T Nation

Joining the Military and Special Forces


#1

Hi guys,

I join this forum because i’m looking for a little help.

I am about to join the military, and i’ll do my best to gain the right to join the special forces.
I am 25 and i’ve been doing powerlifting and weightlifting for almost 4 years now. I started at 55kg (122lbs) and now i weight around 89kg/195lbs.
Last time i did actual cardio, i was in high school i guess, but i’ve been doing a bit of conditionning here and then over the last months.

So i started running again… and it appears that deep squat and deads still build cardio, as i was still able to run for more than 1 hour without dying, and on a pretty fair length

So now that i am joining the military, i’ll need a new training program (or at least recommendations) which will help me to work more on endurance, specific cardiovascular abilities, and to be a king at pullups haha. And maybe to lose some weight (just a few kg, because if i weight too much for my height, no airborne = no special forces)
Maybe y’all coulf help a little :slight_smile:

i have more or less 1 month before my first tests, and 2 more months for the actual special forces test.

Thanks for reading,

btw, here’s what i planned to do for the few next weeks :

Day #1 AM : Conditionning (10’ of run, 10 sets of 30sec sprint / 30sec rest)
PM : Explosive lower body (squats, jump squats, box jumps, power clean)

Day #2 PM : Upper body workout (heavily weighted pull ups, bench press, military press, bent over rows)

Day #3 : long distance run (1 hour)

Day #4 : Explosive upper body : body weight pull ups, dips, push ups, muscle up, handstand push ups + 1 HIIT session (like tabata protocol)

Day #5 : AM : conditioning (15’ run + 6 sets of 40/20)
PM : Deadlift

Day #6 : Crossfit style of training, with power snatch and cleans, things over head etc.

Day #7 : full rest

What do you guys think?


#2

Do a physical test yourself to gauge where you’re at and it’ll also help a lot structuring a plan. Also what numbers you’d like to hit would help.

Edit: US Army?


#3

Hey,
nope, French Special Forces.
The actual “official” tests are very specific and do not represent anything significant.
But in technical terms, i might be around a 16km velocity at maximal oxygen uptake, and around 2600m at the Cooper test (approximation) . But i guess it won’t help a lot.

I try to improve all kind of endurance and strength endurance, and to change my training from a “meathead” one, to a more “military” one


#4

Rimshot.

Sorry, couldn’t resist.

@usmccds423 should be able to help you out


#5

Happy to help. I was a U.S. Marine, though.

1-2 months is not very long… I’m not sure if it will hold true in your case because I don’t know anything about the French military, but I always tell people joining the corps the same general things.

  1. You’re gonna run, a lot. I don’t mean put on you go fasters, run a mile or 2, and then go take a shower. I mean you’re gonna run during PT, you’re gonna run to the mess hall, you’re gonna run to drill, you’re gonna run to your squad bay, you’re gonna run in boots, you’re gonna run in your skives, etc…

Point is, you’re gonna be running. If that’s a problem for you spend the next 1-2 months concentrating on that. I like timed mile runs 3-4 times a week and longer 3+ mile runs 2-3 times a week. Switch them if longer distances are a problem for you.

  1. Stop lifting weights. Seriously, I know it’s hard. Just stop. Put them down. You’re not going to touch a weight in basic if it’s anything like the Corps.

  2. Body weight exercise. You will do more body weight exercise than you thought existed. Do a tons of pull-ups. Work every push-up variation you can think of. Practice holding positions that are uncomfortable (hold a rock out in front of you until your delts burn off). That’s the type of shit they make you do in basic.

Your weight seems fine unless you’re on the chunky side. They pick on the fatties.

As far as your workout plan goes, it looks fine, but like I said I’d drop the weights (your call). Do lots of BW squats instead of BB squatting. I’d drop power cleans in favor of KB swings, push-ups for bench, BW rows for BB rows, etc… (I think you get the idea). Weighted pull-ups are fine, but you won’t be doing them. I doubt I’d deadlift, I’d do farmers walks instead if you can. Run more, seriously. Tabata is good especially if they do anything like our quarter decking:

Good luck. Drink as much water as you can when you can. You don’t want the doc to get ya with the silver bullet, lol.


#6

Do a search on the Combat Forum, there are multiple threads on this issue. I am former SF and with only one month prior to the pre test, and, only two months to selection, I would seriously train only what the test requires to pass. SF selection is brutal competition. Get your mind right, if possible, think about rescheduling your test, and give yourself about 6 months to get shape. You have really placed yourself at a severe disadvantage.

