Q&A 4/23/15

Questions include Training for Critical Incidents and CPP, Rucking in a Garage, Programs for Trail Runners, Prep for Operator Sessions, Big Mountain Training for Urbanites, Replacement for swim training in Ruck Improvement Plan, Training for World’s Toughest Mudder, Nutrition for GoRuck, and more…
law enforcement lab rats train


I just got back from an excellent winter climbing big walls in Zion. It was awesome to put that training to work!

What I’ve found is that Mountain Athlete has altered my direction as a climber and set me on my way to doing things I never believed I could. If anyone told me a year ago that I’d be trying to free moonlight buttress,  I’d tell them they’ve got the wrong guy.
But because of the program, and the work I put in, found I had the strength, confidence, and courage to consider really big objectives.  Not only did I feel like an animal athlete, I believed I was one. And that was huge for me!
Thank you for designing this thing and allowing me to take part in it.

Your contributions are greatly appreciated & well respected.  Continue to do great things & I will continue to spread the word to my fellow Marines.



Did your bodyweight 2 program while here in Brazil and it was no joke. I am planning on chasing a SEAL OCS contract for March FY 2016 OCS board. I will be returning from Brazil on May 5th, and will have a month at home before doing a one month NOLS mountaineering course in Alaska at the recommendation of a former SEAL Captain. Before leaving for Brazil I front squatted 315, benched 225 x 5, deadlifted 450 and cleaned 245 at 198. Now about 185 and unsure of strength but can bang out 10 HSPU. I am not particularly concerned about PST- from background in rugby I am confident I can get to 100+ pushups/sit-ups, 20 pull-ups and sub 9 minute 1.5 mile easily. Swimming/water confidence is my weakness but I am surfing and swimming every day here.

Anyway – my thinking is that taking up a fight sport will be good mental and physical preparation. I was planning on doing your swim plan in May in the evenings and training boxing or Muay Thai in the mornings. When I get back from Alaska I am planning on getting a job at a crossfit gym so I have plenty of time to train. My plan would then be to run a couple of your strength programs/the strongman cycle, then train Muay Thai in the evenings and swim 2 to 3 times per week.
I’m curious what you think about the fight training versus just doing pure physical preparation. It seems to me like there is a mental intangible that having a couple fights would give me (similar to competing in rugby at a high level) that just lifting running and swimming would not.

How might you structure a training week? For example if doing 357 stength I was thinking lift in the AM at the gym, boxing MT Th F Sa, swim intervals W Sa and a low intensity swim Sunday.


Fight Training – I can’t speak to the mental side, but will say that as you improve in the sport, the less physical, and the more technique driven it becomes. At some point, doing Muay Thai training will just make you better at Muay Thai.

You’ll see this when you fight somebody with much more experience. You’ll be working a lot harder then them.
Be careful to assume that simply hard physical training will prepare you for the fitness demands of selection. Your fitness training needs to transfer to selection. This means it should be as sport-specific to the demands at selection you’ll face.
Not only is there a fitness component to this, but a mental component also. It’s never perfect, but ideally, guys who follow one of our selection prep plans don’t get to selection and experience something completely new they’ve never done or felt before. I want them to say to themselves, “okay, I’ve felt this before, I’ve done this before, I can do this.”
So – in your direct train up to selection, get sport specific.
In terms of your training schedule – as long as you watch over training, that is a good general fitness around schedule, with the exception of running. You need to be running.

But, again, in the train up for selection, you need to be doing our BUD/s V2 plan.


