Denali Training Plan


  • 9 weeks, 6 days/week
  • Designed to prepare athletes for the rigors of an 18-24 day stay on Denali and to handle the thousands of vertical feet you will be climbing while under heavy load.
  • Requires minimal equipment or gym training experience.
  • This training plan is one of the 200+ Plans included with an Athlete’s Subscription.


This Training Program is designed to prepare athletes to summit Denali via the West Buttress Route – the most traveled route to the summit.

This program is designed to prepare athletes for the rigors of an 18-24 day stay on Denali and to handle the thousands of vertical feet you will be climbing while under heavy load.

It is a progressive, very intense, 9-week week training program that will demand a high level of commitment in both time and effort. You will train 6 days/week for 9 weeks for a total of 54 sessions.

This training plan is designed to be completed directly before your summit attempt. Week 9 is an unload/taper week into your climb. The last 3 sessions of the plan are “Total Rest.”

Because of the volume involved, the program’s training sessions can be long in length. As well, you will be conducting two-a-days Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday during this program.



Strengthen your “ Mountain Chassis” – legs and core – for the miles and thousands of vertical feet you will be climbing up and down during your Denali summit bid.

Build your “Mountain Endurance” for climb. This includes uphill hiking under load, rucking/hiking over hilly terrain, and overall running endurance.

Increase your durability – especially ankle/knee/hip integrity and mid-section strength.

Increase your mental fitness for the mental demands of the trip.



A typical guided trip up to the summit of Denali lasts anywhere between 18-21 days and no shorter than 16 days to allow for proper acclimatization.

The first three days involve carrying heavy packs and dragging a loaded sled up to successfully higher camps.  The total load pack and sled often exceed 100 pounds.

The next 10-13 days involve establishing successfully higher camps and alternating between higher and lower camps to become acclimated for altitude. No sled, but pack weights can reach 60-70 pounds.

Days before the Summit day can be 4-8 hours long of steady movement.

Summit day is longer, but lighter – 35-pound pack, 10-12 hour day.


  • Monday – Step Ups or Vertical Hiking (AM), Chassis Integrity, Calve Raise Intervals (PM)
  • Tuesday – Trail Run (AM), Leg Blasters, Upper Body (PM)
  • Wednesday – Step Ups, Calve Raise Intervals
  • Thursday – Tire Drag (AM), Leg Blasters, Upper Body (PM)
  • Friday – Chassis Integrity (AM), Trail Run (PM)
  • Saturday – Long Ruck/Hike

The volume, intensity and progression of this program reflects the physical demands of your Denali climb. We don’t want you to merely “survive” the climb, but be strong throughout and truly savor and enjoy the experience.



Below are a few of the primary exercises you’ll complete during this training cycle.

Step Ups – Step Ups are a proven, sport-specific method of training uphill hiking under load and are the primary mode this plan deploys to train you for the loaded, uphill hiking you’ll do summiting Rainier. We first developed these to train US servicemen for deployment to mountainous regions of Afghanistan. This plan will have you doing thousands of step ups. Use a 16-18 inch bench or box for your step up height. Step ups are very effective, but can also be pure drudgery. Good music, book on tape, etc. will help the time go by. As well, a hand held counter will greatly improve your counting. Alternatively, you can simply climb a steep hill, flights of stairs, stadium steps, etc. for the vertical feet equivalent. You’ll want something very steep to be efficient with your time.

Leg Blasters – A simple, but intense, lower body bodyweight exercise complex which has proven to be very effective at training eccentric leg strength. Step ups will train you for the uphill. Leg blasters will train you for the downhill – which is actually much more intense from a muscular perspective.

Rucking and Trail Running – Rucking or Hiking over hilly terrain at a moderate pace will simply build mode specific endurance for your climb. Most of the running you’ll complete in this plan will be at an “easy” pace – designed to simply increase your aerobic base.

Calve Raise Intervals

Don’t be fooled by these simple rapid movement and hold intervals. We’ve found these to be very intense, but effective at strengthening your calves for uphill climbing.

