Q&A 4/16/15

Questions include our TACP Plan and swimming, Ruck Based selection programming for SFAS, Preseason training for Backpacking, Building and Using System boards, Programming for Injury Recovery, and more…



First i want to give you some praise or “kudos.” I’ve been totally impressed and turned into a believer from using your program. Honestly i never knew it existed till a few months ago when a buddy, Who is now a MARSOC operator turned me onto it. I personally have used your USMC PFT  program and the operator sessions to prepare myself for OCS. I am prior enlisted and recently have been excepted to the next OCS class, a feat i owe thanks to you for my superb level of fitness that has put me above the rest and helped me earn the # 1 ranking in prior enlisted applicants recommended by the 1st MAR DIV! Thanks, just doesn’t cut it. Believe me i will be using “military athlete” again in the future, for as long as you guys are around!


 Im about to start the 12 weeks to buds by stew smith and then after your buds v2 before i try for a contract. If your not familiar with 12 weeks to buds its pretty much high volume calistenics and run/swim/run workouts. I was gunna do your ruck improvement and swim improvement the first 4 weeks, and not sure what to do for the last 8. Im trying to decide between the valor, courage, or operator pentathlon programs? But im open to suggestions. Im just looking for overall improvement, strength, and durability be the biggest thing. Any advice and thanks advance.My current pst scores are:
Pushups 110
Situps 107
Pullups 32
Run 945Goals before talking to recruiter:
Swim 820
Pushups 120
Situps 110
Pullups 38
Run 855Answer

I understand you want to double up programming. In general, if you’re doing a lot of bodyweight work, running and swimming you won’t need to double up with more. You could add in some heavy, but low volume strength work for durability. I’d recommend Rat 6 Strength (http://strongswiftdurable.com/shop/rat-6-strength/), but just 3 days/week. Follow the sessions in order.
If you’re determined to double up, do Fortitude: http://mtntactical.com/shop/fortitude/ 


I was wondering if I could sub in dumbbell bench press for barbell bench press?  I generally work out alone and really don’t want anyone to find me crushed under a barbell.


A better option is to not bench press with collars on the bar. I don’t allow collars during bench press in my gym. That way, if you do get stuck, you can dump the barbell. I’ve done this many times myself…. it’s noisy, but works.


I’m on a ski trip and i heard about the 10th mountain division cabins and want to do that in near future so i googled “backcountry training” and found your website.  I’m not 600 pounds with high blood pressure but I work in the office so i’m not at my peak and if i tried a back country trip I would probably die.  Any who, I was wondering if you had any tips on where to start?  Is your backcountry skier plan geared towards people who are already in good shape or can beginners start out with that?


You should be fairly fit to begin the Backcountry Ski Training Plan (http://strongswiftdurable.com/shop/backcountry-ski-training-program/
A good place to start our programming is actually one the plans on our military side – the APFT Training Plan: http://strongswiftdurable.com/shop/apft-plan/
Bodyweight and running focused, this plan uses an initial assessment and then automatically scales to the incoming fitness of each athlete.QuestionI have been following your operator sessions so far prior to starting your marsoc a&s program. I was curious if beginning another program prior to the start of the marsoc a&s plan would be beneficial. I was looking into the delta program just due to the fact I believe it would be challenging. Appreciate any thoughts you may haveAnswerIt’s up to you. If you do another selection program prior, however, I’d suggest the Ruck Based Selection Training Plan: http://mtntactical.com/shop/ruck-based-selection-training-program/ 


Right now I’m doing the Marine Corps pft plan. I’m currently not in the Marines but I am joining soon. I want to continue to work on my pull ups, running, and crunches, but I also want to get stronger and maybe add some weight to myself. I also enjoy some rucking. Basically, What plan do you recommend for that


I’d recommend Fortitude: http://strongswiftdurable.com/shop/fortitude/


I recently purchased you Big 24 plan and noticed that it doesn’t say how long of a rest to take between sets. Does that mean to do say 4 rounds back to back or take a rest till you feel ready to do another round?


Each circuit includes a mobility stretch. Consider this stretch your “working rest” between rounds.
Later in the cycle, when it gets heavy and intense, you’ll likely need more rest. Take what you need to get the reps.
In general, at the beginning of the cycle, we could finish a session in 55-60 minutes. At the end, 70-75 minutes.QuestionI purchased the 10 week big mountain program and have a quick question about how to conduct the sessions. For example when it says 6 rounds: 4x thrusters working up to feeling heavy then immediately 2 burpees, pigeon stretch……am I doing 6 rounds of just thrusters and burpees, then the flexibility movement? Or doing all movements for 6 rounds?AnswerAll movements for 6 rounds – thrusters, right to burpees. After the burpees you’ll be breathing hard. Use the pigeon stretch as your “working rest” before adding some more weight to the barbell and rolling into the thrusters again.Question

I used ya’ll’s APFT training plan last spring and got excellent results, scoring 300(+) on my 40th birthday.  (The fall test was a wash, because I was injured.  Shoulder dislocations suck.)