First of all, I love what you are doing, thank-you.  I just wish I had discovered you when I was still serving in the British Army.
I have a couple of questions.  I am now living in Australia where I work as a member of a State Police force.  I would like to apply for a specialist unit which I guess you would class as a Tier 2 Unit with responsibility for Critical Incidents and CPP.  I was wondering how you would structure a training program to achieve this.  The test itself consists of a 20m beep test, press-ups to a cadence, sit-ups to a cadence and dead hang pull-ups.
The standards are not particularly high but because I am coming into this late in life due to my prior military service (I’m 48!) I feel that I have to perform exceptionally well physically to augment my military experience.  I accept that this is a hurdle that has to be crossed to get onto the team and as such needs to be the focus but realise that in reality strength and durability are more important for the job and for me personally so I don’t want to neglect that aspect.
Whilst I am not in exceptional shape I consider myself in better condition than many of my colleagues, even some of them 20 years my junior (which is a frightening statistic!).  My main issues are:
My running ability has deteriorated since I left the Army.  It’s just not as comfortable as it used to be.
18 months ago I ruptured my bicep tendon, this has now been repaired and is fully healed but my pull-up ability has plummeted (I accept that I could lose a few pounds which would help).
The courses are run 2 or 3 times a year so I could have between 3 to 8 months of lead up time, I’m not getting any younger but equally don’t want to rush in and ruin what may be my only chance.  Any ideas for a plan to achieve the above?  I have kettlebells at home and access to a fairly well stocked gym in the basement of the station where I work.
On a completely separate point, did I read somewhere that you had replaced your Concept 2 rowers with weighted step-ups?  What are your views on achieving good “rucking” fitness in the comfort of your own garage through the use of a pack and step?
Once again, thank you for all you have done for people in our line of work I find it a refreshing change from the cross-fit style of workout that seems to be so prevalent these days.


I’d start our programming with the APFT Training Plan (http://strongswiftdurable.com/shop/apft-plan/)

This plan is focused on running, press ups and sit ups. Add pull ups to the assessment and follow the progressions like you do for the push ups and sit ups.
For the assessment and all the progressions, you should do your press ups and sit ups to a metronome – the same cadence as your test. You can buy an app for your phone or use your computer. Be resourceful.
Start here then email back when you are done and I’ll tell you what to do next. If this selection is like most, the fitness assessment is just the start. Find out all you can about the selection events, duration, etc.
Step ups in your garage will help build your hiking uphill fitness. Not your rucking fitness. To do this, you need to ruck outside. There’s no short cut. You can do our Rucking Improvement Plan (http://strongswiftdurable.com/shop/4-week-ruck-improvement-program/) along side the APFT plan, or just start rucking. Start with a 40# pack, and 5 miles. Start walking, but soon go to 2 minutes run, 1 minute walk. Aim for 15 min/miles min, and when you start adding in the running, look to push to 12 min/miles or faster.
There’s no selection for 48 year olds – you’ll be expected to meet the standards. But you can’t deny your age. I’ve found I can perform alongside younger guys (I’m nearly 47) but I can’t recover as fast. Be smart about your training and take more recovery if needed.
Good luck! I hope to get to Australia to work with guys and perhaps get a masters degree soon. Australia has an elite sporting heritage I’m very curious about.


Very interested in working with a program from MA. I’m a trail runner, not ultra length half marathon – marathon currently what time allows. Also enjoy lifting weights. Not sure what you would best suggest. Was trying out some crossfit WODs but at times was difficult w my schedule and didn’t like the sprinting as I like my runs on the trail and not in the gym. Saw some possibilities. Just was wondering what you suggest. My goal is 2-3  maybe 4 XS in the gym w the remainder on the trail. Thanks for the help.


Couple options:

First would be our In-Season Strength Training Plan for Endurance Athletes: http://strongswiftdurable.com/shop/in-season-strength-training-plan-for-endurance-athletes/
20 sessions total for you to work through in and around your running. No running included – pure gym-based training. Y

Don’t be fooled by “bodyweight” – this is a serious strength training plan which I build to directly transfer to moving up and down elevation. It’s a more well rounded training plan which includes both focused lower/upper/core strength as well as transferable work capacity efforts and some short distance running.


