Q&A 9.4.15

Rats resting between sandbag get up intervals in part 3. Almost done...
Rats resting between sandbag get up intervals in part 3. Almost done…

The First Responder Project – Give and Take

By Rob Shaul

Below is an email exchange with a firefighter who read our piece on the First Responder Project. Lots to chew on here – and I wanted to share with others.


I have just finished reading your ‘First Responder Projec’t articles as well as all of your recent articles on Fitness culture in Fire Departments, or their unfortunate lack of. As a a former S & C coach and current career Firefighter it was disappointing to read but definitely not unexpected as I have found the same ‘problems’ with fitness standards over here. Sure we have a stack of ‘super fit’ FF’s who love to wear their lycra and crank out 100km cycles or train for their next Iron-man but the unfortunate truth is that if you asked them to simulate a rescue on a fellow FF in full kit they simply can’t do it! Its sad to say but these guys are more interested in being fit for their sport then fit for their job. On the flip side you have the ‘legacy’ guys who do nothing and don’t believe its needed. It will be a long and slow process to change attitudes over here but it has to start somewhere at sometime. I would be super keen to jump on-board with SSD in anyway shape or form. Thank-you for actively looking to change this poor attitudes for the better, I look forward to more of the same great work from everyone at SSD.

Stay safe, – L

Hi L –

Thanks for reaching out.
Here’s what we’re doing right now….

1) Fitness Culture Analysis and Identification.
Developing a fitness culture is the first step to making a lasting difference. We created a tool to do an assessment and deployed it to a mid-western fire department. That unit had a “weak” culture. I feel our next step is to find a units with a “strong” cultures, deploy the fitness assessment, and see if we can find common attributes. For example – a fit leadership, time on duty to train, intolerance of unfit first responders, etc. We’ve reached out to one unit we’ve heard has a good culture, but have not heard back. If you know of any, pls help connect us. We’re doing this formally through our Mountain Tactical Institute.

As well, it’s It’s not enough that we deploy our assessment beat up a unit with a poor fitness culture. Ideally after we beat them up, we give them the tools and steps they can undertake to turn things around. Then it’s on them to do so.

2) Created training tools and standards.
On both the Fire Rescue and Law Enforcement sides we’ve created fitness assessments athletes can use for themselves or their units to see how they measure up. Through our training program, we have “on ramp” programs to build guys up from unfit, to a tactical level of first responder fitness, and created ongoing training programs to keep them there.

3) Spread the word.
My staff had a booth at a Fire Rescue conference in Baltimore last month, and will be in Salt Lake City for a National Tactical Officers Association conference next weekend – where we’ll spread the message and hope to meet and connect with like-minded first responders. Honestly, many out of shape folks at these conferences avoid eye contact and scoot by our booth fast. We understand. Again – one officer, one Fireman, one unit, at a time.

4) Leverage partnerships.
We hope to help spread the message by leveraging partners. For example, we reached out to a major tactical clothing manufacturer about partnering with us on the First Responder project and hope to reach out to other major and minor potential partners. Getting other companies which serve first responders onboard and spreading the message will greatly accelerate the impact we can have.

I understand we have a “tough love” message for many first responders, leaders and units. And this message will turn many away – at first.

First responder “wellness” efforts I’ve seen thus far have been patronizing toward first responders is their “softness” and hand holding.

Our goal is to be a beacon, community and home for first responders who are professional about their fitness now, or want to be so. This is important – what matters most isn’t current fitness level, but attitude. Come to us committed to get professional about your or your unit’s fitness, and we’ll bend over backward to help out.

How can you help?
– Lead by example. Train for your job, stay fit.
– Be welcoming to others who want to join you. Make your training a welcoming environment to any and all who are willing to work for it – no matter where they start.
– Fight for time on duty to train and equipment. Fight for access to job-specific programming. Start the work to get a fitness assessment – but understand this will take time and resistance will be great.
– Help spread the work about the First Responder Project

On that last note – we’re working now to create a great logo and follow on stickers/t-shirts we can send guys like you to start help with the grassroots campaign of spreading the word. We’ll probably also give away our F/R and LE OnRamp Training Plan to guys who want to get started. When guys like you reach out we want to have something to send them – hopefully we’ll have this stuff ready to go soon.

Do you have any suggestions?


Him ….
Hey Rob,

Great to hear form you, I really think you are 100% spot on in your assessment of Emergency Services attitudes to ‘fitness’.