I have worked with the French SF, but, I do not know what their selection standards are, but, (IMHO) you cannot afford injuries or “body breakdown” with your limited time frame, so, drop the long distance runs and do 400 to 800 meter sprints, heavy bag work, biking, swimming, anything to build up your “endurance” . Steady rate cardio will only make you good at steady rate cardio.

" Stop lifting weights. Seriously, I know it’s hard. Just stop. Put them down. You’re not going to touch a weight in basic if it’s anything like the Corps" Excellent advise. If you dont do anything else, do this.

What is your mind set? no disrespect, but how bad do you want it? A combat mindset with the iron will to kill your enemy over all else ,is the only path to succeed in SF. Know your level of commitment. Too many times, I have seen civilian “athletes”, break within the first 12 hours. Good Luck.


The Tactical Life
#7

@usmccds423 & @idaho Thank you for your advices, it is much appreciated

I am not really a fatty at all, i’m more on what a regular bro would call an “ectomorph” . I gained a lot of weight thanks to strength training but i have to consider losing some muscle mass, making pull ups and run much easier too. I started running again, and to begin with, i’ll go for 3 sessions per week + 1 swimming session , and of course metabolic conditionning (so i’ll keep it up with the tabata, and include farmers walks and KB swings) .

However there’s no way i’m fully dropping the wheights, but i already stopped the competitive powerlifting and weightlifting training; and going towards something more “functionnal”

And concerning the pull ups, 3 times a week : weighted pull ups or chin up, max reps (and beyond failure with bands) , and explosive concentric work should do the job. At the moment i can do 17-18 pull ups at bodyweight, but there’s always room for improvment


#8

That’s your call, but it isn’t going to help you in basic and I doubt it’ll help you in SF. I will defer SF training talk to idaho, though. Most of the posters here don’t want to stop lifting. You’ll lift in the fleet once your initial training is complete. You’ll gain in all back.

Ask yourself, is it more important that you maintain your bench press or that you are selected for SF and pass?

One other piece of advice, you should be doing at least some of your calisthenics when you are tired (both physically and mentally). As idaho alluded to, and SF is probably 100x worse, boot is probably 25% physical and 75% mental. A significant goal of the training is to determine how you will act when under duress. I’d take a guy with mental fortitude that can only deadlift 135kg over a guy that can deadlift 235kg, but breaks down when he’s pushed. You have to be able to push yourself when your body and your brain is screaming at you to quit.


#9

This is very important and crucial advice.


#10

I can understand why you don’t want to drop lifting, I’d be thinking the same thing. But like USMC said, BW stuff is going to be more important. If you are going to try and do both (I did it when I was prepping for the Navy SWCC course), lower your volume to a strength maintenance type routine, and work on increasing volume for pushups, situps (and other types of ‘abs’ - flutter kicks, leg levers, etc), and pullups. Nothing wrong with doing them weighted, but I would also do BW volume on certain days - I would probably drop the explosive type pullups though, and make sure I could knock out a bunch of pullups slick, as well as a decent number in full kit.

As far as running, I agree with Idaho, you should be focusing on your test numbers. Personally, I would go beyond the sprints he mentioned and get in some 2-3 mile timed runs as well as longer slower days and the sprints. On your timed runs, you should be aiming for an 8:30 mile AT A MINIMUM…something in the 7’s would be much better, and lower (if you are that type of runner) even better. If you haven’t been running, don’t try and jump straight into running every day. Make sure you are stretching appropriately after running, and make sure you are taking days off between running of any type, the last thing you want before shipping out is shin splints (or worse, stress fractures). Like the other two said already, stay healthy.

Also, I have to agree with Idaho, two months is very short for selection prep. You should have started this 3-4 months ago at least.

Anyway, good luck to you. I’ll share a piece of advice I was told years ago: it’s the cadre’s job to select you in or out - make them do their job, don’t do it for them (meaning, don’t quit).


