USASOC Best Combat Diver Competition Snapshot: Training and Event Results from MTI’s Team.














BLUF: In April 2024, MTI partnered with a Special Forces Team to develop a Mission Direct program for the USASOC Best Combat Diver Competition in Key West, FL. This annual competition, now in its seventh year, invites all SOCOM components to participate. This year, teams from MARSOC, AFSOC, and multiple Special Forces Groups competed.

Top 3 Finishers:

  1. 10th Special Forces Group (Colorado Springs)
  3. USASOC Team

Competition Overview

The competition spanned three days, featuring various physically and mentally challenging events.

Day 1: Physical Fitness and Academic Assessment

Event 1: Physical Fitness Assessment Test

        • Max Hand Release Push-Ups (2 minutes)
        • Max Sit-Ups (2 minutes)
        • Max Pull-Ups
        • Max Hex Bar Deadlift @ 225 lbs
        • 2-Mile Run

Event 2: Academic Test

        • Diving-centric questions

Day 2: Water-Based Challenges and Night Navigation

Event 1: Kayak Race

        • 250m surface swim to kayak
        • 1.5k kayak race

Event 2: Pool Skills

        • Max Subsurface Swim
        • Pool Relay Race (pool sprint to diving tasks: puzzle, knot tying, lift bag inflation)
        • Subsurface Crossover Drill with tasks on either side

Event 3: Nighttime Closed Circuit Navigation Dive

        • 1500m (Cancelled due to inclement weather)

Day 3: Diving and Endurance Challenges

Event 1: Contour Dive for Time

Event 2: Combined Physical Tasks

        • 800m Closed Circuit Dive
        • 1-mile Jerry Can Carry
        • Move 25 Sandbags (25 lbs each)
        • 250m Surface Swim

Event 3: Endurance Swim and Run

        • 1.5k Surface Swim
        • 3-mile Run (stay with dive buddy)

The programming for this competition was based on the 2023 Diving Competition events. Despite minor changes to the events, this approach proved beneficial. We had minimal time to develop and implement a seven-week program for our SF Dive Team, which they executed before immediately entering the competition.

For the physical fitness assessment events, MTI used a density progression model. An initial assessment was conducted on day one of training, followed by mid-program and final assessment. This approach allowed for resetting the progression with updated assessment numbers.

Swimming and running events were trained using threshold intervals, with swimming conducted with fins.

Although the pool competency drills changed from last year, we included one day per week dedicated to increasing water skills through buddy treads, max clump distance relays, and subsurface swims. These events were based on an initial assessment and progressed over six weeks.

Results and Discussion

Below are the individual results for the MTI Athletes for their initial, mid, and final assessments.

Overall Fitness Gains

Diver 1 showed a higher overall fitness increase (20.44%) compared to Diver 2 (8.6%). This indicates that Diver 1 had a more significant improvement across the board.

Baseline Fitness levels:

Diver 2 started with a higher baseline of physical fitness in several categories, making it more challenging to achieve drastic improvements. For example, Diver 2’s initial pull-up count was 24 compared to Diver 1’s 10, and the initial trap bar deadlift was 36 compared to Diver 1’s 22.

Strength and Endurance

Diver 1 substantially improved strength-related exercises, particularly in the trap bar deadlift (63.63%) and pull-ups (30%).  Diver 2 also showed good progress in the trap bar deadlift (13.88%) but had a much smaller pull-up increase (8.33%) due to the higher starting point.

Aerobic Capacity

Both divers improved their running and swimming times, indicating enhanced aerobic capacity. Diver 2 showed a more noticeable improvement in the 2-mile run (3.58%) than Diver 1 (1.77%).

The data highlights the effectiveness of the training program, particularly for Diver 1, who achieved a significant overall fitness increase. Diver 2 also showed improvements, though less pronounced, due to a higher initial fitness level in several categories.

Competition Results

The two Tactical athletes who participated in this program demonstrated excellent fitness and were in first place leading up to the final day of competiton. However, the team sustained an injury near the end of the competition, which prevented them from completing the final two events.

Next Steps

Three areas of improvement were identified post-competition that could influence future Dive Competition programming:

Lower Back Fatigue: Our athletes experienced lower back fatigue from multiple days of swimming. To address this, 1-2 Chassis Integrity sessions will be incorporated into future programming.

Increase Swimming Volume: More freestyle swimming practice was needed, as most competitors used freestyle with a mask and snorkel. Future programming will address this deficiency.

Grip Strength: Kayak interval training is resource-intensive, and without it, grip strength endurance suffers. If kayak intervals are not feasible, incorporating grip strength exercises into the Chassis Integrity circuit is recommended.

This was a fantastic opportunity to work with our SF Dive partners, and we look forward to next year’s completion.

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