Good evening Sir. I purchased your Navy PST training guide because I’m in the process of getting my contract to go to BUD/S. In reading the preface, I noticed it stated that the guide was to be used for 6 weeks. I’ve studied Kinesiology in college so I have a decent understand of the body in regard to physical fitness and training, and I know that following the same regimen for a long period of time will eventually lead to plateau. I wanted to see what you would recommend I do for the multiple months I’ll be in the delayed entry program. I’ve come to love your programming as our head coach at the gym I work at is an avid fan and proponent of SSD programming so I will be purchasing the BUD/S training plan when I’m closer to shipping out. In the meantime, should I continue to use the guide for a period of multiple months or 6 weeks on and then a certain period of time off before getting back on it? Thank you for the top notch programming and the advice.


Couple options:

1) Subscribe to the website and follow the Operator Sessions until you begin the BUD/s V2 plan. We currently don’t program swimming in the Operator Sessions so you’ll need to so some of that on your own.

2) We are in the process of building a BUD/s Training Packet which will include 8 training plans and 36 weeks of training and finishes with the BUD/s V2 plan. It should be up on the website soon.


I have done military athlete in the past, and have enjoyed it.  However, certain career things have taken me away from the programming.  I have been part of a LE SWAT team, so my focus has been strength, power, and short burst speed and conditioning.  That said, I’m changing positions where I will be involved with many military SOF units.  It may require to embed with them on many different mission profiles.  So the simple answer seems to be to sign up for Operator Sessions, and go forth.  That said, I need to drop some weight and improve my running.  So, do you recommend simply jumping on the operator sessions, or do you think I should do a program that would assist in dropping weight and improving running?  I realize I will likely lose a little strength if I do that, but some is expected. Would appreciate any advice you could provide.


Subscribe to the Operator Sessions and begin with the 7.28.14 training session and work forward from there.
This cycle is a hybrid strength and endurance cycle – running and ruck running. It’s a great place to start.

Bodyweight – you know 80% of this is diet. You can’t outwork a shitty diet. Clean up your diet and let the training do the rest.


I just purchased your pre season training plan for ultra running; it looks rad and I’m psyched to get started. I have a couple of questions for you:

–  I am planning to buy the Ultra 50 mile plan and tweak it to prep for a 50K I am doing later this year (The Rut), but wanted to experiment with the pre season plan first… I did notice in the overview that the zones for the 50 mile plan are based on a lactate threshold test, while the pre season training plan is based on the more general formula for zones. I am wondering if you would send me your running specific lactate threshold test as I’d prefer to base zones off of that formula? I have done this for cycling and feel it is much more accurate. I can always use the Joe Friel test to figure it out for running and certainly have a good idea of my threshold based on my biking, but would really like to compare your test with others I’ve done/read about.

– I have not seen your Ultra 50 mile plan in detail yet (as I am planning to purchase a little later this year), but would guess that I would be able to change it up a bit based on my goal race with lower milage (but a lot of elevation!!), by just tailoring to my final distance (50k versus 50 miles) and build up of milage over this spring. Thinking that I’d likely just drop the length of training runs in the plan by a bit.


The lactate test we use for ultrarunners is to run 7 miles for time and record your avg HR over the last 4 miles. Keep in mind that it’s a 7 mile time trial, not a 3 mile warm-up and 4 mile time trial. Some people get that confused. Your avg HR for the last 4 miles will be your LT.

I would caution against changing our plans. Especially for the Rut, which has off trail and scree over a significant portion of the course. The extra training miles will come in handy over the challenging terrain since it will increase the duration of your running. And ultra training is much more about duration than mileage, as you surely know from cycling training.
I’ve been using Peakbagger for awhile now to get in shape and also just to maintain fitness where I need it. I’ve gone through a few iterations of it, increasing weight or repetitions here and there. It’s really made a good impact on my climb performance and enjoyment. So thank you for making it available.