#11

Really excellent advice from all and like USMC said, its your call on the weights. I really wish you would reconsider this decision, because, I have seen some promising candidates wash out due to excessive weight training in their program. There is nothing wrong with twice a week to maintain, whatever standards you have set for yourself, but, if you cannot give it up, then which do you want more? Think about it this way: You want to join SF, then your job is to go in and kill the enemy, not worry about whatever your personal 1RM is. Your mindset should follow these three guidelines through out your SF career:

Skill
Conditioning
Strength

I am not being critical, just trying to make you understand how hard it is and more importantly, prepare you mentally. I dont want to see you fail, because, I dont know you and whether you have the mental strength to try again. Anyway, I am posting a link to an article about Master Sgt. William Speck, United States Air Force (Fuck me!!!:))), the first Air Force Chief to graduate Ranger School at age 39. All my respect, Master Chief.

So, the point being, If possible, try to reschedule your selection and give yourself more time. Again, good luck to you

https://www.dvidshub.net/news/198541/air-force-chief-39-years-old-army-ranger-school-why-not#.V0e2mPnui24


#12

Hi

Thank you all for all the advices. I’m really aware that i need to focus on bw work and running, as it is what’s asked to do. When i say i’m not dropping the weights, i don’t mean i’ll keep any kind of strength and hypertrophy routine, i’m talking about using them differently. High intensity work builds a solid metabolic condition also. And i am not risking an injury or solid delayed onset muscular soreness that would f*ck up my thing.

I am lucky enough to have anything needed to train, and realised i am not that much in poor condition.

So i’ll keep my training as smart as possible, and follow your advices, guys. I am really focusing on conditionning and running (and abs things )

thanks all
I’ll give my best


#13

I’d also drop the weights, or at least change your weight training to a more full-body conditioning type plan.

I’m surprised no one has mentioned rucking. I was US Army, and I don’t know how different it will be for you, but it probably wouldn’t hurt to buy some combat boots and get used to rucking long distances with some weight on your back. It takes time to get your feet used to that sort of thing, and having your feet turn into hamburger while out on a long foot patrol will take a lot of fight out of you, so it’s better to be ahead of the game on this. Just put a 50lb pack on your back and walk as fast as you can stand it for 10km, then work up to 20km.

That said, you don’t have much time left so you need to focus on exactly what physical tests you need to pass, and stay healthy and injury-free. Good luck.


#14

Is there any way you could delay joining? I only ask because if you have 4-6 months of solid training you will give yourself a much better chance at succeeding. In addition, more time to prepare could possibly mean still spending some time lifting weights, as time isn’t as big of a factor.

With that being said, it is absolutely possible to be selected or make the cut with only a month or two of training. Most guys that have what it takes will make it regardless of whether they had two years to train or two weeks. The biggest advantage that more time to prepare will offer is you will more time to injury-proof yourself (sport specific training will strengthen the muscles and connective tissues that will be the most vulnerable during selection.)

Good luck. Make sure that this is what you want.


#15

@Juggs
yep i already have a pair of boots and use them the most regularly possible and walk all the time, with a pack most of the time

@erik_carlson A friend of mine who is sports instructor in the army told me that physical abilities represent 35-40% of the thing, when it comes to special forces, the rest is devided between psychology, mental toughness, mindset. This is actually what i really want, and it took me a few moments to be sure of that.

By the way, i’ll have to run, do a shitloads of pull ups, and a “simple” obstacle course in mid july, and specific SF selection will not actually occure before october . Next session will be in march. So i have a little time more to get prepared.

And @boatguy @usmccds423 @idaho thanks again for all the advices

Running, swimming, jumping, and using weight in more “conditionning” type of training.
It has only been two weeks since i totally changed my type of training and i am already noticing changes and improvement in the cardio vascular department .

I’m doing all my calisthenics both weighted and at bodyweight , once at the begining of the workout, the other at the very end. It is really effective (and dropping 2-3 kg bodyweight too helps ) + doing shitloads of abs at bodyweight

For now, sprints 2x times a week (interval training) ; tabata 2x times a week after weight training, and 2 runs (one 45’ beyond endurance , and one over 1h15 pure endurance)
weight training consists in
-1 squat and jumps (pliometrics), speed, lots of sets, few reps and very short rest period.
-1 general upper body strength (focus on pull ups, strict military press, rope climbing, push ups, etc…)

  • 1 “crossfit” kind of training (not liking this one very much, but seems to be very effective)
  • 1 special pull ups (all kind of pulls ups and specific assistance )

It is a rather high training volume but i’m convinced it will help a lot. Also, i’ve been training enough to " train smart" , so i am monitoring workouts intensities and recovery.

I have an appointment with the doc for a general check up and remain injury free.


#16

Any updates? Currently looking at military type training stuff and maybe you can give me some tips since you basically just went through it.


