Q&A 7/31/15

Dave grinds through part (4)'s sandbag keg lifts
Dave grinds through sandbag keg lifts

Questions include: If you only need to improve one part of the PFT should you only work on that part? What is the best plan to train for Mount Blanc? What plan to use to train for a Dall Sheep Hunt in the NWT? What plan incorporates strength, work capacity, and mid distance interval work? and more…

I just wanted to say thank you for some excellent programming. I spent some extended time outside of the U.S. without access to a gym doing some trekking expeditions in the Himalayas, Pamirs, Altai, Karakoram, and Hindu Kush. I used the Bodyweight, Afghan Prep, and Sandbag/Weight Vest (modified a bit since I only had my ruck) to train in between, which definitely helped me to tackle some hard, multi-week treks. Can’t say enough about your training.
Now I’m looking forward to getting back into the gym and was planning on Hypertrophy (gain back lost weight) and Big 24 (gain back strength) before jumping back into the online programming. Thanks again.

Just thought I would weigh in on your Backcountry Hunting piece in today’s email from you guys.

I have been doing that for years, primarily in the Eastern Sierra and desert Southwest. However, I have also done several self-guided hunting trips in Africa, most recently a four-week trip in Cameroon. Those trips are more expeditionary, in that you have five to ten other guys to take care of. Among other things, you have to get the rice and posho cargo worked out exactly right, and you have to invest a good portion of your time harvesting camp meat – the meat that your crew doesn’t eat and can carry out is part of their pay.  

One thing you might mention to people who are preparing for the Backcountry experience is that, like expeditionary climbers, they need to assume that they are on their own medically. In my Cameroon trip I had a back pain that I was ignoring when I got on the plane, and I finished up the hunt with a bad kidney stone problem – by the time I got to a hospital in Yaoundé the stone had already passed, but it could have been a lot worse.

Pairing up the fitness program with a few wilderness medical courses could be good advice. For older hunters (I am 63), a trip to your physician before you embark might not hurt.

I have been fighting my way back from a surgery this last fall. As you pointed out in your article, it is time to get back in shape, and it sounds like your Backcountry program might be a good move for me.


Hi, I survived my first GRC earlier this year and looking to do another in December but this time I’m looking to thrive instead of just hanging on at the end.  If I’m going to purchase the Challenge program what base level of fitness should I be aiming for prior to starting the five weeks?
Should I be able to ruck X miles at 15 min/mile pace with Challenge weight?  Perform standard lifts (bench, squat, etc) to certain standards?
I see the example workouts you have posted for that program.  Is that the the first days of the program?
The program is progressive – gets harder as you work through it – and the sample training you see on the site http://mtntactical.com/shop/goruck-challenge-training-plan/) is the first week.
Most important initially is the rucking – the start is 4 miles.
I am currently in the pipeline for the Marine Corps OCS application process for this coming January.  I am currently hitting 270/300 on the PFT, but this needs to improve.  I am able to max the pullups and crunches, but my run is destroying my score (currently sitting at a 23:00 3 mile time).  I have been searching around on your site and I see that you have a program specifically tailored toward OCS prep, but my question to you is that since I am mainly focused on lowering my run time and have already mastered the other two portions of the PFT, should I be looking for something more specific pertaining to running?  Just to note, I have realistically only been training for this run for about a little over a month, and was never much of a runner beforehand (mostly just strength work), so I am pretty hopeful that with consistency, my run times should lower significantly over the next 4 or 5 months.
I’d recommend the USMC OCS Training Plan (http://mtntactical.com/shop/marine-corps-ocs-training-plan/).
It includes specific training for the PFT (including the run) as well as rucking, a longer distance run (6 mile), work capacity efforts, etc. OCS is more than the PFT – and this plan gets you ready.
I am looking to do a climb next year, possibly Mount Blanc, and would like to get back in shape to do so. I have had some injuries this year and need to ramp back up to doing the “big mountain plan”. Can you recommend a plan that can help me ramp up and something I can do to gain more core strength?
A great Base Fitness plan to start with is our new Bodyweight Foundation training plan (http://mtntactical.com/shop/bodyweight-foundation-training-plan/). It would be a good “on ramp” for the Big Mountain plan.
You can purchase this plan individually from the website store. It also comes free, along with 30+ other plans and more on the way – with a monthly subscription to the website.
Recently left PJ selection, and looking into your VALOR program.
I am potentially going BACK to selection to try again in an unknown amount of time- could be 3-6 months could be longer.
thus I need to keep up endurance work but still regain some strength

My runs/fins/ ruck and cals were all above the mark, I just happened to make a dumb decision and quit.
Physically I was fine- would you recommend VALOR, but sub out something for FIN sessions In there?