Sandbag Getups

Simple, but hard, Chassis Integrity/mid section training. These will feel crushing at first. As you become more physically and mentally fit, you’ll improve, and find your grove for this exercise. Keep grinding and think short term … “one rep at a time.”

Low Back Circuits – Two times/week you’ll complete circuits involving three low back exercises. Low back fitness and strength endurance is not only essential for load carriage on Denali, but also for the snow shoveling you’ll complete digging camp.

Tire Drag Intervals – At the top of the cycle you’ll drag a tire for 90 minutes wearing a 60 pound pack. This exercise is focused on preparing you for the first 3 days of your Denali trip – where you skin or snow shoe wearing a heavy pack and dragging a sled. Click Here to see how we rig tires for dragging – but there are many methods:



How do I know if I’m fit enough to begin this plan?
If your fitness is suspect, complete a max rep effort of 30 minutes of step ups, at a 16-18-inch bench or step. If you score 400x or less reps in your effort, we recommend completing the 4-week Mountaineering & Hiking Prep Plan prior to beginning this plan.

How long should the training sessions take?
Each training session has a listed training objective. The sessions will start around 60-90 minutes and progress to upwards of 3 hours at the top end of the progression. The Mountain Endurance work – step ups/vertical hiking, Ruck/Hiking, and running will take the most time.

What if I can’t keep up the Monday through Saturday Training Schedule?
If for any reason you cannot keep training schedule, do not skip a training session. Rather, complete all the training sessions in succession. Whatever the schedule, always take at least one day a week as a total rest day. 

For this plan, Training Sessions 1, 7, 13, 19, 25, 31 and 37 are Mondays.

Required Equipment?

  • Sandbag 40# for women, 60# for men
  • Bench or Box for step ups. 16-18” high.
  • Backpack loaded with 35 -40# for step ups, 45-60# for rucking and tire drags
  • Pull Up Bar
  • Foam Roller
  • Tire Rigged for Dragging

Optional: Hand held counter to count step up reps, GPS watch for rucking and running distances

What does “3/5x Pull Ups” Mean? What does “40/60# Sandbag” mean?
The lower number is for women. “3/5x Pull Ups” = women do 3x pull ups, men do 5x pull ups.

“40/60# Sandbag” = Women use a 40# Sandbag, Men use a 60# bag.

What size of tire should I drag?
Best is a tire sized for a 4WD full size pick up – but it doesn’t make huge difference. Dragging difficulty will also depend upon the dragging surface … gravel/dirt is easier than pavement regardless of the tire size. You should be able to walk forward at a steady pace – without undo strain. However, you should feel the effects of the tire – likely in your butt and hamstrings.

What if I miss a day?
Begin where you left off when you return to training. This program is progressed – each session builds upon the prior session – so don’t skip a session or skip around. Follow the training sessions in order, regardless.

Where do I find unfamiliar exercises?
See our Exercise Library HERE. The Run/Ruck Calculator is listed as an exercise.

What about nutrition?
See our Nutritional Guidelines HERE.

Can I see sample training?
Yes. Click the “Sample Training” tab to see the entire first week of programming.

How do I access the plan?
Access is online, via username and password. You can log in either through our website or through our app (Mtn Tactical Fitness) available for IOS and Android.

More Questions? Email:


Before beginning any exercise program, consult with your physician to ensure that you are in proper health. Physical training contains inherent risks including, but not limited to, muscle strains, tears, physical and bodily injury up to and including death. This training program is not meant to provide medical advice; you should obtain medical advice from your private health care practitioner. If you are unable to assume these risks then you should not engage in this training program. No liability is assumed by Mountain Tactical Institute, Inc, its owners or employees, and you train at your own risk. Mountain Tactical Institute makes no warranty, express or implied, of any kind in connection with this training program.

Required Equipment

  • Sandbag 40# for women, 60# for men

  • Bench or Box for step ups. 16-18” high.

