Q&A 3/6/15

Questions include:  what to do for bouldering warm ups, “motel” plans for athletes who travel a lot, substitutions for dumbbell exercises, okay to switch AM and PM sessions in BUD/s plan, and more…

2014-09-18 10.25.26

 I am new to MA after having done CF for 7 years. I am 3 weeks into the ruck based selection program (not going to SFAS but another job related “selection” process) and I have to say I love it. I feel like everything you have me doing will directly translate into what I need to be able to do in my job and not just the gym. I can’t wait to get back from my course and become a full time member. Thanks, you guys rock.

I guess I’m writing because I need a little guidance in choosing the right workout plan from you. Here’s a few facts that may help you help me…

I’m 55. I’m in what I would call average shape. I played hockey for 35-years. My back, knees, and wind are, what I would say, decent but typically getting old. My shoulders have dislocated hundreds of times but I had surgery on both and haven’t had an issue since. I do not plan on joining a gym, but have nothing against getting a few things to use at home. I hate “running / jogging” (just being truthful). I work in a restaurant walking 4-10 hours a day, 5-days a week (min).

What I’m looking for / hope to accomplish… These days I really like to hike / backpack, but due to my shape / joints / condition… I’m not confident to go as far as I’d like to, and hate the thought of ruining someone else’s trip due to not being strong enough to keep up or carry my own weight (no pun intended).

My goal is to get in good enough shape as not to hold any hiking / backpacking partners down; AND to not have to look at distance and decide whether I can do it or not.

So, which of your programs would you recommend for me?


I don’t have a perfect plan for you. From what I have designed I’d recommend the Backpacker Pre-Season Training Plan: http://mtntactical.com/shop/backpacker-preseason-training-plan/

This plan does include 1 day/week in the gym strength training, lots of step ups and rucking (movement with a pack) and some limited running. You could sub biking for the running, if you need.


Just about to embark on the Alpine Rock Program. I was wondering if we need to do our own bouldering warm ups or are the exercises that precede the Vsums and 4x4s set as a warmup ?


The plan includes a traverse wall warm up for the V-Sum. You can add one for the 4X4’s if you’d like, but you’re already starting these 2 or so grades below your onsite.


I have a couple of questions ;

First, last September, my friend and I went for a 4day/3night Backpacking trip last year in Northeast Quebec. I told my friend who is in okay shape (trained on/off for a couples of years, but mostly off last year) a lot of time that he should train for this trip but did not until 2-3 months before the trip where he did 3-4/week some stairs workout with a backpack on. So after 2 days in the wilderness, my friend’s legs were dead and he started feeling pain in one knee during downhill, so we ended the trip… It was his first experience at backpacking and really liked it, so he decided to try it again this September.  

Since December I have been training him, I made him start with a basic hypertrophy program with only the basic lift (Squat, Deadlift, OHpress, Bench press and Pull-Up), this week I made him a 3xweek full body Strength program, just like Rippetoe 3×5.   Now come the answer; what would you do next ? Would you make him follow a strength routine until a month out of the event where he would follow one of your program (big moutain/peak bagger/big game hunting) or something else Considering the trip will be 4days long averaging 13km a day, with a total 9800ft of elevation gain all with a 40 pounds backpack.

Thank you very much for all the good work you are doing for the outdoor sport !


I’d recommend the Backpacking Pre-Season Training Plan beginning 6 weeks out from your trip: http://strongswiftdurable.com/shop/backpacker-preseason-training-plan/


What’s up coach. Thanks for the continued improvement to the site and training.

I just got out of NSW after 12 years, much of it spent following Military Athlete routines.  We spoke a few years ago when I was looking to move to your neck of the woods. Doing the corporate thing right now while I go through the process of switching to federal law enforcement.

Training is a lot harder out of the service without 2.5 hours a day dedicated to working out. Do you have any program for a guy with good fundamentals but is on the road 90% of the time with not much more than hotel gym access?

Endurance has been kept up though my normal routines, but need some more guidance on how to spend my time wisely when there isn’t great equipment around.

All the best and thank you coach.


On my list is to design a “Hampton Inn Training Plan.” When I travel I try to stay at Hampton Inn’s because their motel gyms all have a bench and full set of dumbbells – all a guy needs. But just haven’t gotten to it yet.

Until then – our Bodyweight Training Plan is no joke: http://mtntactical.com/shop/bodyweight-training-program-i/


I’ve been a fan of your method & website for some time, I like what I see. I’m wondering if you may be able to provide some guidance.