How would you program that
I don’t want to do a straight selection train up plan as I’m looking to use some barbell work as well as I enjoy strength training and haven’t been on a barbell in about 3 months.
Numbers during Mid to late Indoc grind were as follows.
15-16 pull-ups

77 pushups

77 sit-ups

20:15 3 mile

27:30 1500m fin
Solid across the board- but running can improve a bit, as I had an injury the few months prior to selection and didn’t go in as fast as I’d like.
Thanks for your thoughts and direction.
Valor (http://mtntactical.com/shop/valor/) would be a great plan to start with.
It doesn’t include finning, but you could replace the mid-distance Friday runs with fin sessions of the same time duration.
You can purchase the plan individually. As well, it is included in a monthly subscription to the website – which also gives you access to the Operator Sessions.
I’m 51, 5’9.5″ weigh 190, recently pulled a 380 deadlift, ran a 56min 10k the next day, did 11 pull-ups after the race.  Ran 11 miles last weekend, bagged Grays (14’er) on Thursday.  Going up was no problem (I live in the Midwest) going down was a problem.  I was very slow, not very mobile, had trouble navitagating in the scramble sections.  I‘m going on a backpack Dall Sheep hunt in the NWT, leave Aug 15.  I’m nervous about all the downhill navigation I will need to do.
Any advice is appreciated.
I’d recommend the Backcountry Big Game Training Plan: http://mtntactical.com/shop/big-game-hunting-training-program/
Good luck with your hunt!
I have a question regarding running. I’ve been in the military for 4 years, and I have always been a terrible runner. On APFTs I can’t remember the last time I didn’t max my pushups/situps, I always do well on ruck marches, yet my fastest 2-mile ever was a 14:50. My averages tend to be from 15:00 – 16:00.
It’s not that I don’t try; over the past 4 years I’ve been constantly tweaking and refining my strategies, and I now know what works well enough for me to pass, but I can’t seem to break through this plateau. My current goal is to get a maximum 2-mile time of 13:00, and after that a 5-mile time of 40:00 or less. I currently have 2 questions for you:

  1. I currently have purchased your APFT plan, but don’t have your running improvement plan. Since I already have my own methods and techniques to max out pushups/situps but suck horribly with running, do you recommend sticking with the APFT improvement plan or trying the running improvement plan? Note that I haven’t completed the APFT plan yet; I plan on starting it in the beginning of August.
  2. I’ve noticed when researching running advice among the military community, a lot of people tend to suggest things like intervals and sprints a lot. Occassionally someone will suggest throwing in a long run. Yet whenever I research training plans and advice from elite runners, people that run insane 5k, 10k, 400m, etc times, a lot of their advice is different. They suggest building a LOT of slow, easy miles, building a large average MPW and after a couple months slowly incorporating speed work. A lot of military guys tend to say that easy miles are BS and only train you to run slow. What is your perspective on all this?

In general, to improve your running, you have to run.
Sprints and long slow distance? The running progression in the APFT plan uses assessment and scaled based intervals. The Running Improvement Plan (http://mtntactical.com/shop/run-improvement-plan/) deploys both assessment-based intervals and a weekly long run.
Do you need to purchase the Running Improvement plan? No – use the APFT plan and it’s running progression. As well, use your first assessment 2-mile run time from and our Running Calculator (http://mtntactical.com/exercises/running-calculator/) to get your “easy run” pace. Add in 2 easy runs a week – start at 5 miles for weeks 1-2, then go to 6 miles for weeks 3-4, and 7 miles for weeks 5-6.
As well, read up on POSE running or Chi Running – and during your runs work on your running form – especially forefoot strike and cadence.
Last year I bought and used the dry land ski program for lift assisted skiing.  It was fantastic and I have continued using many of the elements in my current training.  I recently viewed a video where you talked about the mountain chassis to build the base fitness.  Since I train regularly, I would like to get some programming for working the base, and developing my overall core capability.  What plan should I be doing?