I’m a staff officer with just under a year to go before retirement, so I’m not training for any Army goal, I’m training for myself.  I’m currently registered to run two Spartan races in August, a Sprint the first weekend, and a Super three weeks later.  I also plan to run the Army 10-miler in October (the same month I take my last ever APFT.)  I will note that the Super Spartan has plenty of hills/mountains, while the area I live in has almost none.

Finally, I’m quite intrigued by Mark Rippetoe’s proposal for a revised military fitness test, and I’d like to try to achieve it.  The proposal is the following:

-deadlift 2x body weight
-overhead press 75% body weight
-12x chin-ups (minimum)
-400m run in 75 seconds

I’ve been a skinny, cross-country type for most of my life, but I’ve gained weight the past few years.  At my current weight of 205-210 (6’2″), that would translate to 420 lb deadlift and 160 lb overhead press on the above scale.  (My current workout weights are about 225 and 90 lbs, respectively.)

Fully realizing that I may be trying to go back and forth between different things far more than is ideal, which of your training plans would you recommend? (Erring in the direction of strength and work capacity.)


I’d recommend you begin our stuff with 357 Strength (http://strongswiftdurable.com/shop/357-strength/), which primarily a strength plan, but includes short, intense, complementary work capacity efforts as well as a weekly moderately paced, short run.


I tried the sample Operator Session week and liked it a lot. Now that I’m subscribed to the daily sessions where can I find the continuation of that week in the archives?


Go back in the archives and start at 7.28.14. Work forward from there


I am currently attending university in a Paramedic program in Australia with the goal of moving into a helicopter role including both water and land SAR duties.

However all of this will only eventuate in a couple of years and right now my fitness goals are focused on developing a solid base fitness level as the unofficial word is that females really have to represent in the fitness assessment to make it through – so far there have not been many successful female candidates.

I am currently doing your Squad PT as an ‘on ramp’ type program as I do have a relatively easy fitness test coming up for Paramedic school and have had some time off training. I would like to keep using your subscription service after this as I have had great success with this and it seems appropriate given the long term scope of my goals.

I am generally strong in the lower body, core and do well in rucking, running etc but the current areas I need to focus on are:

1) upper body hypertrophy/strength especially pull ups

2) swimming in general (I have a background in swimming but have not swum recently)

The selection also involves covering distance with a pack, stretcher carry simulations, underwater tasks/ spatial awareness and a shuttle run.

To this end I would appreciate any advice you could give me, especially regarding which subscription service to follow and, if necessary, how to adjust them to continue to improve my upper body capacity (I recall you answering something similar in a Q&A but I cannot seem to find it- I apologise) .

Finally, thank you for your programming – it gets results and I could not ask for anything more. If you ever consider running an online education course I would be very interested – just saying.


Before subscribing, I’d recommend our BUD/s V1 training plan now to get you started: http://strongswiftdurable.com/shop/buds-v1-training-program-2011/

This plan integrates bodyweight calisthenics, swimming, running and some solid gym-based strength work.
I’ve worked with some US female soldiers on upper body strength but have yet to put the plan together. I’ll add it to my list.Question

I just purchased your TACP Training Plan…Great plan…good work!  I am starting the plan on Monday.  I have some quick questions about some of the exercises:Question 1Session: 22, (1) – I am assuming the total distance ran for this shuttle is 300m…What is the shuttle distance (25m, 50m??). Also, I am assuming the total shuttle time is 2:30 with a rest period in between the rounds of 2:30??Question 2The USAF TACP program does not require any swimming (other than a gear ditch water confidence test) also the PAST for TACP does not require any swimming.  The SSD TACP Training Plan includes swimming…what is the intent to include swimming in this training program? Question 3I am assuming there is no rest in between each exercise in each session unless otherwise noted?

Question 4

I am non-prior service going in the USAF with GTEP for TACP….Your plan specifies that it should be done right before entering TACP school (which will be impossible for me because of BMT).  I know that I will lose some gains during 8.5 weeks of BMT right before TACP school….Any advice/recommendations??


1) 300m Shuttle: http://strongswiftdurable.com/exercises/mnt1137-300m-shuttle/
2) Keep you well rounded and add in some active recovery from the heavy calisthenics/running/rucking. The swimming in the plan is limited and can be skipped if you don’t have a pool
3) Yes
4) Do the plan before BMT and do your best there to maintain.


