Q&A 3/13/15

Questions include: how to incorporate rucking in the run-improvement plan, using a 5 day/week plan when you can only train 4 days, training prior to freeski sessions, year-round training for an outdoor professional, and more..

Cody sprinting loaded.

I absolutely love your programming for the military athlete. I was a big proponent of CrossFit. But it wasn’t sport specific enough for my lifestyle. Your programs have gotten me through deployments and schools. Thanks so much for your programs.


Dear Military Athlete,

I love you. No, scratch that- I hate you. You and burpees. Seriously, f- – – a burpee. I remember you kicking our asses on ye old’ COS Sykes, but- damn, you wrung my bell this morning. In the cockney words of my Brit homeboy  “it was fair play, lad”… but I’m gonna have to think twice before I dial you up again.

The 17 Dudes Who Are Licking Our Wounds On A Tarmac

P.S. I might have said some things I didn’t mean, and your crew are devious, brilliant fitness sadists. But let’s be real- NOTHING prepares you like your regiment/periodization. You’ve got a believer/customer for life.


I just purchased and downloaded the “Murph” training plan.  My hope is to have my officers go up against our U.S. Marshal Service and raise money for a veteran organization in the process.  Some folks are scared of Murph so I am going to encourage them with your plan.  Many have strict pull-ups and would cause injury and embarrassment to themselves attempting to kip any part of their person.  Is the rep table to be used the  same for both kipping and strict?

As an aside: I currently have a monthly subscription and am so enamored with it…. I greatly appreciate that I can choose which program to follow (yes, I am sticking with one, LEO for now, and not switching around based on movements I do and don’t like).


Yes, the table in the Murph Plan (http://mtntactical.com/shop/murph-training-plan/) will work for strict pull ups.

Glad our stuff is working for you! Speaks so well of you to take your training professionally!


There are a few of us looking to start training for Army Sapper School. The earliest class we can attend is at the beginning of July. Do you have any recommendations for a program or combination of a few that we should use in order to prepare for the course?


I don’t have a specific Sapper School training plan, but in the past have recommended the Ruck Based Selection Training Plan (http://mtntactical.com/shop/ruck-based-selection-training-program/) and guys have had success with it.

This plan is 8 weeks long, and designed to be completed directly before school. Over the next couple months – couple options:

1) Subscribe to the Operator Sessions, then cx when you begin the RBSTP.

2) Fortitude: http://mtntactical.com/shop/fortitude/

I had a question regarding training frequency, specifically with the programs designed around 5 days a week. In the programs you state that if you cannot keep to a 5 day schedule to not skip around but do each workout in order. My question is, I have a 4 day workout schedule M-Th and if I do the workouts in order, specifically the Mil Work Cap, it ends up that some weeks the Work Capacity efforts are done back to back. It seems that when this happens I am over trained by the third workout of that week. Is this frequency ok or do you have any other suggestions? Thanks.


Still do the training sessions in order, even if you get work cap back to back.


I like your updated site.  Years ago I bought an offseason endurance athlete program which I really liked.

I have spent the last few years doing a lot of surfing and I thought I remember seeing a surfing program on your site a while back.  I am imagining things or was this available at some point.  If so, is it still around.  I didn’t see it on the site.

I am 45 as well and liked your article on training at 45.  Totally agree on less volume….just dont recover like I did at 35.  Interesting though, you said more endurance and I find that is what totally breaks me down now.  I come from a heavy ultra running background and am finding I can’t do the 80 mile weeks the way I did 10 years ago.

Anyway, let me know on the surfing thing if you get a chance!


Here’s the link to our Surfing Pre-Season Training Plan: http://mtntactical.com/shop/surf-pre-season-training/

Note that in surfing, very little time is actually spent standing on the surf board. The primary fitness demand is paddling – this is what kills you – and this plan has you in the pool doing lots!

SF45 – endurance – I’m running, but haven’t pushed beyond 30-40 miles/week. Also – you can do any type. I’m pretty sure 80 mile weeks would crush me too! Although I did just change my shoes to Hoka One One’s – and noticed right away my joints feel better.


I am in the reserves and was recently put in charge of PT for our section and getting those not passing to pass.  I am working with a few guys throughout the months to get them to pass the APFT.  They are severely de conditioned and the APFT in about 9 weeks.

Basic soldiering skills are hard for them due to their lack of very basic fitness.  Some are infantry but most are not.  Would one of your basic training plans be more appropriate just to get them to pass followed by the APFT plan?  What would be a good idea after that?

My only concern starting with the APFT plan was that it may too much for them as some score 100-200 currently.  I want them to stay motivated rather than burning out on fitness.  They are motivated though, which makes me fairly optimistic.  Thanks in advance!!!