  • Backpack loaded with 35 -40# for step ups, 45-60# for rucking and tire drags

  • Pull Up Bar

  • Foam Roller

  • Tire Rigged for Dragging

  • Optional: Hand held counter to count step up reps, GPS watch for rucking and running distances

Sample Training

Below is the First Week from this Training Plan:


Obj: Mountain Endurance, Chassis Integrity


(1) 600x Step Ups @ 35#  Pack or Climb 800 Vertical Feet @ 35# pack

(2) 10 Minute Grind:
15/15 Standing Founder
8x Kneeling Slasher @ 12/16kg
15/15 Low Back Lunge

(3) 3 Rounds
20 second rapid calve raise
10 second hold in up position
20 second rapid calve raise
10 second hold in up position
30 second rest

(4) Foam Roll Legs/Low Back



Obj: Leg Strength, Upper Body Strength, 2-a-Day

***AM Session:

(1) Run 5 Miles For Time


***PM Session:

(1) 10 Rounds
Mini Leg Blaster
30 Seconds Rest

(2) 3 Rounds
3/5x Pull Ups
7/10x Hand Release Push Ups
8x EO’s



Obj: Mountain Endurance


3 Rounds
4 Square Drill
45 Seconds Rest


(1) 700x Step Ups @ 35#  Pack or Climb 930 Vertical Feet @ 35# pack

(2) 3 Rounds
20 second rapid calve raise
10 second hold in up position
20 second rapid calve raise
10 second hold in up position
30 second rest

(3) Foam Roll Legs/Low Back



Obj: Sled Pulling Ability, Leg Strength, Upper Body Strength


(1) 45 Minute Tire Drag wearing 45# pack.

(2) 10 Rounds
Mini Leg Blaster
30 Seconds Rest

(3) 3 Rounds
3/5x Pull Ups
10/15x Push Ups
20x Sit Ups



Obj: Chassis Integrity, Run

***AM Session:

(1) 40x Sandbag Get Ups @ 40/60#

(2) 10 Minute Grind:
15/15 Kneeling Founder
8x Standing Slasher @ 12/16kg
10x Face Down Back Extension

***PM Session:

(1) Trail Run 5 Miles @ Easy per mile Pace for Longer Runs using the Running Calculator and your 5 mile Running Assessment Time from Session 2

(2) Foam Roll Legs/Low Back



Obj: Mountain Endurance

(1) Hike/Ruck 6 Miles @ 45# Pack

Hike/Ruck on uneven, hilly terrain if possible



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1)  Mission Direct

Gym numbers mean nothing. All that matters is mission performance. 

To this end, MTI’s fitness solutions and programming are not boxed in by convention, tradition, orthodoxy, public opinion or any other artificial constraint driven by inside or outside forces.

We begin with the raw fitness demands of the mission and build a fitness solution which directly prepares the athlete for those demands.


2) Fitness Solutions Built from the Ground Up

MTI’s programming is not “re-tread” bodybuilding, football, CrossFit, kettlebell, strength or general fitness programming. We’ve built our fitness programming for mountain and tactical athletes from the ground up.

The Fluid Periodization methodology we deploy to concurrently train multiple fitness attributes is completely original and has continued to evolve and improve over the years.

Our mid-section training methodology, Chassis Integrity, is also original, as is our endurance programming, 7 strength training progressions, tactical agility, and work capacity programming.

Our mountain sports pre-season training plans, tactical PFT, selection, school, course, and fitness improvement training plans across military, LE and Fire Rescue are MTI-developed, tested and athlete-proven.

Over the years hundreds of athletes and coaches have taken our advanced programming and unit fitness leader programming courses and MTI is widely recognized within the mountain and tactical professions and fitness media as a thought leader in fitness programming for military and tactical athletes.


3) The MTI Method

→ Research: MTI begins program design with extensive research of the fitness demands of the mission, sport or event, identifies the exercises and progressions which sport-specifically meet those demands, chose end-of-cycle goals, and program backward to design the training plan.