This is what I believe are the major stumbling blocks here.

There are 3 levels of attitudes that need to be changed.
1) Top Brass, the guys that have the final sign off on anything ‘new’.
Most of the higher ranked people don’t give a second thought to the importance of occupational fitness in our field, their too busy writing new Standard Operating Procedures, or coming up with a pointless new Safety Memo in how to tie your shoelaces to help them climb higher up the ladder (no pun intended) than to worry about what level of fitness the dept are operating at. To an extent I don’t blame them as they are dealing with a different kettle of fish that far up the chain but without being able to positively influence them, then nothing will fly. The majority of these guys also fit into the, I used to look like a FF now Im just a older looking fat middle aged man who looks down and cant see his toes. These guys need solid proof that something is not just going to work but will save them dollars and ultimately help them get promoted.

2) Legacy group, the crew who have been in the job for 25+ yrs and were once super fit themselves but now couldn’t be bothered with training, or, just rely on the junior man in case of any serious need of physical exertion (Ive been that junior man on a number of occasions and while I loved it at the time looking back on it I know its not a good thing). These guys have all the experience and knowledge for the job but almost zero when it comes to S & C, IF I ever see these guys in the gym they are either talking, doing bicep curls or talking! They have a certain ‘ownership’ about their stations and while they acknowledge the need to be fit for the job I believe a lot are scared about speaking up or agreeing to try anything new as a) there worried about getting injured or b) if any dept bought in fitness standard testing they would fail and feel discriminated against. This group of individuals if educated correctly and given a method or scaled version so they understand and can participate and succeed would be your greatest asset and voice to bringing about change.

3) The next generation, this group is just as hard a group to change as the others, maybe even more so as this is the ‘entitled’ generation. Not only do they think they know it all that believe they are entitled to everything and that there way is right. Over here a huge percentage of the new generation are endurance athletes. Ironmen, marathoners, ultra runner’s, adventure racer’s, if its going to last more that a few hours and you get to wear lycra then they are there. They see there job as a FF as a perfect opportunity for them to train more for their events, not for there job! Most of them have the upper body strength of a 4 yr old girl and the cardio that they do have is useless at an incident where you need to be going balls out for short time periods of time as they are the ultimate pacers in intensity levels. Then there is the next group who are training for the annual FF calender, they cut as much weight as possible to looked as ripped as possible and then pass out during a live fire training drill! (true story). We are very fortunate here in that all Fire Dept allocate specific time for PT and come with, although usually quite poorly equipped, on station gyms. We have the time and the resources but the attitudes and application to job specific training is poor.

Unfortunately these 3 groups are the large majority of the Dept and as such almost have a ‘safety in numbers’ attitude about them. While not impossible it will take a long time to influence change.
I believe the best way to change attitudes for the better is to start at the recruit/training school that everyone has to go through to become an firefighter. As always if you can influence and coach at a grass roots level you can plant that seed and then the next step would be to have your FireRescue Athlete plans at every station for them to continue with post recruit school. To do this you will need to show the top Brass how your program benefits job specific performance AND to lifelong health AND how it will ultimately save them $$ on sick leave and overtime through injuries. If you can manage to get a dept or a number of Dept to adopt your system and then record as much data as possible from it to give to the Top brass then you will be in with a good chance. A coach once told me that sports scientists are sports historians because they take years to quantify what coaches in the field have known and done for years. I have no doubt with your plans that they work, and if implemented and coached correctly would be of huge benefit to all but without more ‘validated’ information its a hard sell to the people that authorize the $$$$.

I’m currently in the process of getting some of my crew to attempt a few different types of workouts, its got to start somewhere and will happily fly the SSD flag on station!

It will definitely take a while but like you said “one officer, one Fireman, one unit, at a time”.

Keep up the great work, cant wait to to hopefully read about the Dept with a strong fitness culture.

Stay safe, – L

Wow L – this is awesome and insightful – esp. the part about the legacy guys potentially being the biggest change makers, and the “entitled” younger endurance guys.

We’re grinding away here. Let me know if we can send you any of our plans to kickstart your own efforts there.


Whats your opinion on taking creatine with your operator sessions?

thanks, –

Creatine is the most studied supplement of all time, and just about the only one to have found to have positive affects on strength gain. It and whey protein are about all I endorse.


Alright, last question, I swear haha how do you plan pull-ups into programs for guys who have a PT test involving it? Just throw some in at the beginning of a work out? – R

We’ll do an initial assessment, then progressions based on your assessment results.

