programs (Squad and Deadlift double bodyweight, Bench bodyweight for 15 reps).  Aside from the MTI Relative Strength Assessment Training Plan, how do you think about / guide minimum strength standards as a gate to starting your programming?  At 175lb BW, my Bench is 205lb, Back Squat is 215lb, and Hinge Lift around 255lb, I’m thinking of a sequence of Rat 6, Big 24, and Relative Strength to help get my numbers up — any feedback on this plan and whether it’s needed? (I work a civilian desk job and have been using the Spirits Packet for daily training)
2.  I’m away from my home gym this summer with a TRX and 2x25lb dumbbells, and have flip-flopped between Bodyweight Foundation and a slightly modified version of Bourbon.  Given the context in Part 1, what limited equipment approach would you recommend until I can get back under the barbell?
ANSWER
1. I have general strength “standards” I like to see mountain and tactical athletes get to and/or maintain, but I don’t have minimums. First, most of our strength programming, and a lot of our mountain-specific programming is assessment-based. The programming deploys an initial assessment and then based the follow-on progressions on the assessment-results. In this way the programming automatically “scales” to the incoming fitness or strength of the individual athletes. For the mountain-specific programming that doesn’t deploy an initial assessment, the programming is progressive … i.e. it increases in difficulty as the athlete works through it and his/her fitness improves. Especially for mountain athletes, but also for many tactical athletes, strength is important, but not everything. Indeed, much of our event-specific programming (selection programs, PFT programs, climbing/hiking programs, running programs, etc.) include strength training but it’s not a major component and often, based on limited equipment – doesn’t deploy free weights. All that matters for MTI is outside performance, and over the years, our programming has moved more and more in the direction of training the specific, mission-direct fitness demands our athletes face during the real thing. Rarely is this a barbell loaded with weight. Finally, there’s always a cost in focusing solely on one fitness element. All the focus on strength your proposal will cost you work capacity, and especially, endurance. It’s okay to drop out of multi-modal programming for an individual cycle, but I’d advise against it for multiple cycles in a row … unless you’re training for a powerlifting or other strength event. Keep your eye on the ball …. gym numbers aren’t everything.
– Rob

QUESTION

I would have joined this study but didn’t see it when you called for lab rats.

Really enjoy reading your articles, and at times implementing some of your modalities.

My question on this study is twofold.

  1. Wouldn’t the comparison have been better if the cyclist were doing uphill training or sprints rather than just a steady state cardio ride? Especially since you were simulating uphill climbing.
  2. I understand the concept of keeping the study even , but as someone who cycles I can say that riding uphill puts a far greater strain on the muscular and anaerobic system than just spinning at a steady state.

I rode  cycle 3 to 4  days a week and weight train 1 day a week, training for grueling mountain events such as 3 and 6 Gap climbs in north Ga. I also enjoy hiking with the family and can easily run up and down hills all day albeit with 25lb of snacks and water. I’m 56 and work as a contractor , so no easy days for me.

ANSWER

1. Perhaps, but if they had the vertical to do 40 minutes uphill cycling I’d just have them walk uphill under load. Sprints? Not sure.
– Rob

QUESTION

I read with interest the results of your mini-study on the cycling as a crossover activity for uphill movement under load. I had contemplated applying to be one of your lab rats, but my schedule wouldn’t allow me to commit to the required 3.5 weeks. That incompatible schedule, however, produced some anecdotal results that mirror those found by your study which I thought might be of interest to you.

By way of background: I am a 43 year old fit male weighing 163 pounds and measuring 5’8” tall. I began racing road bicycles at age 13 and raced at a high (semi-pro) level in my 20s. I stopped racing at 28 and spent many years in the gym undoing the physiological toll of too much time spent hunched over on the bike. I am an avid alpinist / ski mountaineer / rock climber with a goal of qualifying as an IFMGA mountain guide by the time I’m 50.

I live full time in London, UK (for now) and over the lockdown period was unable to spend any time in a mountainous environment. I spent considerable time cycling from mid-March through mid-July as structured training on the bike gave me both an opportunity to get out of the city as well as a goal-oriented process on which to focus. I trained on the bike an average of 12 – 15 hours / week with intervals on T & Th, 2 – 3 hour low Z2 endurance ride on Wed, and longer (100 – 160km) endurance rides on Sat and Sun. In cycling terms, I currently have a functional threshold power of 4.5 watts/kg, which isn’t what it was when I was racing but still isn’t bad. Without the gym and a barbell to do my usual front squats / deads / cleans for strength, I did 2 days / week of bodyweight and KB based strength  and midline work, including leg blasters. I did not incorporate weighted step ups as per usual due to the cycling volume and need to recover and not destroy my legs.