Bottom Line Up Front:
Is the Ruck Based Selection Packet still my best option for success at SFAS in light of your recent programming evolutions?
First, thank you for the expert programming and advice. I have used your Afghanistan prep and some of your other programs with great success. I am also a current subscriber for your operator sessions. I am looking at going to SFAS in quite some time – 78 weeks but who’s counting? To my question: I see the many programs in the ruck based selection packet and they are all great I’m sure. Then I also see in the Q and A section high praise for the fortitude, courage, valor sequence. So my question is this: with these “new and evolved” programs available, would you still recommend the programs in the ruck based selection packet as the best option for success at SFAS? Since I have some more time perhaps I should stick the new three programs in there as well? If so, where? Maybe just do operator sessions until I am 28 weeks out or whatever the packet length is? HALP!
Related secondary question: since I do have lots of time, should I do the 8 week ruck based selection program to hit a specific peak when I’m about halfway between now and sfas, then again going into selection? Or should I just wait and do it once? 


Fortitude and Valor came from our programming evolution for the Operator Sessions – our subscription, day to day programming for military athletes.
The Ruck Based Selection Packet is designed to give guys the fitness, strength, work cap, running and rucking base to be able to complete the Ruck Based Selection Plan, directly before SFAS.
You now ….. you need to get to it – not only to start training appropriately, but also because you are antsy.
Either subscribe to the Operator Sessions, or get Fortitude.Question


I’m a big fan of your programs. Last fall I completed your pre-season ski program with great results. I then bought your Peak Bagger program and was very satisfied with my performance on a long traverse I completed few weeks ago. And now I’m on week three of Falcon Training and absolutely love it.
My question is what I should do once I’ve completed Falcon? I’m looking for another general fitness program. I’m 47 with luckily no injuries to work around. I train by myself in my fully-equipped gym in the basement. I’m not looking for a program with a whole bunch of 1RM and I was considering your 357 program. Heavy strength focus but with some WC as well.Answer

357 Strength is a great next step: http://strongswiftdurable.com/shop/357-strength/


I was googling for gym programs to prepare for outdoor passions and found your site. I was humbled on an early-season multi-day coastal backpacking trip this past weekend and want to change my training.I am not an outdoor professional. I am a 41 year-old female with a passion for hiking and backpacking on weekends and holidays. I sit at a desk all day for my job, although I do walk to work everyday (one hour each way on pavement). I have been out for a few short early-season backpacking trips. I enjoy the gym, but have been sporadic over the last year. Typically, my gym training programs have been geared to achieving a certain overall look as opposed to building strength for an activity or sport.My boyfriend is a professional backpacking guide who naturally rejects indoor training for himself, although he supports me. I’ve always enjoyed the gym and understand the benefits. I want to be strong enough to keep up with him. In addition to our recreational trips, I will be joining him on his commercial backpacking trips this year as an assistant when I can.Our trips are non-technical. We do significant elevation gains when climbing into the alpine areas or on traverses. No climbing ropes, no ice, no vertical rock, no permanent snow. Sometimes we scramble on rock. Our coastal trips involve using fixed ropes to assist climbing up and down steep muddy headlands. Upper body strength is therefore a huge asset. We also do a lot of scrambling on coastal boulders, muddy roots, and beach logs. We practice the lightweight backpacking philosophy and try and keep our pack weights below 20 pounds (not including food). Our days can be moderate in distance…anywhere from 6 to10 miles or longer. Length of trips can vary from a few days to a week or more.I would also like to drop some fat. I’m 5’6″ and 142 pounds. I know I need to concentrate on my diet to achieve that goal. I also want to work on my mindset.

Your two programs that seem the most appropriate are the Backpacking Preseason Training or the Big Mountain Climbing Training Program. I really enjoy gym training so the Big Mountain one stands out. Even though I am a trekker and not a mountaineer, there is overlap in the terrain and endurance requirements. I want a strong upper body…and I want to train like a pro!

Any suggestions on programs would be welcome. Many thanks in advance!


The Big Mountain Training Plan (http://strongswiftdurable.com/shop/big-mountain-training-program/) front loads gym-based strength the first 4 weeks, then gets sport-specific for non-technical climbing (mountain chassis – legs/lungs/core) for the final 6 weeks of the plan.
It would be a great plan for you.Question


I went to see the doctor as I told you.
He wants me to keep working out.
Is there a routine that I can do here to strenghten the body but not too much mountain oriented? I would like to go step by step and not jump into a routine as the big mountain. I do not have any trip comming and I wont have anything until I get out of this knee problem.
The doctor wants me to strenghten and stretch a lot.
What routine would you recommend?Answer

I’d recommend our Post-Rehab Leg Injury Training Plan: http://strongswiftdurable.com/shop/post-rehab-leg-injury-training-plan-ssd/
This is the plan we recommend for athletes coming back from knee and ankle surgery.Question


I hope you’re well. I’m writing for some guidance on system boards. I’m going to be purchasing the 8 week expedition alpine plan. Along with that I’m going to construct the system boards and other required tools. Could you provide some additional detail on what should be on the system boards, and the other pieces I’ll need for climbing simulation/training?By the way, I purchased the GORUCK Challenge plan from you last year and it was very effective.