We have three levels of Army Basic training plans based on initial APFT Scores including one for athletes who score between 100 and 200. This is the plan I’d recommend: http://mtntactical.com/shop/army-bct-100-199-training-plan/


I’ve been aware of and interested in your stuff for a few years but only recently took the plunge and started the Backcountry Ski Training Program in preparation for a 6-day backcountry ski tour.  I’m most of the way through the program now and feel like it’s made a huge difference in my trip preparation.  The structure of your programming and the focus of training specifically for a trip has been great (first time I’ve done specific and focussed training for a trip instead of just relying on whatever I had been doing for exercise).  But I had a few questions about finishing this program and what to do next.

A bit of background … 44 year old male, 5′-11″, 172#, office based job, spent most of my life doing classic “cardio” exercise – running, cycling and swimming – and only set foot in a gym for the first time about 6 years ago when a knee injury prevented me doing my usual.  Since then I’ve become a lot more interested in strength work, did a Starting Strength program, did CrossFit for a while, then injured my back which put me completely out of action for most of a year (herniated L5-S1 with significant sciatic pain).  I’ve managed to recover without surgery and now don’t have any problems provided I am careful with my posture and maintain correct form while lifting.  For the past 2+ years I had not done any endurance or work capacity type exercise until just before starting the ski training program.  Last December my lifts were (all 3×7, I didn’t test 1RM) FS:165, BS:225, Bench:165.  This week, doing the ski program, my hard-but-doable FS was 175#.  Generally my upper body is a bit weaker than my lower – the other day I tested pull-ups and could only do 10 in a row.

I was wondering how much rest I should allow between finishing the ski training program and starting the ski tour.  Currently will be 6 days, not sure if I should completely rest or fill the gap with some more endurance work (running and/or step-ups)?

After the ski tour I have 5 wks before a week long family vacation then another 6-8 wks until a longer vacation followed by moving house (which will probably seriously interrupt training for up to 3 months).  I don’t have any specific goals for those periods other than general fitness and baseline preparation for future hiking / skiing trips.  In terms of training plans I was thinking:

  1. After the ski tour, rest for a few days to a week (?) then do either Big 24 or Ultimate Meathead and extend it until the first vacation (5 wks total).
  2. Take the family vacation as complete rest then possibly do Rat 6.
  3. After the longer vacation and moving house maybe get a subscription and start SF45 or would you suggest something different?

Keep up the great work.


Rest? – 2-3 days is plenty. You can add in some step ups/running or re-do the last week of the Backcountry Ski Plan.

Strength after your ski trip is good. After vacation I’d recommend 369 Work Capacity: http://mtntactical.com/shop/369-work-capacity-cycle/

Then roll in to SF45.

First off, I would like to thank you for recommending the Afghanistan Deployment Program I noticed a big difference already into week three compared to other programs commended to backcountry hunters.

Now, my girlfriend is curious about your program as well. There are programs for injured athletes on the website, but there are very few for people with permanent injuries.

Years ago, she ruptured her knee ligaments doing agility in one of her legs. It took her months to be able to walk again. The ligaments never healed, and it is essentially bone grinding on bone.

Now, the funny thing is that she is able to do heavy lifting in the warehouses and during apartment moves. And she is capable of backpacking with heavy loads. The crux is when she does routines at home or at the gym.

For instance, she is able to do Pilates, but she’s not able to do squats, including bodyweight varieties, or participate complex movements like “leg blasters”. The old knee injury acts up.

It just kind of odd if the task is related to work capacity such as rucking, step-ups or running, it doesn’t bother the knee, but resistance/strength training causes great deal of pain.

So is there some kind of progression you can recommend or alternatives?


I’m sorry – I can’t help here.

At first I would think the issue would be driven by range of movement – deep squats, regardless of loading, would affect her. But if she’s able to squat heavy, without pain, range of motion isn’t an issue.

Another possibility would be volume. High volume moves like leg blasters would affect her, but not low volume heavy squats. However, if this was the case, her knee would act up while backpacking.

So – I’m not sure what is going on. There’s no consistency.


I am interested specifically in the following two programs:

  • Expedition Mixed/Ice Climbing Training Program
  • Ice/Mixed Climbing Preseason Training Program

When you buy the program do I get video demonstrations of the exercises or text description of how to perform the exercises correctly ?


We post our exercise menu with explanations here: http://mtntactical.com/category/exercises/

We are also available to answer questions via email.

Note that these programs require a system board you can use your ice tools on. Most climbing gyms won’t allow you to use tools – so you’ll need to build a system board if you don’t already have one.