Finally able to travel, I went to the Alps for the last two weeks of July with to get my ridge legs back and climb the Zinalrothorn in Switzerland via the normal route (following appropriate acclimatisation). We did an AD ridge called the Perrons Traverse as a warm up. It included a short (1 hour) steep uphill approach, about 3.5 hours on the ridge, and a 2ish hour exit. Packs were lightish with ropes and a small selection of cams in addition to standard gear. I felt fine on the approach and the ridge, with solid movement after shaking off some rust. It was hot and I went through a litre of water, which was not enough. I fell apart on the exit, which I attributed to a combination of mild dehydration, a bit of bonk, and relative lack of eccentric training in the months previous to handle the downhill.

After rehydrating, eating, and resting, we let the next day for the Zinalrothorn. It is a 10k ruck to the hut over varied terrain with a more heavily loaded pack (rope, climbing and glacier gear, crampons, ice axe, clothing, 2 litres of water, etc). I was ok for the first half before the wheels came off in the second. It was a 3:30am alpine start the next morning as we looked to climb the ridge. The approach involves a boulder field, onto a glacier, and ultimately cross a snow arête onto the ridge proper. Should have taken 2 – 2.5 hours. Despite my improved CV fitness on account of the cycling, I was moving very slow…too slow and we pulled the plug to avoid coming back across the arête in super shitty snow. We returned to the hut, ate, and proceeded to walk out the 10km back to the car. I felt terrible and it was also excruciatingly slow.

The next day, I woke up with DOMS in my quads. Having been acclimatised to the altitude and having a relatively high level of aerobic fitness, I can only attribute the wheels coming off in Switzerland to a lack of specific loaded concentric and eccentric training in the preceding months. Having spent as much time on a bike as I have over my lifetime, I am acutely aware of the severe limitations of the movement pattern and knew intuitively that the crossover would likely be limited, but overestimated the extent to which it could be offset by “GPP” strength and stability work. While the endurance was there in spades, I couldn’t apply it in a mountain environment.

Thanks for your content, programming, and efforts to help us all better understand training modalities and their applications.

ANSWER

Thanks for the note and your experience.
Glad to see your experience mirrored what we found in our study. We’ve received some feedback that uphill cycling, sprints, or power-meter prescribed spinning would have increased the strength gain and led to better transfer, but your experience seems to put some doubt on that.
Over the years I’ve learned to be as direct and simple with my programming as possible …. it’s taken years of mistakes to figure this out (I am just a dumb strength coach). We have more work to do, but we work to improve daily and this is what drives our research.
In our mountain programming, we pair step ups with leg blasters or quadzilla complexes to train eccentric strength – for this study we were just interested in uphill movements.
Again, thanks for the note.
– Rob

QUESTION

I have recently gone back to patrol (LE) from a specialized unit. When I was in patrol prior, my fitness level was fairly high but after getting into the unit, I fell out of the lifestyle of training an eating well. When I received the news that was getting back to the streets, I began your LE On-Ramp program.

I’m currently in the second last week of the LE On-Ramp program. With it nearing the end, I find myself trying to decide whether I should go for the spirit packet or if I should do another run of the on-ramp. I’ve found the workouts very challenging, often completing them in just over an hour.

ANSWER

Start the spirits packet after you finish the on ramp. If you feel it’s too much after a few weeks, re-do the on ramp program. Good luck on the streets
-Charlie

QUESTION
I am currently training for phase 2 selection utilizing some of your programming for an AF SPECWAR career and would be attending may 2021. Your CCT/PJ packet has the CCT/PJ prep plan as the final step, but I saw that you also had a phase 2 specific plan. Which would you recommend to be completed closest to selection? I am guessing it would be the phase 2 specific plan but I just want to be sure. I also have a bit of time to work through the rest of the packet in general so it’s not the most pressing issue right now but I’m trying to get things laid out. Additionally, assuming I pass phase 2 that between phase 2 and assessment and selection would be when I completed the CCT/PJ prep plan, and possibly another plan depending on how long it took to get orders. Is that how you would recommend utilizing your programs? Thank you for any advice.