Also, I don’t have access to climbing walls and ropes, if climbing is in the regiment, how do I sub?  I use a standard fitness center, so I am sometimes limited.
I’d recommend a subscription to the website and you follow the SSD Daily sessions. Start the sessions at the beginning of the most recent cycle.
I have been using your plans for about two years now and have seen great

progress.  I feel stronger and more durable than ever.  I just finished 357

and am now looking for my next challenge.  I was looking through the

available plans and was trying to find something that incorporates

strength, work capacity and some sprinting/mid distance/interval work.    I

would like to continue with the gains I am making in strength but would

also like to get some speed/interval conditioning in there.  Do you have

any suggestions?  I was looking at valor and was thinking of substituting a

sprint day workout for the ruck day (100 repeats, hill sprints, or row

intervals) or I was looking at the 369 plan as is.  Can you think of

anything else you have that might have these elements or a plan where I can

swap out something for some interval work?  Once a week would work.  Thanks

again for the great job you are doing and the impact you are having on the

fitness of athletes around the world.

I’d recommend Valor (http://mtntactical.com/shop/valor/) and doing the rucking and ruck intervals in the plan as prescribed.
Instead of the 1-mile run intervals, however, use your 3-mile assessment time and our Running Calculator (http://mtntactical.com/exercises/running-calculator/) to run 400m repeats. Start at 4x and work up to 8-10x.
I have a few questions for you if you do not mind.  I am a prior enlisted/newly commissioned Marine Officer currently at The Basic School, which can basically be described as a beginner leadership and tactics course for all new Marine Officers.  We PT regularly but it is very easy, however the days are long and I am often drained at the end of the day (not to a level that I couldn’t work out at the end of the day but still noticeable).  I am trying to compete for a spot at the Infantry Officer’s Course after TBS, which (as others have told you before) is a very physically demanding course.  Basically I am trying to perform well at TBS and still get better at rucking, running, bodyweight strength and pure strength as well, while ensuring I don’t overtrain.  With that said, my questions for you:

  1. Which Military Athlete product would you recommend in my situation? For what it is worth I downloaded the free Valor plan the other day and it looks great.  I like the goals of “improving across the board”.
  2. If at work we do a difficult event (we have several hikes upwards of 15 miles here) I would probably skip that day’s Mil Athlete workout.  Should I make it up on the weekend or skip it altogether?
  3. How can I best prevent overtraining?  I want to make gains on my own but still want to rock the PT we do as a class.

Rob thanks for your time.  Looking forward to hearing from you.
1) Valor (http://mtntactical.com/shop/valor/) would be my recommendation to start.

2) Don’t skip the prescribed session – but just start again where you left off after you recover from your long hike.

3) Pay attention to the progressions in the Valor plan – if you’re not making the progressions, take some rest. As well – pay attention to your attitude toward training. If you find yourself dreading it – pull back. Overall – remember, we get more fit not by training, but by resting and recovering after training. At the same time, IOC is no joke – esp. the first 20 hours. You have to train for it.
I’m just in week one of the fat burning program, and have to work out of town next week. There is a small gym in the hotel, I plan on finding a high school track for my Wednesday run, and the evening walk/runs are no problem. Is there a gym modification I can make to the plan for shuttle runs? I don’t want to have to break it up by going outside just for that part, and it’s not feasible for me to do the whole workout outside (kids and such).
Best would be to substitute Burpees for the shuttles. Use the same number of rounds and the interval work/rest times – but do burpees instead. Next best would be to do hippity hops across a bench (http://mtntactical.com/exercises/mnt1023-hippity-hops/).
Your article on hiring coaches got me thinking. I coach base-level fitness skills and programming to some clients here and have been reading 3-4 ‘fitness’ books a week for years now.
I’ve been impressed with you programming enough that I find myself using it as the standard against which other methods and gyms are compared. When I found myself doing founders after a workout I realized you guys read as much as you sweat and that not just my performance but my durability was in good hands.
What knowledge and certs do you look for in a coach? As I’m shipping for the service in a month or so I don’t have the time to apply! I’m just asking to get an idea of where to target my own learning in the next few years.
Q: What are the top books/certs/degrees/accompishments on a coach’s resume that impress SSD?