I’m training for a 17k trail run which takes place in 6 weeks. In the past I’d do some core work, some running, etc. I’m wondering if SSD offers a specific plan – I didn’t notice one other than the core plan for runners.

I had planned to simply purchase and carry out the runner’s core strengthening plan on your website, but am wondering if there’s something tailored more toward the trail run activity specifically. I travel approx 20%-50% of the time, so I don’t always have access to a suitable gym. Anything you suggest is very much appreciated, and if a tailored plan is created, I understand it would be something for which I’d pay, similar to the runner’s core plan.

Thanks in advance for your help – I’m really inspired and challenged by the methods and athletes featured on your website.

Nothing perfect, but a couple options.

Short term – to maximize your Trail run performance, I’d recommend our Running Improvement Training Plan: http://mtntactical.com/shop/run-improvement-plan/

This plan is running only, and built around a 5 mile assessment, and follow-on hard intervals based upon your assessment pace. We built it primarily for military guys who simply wanted to improve their overall running.

It also includes a weekly 8-mile run – which is a couple miles shorter than your 17k, but would do the job. This plan is 4-weeks long, but you could repeat the plan into your trail run.

Longer term – to build your overall running base and set you up for longer runs, I’d recommend our Ultra Pre-Season Training Plan: http://mtntactical.com/shop/ultra-running-preseason-training-program/

This plan uses heart rate for intensity, and includes gym-based strength work (lots of bodyweight stuff, mostly), and longer runs – up to 18 miles. In general, it would be a great plan to start now, and build for more running in the summer. Your 17k would become part of your longer term training.


I just purchased your Big Mountain Training Plan in preparation to (hopefully) summit Rainier in the beginning of June (June 10-13) and I have a couple of questions for you.

I was looking over the plan last night and had a few questions about the program itself. First, the gym I workout at does not have any dumbbells (it’s a smaller crossfit gym). This makes scotty bobs, renegade rows and especially the dumbbell crawl a bit more difficult. I think I can make the scotty bobs and renegade rows work by setting aside the kettlebell for the hand that’s on the ground and then grabbing the bell when it’s time for that hand to do the row. I’m not sure about the the DB crawl though. The only thing I can think of right now is to place my wrist through the bell and essentially drag the bell by my wrist. I was wondering if you have any other or better suggestions?

Second, it is not totally clear what a “Calve Raise Tabata” is and how to do 4x of them. I’m familiar with the tabata protocol (20s work + 10s rest) but that’s about it. I’m hoping you can clarify. I looked on http://mtntactical.com/category/exercises/ and couldn’t find this exercise.

Third it’s not clear to me how to execute the following (taken from session 2):

(2) 4 Rounds

  • 15/15/15 Low Back Complex
  • 15/15 Low Back Lunge
  • 15/15 Kneeling Founder
  • 10x Face Down Back Extensions
  • 15x Hamstring Hell each leg

My understanding (from this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Bfvs_XF6SU) is the low back complex is the standing founder + kneeling founder + low back lunge + face down back extensions. I doubt I do all of that and then the other 4 listed exercises. I’m not sure how to proceed

Last, working backwards from the trip, I should start the program on March 23. That gives me enough time for a few days of rest and a few days of buffer in case life/sickness gets in the way of the gym. March 23 is just over 2 weeks away. I’ve been bouncing a few ideas around in my head about what do to in those two weeks. The two best ideas are start the program a week or two earlier or do two weeks of SSD sessions (I already have a subscription). I’m just wondering what your thoughts are.

Thanks for all of this and for taking the time to respond to everyone’s questions.



Scotty Bobs – Split the exercise in half and do push ups first, then 1-Arm horizontal rows, or – bent over barbell rows.

Renegade Rows – 1-Arm horizontal rows or bent over barbell rows.

Dumbbell Crawl – 60 second front bridge – elevate feet if possible.

Low Back Complex – I’m guessing there’s a typo in the plan. Do the 4 exercises – standing founder, low back lunge, kneeling founder, and face down back extensions, then finish with the Hamstring Hell. My apologies.

When to start – you can do SSD for a couple weeks, or start the Big Mountain Plan early and repeat weeks 6 and 7.


First off, I would like to thank you for the plans that you have created.  I am currently doing the Borstar selection plan. I went to selection and did not make it due to my lack of stamina in doing multiple evolutions of training.  The mini events are exactly what I was lacking in my prior preparation.  