ANSWER

Complete the Phase II plan the 8 weeks directly before your Phase II selection. What I’d recommend is work through the CCT/PJ Packet, then replace the final plan in the packet with the Phase II plan.
After Phase II? – It depends on your schedule, but I’m not sure I’d have you re-complete the entire packet again. Rather, complete the Pirate Series Plans until your 8-9 weeks out from selection then complete the CCT/PJ Selection Prep plan directly before.
– Rob

QUESTION
With pools closed due to pandemic, what is best substitute for swimming? Rowing? Step-ups? I’ve seen you post equivalent distances between various forms of cardio. Ex: 500m row = 100m Swim = 400m run but what is step-up or biking equivalent? I don’t remember those being posted. Anyway, thanks for the programs you’ve built. I’ve bought multiple & ive seen results with every one I’ve bought.

ANSWER

Not sure – as we’ve never tested it, but I’d assume rowing – and likely do the same prescribed distance.
– Rob

QUESTION
Long term fan of you and your teams work, just looking for some training advice. I’m looking at a career change into law enforcement from Corrections and want to get into specific training and good shape for the change up. What order of programs do you recommend I start with?
Some info:
1. Current and recent training has been mainly focused on hypertrophy thus I’m 5’7” and 240 lbs. I’m a hefty unit and my cardio is garbage. I’m also 44 (not that that means anything to me, just FYI).
2. Whilst the LEO service I’m looking at joining doesn’t have overly difficult requirements I want to be the best I can be, simply from my own sense of professionalism. Test are a beep test, urban obs course (short, reasonably fast course) and some very easy calisthenics I would have to be dying not to pass.
Thanks for any direction you can give, cheers.

ANSWER

Whoa!! 5’7 and 240! – I’m 5’7″ and 155!! Your hips, knees, ankles and low back are all cursing you – esp. at 44.
Start with the 2-Mile Run Improvement Training Plan. This plan includes bodyweight strength work – and will get you away from the barbell and moving outside.
Follow it up with the plans/order in the Spirits Packet of plans, beginning with Whiskey. These are designed as day to day programming full-time LE Patrol/Detective.
Diet – If you’re packing fat in addition to muscle mass, fix your diet. Here are our recommendations: http://mtntactical.com/inside-strong-swift-durable/frequently-asked-questions/#nutrition
You’re bench press and bicep egos are going to take a hit … but your joints will thank you!
– Rob

QUESTION
I’ve been with this Police Department for 16 years.  Every year, we complete the standard Cooper Tests…..sit and reach, one minute max repetitions of push-ups, one minute max repetitions of sit-ups, and the mile and one-half timed run.  (Iowa has not adopted the newest Cooper Standards, but maintains the older standards.  I believe the new Cooper Standards did away with sit and reach and instituted a 200 meter sprint.)
For a few of those years, we made it a competition.  Your mile and one-half time in seconds, minus your sit and reach, push-ups and sit-ups..low score wins.  At that time, I was winning by fifty to one hundred points because no one could compete with me in the mile and one-half.  They might have ten or more push-ups/sit-ups on me, but when you’re 90 seconds to two minutes behind in the mile and one-half, it’s hard to make-up the difference.
However, I am now the third oldest in the department (51 yoa).  I might still be the fastest in the mile and one-half only because I’ve been averaging 30-40 miles of running per week this year.  My strength is abysmal. I can still do the standards for the male candidate in the 20-29 yoa age group for the sit and reach, push-ups and sit-ups, but the numbers  aren’t eye popping.  For example, the minimum sit-ups for the age group is 38 in a minute, and I can do 44.
I’d like to retain my title one last time…especially since these d**ks are starting to call me “gramps” and stuff like that.
Any suggestions?

ANSWER

Good luck! Nothing feels better than crushing 20 and 30 year old when you’re in your 50s!! (I’m 52…)
– Rob

QUESTION
I finished your CCT/PJ training packet in May. I shipped in June to begin the PJ pipeline but was medically DQed before Special Warfare Prep. I was tossed into a random AFSC, and I now have 2 years before I can cross train back into a Special Warfare career. Do you recommend that I complete the whole PJ training packet twice over the course of the 2 years? Or would you recommend going through a different packet?