Our focus for coach hires has changed recently with our evolution toward the Mountain Tactical Institute and research. The ideal candidate is a “Scholar Meathead” – someone who understands, enjoys and excels at the academic/research part of the job (70%), but also loves to train and coach.
We recently had 85 applicants for an open job, and to be competitive applicants will need a masters degree (kinesiology or exercise science), research experience (Thesis and lab work), and college weightroom experience (any student serious about coaching will have gotten in the college weightroom during their master’s work).
After that – we’re looking for programming intuition and being well read. Military experience is a plus.
I’m planning on going to the cag assessment course in the fall of 2016.  I was given the SFOD-D Selection Training Plan as a gift from an old Company commander who went through the course.  I was just curious if it’d be possible to get the SFOD-D Selection Packet, minus the Selection Training Plan.  Also, I have an old shoulder injury that can get very annoying during training, AC Joint Arthrosis, in my right shoulder.  Do you guys have any programs that might help strengthen that area? I also wanted to get some insight as to weight/training considerations given my body size, 5’7″ at 130lbs or if you think it is a non-issue and I should stick with the program to the T.  Anyway, I appreciate any/all information and thank you for your time.
1) Packet – no …. you can purchase the entire packet, or the plans individually. Sorry.

2) Crossfit guys and baseball players like Crossover Symmetry – look into it. We’ve messed around with it, but not enough for me to fully endorse it yet.

3) There’s no CAG selection for small guys. You’re pack will weight the same as everyone else’s. Do the programming as prescribed – you’ll gain strength and perhaps a little mass. I’d like you at 150# or so.
I am in the Marine Corps but due to a high tempo at work over the last few months my fitness has fallen off. I love your workouts however I’m concerned that with my current level of fitness I may not be able to fully complete the operator sessions like I used to. Would you recommend I continue with the operator sessions and just scale the weight back if necessary or switch to another one of your programs until I get a good foundation back?
Pull out of the Operator Sessions and do the Bodyweight Foundation Plan – which you get access to with your subscription. After Bodyweight Foundation – return to the Operator Sessions.
If you’re not currently a subscriber – you can also purchase the Bodyweight Foundation plan individually here (http://mtntactical.com/shop/bodyweight-foundation-training-plan/)
I want to thank for posting that pullup study. I know sometimes the ‘simple truths’ take a lot of time and energy to research, and people take it for granted. I definitely love reading your experiments.
I was wondering if you might be able to point me in the right direction considering research and EMG activity concerning bouncing out of the bottom of a squat. We have some female athletes that frequently try to do this when catching heavy squat cleans, as well as on back squats. Personally, I think if the hamstrings are properly loaded with tension, bouncing would not be bad as long as the knees do not shoot forward.
This is not peer reviewed, but here is a Rippetoe piece in bouncing:

I know you posted an article a while

back regarding the difference in muscle activation in front versus back squats.
Have you or your team ever specifically looked into bouncing?
Haven’t looked at this – but the place to start would be a search at google scholar and/or the NSCA journals.
There have been a bazzilion studies done on back squats – so there might be one out there that’s looked at this narrow topic.
I’m really looking forward to this program.  Been looking at your site for awhile and when I saw that there was a free plan I had no choice but to take it.  I just got back into the service after taking a break back in 2006.  I’m 39 and even though I try to stay extremely active everyday I’m definitely feeling it.  I know that 80% is purely mental but I am hoping to really revamp and truly be the warrior that I know I can be.  Appreciate the help.  Will probably have many questions on diet and Rucking.  Really struggling with rucking and getting shin splits. It’s odd because I never get them when I run. Any suggestions?
Could be shoes? – If you ruck in boots switch to trail runners or running shoes. I like the Altra Olympus.
I am currently a recruiter getting ready to start training for SFAS in about a year.  I wanted to ask before signing up should i stay at my normal gym or sign up for a crossfit gym?  My gym membership is up in august and wanted to know which gym would be better for this program.
A “functional fitness” gym would be best – you’ll need ropes to climb, plyo boxes, etc. Crossfit gyms have these – but you’ll need one that offers an “open gym” time. But, many regular gyms are beginning to offer this equipment – and their hours may be more flexible.
Is it a good idea to take a pre-workout with the protein?
Yes – simple whey protein is good.
Been through a lot of your programs and I usually swear by them. I report to Ranger School in exactly 13 weeks. I plan to begin the RS training plan 7 weeks prior, but for now I am unsure of exactly how to spend the next 6 weeks. I am currently in moderate condition (maybe well to some). I just finished the Single Limb STP to correct some strength and motor imbalances I was feeling and it worked well. I have crushed a Pre-Ranger before and know I can achieve all the standards, just have to get back there. Here is where I am now:
Wanting to stay founded in a strength program
5 mile run needs to come down, over 40 min a little right now but I have ran a 35:00
Army PFT at about a 285 because of the run, can score 300’s though… again the run
Have been well conditioned for long fast heavy rucks before, but haven’t really smoked myself under a heavy load in over 6 months.
5’10” 186 lbs this morning.
Running is always the challenge for me, I feel I am naturally a strength athlete. I don’t want to give up strength to run however, because I want to still have a strong foundation when I hit mountain phase. My thoughts were maybe the Fortitude program then the RS training plan. My only concern is that my runs seem to respond best to interval work instead of moderate intermediate distance. Sorry so long winded. Any advice would be greatly appreciated!
I’d recommend Valor: http://mtntactical.com/shop/valor/
Valor has a work capacity focus – but does include some strength, as well – running and rucking are assessment based and interval format.
Good luck at Ranger School!
I’m scheduled for a 5 day trip in Utah in 8 weeks.  Preparation is mostly going to be centered around the Peak Bagger plan, which I used with huge success a couple years ago on a similar trip.  However, one day we’ll be rock climbing.  I dont have access to a rock gym, and getting through Peak Bagger with my schedule will be hard enough.  What exercises can I add to get my hands and arms in shape for one day of  climbing?  I’m not an experienced climber, so any other thoughts would be appreciated.
And, like many others, thanks again for you programming and responses.
Grip strength is key – what I’d recommend is purchasing a hang board and doing hang board routines for finger strength training and pull ups. I’d recommend the Metolius Woody hangboard.
I am interested in the Big Mountain Climbing Training Program. Does the program include videos showing what the exercises are and the proper form for each exercise?
We have an exercises tab on the website here: http://mtntactical.com/category/exercises/
I have been doing On Ramp on and off for a year now. I am still overweight and unable to do unassisted pull ups but I can tell I am getting much stronger every time I have completed On Ramp. (I have completed it about 5 times now.) I went ahead and bought the subscription service last week because I started to think maybe it was time to move up to another program or follow the daily programs. After looking at those programs, I still don’t feel ready. I glanced over the Fat Loss program and it doesn’t seem to be the program for me yet either. This most recent completion of On Ramp, I didn’t take a week off, I just moved back to Week 3 and started from there. Am I doing the right thing by sticking with the On Ramp program? I really love your programming, it’s the only programming I have ever actually stuck to and been able to track great results. Sorry for the wall of text.
Eventually you’ll run into accommodation – our bodies get stimulated by stress (training) – and adapt (we get more fit). However, if you keep doing the same thing time and again, your body accommodates, and after a while, you quit getting gains.
It’s time to move on from OnRamp. I’d recommend Fat Loss, then Rat 6 strength. Both are available with a subscription.
What is the best plan for Norwegian special forces.