First thanks for all the great info you give us military professionals for free or cheap.  I am midway through the 4 WEEK running improvement plan, and i love it but its brutal.  Theres no rucking included, but i dont want to neglect that aspect.  Would you recommend adding one or two rucking days per week?  If so, would you put it between the two interval days during the week, or on the weekend (Both options are meant as recovery days in the original program)? Or maybe double up one day a week? Nothing crazy, just like a six or eight miler @50 pounds.  Or should i just go all in on the running, then afterwards start the ruck based selection plan?  This is just for general big Army fitness.  I admit to cherry picking your workouts over the last few years, i just want to do it right. Thanks a bunch.


You can add in rucking in any of the ways you mention – but understand you purchased the Running Improvement Plan – and I’d rather you focus there.

After, I’d recommend Fortitude: http://mtntactical.com/shop/fortitude/ – which combines running, rucking and gym-based strength training.


First let me start by saying that your programs are awesome and I feel stronger each session that I do. I hope that you come up with a Bodyweight 3 program as well.  I recently completed the Bodyweight 1 program and I just started the Bodyweight 2 program but I am unable to find the 40ft. Shuttle sprints in the exercise list and I’m not sure I performed them correctly. For example today’s session was 10rds of 10x 40ft shuttle sprints. The way I set it up was a cone at 20ft and one at 40ft., but that’s how the suicide sprints were set up. Can you advice on the proper way to do the exercise? I just want to make sure I do everything correctly.


Set 2 cones 40-feet apart. 10x = 10 lengths, so 5x Round trips. Sprint back and forth between the cones, touching the line at each cone.


I have been following your work through the media and I was impressed, so I decided to subscribe for daily sessions on the website.

I am 26 and I am an alpine ski racer, competing at FIS level. My goal is to start next season with an high level of form and keep it up throughout the racing season. I understand the best thing for me would be to follow the Freeski sessions, which begin in June (if you have other recommendations, I’ll be glad to hear them).

Since the Italian sun has already started melting the snow, however, my racing season has pretty much ended, and I can take advantage of these months to start my preparation.

My question is: which kind of training should I follow, in order to make sure I begin the Freeski sessions in June in good shape? At the moment I am in doubt between base Mountain Athlete sessions and SSD sessions.


Complete the SSD Sessions now – begin with the 2/9/15 session and work forward from there.

Also – at the end of your race season now, don’t be afraid to take some time off from training – I give my pro skiers all of April off – to give both a physical and mental break.


I am looking for a year round training program that will keep me physically fit for all my jobs. I work seasonally:

  • Ski/Snowboard Instructor – Winter
  • Ocean Lifeguard – Fall, Spring, Summer (in between contracts)
  • Mountaineering, Backpacking, Sea Kayaking Instructor and Guide in Alaska (Day Trips to 28 Day Expeditions). I typically do a couple month long expeditions. I lifeguard and run smaller expeditions/day trips in between.

For “fun” (it’s all fun of course) I climb, surf, and practice White Tiger Kung Fu. Do you have a particular program that would be best to meet the demands of all jobs? I look forward to hearing from you.


I don’t have a perfect “all in one plan” for you.

In a perfect world, you should be going base fitness training between sport-specific “train ups” for your work seasons or expeditions.

For example – let’s say this was your 2015-2016 calendar:

  • June 2015 – Mountaineering Trip in AK
  • July 2015 – Lifeguarding
  • August 2015 – Backpacking Trip in AK
  • September 2015 – Sea Kayaking Trip
  • October – November 2015 – Lifeguarding
  • December 2015 through March 2016 – Ski Instructor
  • April and May 2016 – Lifeguard

Here’s what I’d recommend for Training:

In general, I’m assuming you don’t need an pre-season, sport-specific training for your lifeguarding. I’m guessing you’re a strong swimmer. I’m also guessing during your life guarding, you can train hard early or late.

From a safety/responsibility perspective, preparing your “mountain chassis” (legs/lungs/core) for you Mountaineering instruction, and preparing sport specifically for the ski season are most important – which is why these have sport-specific train ups. As you get older, this sport-specific preparation increased in proportion.

Also – durability is key to your paycheck. If you’re hurt, you can’t work. I feel strength – esp. legs and core – are most important for your durability.


I will be running my first half-marathon in six weeks on April 18. I did your Army APFT program in December and really liked it. I went ahead and just bought the Fortitude program because it seems like a good fit for my goals- be able to run a half in six weeks but not lose too much strength. I was wondering if you thought that would be the best program to do to get ready for a half in six weeks?

In terms of my current abilities, I ran a 6:26 mile in December, and last month I got 225 x 17 on the bench. I haven’t ran much or done lower-body lifts since December because of a back issue, but I have rehabbed that with a physical therapist and she has cleared me to do anything. I ran several times last week at easy paces to get back into, so I feel good to go for any program now.

If you could let me know if I should stick with Fortitude or try another program, I would appreciate it.