My question is, what plan would be good for my wife? She works out on a regular basis and has general fitness knowledge.  She has access to golds gym and she utilizes sand bags and kettle bells into her fitness.   Her overall goal is strength through lean mass.  She would like to gain 10 lbs and is currently 120 at 5’5″ and athletic.  I was thinking the sandbag/weightvest/kettlebel fitness plan to start.   What would you recommend and do you have any women specific plans ?


I’d recommend the Ultimate Meathead Cycle for your wife: http://mtntactical.com/shop/ultimate-meathead-cycle/

This is an awesome plan which combines focused strength and functional training for the lower and total body, as well as mass-building volume for the upper body.

We don’t have any women-specific programs at this time – our female athletes train alongside the men, and usually kick ass. What we should probably do is design easier, men-specific programming…..


I recently had some open knee surgery last November and I’m back in the gym and have been for some time.  I understand that this may be more a physical therapy question, but I’m wondering how to incorporate single leg exercises into my training program to rebuild lost muscle from atrophy.  I’ve started the On-Ramp program to get me back on track for the Operator Sessions, but I want to make sure I’m doing what I can to build that weak leg.  I’m doing single leg stuff like pistol squats, Bulgarian split leg squats, single leg presses on the sled and single leg box squats.  I guess my question is, how should I incorporate those into the workout?  Say, before a set of squats or lunges, after a set, or try and fatigue the muscles before the main exercise.  I want to make sure I’m doing this correctly to maximize the time spent.  Thanks in advance.


I’ve built a specific plan exactly like cases for yours – the Post-Rehab Leg Injury Training Plan: http://mtntactical.com/shop/post-rehab-leg-injury-training-plan-ssd/.

This is what I’d recommend.

If not, continue with OnRamp, but don’t double up with single leg work. Rather, do single-leg variations of the OnRamp exercises. You’ll have to be a little creative – for example, do pistols instead of front squats, single leg box squats or Bulgarian Split Squats instead of Back Squats, etc.

Be patient.


I’ll do my best to keep it short. I know you are a busy man. I’ve been following your gym, and buying your programs for a few years now. I actually used your Big Mountain program to get ready for climbing Mont Blanc and it worked extremely well. Your methodology is a really practical mix of testing, experience and common sense. A good friend of mine just attended one of your programming courses and what he came back with confirmed all of that. He is actually the one who encouraged me to write.

I will be attending SFAS in April (yes sir, only a few weeks away). I have been staying prepared using your workouts but had planned to use the SFAS prep workout as it was intended. I was told to expect to be at a class date that was not what I was originally planning but such is life. I had a pretty good base to start off with, was rucking once a week, sometimes twice as well as gym based workouts with some runs (more interval and shorter distance at threshold pace than LSD runs) in as well, basically trying to develop the combat chassis you stress. My plan was to start at week 3 (week 3 started on the 2nd of March ) and complete 3-5 with an 18 miler at the end of week 5, then use the last week in March to basically taper off, stay loose, keep my body moving but relaxed and ready. I’m wondering if that is advisable.

I’m basically trying to do some adaptation to make the workout fit my needs without having any nagging injuries going into SFAS. Some quick background (by no means intended to impress, I know you are dealing with much heavier hitters than I ever was) I spent a total of nine years in the infantry, completed sniper and ranger school and had a few years of deployments. I am 35, which is the reason I am doing my best to try to figure out the recovery side of things. I feel like I am in the shape i need to be in, I just want to build that base more to give myself the best shot at being selected. I know the obvious answer is “Hey you should have done the program the way it was written” but at this point I am trying to adapt and fine tune based on the timeline that was given to me. Any advice or guidance that you think might help me in that fine tuning would be greatly appreciated.

You run a great gym, and I really respect and appreciate the work and product you put out. Thanks in advance and regardless, I hope to get up there some day for a programming course and some training. Take care.


Your plan is solid. Good luck!


I have seen several of your programs in use and was very interested. Someone mentioned a hotel plan that focuses on no gym available workouts. I cant seem to find it on your site. Is it still available?