So, I tweaked my knee a few weeks ago, a small meniscus tear. Although I can do most other exercises in the program, I cannot do the sandbag getups (as much as I love/hate them). I was wondering if you could recommend a substitute for them, along the with equivalent reps.

Sorry about your knee.

Each sandbag getup includes a flexion, rotation and extension core exercise – all before the lunge up!
Sub? 1x GHD Situp or weighted situp @ 25# + 1x GHD Back Extenstion or Face down back extension + Seated Russian Twist @ 25#.
So, 50x Sandbag Getups =
5 Rounds
10x GHD Situp
10x GHD Back Ext

10x Seated Russian Twist.


Keep rocking out awesome training cycles! I’ve been training MA for about a year now (currently deployed) and every time I step in the gym I feel so balanced, mobile, fast, and strong. Some of the work sucks to do but its always good programming!

My question is: Out of 357, Big 24, and Rat 6, which program would you consider to be most advanced? Also, in Rat 6, could the 1rm front squat be substituted with back squat (for powerlifting total purposes)?


Think load, instead of program. Big 24 is the most simple, but if you go heavy, perhaps the hardest. Doing the last session of Big 24 is the closest I’ve come to throwing up in the gym.


Living in Los Angeles I am unable to find anything like your gym to join, but am very happy to have discovered your programs! That said I’m currently training for various eastern sierra adventures above 14k’ planned for this summer such as the Mountaineers Route of Mt. Whitney. I am also planning on doing Winter Mountaineers training and a Rainier ascent in early 2016.  I always like to train for the NEXT big thing theoretically making the current objective easier…so…

Long story short; I was thinking of purchasing the Big MTN Climbing training program form www.strongswiftdurable.com and wanted to check in and see if that is the best way for me to go or if there was something else I should consider? Being that my daily life is surrounded by concrete I was worried that the Big MTN “plan pivots to big mountain endurance and stamina for the final six weeks”, is this still compatible w/gym training methods?Answer
The Big Mountain Training Plan (http://strongswiftdurable.com/shop/big-mountain-training-program/) is gym-based, and designed for guys like you stuck in concrete jungles. You don’t need an actual mountain nearby to complete it.

For the first time in my military career I actually have a job where I have a lot of down time, Im looking to get in the best shape strenght wise Ive ever been in. That being said I have access to nice gyms only issue is they are super crowded so I cant really jump around to much. What program would you recommend to get strong? Also I dont care if its not a military based one, whatever you think is best.


Start with Big 24: http://strongswiftdurable.com/shop/big-24-strength-training-program-v3/

Simple, but hard.


I recently had a less than successful attempt at Ranger School and was sent packing. Although I felt I had prepared myself well for RAP week, the patrolling phase took a lot out of me physically. Hopefully I will have another opportunity sometime in the next 2-4 months and want to start training now. I have some familiarity with Military Athlete (used the Operator Sessions/Sandhurst training plan as a cadet), and my question might have an obvious answer, but what do you believe is the best prep for Ranger school given the uncertain timeline?

To add another layer of difficulty, I’ll be required to attend pre-ranger program, which is two weeks long, followed by two weeks off before I attend Ranger school (that is, 2 weeks of minimal physical training at PRP, followed by two weeks where I’ll need to maintain my gains). I don’t want to make the same mistake twice and your insight would be greatly appreciated.


Many guys have used the Ranger School Training Plan (http://strongswiftdurable.com/shop/ranger-school-training-plan/) successfully for Ranger School. Start this plan 7 weeks before your Pre-Ranger course. After Pre-Ranger, rest for a full week, and then complete week 7 of the Ranger School Plan before reporting.

Chin up and good luck.


I have some questions regarding two plans:  The USAF PAST Training &
the 4-Week Ruck Improvement Program.  My focus is on the non-water
PAST events as well as rucking.

