Q&A’s of the Week, 2.2.17


Been a fan of your workouts for a long time despite having our own Tactical Athlete Program/Strength & Conditioning Coaches at work.

One thing I have noticed being in the SOF community is that we crush ourselves in/out of the gym, but we always seem to have the same chronic injuries: lower back, shoulders, hips and knees. To no surprise, a lack of mobility sessions is also common.

The reason why I choose your workouts over the ones provided to us is the addition of mobility and the lack of “garbage reps”. (357 Strength is my favorite!) However, I think a mobility specific program of 20-30 minute sessions would be a great supplement while following some of your other plans. Do you have anything on the horizon in that direction? I’d love to follow a mobility program AND all of your other ones.


Lots going on in your note and it’s good timing with one of our initiatives.

First, I’ve yet to see the study, or the example in my own experience, which shows a definitive correlation between mobility and durability. This was the claim of the Functional Movement Screen, but that has since been de-bunked.

In my own coaching experience, I’ve found the most natural athletes (defined as movement in space), to also be the most mobile. I’ve also found them to be the most “delicate” in the terms of injury. The term “delicate” is deliberate … it could be that because these people are great at moving their bodies in space, also means they are more in-tune with their bodies, and therefore more susceptible and aware of when things aren’t quite right.

I’ve found the least mobile athletes, myself included, to be the most durable.

To use a bad analogy, say a great athlete is a $150,000 Ferrari, and a poor athlete (especially in terms of mobility) to be an old 1979 F150. Both vehicles get into a fender bender.  The Ferrari, though fast and agile, get’s it fiber glass fender dinged and it knocks everything out of whack and needs to take a couple weeks off. The F150, get a big dent in the fender, but shakes it off as character enhancing and keeps on grinding.

This has been my experience in the gym.

All that being said, we recently (last week) began work on creating mobility/flexibility standards for tactical athletes – just like we have strength, endurance and other fitness-related standards. Like all our work, we’re trying not to reinvent the wheel, and are currently researching mobility/flexibility assessments done at pro-sport combines and physicals … we assume that teams over the years have identified mobility/flexibility assessments that do have a strong correlation to career durability – and we’re curious/hoping we can apply that knowledge with our community.

We tried this once before … but I didn’t like the outcome … so we’ve regrouped and are trying it again.

Developing the assessment is it’s own puzzle. It has to be transferable/functional, simple to apply and simple to score. Our focus, as you’ve highlighted, is knees, hips and shoulders.

But back to your original question …. nothing I’ve seen indicates there’s a solid correlation between mobility/flexibility and durability. But I’m still interested in this idea of creating a mobility/flexibility “standard” for tactical athletes – an assessment that is “weightroom functional” in the sense it’s easy to administer and score. Hopefully, something which will answer the vague question out there … “am I mobile enough?”

Certainly stretching, mobility drills and foam rolling feels good, but I’m not sure it makes you more durable. That being said, I am intrigued by the idea of a mobility cycle and we’ve also considered this in the past. In fact years ago, I had a grad student/grappler interning with me (he went on to get his pHD) and asked him to develop a “flow complex” for us … a complex of movements which integrated stretching, tumbling, athleticism, suppleness and mobility in one synchronized series of movements. Essentially a “barbell complex” for mobility.

He developed it, and we deployed it for a while but it fell by the wayside. Perhaps it’s time to revisit it.

– Rob


I was referred to your company by a professional mountain climber.  I am interested in training programs that your company offers.  A bit about me:

I’m a journalist, planning on climbing a 24,000 ft mountain in Afghanistan (Mount Noshaq) in July 2017 in order to cover a story.  I have zero experience in high altitude, with the exception of family ski trips in Colorado growing up. I have no experience in mountain climbing.  I’m in fairly good shape – I workout 6 days a week (running, yoga, strength training, weights, cycling).  Last year I trained for and ran a half marathon, and I’ve been an athlete in some capacity for over 20 years.  My experience with mountains does include several years of following the US military on their patrols through the mountains of eastern Afghanistan, which were often 12 hours of walking / 15k in length.  In March I plan to climb Kilimanjaro and then hopefully Denali in June to train for Mount Noshaq in July. Noshaq, I’ve been told is not a technical mountain but more so is simply difficult bc of it’s altitude.   

I live in Turkey so I am not able to come to your gym, but I did see that your company offers program packages that I could follow here at home.  Can you please advise me on how to get started or the best package that might be right for me? 

I’m also available to hop on the phone (via skype) for a chat if you need more information. I look forward to hearing from you.


My recommendation would be to skip Kili, and move up your Denali trip to April/May.

You’ll lose fitness/weight on Denali, and need time to recover for your work trip on Noshaq. But you’ll want the Denali experience. Kili is high, but a relatively easy walk up.