→ Deploy & Assess: We deploy the training plan “Lab Rats” at our Wyoming facility. Training session and cycle issues are identified and fixed as we work through the training plan. Post cycle we assess the programming’s effectiveness and efficiency. We keep the stuff that works, and fix or toss the stuff that doesn’t.

→ Publish & Assess Again: Plan is published for purchase as an individual training plan and made available to our subscribers. Feedback/results are assessed.

→ Iterate: We take what we learn from lab rats and athletes, re-visit, update and improve already published training plans. Several of our individual training plans are on their 4th or 5th version.


4) Mission-Direct Research

MTI exists to “Improve Mountain and Tactical Athletes mission performance and keep them safe.” To that end, we have developed a unique research methodology aimed at identifying real world areas of improvement and identifying immediately deployable mission-direct solutions. Click HERE to learn more about MTI’s Mission-Direct Research methodology, and Here to read about just few of our research efforts.

5) Field Proven

Our stuff works. Weekly we receive unsolicited reviews of our programming and testimonials to its effectiveness.


6) Programming Breadth

MTI’s library of 200+ sport-specific fitness plans for mountain and tactical athletes is unmatched. Resources range from specific programming for tactical special forces selections, to specific plans for climbing Rainier and Denali, to general fitness solutions such as running improvement, to post-rehab from injury.

Over the past decade, MTI has partnered with hundreds of athletes throughout their individual mountain and tactical careers, and provided fitness solutions as they face new mountain objectives, tactical schools, selections, PFTs and deployments, and came back from injury.


7) Worldwide Influence

Our work is not limited to US Athletes.

We’ve developed selection-specific training plans for Canadian, UK, Australian and German Special Forces Selections and worked with individual military personnel from Scandinavia, South, and Central America.

Canadian, Australian, UK and western European law enforcement and fire/rescue athletes have used MTI programming for mission-direct fitness.

On the mountain side, Alpinists from Japan to Slovakia have consulted with MTI and used MTI’s programming to prepare for mountain objectives.


8) Mission Performance beyond Fitness

MTI’s exists is to improve Mission Performance for mountain and tactical athletes and keep them safe. 

This focus on “mission direct” solutions, enhancements and improvements drives our work and research and extends beyond fitness solutions to include training, leadership, gear, team culture, and safety. 

Fitness is just one area of our work.

Our non-fitness research has included tactical cultures, combat uniforms, and gore-tex performance, and effect of stress on marksmanship.

Our work on defining what it means to be a Quiet Professional has had penetrating influence and driven healthy conversations with both mountain and tactical professionals.


9) Direct, Honest, Clear Answers

Since 2007 we’ve taken and answered dozens of questions weekly from mountain and tactical athletes. We’ve saved these individual Q&A’s and now thousands are archived on our site.

We’re not salesmen, and our answers are noted for their directness, honesty, and clarity. Our stuff isn’t for everyone. If we can help, we’ll let you know. If we can’t, we’ll let you know that, too.

– Rob Shaul, Founder


All of the Above is Backed Up By Our Promise: Our Stuff Works. Guaranteed.

Our Stuff Works. Guaranteed.

By Rob Shaul

I received notes frequently from athletes hesitant to purchase a subscription or training plans asking me to sell them on why they should make the purchase.

While I understand the question, I’m not a salesman – so I can’t put a hard sale on anyone for our programming.

I can tell them the process we go through to design our programming.

We begin with extensive research on the fitness demands of the event, identify the exercises and progressions which sport specifically meet those demands, chose end-of-cycle goals, and program backward to design the plan.

Then we test the cycle on ourselves and our lab rats here in Wyoming. We document, note what works and doesn’t work, re-assess, and make changes and modifications.

Then we publish the programming in the form of one of our plans or as part of our subscription daily training sessions for tactical and mountain athletes.
We don’t stop there – our daily programming is the “tip of the spear” for our programming evolution. We use these sessions to learn and make continuous improvement.