Neither the APFT plan or Fortitude are designed to prepare you for a half marathon. I don’t have a specific 1/2 marathon plan – and a specific plan is what you should be doing. There are plenty of these available – for free – online. So my first recommendation is find an specific 1/2 marathon training plan.

From my stuff, the closest would be the Running Improvement Training Plan (http://mtntactical.com/shop/run-improvement-plan/) – but I think you could do better for the 1/2 marathon by going with a 1/2 marathon specific plan.


I discovered the Mountain Athlete website a few years back, thinking that it was a really cool idea for those types of people that engage in outdoor mountain activities whether it be for your job or recreation. At that time however, I was invested with several crossfit gyms and considered that type of training good enough for what I wanted to do.  I’ve come a long way since then, been through some ups and downs, and now I’m ready to try some more tailored, specific training to better help my climbing and other outdoor hobbies.

A bit about myself:

27 years old, 5’10” 100kg living in Southern California.  Been climbing for roughly 5 years now, 3 of those years of which were spent climbing 3-4 days a week (at my peak lead climbing mid 5.11 range and bouldering in the v3-v4 level. The rest of the time i took off for either injuries (fingers and one torn acl) and 1 year where i specifically trained for Olympic style weightlifting, competing regularly during that time with a max total of 249 (116kg snatch and 133kg cj @100kg bodyweight.)  I’m also an avid mountain biker and snowboarder with about 6-7 years of experience under my belt for those disciplines.

My progress in my disciplines has always been subpar (at least in my mind), and I’m really hoping to find a training regime that will help me bust through some plateaus, especially in climbing.  I want to get serious about climbing again, above all, and really focus on becoming a solid climber.  I’ve never done any alpine or ice climbing, I’m primarily looking to get better at bouldering/sport/trad climbing.  I also wouldn’t mind becoming a more solid mountain biker along the way (although I always mountain bike for fun.)

I’ve been browsing the shop on the SSD website, wondering which program might be best for me.  I don’t think I’m at that point yet where I need to train for let’s say the upcoming climbing season.. But I am interested in expanding my programming knowledge, and trying new exercises to increase my overall workload, and most importantly, doing workouts that will only help my climbing and not hinder it.  I agree with your training philosophy and want to give it a shot.

The last thing I’d like to mention is that I’m not a small guy, at least in comparison to my climbing friends.  I easily outweigh them all by at least 20-30 pounds, 50-60 pounds in some cases.  I enjoy being bigger, but would ideally want to get down to a more manageable climbing weight, whatever that may be. I’ve always had the mentality that my weight is the reason why I can’t climb as hard as some of my friends, even though we’ve been climbing the same amount and I can lift twice as much as them.. but maybe that’s the wrong mentality.  Anyway, i’m looking to change that and would really like to hear your thoughts.

I have access to a gym with all the necessary equipment.


You’re saying a couple things: 1) you want primarily to improve your climbing performance ability, but 2) you aren’t ready to start a pre-season climbing plan.

I’d say you focus on (1), and begin our programming with the Rock Climbing Pre-Season Training Plan: http://mtntactical.com/shop/pre-season-rock-climb-training-plan/

This plan is sport-specific for rock climbing – but includes general fitness work also. I designed it to be completed in the typical rock gym with also has a general fitness training area.

You can repeat the plan – it’s assessment based and progressive – if you’ve got time before you hit the crags hard.

Bodyweight – for general athletes, the first thing I recommend is they clean up their diets – here’s my general nutritional advice:

6 Days a Week: Eat lean meat, vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, and drink water. Don’t eat carbs (bread, spuds, rice) or sugar.

1 Day a Week: Cheat like a mother! Beer, pizza, ice cream – you name it! We’ve found you can’t eat clean over the long term without cheating. We’ve also found the longer you stick to this diet, the less you’ll “cheat” on your cheat days, and the more cheating will hurt you – i.e. stomach ache, gas, etc.

For rock climbers – things can be a little different. If you’re serious, I’d recommend going vegetarian for 6 weeks – no animal based protein. The idea would be to cut muscle, as well as fat. You could also double up the Rock Climbing Pre-Season plan with some additional running on our own or our Running Improvement Training Plan: http://mtntactical.com/shop/run-improvement-plan/


I just started your APFT Plan.  I’m on Day 2.  I’ve been an avid follower of Military Athlete for a while.  My pushups and situps maintain well with your programming.  But, I typically have trouble maintaining a good amount of speed for my run.  I’ve slowed down to about a 14:30.  My questions:  would it be counterproductive to incorporate any additional training with the APFT Plan?  Would that be a detriment to the programming?  Or is there any additional training that you would recommend I add-on, if I continue to feel good while completing the program.

Thanks for your help.


I’d recommend following the APFT Plan (http://mtntactical.com/shop/apft-plan/) as prescribed, at least through the first re-assessment. See how you run …. then perhaps add in some additional running.



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