I’m in the process of building a “Stuck in a Motel” plan for a typical motel gym which has a set of dumbbells, bench and treadmill – but it’s not done yet. Until then I’d recommend our Bodyweight Training Plan: http://mtntactical.com/shop/bodyweight-training-program-i/


I’m a 17 year old junior in high school speaking to an army recruiter about joining as an 11b and airborne school in my contract.  I’m very motivated although I’m currently about 10 pounds overweight from the minimum.  I would like to lose about 20 pounds to get at the most healthy weight I can get. My apft scores are alright and but I could definitely use some improvement in all categories cause I want to score as high as I possibly can.  Also my run time is barely cutting it.


1) Clean up your diet and it will help with your weight. See our nutritional guidelines here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VGs2tnMQJlc&list=UUiTR_zJV0cB8l8qSBYya-eg

2) Start our stuff with the APFT Training Plan: http://mtntactical.com/shop/apft-plan/


My girlfriend and I are going for summer vacation in Arizona and Utah, during almost 2 weeks.  We plan on visiting Grand Canyon, Vermillon cliff national park,  Zion national park and Bryce national. So its gonna be mostly backpacking and sleeping in a tent for the entire trip. Is the Backpacking Pre-Season a good pick for this trip too ?

Second question, I am starting your Peakbagger Training that I purchased on your website this winter for my obstacle racing season after doing strength training all winter. My question is, can I ”delete” the running and rucking part of this program and continue my 4day a week running plan while doing peakbagger ?


Yes, to both of your questions. Good luck!


I recently purchased a month subscription to the Military Athlete operator sessions, and I will be using it for daily PT. I’m just wondering if there is a specific spot where I should start or should I just start with Monday’s (March 2 ’15) sessions?


Go back in the archives and start when the most recent cycle begins, then work forward from there.


I’m a midshipman at a navy ROTC unit, and I’m training for EOD selection. I’ve used your PST training plan to great success, and I want to start your BUD/s V2 training plan. The issue is that on monday, wednesday and friday I have mandatory AM training sessions with my unit. These are largely strength and cardio based. My question is, how do I fit the 2 a days prescribed in your BUD/s V2 training plan into my schedule? Would it be alright to switch the order? ie. doing the swim after my AM unit PT and doing the calisthenics and run work in the evening?


You can switch days – and see if you can sub your morning PT for one of the program’s sessions. The program is no joke – be careful doubling up.


Could you make a video on proper ruck running form and tips? For example how would my form change from running uphill compared to running downhill? If I need to sprint how will that change my technique? Any other tips/tricks you and your team could offer would be great!


This Spring/Summer we’re going to try and do a deep dive on load carriage and rucking form.

We’re currently in the design/prototype stage of developing our own  “Training Ruck”, which we hope to send to the factory in April/May. The design is based on the hard-earned lessons we’ve learned over the years.

We’re also in the hiring process for a pHD and one of his/her projects will be to take a look at rucking form (run/walk), biomechanics and footwear. But right now – I don’t have anything definitive to offer other than my own observations.

We know the load carriage prevents the forward lean recommended for proper unloaded running form. We also know that the most efficient form in terms of speed and fatigue is shorter step and a high cadence. My two fastest ruckers – Jordan and Nate, both have rapid cadences I can’t seem to match.

Finally – we know the load uses more muscle, but it seems when we get dialed, we’re able to engage our hips and glutes – and these take the brunt of the work from the quads.

I wish I could offer more. Hopefully soon….


Hello and thank you in advance for helping me with my personal challenge.  I have been a Pennsylvania State Trooper for the past 16 year, 41 yoa, been training for years and have found that mud runs keep me motivated to train along with the job.  I have completed 6 Tough Mudder races of the past 4 years.  I am currently looking for new challenge and that will be a Spartan Beast race on May 30, 2015.  I guess I’m like everyone else and want to be in “Total Fitness” shape.  I like to run, do interval work, boot camps and have tried CrossFit but I seem to get bored easily. I have tires to flip drag, rope climbs, monkey bars and several other crazy obstacles build on my property with a great running course.   I just feel that I am not making enough improvement in my training for how hard I work.

Can you recommend or make me a training regimen for the next 16-18 weeks that will benefit my career and get me ready for the Spartan race.  I’m looking to put on size, strength but still maintain my endurance for 10 mile mud runs.  I know this is a double edge sword but looking for your advice.


We have a sport-specific plan for a Spartan Sprint, but not a “beast.” From our stuff I’d recommend a couple plans from our military side.

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

This plan combines heavy strength work in the gym with “military-style” endurance – rucking and running. You’ll not need to do the rucking, but instead run for every endurance session, and add another long weekend run – 12+ miles.

