Valor Update: Lab Rats Increase Strength and Ruck, Run, Speed over Ground

By Rob Shaul



This 7-week Mini-Study investigated the tactical fitness building capacity of an update to Valor – one of MTI’s most well-known tactical athlete training plans.

Ten remote lab rats completed the full 7 week, 5 day/week mini study and saw an average …

    • 12.9% improvement in max effort Barbell Complex strength
    • 14.1% improvement in 3-mile ruck run @ 45# time
    • 3.3% improvement in 1.5 mile run time



Valor was one of the first military-specific training plans MTI designed after the first big evolutionary breakthrough in our base-fitness program design.

Like many of the military training plans that can be purchased individually, Valor originally began as a cycle in our Daily Operator Sessions. At that time, base fitness cycles had a much more pronounced single fitness attribute (work capacity for Valor) and were just 3 weeks long.

As the programming methodology evolved, we lengthened the duration of most of our base fitness training cycles company-wide to 7 weeks, at the same time decreasing somewhat the specific fitness-building emphasis of each individual plan. Valor continued to emphasize work capacity, but not to the degree it did before.

This evolution was reflected in the current version of Valor (version 2). As well, by that time in the company’s history, we were receiving more and more requests for macro-cycle programming (multi-month), especially in preparing for various military selections and schools.

Version 2 of Valor continued with this work capacity emphasis, but combined speed-over-ground focused endurance programming, including short, threshold intervals, as a 2-for-1 programming tool: (1) increase run and rucking speed for short distances, and: (2) elicit work capacity-level effort.

Version 2’s strength programming was not assessment-based, but instead deployed a moderate-volume strength set and rep scheme.

Changes to Version 3
(1) Changed the strength programming to deploy an assessed progression built around MTI’s Barbell Complex. The MTI Barbell Complex (BBC) is a choreographed complex of six barbell exercises, completed in succession.

For several years the MTI Barbell Complex has been deployed routinely in strength-focused training sessions as a warm-up. Last year we conducted another Mini-Study which demonstrated the total-body strength-building capacity of the BBC.

The barbell complex trains strength, but it also comes with a significant work capacity hit … which better aligned with the slight work capacity-emphasis of Valor.

As well, building Valor V3’s strength training around the Barbell Complex sneakily increased its mental fitness-building ability.

(2) Kept the 3-Mile Ruck Run @ 45# and follow on pace-based threshold intervals, but decreased the run assessment down to 1.5 miles.

(3) Decreased the gym-based training sessions from 60 minutes, to 45-50 minutes in duration.

(4) Added a mid-week, 45-75 minutes long, easy paced, “recovery run.”

Below was the weekly schedule for the plan:

      • Monday: Strength, Chassis Integrity
      • Tuesday: Ruck Run Assessment or 1-mile Threshold Intervals
      • Wednesday: 45-75 Minute Recovery Run
      • Thursday: Strength, Work Capacity
      • Friday: Run Assessment or 800m Threshold Intervals

One concern I had going into this lab-ratted cycle was its intensity, especially the impact of the Barbell Complex. This is the reason I decreased the run assessment distance to 1.5 miles, and the corresponding decrease in running threshold intervals from 1-mile to 800m. This is also the reason I added in the mid-week “recovery” run.

A final change I made with my concerns about the intensity of the Barbell Complex was to continue with the complex but change it to a shortened “Modified” Barbell Complex mid-cycle. This was a simple change – all the exercises stayed the same, but the reps per exercise decreased from 6 to 3. While the load increased, the duration of each complex decreased, and the overall intensity went down. I was concerned going in that 7 weeks of a progressed full Barbell Complex would be too much for the lab rats, and post-cycle feedback confirmed this concern. The lab rats were appreciative of the mid-cycle switch to the Modified BBC.

Finally, this is the second time I’ve run a 7-week cycle mini-study with remote lab rats, and the first time one this intense was completed. I was concerned about attrition and we lost approximately 30% of those who started. One change we did make over previous lab rat cycles was to connect all the lab rats together, with me, on Slack – where they could post assessment results, ask questions, and see how the other lab rats were fairing. Several commented that this mini, short-term “community” was a refreshing and motivating way to train remotely.


See below for the results:

Overall, I was pleased with the results and we are going to update Valor to this Version 3.

The one lagger was the 1.5 mile run improvement – which could be a result simply of leg fatigue from the barbell complexes and ruck running which occurred earlier in the week. But – it’s something to watch and consider moving forward.

My sense is that the inclusion of the Barbell Complex and Modified Barbell Complex took the efficiency, intensity, and effectiveness of an already solid military base-fitness training cycle to the next level.

We’ve found that the Barbell Complex has a “hardening effect.” Athletes come out on the other side with more strength, bigger engines, and more mental fitness.



I’ve recently updated Humility to Version 3, and next is Fortitude. Not sure we’ll offer Foritude V3 for remote lab rats, but it’s a possibility. Again, I’m very pleased with Valor V3, and feel this update is worthy of the reputation this plan has coming in.

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