Previous administered PAST scores (6mo ago):
16 Pull Ups
79 Sit Ups
75 Push Ups

Current PAST scores (self; 1mo ago):
10 Pull Ups
48 Sit Ups
43 Push Ups

What would be a suitable replacement for the Swim portions?
Is there any other “all-encompassing” plan you would recommend i.e.
Valor, Fortitude, etc?


What you could do is run the bodyweight exercise portions of the PAST plan and the Rucking Improvement plan concurrently.

Wednesdays would just be bodyweight work, and the other days of the week would be 2-a-days, or longish sessions. When you’re doing both on the same day, do your bodyweight work first. Again – you could do it in the morning, then ruck in the PM’s or do it first in the session, then ruck right after.

Don’t bother with the running work in the past. Just do bodyweight stuff and ruck.


I just started the Big 24 Strength Training program and I have a quick questions. Do you recommend a maximum and minimum period of rest between sets? I usually try to minimize the time I rest but I know that you should design rest in depending on your objective for the workout.


Every circuit includes a mobility exercise. At first, consider the mobility exercise your “working rest” – by the time you stretch, then add weight to the bar, then chalk up, you’re rested enough to go again.

But …. Big 24 gets more and more intense. The reps don’t increase, but the loading does. About halfway in, don’t be surprised if you need to sit down, or lay down, after finishing each heavy set. Still stretch, but rest as needed to get the next set.

When we do it, at first, the sessions take about 50 minutes. By the end, we’re pushing 75 minutes.


I’m just writing to update you on my progress so far and to get your advice on the final push before I ship out for Air Force Basic Training and then Selection.

I’ve been following the Ruck-Based Selection replacing the rucking improvement with swimming improvement.  I then realized how short I was in pushups and situps, and how bad I am at swimming!  I did GTG with pushups and increased my numbers from 42 to 59 in two weeks and ran 4-5 miles every other day (trying to get my 5-mile time under 45 minutes).I took the PAST two days ago and fell 5 pushups and situps short, ran a minute over the time, and couldn’t swim 500m.  I’m now headed for TACP in late August (129 days from now and counting) rather than CCT.  I want to change this.
My question is this: as I don’t have quite enough time to do the entire packet, and if I don’t nail the PAST test in a month or two I’ll never make CCT as I had planned.  If my goal is to crush the PAST test and subsequently succeed at the CCT pipeline, what should I do?

I have 3-4 months to complete this, and once again put my trust in Military Athlete and your excellent programming.  Just tell me what to do, any plan or program, and I will do it!


To focus specifically on the PAST, complete the USAF PAST Training Plan: http://strongswiftdurable.com/shop/usaf-past-training-plan/

Follow it up with the is the USAF CCT/PJ/CRO Selection training plan: http://strongswiftdurable.com/shop/usaf-cctpjcro-selection-training-plan/


I’m just coming back from a 2nd knee op (Army) and my physio has identified a strength imbalance between my legs (op leg at about 70% of other leg) and so I’ve been told to focus on single leg work to fix this ASAP, and my question is;
will the leg rehab program work in fixing this or should I follow it up with the single limb plan afterwards or even cycle them back and forth until both legs are equal?


It includes single leg work.


I intend to start the Ranger School Training Plan, but I had a question about the equipment. Do you have a particular brand of sandbag you like to use? I’ve looked around some and seen a lot of different ones but I want to make sure whatever I get is worth the money spent and won’t tear over repeated use. If all else fails I’ll just stuff a laundry or duffel bag full of things until it’s 60 lbs. Thanks for your help.


Years ago I worked with a factory and had our own sandbags designed. We sell them on the website here: http://gear.strongswiftdurable.com/collections/frontpage/products/sandbag


I am a big fan of your training plans.  Currently, I am doing the LEO on ramp program. In addition to the on ramp program, I have the following programs: (1) recovering from a leg injury; (2) 357 Strength; (3) Core Strength; (4) Big 24; and (5) Post Rehab Leg Training.

I am signed up for the World’s Toughest Mudder.  A 24hr obstacle course race.  How would you structure your training with these programs? Additionally any other programs that you would add? 