Green beret type not seals?
We recommend the Ruck Based Selection Training Plan (http://mtntactical.com/shop/ruck-based-selection-training-program/) for Green Beret selection.
I’m looking to go into the Navy as an officer. Getting a SEAL OCS billet was my goal, but following arthroscopic knee surgery in December of 2015, I changed my course. However, now I’m faced with another 6 months before I can move forward (due to medical board) and would like to start training with the goal of meeting and exceeding SEAL officer PST standards.
I’m 7 months out of surgery and am back running with minimal knee issues. I’m back in the pool too, although the CSS still gives me some knee issues at times. I was hoping you might recommend a program/combination of programs for me to begin to work towards that SEAL PST goal. At this time I’m in the 70 pushups/16 pullups/ 10:00 500m CSS/ 10:30 1.5 mile run range.
The Navy PST program seemed like the logical choice, but I noticed it doesn’t have a pull up component. The BUDS V1 program seems to best address the SEAL PST, and I could scale the rucking and movements that aggravate the knee. I would also think about tacking on the Core workout or Swim workout at some point as well.
Thank you for your time and I look forward to hearing from you-
Start with BUD/s V1 (http://mtntactical.com/shop/buds-v1-training-program-2011/).
You don’t need to get super focused on the PST right now, but rather build your BUD/s overall fitness, as well as begin to get your head right mentally for selection. This plan is no joke, and will help with both.
As a former Infantry Officer (1-187 IN) who  trained with your workouts for Afghanistan I want to first thank you for all you do in creating innovative and dynamic workouts for the armed services.
Secondly, I wanted to ask you what program would be a good follow-up for Your Hypertrophy program in order to continue building mass and strength?
Thanks again for all you do and keep up the good work!
Glad our stuff worked for you downrange.
Next for you I’d recommend Rat 6 Strength. You can purchase the plan individually here: http://mtntactical.com/shop/rat-6-strength/ – and it is also available free with a subscription to the website.
My son is going into the US Army.He will be going the Infantry/Airborne/Ranger route,well that’s his plan.Question is which program would be better for him Valor,Fortitude or Rat 6. He is a good athlete and in decent shape.

Or would you recommend some other program? He has approx 8 weeks till he leaves for trng.
I’d recommend Valor – it will give your son a great head start!
I’m training in preparation for the USAF TACP schoolhouse. I cannot say when I expect to arrive at school. Towards the end of the year if I’m lucky. I am currently in the middle of the Afghanistan pre-deployment training. Would you recommend I drop what I’m doing and just hit the TACP training plan? I took a PAST today.
1.5 mile run: 9:57

Pullups: 16

Situps: 70

Pushups: 50
Also, when ‘ruck running’ is prescribed in your training, is that literally a run (one foot on the ground at a time)? Or the quick shuffle that I’ve seen demonstrated in Military Athlete videos? I have injured myself running with a load.
I have to hand it to you, Rob. Your programs are torturous and I can’t get enough. Thanks for any help.
You’ll want to complete the USAF TACP School Plan (http://mtntactical.com/shop/usaf-tacp-training-plan/) the 8 weeks directly before reporting to the schoolhouse.
You can purchase and complete the plan now to start getting spooled up, but you’d still want to re-complete the plan 8 weeks before reporting.
If you only want to do the plan once, you’ll need to train up until you start it. After the Afghan Pre-Deployment Training Plan I’d recommend subscribing to the website and following the Operator Sessions – or if you’re hesitant to subscribe, purchasing and completing the Rat 6 Strength plan (http://mtntactical.com/shop/rat-6-strength/).
Ruck Running – we actually run for shorter distances. For longer distances I like to break it up – say 2 min run, 1 min shuffle/walk. The deal is you need to meet standard times. If you can do that walking, you’ll be okay. If not, you’ll need to run.
I love your programming,and feel best when I use it.
I have a question for you. I’m currently looking at using your Ultimate Meathead Cycle as it is in line with some current goals I have in mind, but would also like to improve my running abilities. I suck at running. Since UMC is only a 4 day/week plan, can I work in 1-2 days of running from the Run Improvement plan (recovery allowing)? Or do you think it would be best to focus on one at a time?
Thanks in advance, and for everything you do. As a full time paramedic, I appreciate your efforts to improve the culture of fitness in the Emergency/Tactical fields.

You could certainly do the two programs together – just watch for over training. If you find you have trouble recovering, then alternate sessions from the plans – for example, UMC on Monday, Run Improv on Tues, UMC on Wed, etc.
Thanks for the kind words. Glad our stuff works for you.
Here’s what I have: Bodyweight II, Sandbag/Weight Vest/Dumbbell, Humility, and Valor.
I completed Bodyweight II last week. Like you said it’s no joke, but I stuck with it and am reaping the benefits of your fantastic planning and programming.
I’m planning to start Sandbag/Weight Vest/Dumbbell next week. What do you recommend after that, Humility or Valor?
Looking forward to your Combat Chassis plan this fall, and am contemplating a subscription to the SF45 program (no longer a spring chicken) after completing the current bundle of plans.
Awesome on BW II. After Sandbag/Weightvest/Dumbbell do Valor (it includes solid gym-based strength and work capacity stuff), then Humility – which is bodyweight-based.

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