Usually, 5 round of 30%, and work up to 5 Rounds of 40%. Then re-assess and start again.

Do this circuit, 3x week.


First off, thanks for the great programs.

Second, I was looking to do the Goruck Selection in the fall of 2016 and I was wondering what group of programs you guys would put together for training a year out?
I’ve seen that you have full bundles for other military schools and selections that are more than just 10 weeks or programming…so I was wondering what order you would suggest with a year to get ready for the selection event?

Thanks guys.- R

In general, the closer to the event, the more “sport-specific” the training. Further away – the more general your training can be.

Correspondingly, for you, the most important to plan for is to do a selection-specific plan directly before the event. This is a ways away, I know – but that is most important. We’ve developed a GoRuck Selection Training Plan here: http://mtntactical.com/shop/goruck-selection-training-plan/

Options between now and then:

1) Ruck-Based Selection Training Packet – with GoRUCK Selection plan at the end.
We’ve developed a 9-month train-up for SFAS and similar selections here: http://mtntactical.com/shop/ruck-based-selection-training-packet/
You’ll see this packet ends with the Ruck-Based Selection Training Plan – you’ll want to replace it the GoRuck Selection plan. If you want to go this way, email back.

2) Subscribe to the website and start with Fortitude, then jump in the Operator Sessions at the beginning of the most recent cycle. Then, 10-weeks out, start and complete the GoRuck Selection Training Plan.

– Rob

How often do you rest in between rounds or parts of the workout? – Z

The SWAT/SRT Training Plan sessions are designed to last 60 minutes. Use this as your general guide for rest between circuits. If you’re taking 75 minutes to complete the sessions, rest less. Finishing in 45 minutes, rest more.

All our stuff is designed to be worked through briskly. Often athletes will grab a quick drink while they are setting up equipment for the next part of the training session.

– Rob

Just got the Humility program and I had a question about the burpee test. This is the section on the burpee test here:

At the end, add up the total burpees you completed for the intervals you did
make. This is your assessment “max rep” number.
For example … here is the Burpee Ladder Test
Burpees Total
Minute per Min Burpees
0-1 10 10
1-2 12 22
2-3 14 36
3-4 16 52
4-5 18 70
5-6 20 90
6-7 22 112
7-8 24 136
Athlete 1 makes it through Minute 3 (14) burpees, but doesn’t make the 16x prescribed burpees for minute 4. Thus his total
is 10 + 22 + 36 = 68x. Athlete 1 will use 68x for his Max Rep burpees.
Athlete 2 makes it through minute 5, but doesn’t make the 20x prescribed burpees for minute 6. Thus, his total is 10 + 22 +
36 + 52 + 70 = 190x. Athlete 2 will use 68x for his Max Rep Burpees

I’m not totally sure about the math from the example. I made it through the 5th minute (18 burpees) and didnt complete the next. According to the opening section I should add the total burpees I did up, which was 10+12+14+16+18 = 70. The way its described with Athlete 1/2 are definitely not the same, just trying to make sure I did the math correctly.

Also – any tips for EOs? I have a lot of trouble keeping myself moving correctly and get all out of sync.

Thanks! -Z

Our mistake in the write up. You’ve got it right.

EO’s – everyone sucks at these at first. I went in circles …. stick with it and you’ll figure it out. These are a great and simple core exercise.



I just finished the Running Improvement Plan for the third time in a row. I saw some good progress throughout these months on the program ! thanks!

progress looked like this:

5 miler

Beginning of the 1st month – 40
2nd – 38
3rd -36

all this done on a flat track.

Even though I am running faster 5 miles each time, every time I go on a cross country run in area where there are many hills , I seem to struggle and slow down a lot.
I feel like I lack “base fitness” of running where I would be able to maintain pace for a longer period of time on a surface that is not flat.

I am thinking of buying Ultra-Preseason training plan to log in miles and get solid base fitness and then jump back to running improvement plan (or Operator Pentathlon Plan)

my question is:

what is the starting week mileage for Ultra Preseason Plan? On the running improvement plan I do about 20-24miles/week. if the Ultra plan starts off with 40m/week I am facing danger of having stress fractures. Should I add in some easy running sessions into the plan and then proceed into Ultra-preaseason?