I have a little over six months to train.

Thank you for taking the time to help people and keep up the great work.


I’m no expert, but the touch mudder event you’re looking is really and endurance running race. Last year’s winner on the male side went 95 miles.

So this is an endurance/stamina event on your legs/lungs, and looks to be mostly grip/pulling on your upper body.
I don’t have a perfect plan for this, but at a minimum, you need to start doing some serious running, and cutting mass.
I’d recommend you stop LE OnRamp and complete the 4-Week Running Improvement Training Plan now: http://strongswiftdurable.com/shop/run-improvement-plan/
After 4-weeks, re-start the Running Improvement plan but double up with 357 Strength (http://strongswiftdurable.com/shop/357-strength/) you already have. Either do 2-a-days (lift in the AM, run in the PM) or complete the sessions on alternate days taking one day/week off.
Following these, start and 8-week Ultra Running Pre-Season Training Plan (http://strongswiftdurable.com/shop/ultra-running-preseason-training-program/).

The 9 weeks directly before the event, start and complete the DEA FAST Selection Training Plan (http://strongswiftdurable.com/shop/dea-fast-selection-training-plan/). You’ll need to modify this plan – skip the swimming, and for the rucking, do the distance, but without load. Just run. For the IBA runs, use a 25# backpack.


Sir,  I have completed about a month of the operator sessions.  I will be moving into the APFT v3 for 6 weeks.  After that I would like to keep the stamina I have built with the basic army PT test but I still want to do strength and endurance.  I am a huge fan of all the barbell movements and the sandbag get ups.  So pretty much I’m asking what program will be military PT specific like sit ups push ups and still have the barbell workout and sandbag get ups?


Valor (http://mtntactical.com/shop/valor/) hits many of these areas.


First of all a little bit of background.  I’m a 39-year old guy who let himself go (5’8″ and currently an embarrassing 225 lbs) and is trying to get back in shape.  I’m working out at home due to other obligations and have an adjustable dumbbell set with 130 lbs of plates, a pull up bar, a bench, and a ruck sack.  I run three+ miles three times a week and have been doing a basic dumbbell workout three times a week.  I just did a GoRuck Light last week and while my legs and cardio were great my upper body strength sucked.  I’m going to be purchasing a barbell set and rack in the next couple months, along with the sandbag and filler needed for the training plan.

I purchased your training for the GoRuck Challenge.  I never followed a training plan like this before, and it’s straightforward for the most part, but I had a question about the routine.  How do I tell the body weight exercises from the weight lifting exercises?  For instance, session 2 has 20x squats (I’m assuming body weight) and 3 rounds of 5x back squats (I’m assuming with barbell).  Is this correct?
In addition, I was looking through your site and found the recommended diet with the restrictions.  If I follow this diet during training, what should I do when I ruck?  Can I do carbs like gu or the like or are those not allowed?  With that diet, how many calories should I be getting?
Finally, what should I be doing from now until I start the 5 week plan?  My event is on September 11, 2015.

Thanks for setting up the great plan, I can’t wait to get started.


Bodyweight vs. Barbell Exercises – you’ve got it right. “Squats” alone means bodyweight. “Back Squats, Front Squats” etc. mean loaded.

Rucking Nutrition – yes, I encourage you to use Gu or other gels/event carb nutrition during your rucks. Calories? Our nutritional recommendations have no caloric restrictions – eat until you’re full, just don’t eat crap. Gels? – follow the instruction’s on the package, usually 1x gel every 45 minutes while you’re moving.
Start now with the GoRuck Challenge Training Plan you already have (http://strongswiftdurable.com/shop/goruck-challenge-training-plan/)
Follow it up with a subscription to the website and follow the SSD daily sessions until your 6 weeks out from your event, then cancel your subscription (you can cx anytime) and re-do the GoRuck Challenge Training Plan directly before your event.

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