2) Valor: http://mtntactical.com/shop/valor/

Another plan built for military athletes, where Fortitude trains strength and aerobic base, Valor trains work capacity in the gym, and “movement over ground” for running and rucking. Again,  you’ll want to pull the rucking and just run.

Both are 6-week plans – and a good place to start with our stuff.


I’m trying to attend SFAS this fall, but it is sounding more and more like I will be deployed.  They will have to send me back to go (I’m an officer, so they have to keep me on my timeline) so I may have to go straight to selection from overseas.  I bought your Ruck Based Selection training packet.  Do you have any recommendations on how I could train while deployed if potentially I may not be able to do a lot of long rucks?  I’m not sure what will be available by the time we get there.  Any input is appreciated.


Treadmill @ at a 1.5% incline is always an option. This has come up with quite a few guys, actually.


OK I saw your training page in the March 2015 Backpacker.   I’m a female 57 years old, 5’7” , 200 lbs, recovering from a major slump after a car wreck in 2008 and foot surgery in 2011.   Both are cured but as you can see I am still fat. I am 30 years Army, former Rugby, former swimmer, been in the weight room since before Sony built a Walkman.   I have climbed Mt. Adams in the White Mountains and Mount Baldy outside of Los Angeles.   I have backpacked in the Brooks Range for 10 days.

I am a HUGE Type A and can really overdo my training. I am mentally tough but out of shape.

I can afford to pay a trainer but I live in Kodiak, Alaska, and the only guy here my age is overbooked and everybody else is sloppy and young.   I have all my life trained on my own I  will do the work on my own but I need a program and I need coaching as I progress.   I want to hike the Chilkoot Trail in August which is going to be pretty easy except for one steep 3000’ foot day over the pass with my backpack.   I am doing the whole trail over 7 days and I think I can lighten the pack to about 35 pounds with the new stuff available these days.   This would be up and over the pass and then back down on a train.

I have a free full service gym, with a pool, on the Coast Guard base and plenty of mountains around here 1500 – 2000’ but the trails are rocky and covered with scree.   My knees are holding up OK so far.

Anybody there want to work with me on an individual program?   I can give you my training log as of January 2015 as a start but I want coaching along the way.


We do limited individual coaching, but generally it is event-driven. For example I’ve been working with female soldiers training for the first ever Ranger School open to women in April, and recently started working with 3 female ski guides planning a major objective in Alaska in May.

But we just don’t have the time for everyone.

For you I’d recommend ….

1) Fix your diet. 80% of bodyfat is diet related. You can’t outwork a shitty diet. Here’s our Nutritional Guidelines: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VGs2tnMQJlc&list=UUiTR_zJV0cB8l8qSBYya-eg

2) Purchase and complete the Backpacker Pre-Season Training Plan: http://mtntactical.com/shop/backpacker-preseason-training-plan/

After many unsuccessful attempts at trying to start your program, I decided to email you for guidance. I purchased your Ruck-Based Selection Program to prepare myself for Army SF Selection. However, I had no idea I’d need a gym/track to do this program properly. And so due to the lack of access to a functional gym (crossfit type with a track), I don’t see how I’m going to do the program. I thought about substituting exercises but I didn’t want to alter the program.

For example, I don’t have an area where I can perform SBGU’s and sprints or Pull-ups with sprints, etc. basically, I have a VERY limited space and equipments…

I have access to:

  • -A commercial gym (Gold’s gym… not much I can do here)
  • -Riverbed for running/rucking that’s 1 mile in length (I may be able to do some sandbag training here, without the SBGU…)

Equipments I have:

  • -25# weighted vest
  • -25# dumbbells
  • -60#, 80# sandbags (i love sandbag training)

I thought about trying the 4 week ruck improvement plan and incorporating some kind of sandbag training (Rutman Sandbag Mile stuff) but I don’t want to self-program. What can I do? I really need your help…


I’d recommend the Sandbag/Weightvest/Dumbbell Training Plan: http://mtntactical.com/shop/sandbagweight-vestdumbbell-training-plan/


Which routine should I do after the one of bodyweight that I’m doing?

I do mountaineering and biking (road and mountain bike). Have not climb anything in the past 12 months due to my knee injury that finally is getting better. What do you recommend?


I’d recommend the AMGA Alpine Guide Course Training Plan: http://mtntactical.com/shop/amga-alpine-guide-course-training-plan/



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