Also, I am in a caloric deficit -500cal/day (trying to lose some weight) is that going to affect progress? – A

The Ultra Pre-Season Training Plan (http://mtntactical.com/shop/ultra-running-preseason-training-program/) starts with a 25 mile running week, total. Longest run is 10 miles. You could go into it now.

Caloric Deficit? – Yes. Separate “event” nutrition from day to day diet. During your running, esp. distance stuff, it’s ok to shoot gu/gels as needed for performance.


My name is B. and I follow you on Facebook. My wife has been having chronic lower back pain on and off her whole life. I explained that lets give your plan a try I saw last month on a post you guys sent out.

Could someone contact me on how to order a copy of the workout.

Thanks, – B

Here is the link to our Low Back Fitness Training Plan: http://mtntactical.com/shop/8-week-lower-back-fitness-training-program/

This is a gym-based program, and it may not be appropriate for your wife out of the gate. A better option to get started may be our Core Strength Bodyweight Only Training Plan here: http://mtntactical.com/shop/core-strength-bodyweight-only/


I recently started your program doing my first session today, it was the operator session 8/31 from the stamina cycle. I struggled pretty hard during it making it past the second amrap before I stopped since my leg was acting out. I spent the last 30 days in the field so I was expecting to struggle a little.

But my question is should one who is in decent strength and conditioning jump into the operator session schedule or are the workouts cyclic and I should wait for the next cycle to begin? Thanks. – B

Understand the Operator Sessions are designed as day to day programming for SOF guys, and regular unit military guys who aspire to that level of fitness. They are no joke.

That being said – we have all kinds of guys at all types of units doing these.

Best for you is to begin the Operator Sessions at the start of the most recent cycle ….. unless it’s a stamina cycle. – Stamina cycles are our most intense and not appropriate for guys new to the programming. Begin at the start of the cycle before, and you’ll be okay.

– Rob

Do you have any SF45 plans available?

SF45 (Strength and Fitness 45+) programming is only available through a subscription at this time.


I’m a former Marine, 31 yo current municipal LEO getting ready to go to the MA State Police academy in about 6 weeks. I’m in pretty decent shape, run, basic routine lifting pretty much everyday, but that academy is no joke. Any suggestions on which of your plans would be best for me?

Many Thanks, – A

You’ll face mostly bodyweight and running work at the Academy. A good way to prep is our 6-week Cooper Test Training Plan: http://mtntactical.com/shop/cooper-physical-fitness-test-training-plan/

This plan covers the Cooper Test events, but also adds solid strength and work cap training. It’s about perfect for your academy prep.

– Rob

I’m seeking some advice about the application of your products to training for the Paras 10 Tab event in November. It’s a charity race based on one of the UK Paras’ P Company selection events: 10 miles over a hilly course (unmade track) carrying a 35lb bergen in boots. http://www.paras10.com/pcoy-challenge.php As a test to see how my back would fair I tabbed for 4 miles carrying ~25lbs, running 1 minute, walking 4 and managed it in around 55 minutes.

At the moment, I’m trying to get back to work-specific fitness (SWAT/HRT equivalent) with strength training Mon-Wed-Fri, your shuttle sprints from Afghan Prep on Tues and runs up 9 flights of stairs with increasing weight on Thurs. Sundays I try to do a long slow run – now up to 6 miles.

My plan going forward is to continue this until 8 weeks out, but substituting an increasing distance/weight with the ruck on Sundays, then do some version of Valor up to the event (with a week for deload). One change I thought to make is to do hill repeats with a ruck instead of the run intervals, to take account of the ‘undulating’ nature of the course. I did the race a few years ago and some of the uphills were unpleasant to say the least. Does this sound like a reasonable plan, or would you suggest a different approach/plan?

I’m a big fan of your approach – it’s amazing how often people don’t get the idea of identifying the end goal of training and then producing a solid way of getting to it from the current position. And your willingness to spend what is obviously a large amount of time answering individual queries – like mine – is much appreciated.

Regards, – P

Do the Ruck Improvement Training Plan (http://mtntactical.com/shop/4-week-ruck-improvement-program/) back to back – 8 weeks total, the 8 weeks directly before your event. This is a Mon, Wed, Friday plan. This plan is available with your subscription.

On Tuesdays, do the sandbag getup and step up progression from the Afghanistan Pre-Deployment Training Plan. Don’t skip ahead – just follow the progression in order.

On Thursdays, do the Leg Blaster and upper body progression from the Afghan Plan.

Use 35# for all your rucks and step ups.