As we learn more and improve, we go back, and update the sport-specific training plans on the website. For example, we’re currently on Version 5 of our Ruck Based Selection Training Plan and Version 3 of our Dryland Ski Training Plan and Version 4 of our Big Game Back Country Hunting Training Plan.

We understand our programing isn’t cheap, but we believe it’s a great value. The $79 for the Ruck Based Selection Training Plan, and $39 for the Dryland Ski Training Plan reflect the, research, work, innovative theory, iteration, testing and feedback we’ve put in and received to make these plans effective.

All that matters for us is outside performance, and we feel strongly that Our Stuff Works in the real world.

Here’s our guarantee:

1) Individual Training Plan Purchase:
If you purchase an individual training plan, follow it as prescribed before your season/event/pft/selection, and if you don’t feel you were physically ready for your season/event/pft/selection, and/or didn’t see dramatic improvements in your early season performance, we’ll refund your money, no questions asked.

2) Athlete’s Subscription
If you purchase an Athletes’ Subscription, follow the training sessions as prescribed, and are not satisfied with the quality of the programming, notify us within 30 days of purchase, and we’ll refund your money, no questions asked.



Do you have any reviews or testimonials from athletes who have used your Athlete’s Subscription
Yes. Click HERE.

Is it true you guarantee your stuff works?
Yes. If you purchase an Athletes’ Subscription, follow the training sessions as prescribed, and are not satisfied with the quality of the programming, notify us within 30 days of purchase, and we’ll refund your money, no questions asked.

How is MTI programming different than CrossFit?
This is a common question. Read our answer HERE.

You have a lot of competitors. Why should I choose MTI?
MTI is driven to improve mountain and tactical athletes’ mission performance and keep them safe. This emphasis and focus on mission performance sets us apart. Read about more that sets us apart HERE.

If I purchase a plan or subscription, how do I access the programming?
All of our plans are online, accessible via username and password.
You can log in through our →Website  or Mobile App →IOS and Android.

Do you have downloadable .pdf’s of the training plans?
No. But you can print the programming, by week, from your browser. You access individual training plans online via a username and password.

Do you have a mobile app?
Yes, we do. Available for IOS and Android.

What is the difference between purchasing an individual training plan, packet of plans or an Athlete’s Subscription?

  • Plan – Like purchasing the DVD of the first Star Wars movie. You own it forever, including any updates we make to the plan.
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If I purchase an Athletes Subscription Can I cancel on my own, anytime?

Do I have to contact MTI to cancel or can I do it myself?
You can do it yourself. Instructions HERE.

If I purchase a subscription and have questions about where to start or what plans(s) to use for my goals, will you help?
Yes. We answer dozens of training questions from athletes weekly. Email

If you add new plans or update existing plans after I subscribe will I have access to them?
Yes. We are continuously adding training plans and packets (2-5/month) and updating plans. With your subscription you’ll have access to all new plans, new courses and plan updates.

What Equipment is Required?
Click the “Required Equipment” tab to find out what equipment is required for the specific plan you are interested in.

Where do I find unfamiliar exercises?
See our Exercise Library HERE. The Run and Ruck Calculators are listed as exercises.

What about nutrition?
See our Nutritional Guidelines HERE.

Can I see sample training?
Click the “Sample Training” tab to see the entire first week of programming.
You are encouraged to do it before purchasing.

What if I have more questions?


"I wanted to thank you for an excellent Mountain athlete programming and your recommendations of a training plan.

I just got back form Denali. In only 7 days I solo summited Denali via West Buttress and safely solo skied off the summit. I moved from base camp to 14K camp in 3 days in single carries wearing 73 lbs backpack and no sleds (my body weight is 115lbs). I got weathered off for 2 days at 14K camp and then did a summit push from 14K camp. The next day I skied down back to BC in 3.5 hours.  I felt strong and more than adequately prepared. I can't thank you enough.

I ended up doing some fusion between your backcountry skiing program and your Denali program. Both are fantastic and really work great. My heaviest pack for carry uphills was 55lbs."
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