My sense is doing Denali in June and Nosaq in July carries risk on the fitness and scheduling side.

Nine weeks directly before Denai, complete the Denali Training Plan: http://mtntactical.com/shop/denali-training-plan/

Right now, I’d recommend you complete our Alpine Running Training Plan: http://mtntactical.com/shop/alpine-running-training-plan/

– Rob


Thank you for your response. 

Here’s some additional info:  Kili would be in February.  I want to see how I handle 19,000 / if i get sick, etc, since I’ve never been at that altitude before.  I have friends in Kenya I wanted to visit anyway.  Do you think that is OK, and that the 19k feet will give me a good idea on if my body can handle altitude (not the physical endurance of the relatively easy walk)?

Denali for April or May and not June: Duly noted.

I haven’t checked out the Alpine running training plan on your site yet, but I currently have a tweaky back and have been advised by a doctor not to make running my primary form of exercise (I run about once a week now).  Instead I cycle on a stationary bike, I left weights, I do HIIT exercises with cardio and strength training, and I recently started walked up 60 – 80 flights of stairs at a time with a pack.  Is there an plan you offer on your site that is an alternative to running? 


Depends somewhat on the time for Kili. Tourists walk up it, and I think it’s a 10-days to a week or so of acclimatization and effort. But I’m not sure. Understand you’ll be losing fitness during, so it depends upon your Denali climbing schedule.

I’d still recommend the Alpine Running Plan. It seems if you’re doing all those other exercises, your back can’t be that much of an issue. Alternate would be the Peak Bagger Training Plan: http://mtntactical.com/shop/peak-bagger-training-plan/

Know that the “Mountain Doesn’t Care” … about your inexperience, back, location, plans, etc. Denali will kill you without a thought. So will the peak in Afghan. Worse, if you’re not fit/prepared, you could get in trouble and put your lack of preparation could endanger your climbing partners.

Regardless, good luck.


I do appreciate your feedback.  However, re: my back, I have a disk that’s prone to slip.  Running is an impact sport, whereas cycling, weight lifting and walking stairs are not.  Because of the hard impact of running, I couldn’t walk for a week last year.  So while I hear what you’re saying, I don’t think your assessment regarding my back “not being an issue” is accurate at all.

Furthermore, I’m not exactly sure I understand what’s behind your last paragraph.  The entire reason I am contacting your company in the first place is to look for guidance and help, so I can train properly.  Telling me that my lack of experience, my location, my back, etc, might “kill me” on a mountain isn’t very helpful, nor is it a great way to win customers.  I’m training under the guidance of a renown professional mountain climber who you probably know, and I’m not planning to do any of this haphazardly or without the help and insight from professionals. I’ve been a war photographer working in Iraq and Afghanistan for almost 10 years – not endangering partners and colleagues in the field is of the utmost priority.  I’m sorry that you assumed the latter about me.

Perhaps I should seek training services elsewhere or from one of your competitors.


You’ll know you’ll be carrying a 70# pack and pulling a sled on Denali, right? And, you know you’ll be doing multiple trips down climbing under load – which is significantly more impact on your low back than running? Right now you should be building your chassis integrity and working harder than ever now to build some armor into your mid-section.

I’ve been doing this for a decade, at the highest level, on both the mountain and tactical sides, and call it like I see it. I’m concerned you could be being casual about your preparation. I could be wrong.

But you should know by now that in life it’s your friends who tell you when you’re messing up and to be thankful for it, not offended.

I don’t care where you go for your prep. Like all the athletes we work with, I just want you to be strong on the mountain and come home safe.

Regardless, good luck.

– Rob


I will try to keep this short.

I am vet who currently works 50+ hour weeks in law-forcement. Additionally, I JUST had my first child…a little baby girl.

In the past I would wake up early, take the dogs out, do a 30-40 min cardio workout (rowing or a weight vest run), and then do another 40-60min weight workout 4-6 days a week.  I have also gone through CF Level 1, Crossfit Endurance, and am a Fitness Advisor for my organization.

Now with a newborn baby in the mix, I am worried about letting my (in my opinion) well rounded athlete persona just turning itself into a well-rounded (mid-section) person.  I have no doubt that i will be able to pass my organizations fitness standards even with the additional time commitments, but I don’t want to be average.

I love endurance, having completed 6 Full Ironmans and also love to lift.  I saw your baselines for things like bench and front squat etc and haven’t really trained those in a while.  I weight about 220lb and rarely go over 185 on a formal bench (might do sets of 15-20).  When I do go bench “heavy” it is typically with DBs and might top out at 100lb DBs for an alternating set of 3-4 each arm.  I rarely squat (front or back) but try to hex bar deadlift and overhead squat all I can.  My max OHS is about 205 right now -275+ is my goal here.  If you can call it a front squat I will sometimes do thrusters at 135 for 5-7 reps.