Run all the rucks.

Good luck.

– Rob

I am currently working on the Ultra Running Pre-Season Training program and loving it. My fiancé had a really bad climbing fall two days ago at Cathedral in NH, ripping three pieces of gear, and decking from 25′. He was thankfully wearing a helmet, and fractured a vertebrae in his lower back, suffered from some light brain bleeding (which has stopped), and has an air pocket near his lung which appears to have reabsorbed.

Anyway, he is stabilized and coming home this afternoon, but of course, this puts his normal training plan of 45 miles/week as his running base + gym and outdoor climbing on hold for a good while.

Is there a plan on the SSD site (or elsewhere) to help keep him strong and conditioned until he is fully recovered in a few months? Of course he is going to rest completely for the next two/three weeks, but will then be ready to move in some capacity, and is very worried about losing fitness. He’s stressing, and I really want to help him look on the bright side!

Thank you for any suggestions! He’ll of course be working with a PT as well.

Thanks again, – C

The main issue is his broken back…. My general thoughts are unloaded exercises – swimming and biking, and perhaps bodyweight stuff..

From our stuff, obviously depending upon his doctor and recovery, – I’d recommend the Bodyweight Foundation Training Plan (http://mtntactical.com/shop/bodyweight-foundation-training-plan/). This plan is scaled to the individual athlete – and no joke. It includes running – which he’ll want to replace with biking or swimming.


I serve in the Singapore Armed Forces as an Infantry Officer, we are all conscripted here so we are all kind of young, in fact I’m only 20 years old and already a 2LT.

Despite my youth, I still want to try and become a full time soldier here and join the Special Forces Unit we have here.

The selection is two weeks long but quite intense. After that there is a 9 month SOQC, based off the US Army Special Forces Program.

I was hoping you could:

a) Outline a program for my selection (which I will give you more details about)


b) Point me to a program which would be beneficial from your selection plans

The selection has a lot of turnouts which will lead to hundreds upon hundreds of repetitions of push ups, sit ups, jumping jacks, burpees, etc. etc. Some of the movements they do are quite weird, like feet elevated dive-bomber pushups, rolling left and right and doing pushups each time. Its basically just to confuse and disorient us to the point of breakdown. Once thats done, they will move on to tests like swimming, beep tests, runs etc.

Here are some of the tests they do:

8km run in PT Kit
5km run in LBV weighted to 10kg in under 30minutes
8km fast march with 15kg (under 100minutes)
Individual Physical Proficiency Test (Singapore’s APFT: Situps in a minute, Pushups in a minute and 1.5mile run)
Obstacle Courses
Swim in 10kg of Combat Gear (50m I believe)
500m swim in normal attire
20kg Ruck March (Endless march, they won’t tell us when it ends)

There are more tests I believe, I will aim to find out more from my Sergeant who just DOE due to a shoulder injury.

There are also fine motor skill tests such as balance beams, pushing medicine balls across the floor and handstands.

If you could help me design some training outline, I would of course pay you for your services.

If your schedule is too busy, please point me in the direction of a suitable training program already on your site.

Thank you! – L

Based on the events, I’d recommend the DEA FAST Training Plan (http://mtntactical.com/shop/dea-fast-selection-training-plan/). It’s fairly close to your events, and includes mini events, and some long rucking.

Good luck!

– Rob

Do you have any SF45 plans available? – R

SF45 (Strength and Fitness 45+) programming is only available through a subscription at this time.


I recently subscribed to your LE Daily Sessions. I went ahead and just started with the most current strength, agility, and plyo cycle. However, after scrolling back a few pages I see this is part of a 6 week cycle. Should I start from the beginning of the 6 week cycle or just pushing forward from strength, agility, and plyo cycle? No schools or selections coming as of yet. Thanks in advance.

Go back and start at the beginning of the cycle. All our cycles are progressive – the work inside builds on itself – so it’s important to start a the beginning.

In general, for new subscribers, I recommend they begin at the start of the most recent cycle and work forward from there.


If I sign up for the $29/month subscription, do I get access to the sport specific plans immediately, or do they come with the seasons? I’d like to subscribe to the plan, but also have the peak bagger plan (for late season summit attempts) and the dryland skiing plan right away. Is it better to buy them individually, or am I able to access them immediately? – M

You get access to the sport specific plans immediately. We have several athletes from the southern hemisphere who follow our sessions – and of course their seasons are opposite ours.

– Rob

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