From the plan write-up:

“We train your sport specific grip strength by having you hang and do intervals using your ice tools on a system
board. The minimum sized system board you’ll need is a 4×8 sheet of plywood set at a 15 degree angle. You can use
common rock climbing holds with your tools, and also hardware such as old door hinges, door bolt brackets, eye
bolts, etc. We use both.

While one 4×8 sheet of plywood is the minimum you’ll need to complete this program, space and cost allowing,
we’d recommend you build up to 4 system boards placed close enough that you can move from one to the other
without touching the floor. You’ll be spending hours hanging on your system boards. This is very effective training,
but pure drudgery. The more system boards you have the more variety you’ll have for movement … and the training
will be more interesting.

If you have more then one system board, we’d recommend differing board angles ranging from 10 degrees to 20
degrees. Email me if you have any questions about system boards:rob@mountainathlete.com

You’ll also need a pull up bar, door frame, overhead floor or roof joist, eye bolts in the ceiling, etc. to do dead hangs
on and Figure 4’s using your ice tools.

The one exception to this is that you should email myself, not Rob, with questions. You can reply at this email or simply pen a new one to jordan@strongswiftdurable.com
In case it isn’t clear in the excerpt: you’ll be doing both regular and ice climbing (with ice tools) on the system boards, so construct them with holds for both. By “holds” for ice we primarily rely on hinges – as the text says. Hinges provide really valuable training since you have to be accurate even when your pumped out of you mind.
In terms of a mix of holds, I’d recommend you have, depending on your lead climbing level, a mix of jugs, slopers, crimps, and pinches. Lean towards using twice as many jugs as any other type of hold. This way, you can distribute them evenly up and down the board, and always have a jug to bail out to, even if you’re pushing yourself towards harder holds. If you take this advice, and order, say 50 holds, 20 would be jugs, 10 would be slopers, 10 crimpers, and 10 pinches. Keep in mind, though, that you’ll more than likely get pumped only using the jugs simply by the design of the program – as you might expect, it’s no joke. Yet, if you’re going to construct a board, you might as well do it for the long haul, hence the detail.
In terms of framing and mounting it, we had that done by a professional carpenter. I can tell you, though, that the frame is constructed of 2x4s set with the 1-1/2″ side against the plywood all the way around. That’s mounted via brackets to studs on the building. We use additional 2x4s to provide an angle. We recommend you do the same. Those 2x4s are mounted to studs, again, via brackets. If you decide to make more than one 4×8 plywood sheet then use a 2×4 rib running down the center for each 4×8 sheet you have. You can also do it for good measure on a single sheet. It will only add to the boards rigidity.


Quick question about programming. I’m coming off of a break from injury and I’m looking to get into dedicated program again. I have kettlebells at home, and I don’t currently have a gym membership.

I have 3 choices.

1. 8-week kettlebell program from military athlete from 2011.
2. Kettlebell strength program from military athlete from 2013.
3. On ramp program for military athletes.

I’m not on a timeline.

Short term goal : Get back on a dedicated program.

Long term goal : Start and complete the ruck based selection packet after completion of this first program.

Which is the best choice to set me up for achievement of the long term goal?


If you’re in love with kettlebells, do the Kettlebell Strength Plan (http://strongswiftdurable.com/shop/kettlebell-strength/)

Concurrently with the Ruck Improvement Training Plan: http://strongswiftdurable.com/shop/4-week-ruck-improvement-program/ 


Firstly a big thank you just back from a fantastic weeks skiing hut to hut in the Grand Paradiso national park. It’s the first time I’ve trained ski “fitness” rather than ski “technique”(just going skiing basically). Wow what a difference!
I did the BC ski program then started the AMGA ski guide program although I only did the first 3 weeks, all I could fit in before the trip. I did my “skinning” on a nordic track machine which seemed to work really well.
Looking forward I’m keen to stick with your stuff,  thought you had an in season strength program for endurance athletes(my summer sport is triathlon). Which plan would you recommend? 


Thanks for the note. Here’s the link to the In-Season Strength Plan for Endurance Athletes: http://strongswiftdurable.com/shop/in-season-strength-training-plan-for-endurance-athletes/

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