#17

@Benanything Yep, my tests are scheduled for august 10th, and i am really really motivated. I made a lot of gains in the cardiovascular department, and try to train smart.

I think i managed to get a smart training Schedule, combining running, swimming, weight training, high medium and low intensity. I am monitoring really precisely rest times between sets and training sessions.

I have 2 high intensity cardio sessions ( interval training, run or bike) 2 sets of 10 reps

30”/30” , and the second one is the same but 15”/15” . I generally do it after squats or deadlifts.

3 running sessions : 1 low intensity (>1h ) , 1 medium intensity + 8 to 10 sets of sprints , and one Under 45’ , generally with a bag and boots.

2 swimming sessions

Concerning weight training, i perform 2 to 3 kinds of pull ups (weighted, max reps, and sets of 10-12 included in a crosstraining) + rope climbing

i kept a “leg day” mostly including squats (10 sets of 3 reps, very few rest time = power) , weightlifting complexes (power clean, etc) , box jumps, etc.

and 2 “upper body” sessions , one “push” with strict military press, push-press, bench press, dips (weighted or not), … and th other “pull” with rowings (all kind of em), face pulls, heavy snatch pulls, etc.

Also as i feel like it is really important to keep at least one intense stimulation of the CNS, i have a “heavy deadlift day” which is really enjoyable. It is generally followed by or included in a crossfit training (farmers walk, KB swing, sprints, rowing, ) and/or a Tabata.

It looks like a lot of stuff, but with 2 sessions a day, and good nutrition and sleep, i already droped 6 kgs, i feel fit as fuck, and can’t wait to join.


#18

Agree.

Idaho is exceedingly knowledgeable from a real experience in operations standpoint, and USMC too.

I don’t like the idea of dropping weight training completely, but that is just me–and the most important thing to do is be brutally honest with yourself regarding your abilities in the tests you will face as well as your injury resilience and mental toughness, will to survive and finish the mission at all costs. If that brutal self-assessment comes up with the result that you should drop all weight training…fucking do it.

Not knowing anything about French SF, and deferring to idaho on selection matters, I would say the following:

  1. If you weight train, make your primary weight training goal to find ways to bulletproof your low back, knees, ankles, and hips against injury. Because you WILL take a beating. This should be number 1 because you can’t be selected if you drop out due to injury, and they won’t stop pushing you. This is infinitely more useful and functional than benching or overhead pressing. Chin-ups need to be worked because they’re in the standard tests, but you also need to train your horizontal back strength as well for help keeping shoulders healthy and picking up slack when the rest of you gets tired.

  2. outside of 1) above, your next goal for weight training specific items should be to build endurance in all manner of loaded carries–ruck, farmer’s carries, anything and everything with something in your hands, on your back, on your shoulders, or all of them. And build your ability to go for miles. Again deferring to idaho but I believe the physical aspect of seleciton in the US forces has a lot of log carrying, partner/wounded carrying, awkward object from point A to B kind of transport, and full kit cross country nav. This is outside the running and calisthenics.44

Generally heavy loaded carries are great for conditioning and also keep your ability to run pretty high due to the demand on the cardiovascular system from carrying an extra 45-200 lbs on your frame.

From an injury standpoint, the first things to go are knees or hips or low back due to the pounding in runs and rucks. Prioritize hamstring, glute, and ab work because those are the muscles that stabilize your knees, hips, and low back against all the jarring impact and those are the most overlooked muscles in many cases. Next, as I said above, would be upper back work. Outside of push-ups til you die and carries, you really don’t need pressing strength. You need the postural muscles to be strong and keep you healthy when you’re banged up.


#19

So… now that I’ve finished reading the rest of the thread–yes I totally jumped on it before doing that–I still am in full agreement with boatguy, usmc, and idaho regarding where your priorities need to be. That said I still stand by what I wrote above because the goal of that is to bulletproof your body so you DON’T wash out rather than worry about gaining strength or maxes or any ego shit.


#20

@Aragorn
Hey ,

Thanks for the advices. I am doing my best to work towards this kind of preparation. I now run, jump, swim with and without loads, work my abs everyay, and lower back is kept strong thanks to a lot of things from deadlift to KB swings and farmer walks, good mornings , etc. . I actually try to apply all your advices mixed with my knowledge in regards of training. I am no longer looking for maximum strength (i thought it was obvious lol) and i have never been into ego lifting shit.