To end this now, your website has come recommended by a lot of people.  My question…Is there a program someone like me SHOULD get into that would help keep me the most well rounded.  I could probably give 4-5 75min workouts per week and 1 90min per week (my job gives me 3 days a week of 2hrs to workout but that includes getting to gym and back).  I also have a home gym with a rower (2k best of 6:43 / 500 best of 1:22), bicycle with power meter, squat rack, 400lbs of numbers, a few light kettle bells that the wife loves, pull-up straps, a bench, and the like.

Thank you for your help.


Our approach for tactical athletes is you should train first and foremost for your job. Well roundedness, recreational sport … this all comes second.

These are the training demands we’ve identified for LE Patrol/Detective:

  • – Relative Strength (strength per bodyweight)
  • – Work Capacity (especially sprinting and sprinting repeats)
  • – Upper Body Hypertrophy (big chest and arms can be great deterent)
  • – Chassis Integrity (functional, transferable mid-section strength and strength endurance)
  • – TAC SEPA (Tactical speed, explosive power and agility)

We purposely design our LE Patrol/Detective sessions to last 45-50 minutes, with the knowledge that few of these athletes get on duty time to train.

These are the training demands we’ve identified for full time, urban LE SWAT/SRT:

  • – Relative Strength (strength per bodyweight)
  • – Work Capacity (especially sprinting and sprinting repeats)
  • – Chassis Integrity (functional, transferable mid-section strength and strength endurance)
  • – TAC SEPA (Tactical speed, explosive power and agility)

These sessions are designed to be 60 minutes long.

You’ll see neither has a strong endurance component. We do program in some short unloaded running (3-4 miles), but endurance is not a strong component.

Endurance (unloaded running, ruck running) is a strong component of our programming for Military Athletes, SWAT/SRT with rural mission sets, and Wildland Firefighters.

Given all that, with you’re strong endurance background, wish to maintain this, and time to train, I’d point you toward our day to day programming for military athletes. Our most recent stuff can be found in the “Greek Hero” plans (http://mtntactical.com/fitness/packet-focus-military-athlete-greek-hero-packet/).

You can purchase these plans individually, as a packet (as above), as well, each is inlcuded with an Athlete’s Subscription to the website.

Start with Hector: http://mtntactical.com/shop/operator-hector/#tab-sample_training

Click the “sample training” tab and you can try out the first week in the plan.

– Rob


I wanted to let you know I was provided this article from one of our members.  We have a small department and are dealing with an individual who falls into this category.  We have had personnel continue over and over to try and work with him, encourage him, but they continue to fail. 

We have a mandatory, non punitive fitness program. I have no strength in this.  I have encouraged the Union to change this stance, but there is further detail to work out.

We have a fitness exam following NFPA 1582 with an aerobic capacity test, but I am not entitled to specific results, only pass or fail, both of which I have not received in the past three years, another issue I am working on.

I believe our next step will be mandating him to seek assistance with an EAP, and I am checking to see if I can mandate a “Fit for Duty” assessment.

We are trying, but continue to struggle,


The paradigm shift I’m suggesting is to consider fitness a safety issue – and not the unfit officer’s safety (he/she obviously doesn’t care), but the safety of the public and other officers who have to deal with him/her and could be injured by his/her lack of professionalism in terms of fitness.

We argue that a tactical athlete’s body is his/her most important piece of equipment. If you were to knowingly sent officers into the field with side arms which had a chance to jam every shot, you’d likely lose your job.

Think of unfit officers as the same unreliable piece of critical equipment.

I understand the legal/union/human resources issues involved and don’t have an answer for those. These also tie the hands of senior leaders who want to do something, but have their hands tied by bureaucracy.

My gut tells me that someday, officers on the front line who have to deal with these safety issues daily will revolt, and simply refuse to work with officers unfit for the job (just like they could refuse to go into the field with unreliable firearms). A revolt like this will give leadership the hammer required to break through the bureaucracy. It would only take one or two departments, and I believe there’d be a significant shift.

Also understand there is a lot of good work that can be done along the fitness lines between where you’re at now, and having a high jeopardy fitness assessment which would work for you the way it does (for the most part) in the military.

I’ve seen several departments spend money, time and resources to implement wellness programs, personal trainers, by-the-book job specific fitness assessments, stepped implementation, plenty of notice, and still get sued by members who fail and have a judge stay the whole program. (Look into the the effort at the Colorado Springs PD).

I’ve written extensively on this in suggesting steps to building a fitness culture (http://mtntactical.com/all-articles/feedback-wanted-step-step-guide-build-fitness-culture-first-responder-unit/). The point is there’s lots of good you can do between where you are and creating an administrative hammer.

And more here: http://mtntactical.com/?s=fitness+culture

– Rob

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