ANSWER

I’d recommend working through the plans/order in the Pirates Packet of plans for a year, then re-doing the CCT/PJ Training Packet the year before returning.
The Pirate plans are designed as day to day programming for Military and LE SOF with water-based mission sets, and includes swimming.
– Rob

QUESTION

I recently picked up your TBS/IOC prep pack! I graduated from the summer increment of USMC OCS this summer, so I go back to school (well, we’ll see about that with corona) this fall and won’t end up back in Quantico until next fall at the earliest. MTI comes recommended to me by Jack Boger, an alum of my school and a former USMC infantry officer himself—not sure if he himself ever used the plan but he recommended I check it out. I’m also lucky that my parents, like everyone from California, have chosen to move out here to the Tetons. The altitude I got this spring definitely gave me a leg up this summer at OCS, but that’s just the beginning!

I know the TBS pack is meant for 6 weeks prior to arrival, so I’m wondering if you had any suggestions as to other ways I can prepare in this very long interim period. My current plan was to try the 6 week, see how I did at the end, and adjust fire accordingly to make sure I’m meeting all the metrics. Given my timeframe, what other stuff do you recommend I work in? I am ridiculously inflexible but was still probably in the middle of the pack at OCS in terms of physical fitness, so any recommendations as far as functional flexibility exercises would also be much appreciated.

Excited to get started with the plan and appreciate you putting it out there!

ANSWER

Complete the TBS Plan of the packet now, then follow it up with the Plans from the Virtue Packet, starting with Humility, then 7 weeks prior to your class date, drop out of the virtue series, take one rest week and redo the TBS Training plan.
In regards to your flexibility issues, some athlete had success with some of the mobility stuff Kelly Starrett does, google him, there are tons of videos available.
– Mintra

QUESTION
I purchased the peak bagger plan after finding you through the article you wrote about the AFA for Outside. I live in the Four Corners region in Farmington NM and I’m planning on a few late summer peak bagging trips so this plan should be perfect. This winter I’m skiing for the first time in years. Which skiing plan should I do? How much equipment is required? Next year we have some Alpine climbing planned. Should I do the Alpine Rock pre season plan or the AFA plan? The plans look great, I’m just trying to stack them so I can achieve my goals over the next year.

ANSWER

Do the Alpine Rock Pre-Season Training Plan prior to your season next year.
Email any questions that come up.
– Rob

QUESTION
I am a former Army officer. I got out 2017 and attended graduate school and unfortuntely allowed my fitness to slack off. Now I am about 30-40 pounds above what I believe my fighting weight. I want to get back into the National Guard and continue to serve but I am not going to do that until I back to world class shape. There are schools and events I want to attempt when I get back in.
I have been working with a dietian so my fuel side is going well but I have been just making up workouts in a blind attempt to get back body back. It has not been successful at all. And the situation has not been helped by the fact that most gyms around me are closed or very limited in what they can do.
I wish this was a situation of just pulling the car out of the garage, dusting it off, throwing in some new oil, and taking off. But it has become very clear that this is going to be more of an overhaul than a simple tune up.
I appreciate any advice you can give me.

ANSWER

– Rob

QUESTION
I’ve done several of your training plans over the past year and they’re great.  I just finished the strength assessment.  Definitely top tier training programs.  I was thinking of doing either Gladiator or 357 strength next, but they don’t really involve pull ups and I wondered what you’d recommend to do for pull-ups.   Thanks,

ANSWER

357 has some pull ups and … but not in a focused way like the MTI Relative Strength Assessment Training Plan.
Gladiator is awesome, but pull ups aren’t a key component as the program is built around the Barbell Complex.
One way to do either program is to run it concurrently with MTI Pull Up/Push Up Grease the Groove Training Plan. You’d need to put up a hang board or pull up bar in your place of work, and you’d be doing pull ups all day.
– Rob

QUESTION
Just re upped my subscription to all your plans and I’m looking for a good swim improvement plan. I know you have one up already but the distances seem very out of my reach and I am a very novice swimmer. As it sits my max distance I can hit is about 3-4 laps (150-200 meters) at the base pool. What are your recommendations on a swim plan and tailoring your existing plans to better fit my current ability? I appreciate the help and feel free to reach out here or at my personal 520-979-7020 if you have any questions or advice!
PS. Just knocked out the push up pull up improvement plan and it’s super awesome to see positive results, I’m going to hit it again and see if I can squeeze some more reps out of it!
ANSWER
Best for you right now would be to swim 3-4 times a week and gradually add distance until you’re up to at least 500m comfortably.
I’d recommend adding 50m every two sessions … so do two at 200m, then 2 at 250m, then 2 at 300m, etc.
– Rob

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