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Special Forces Preparation

Hi all

I am applying for one of my country’s reserve special forces sometime next year (12 - 18 months away) and am designing a preparation program.

Over here the military is much less focused on upper body strength than in the US, and much more focused on ruck marches and long runs.

I will have to get to the level of running 8 - 10 miles in an hour and will have to be prepared for 25 - 65km marches through the mountains with up to 70lbs of kit. I have a specific preparation course that I will do for the 3 months before the course begins (including some swimming), leaving around a year to lose some fat and build a base.

I have a long time, so here’s my plan:

DIET

  • Paleo diet with 1 cheat day per week to lose some weight gradually

CONDITIONING

  • Hal higdon novice marathon running program to slowly build up miles

  • Am going to a POSE running clinic next week to properly learn the techniques to avoid injury and improve efficiency while ramping up the miles

  • Then switch to a more Lydiard style running approach, essentially spending a lot of time building a large aerobic base, avoiding any anaerobic work until the 2-3 months before the course

STRENGTH / PREHAB

  • Pavel’s PTP style strength with deadlifts and shoulder or incline press to build relative strength without mass (4-5x per week, nowhere near failure, 2x5 of each)

  • My main focus over the next year, however, is prehabbing so I am essentially bulletproof and very durable during the course

  • From what I’ve heard, the main areas to prehab / build are: lower legs, knees, hips, core / lower back and shoulders - how would you guys recommending building these? I would like to be doing some prehab daily for all of these for the next year so when I start I am as injury proof as possible.

  • I will be doing pushups / pullups / situps 5-6x weekly, with around 4-6 weeks focused on each (using a grease the groove method), while maintaining the other 2. This should be more than sufficient over the course of a year to get my numbers up to 100 pushups and 20 pullups

Thanks all

Google Mike Caviston, he is in charge of Navy Seal training and has written extensively on SF prep. He has written a training plan which you could easily adjust for your own selection course (essentially triathlon training with weights circuits for pre-hab).

Check out (esp forum)

SF is endurance training, so you need to scrap Paleo and add in carbs

As to losing fat - I wouldn’t worry about it unless you’re in danger of being harpooned by a stray Japanese Whaling boat. SF preparation and especially the course will strip it off you with the no sleep, no food, cold weather, long march diet plan.

FYI average BF% for special forces is around 14-17% less than that and performance suffers (from cold especially).

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100 pushups is more comparable to 35 pullups, I’d say. Especially at a low bodyweight.

There is no way in hell you will be running and rucking all those long miles in training without carbs. Pulling carbs out when you need them to fuel your training is one of the dumbest things you could do to sabotage yourself.

I’d also add in you need a lot, and I mean a LOT, more shoulder and back endurance than PTP will give you. I have nothing against it, it’s a useful program and Pavel is a good, if often schticky, trainer. However the selection process is going to be all about resilience, and not just in runs. I would train for overhead pressing in addition to push-ups. Spec. Forces selection is designed to try to break you physically and mentally, so they will be doing everything they can to tire you out and the muscles that take the most abuse from all of this are the shoulders and back.

You have a year, so you should focus on building a base level of strength on the overhead press and deadlift/squat. A base level of strength will make your conditioning both more effective and also slightly easier to complete.

Yeah, I agree…feel free to eat all the potatoes you want you lucky guy.

Of course long runs are in order, but I doubt (without knowing the specifics) that running more than 10 miles would be necessary…I’d think that a guy that can run 5 miles like a gazelle would be better off than the guy that plods through 15 miles.

I think things like 25 push ups/400m run/25 sit ups/400m run/25 chin ups/400m run repeated 3 times is the kind of stuff you should try too.

[quote]Aragorn wrote:
There is no way in hell you will be running and rucking all those long miles in training without carbs. Pulling carbs out when you need them to fuel your training is one of the dumbest things you could do to sabotage yourself.

I’d also add in you need a lot, and I mean a LOT, more shoulder and back endurance than PTP will give you. I have nothing against it, it’s a useful program and Pavel is a good, if often schticky, trainer. However the selection process is going to be all about resilience, and not just in runs. I would train for overhead pressing in addition to push-ups. Spec. Forces selection is designed to try to break you physically and mentally, so they will be doing everything they can to tire you out and the muscles that take the most abuse from all of this are the shoulders and back.

You have a year, so you should focus on building a base level of strength on the overhead press and deadlift/squat. A base level of strength will make your conditioning both more effective and also slightly easier to complete.[/quote]

THIS. Most spec ops programs won’t give a hoot about your physique. Weight loss is not your priority, it will come with the gradual increase in workload and work capacity which you are training for. Sure weight loss could help with pull ups, but trust me the weight will drip right off of you as you turn yourself into a machine over the next few months.

If you get bored or want some ideas (please don’t flame me…) head over to sealfit.com. They tend to have some really good ideas in terms of stretching and p/rehab work in order to deal with the insane amount of workload that spec-ops training requires. It’s also a good site if you get bored of your current workout and want to test/push yourself.

Do not underestimate the importance of stretching. You don’t need to be all gung-ho and jump right into foam rolling, just be conscious of your joints.

check out militaryathlete.com, there programs aren’t free but there good.
They have a program designed for ruck-based selection.

One thing I’d add too is let’s say you train early in the morning for an hour or so, I think it would be a good idea to go for a long bike ride or walk in the afternoon or evening because in the army you never do just a 3 mile run in the morning…you’re on your feet all day so going for some more activity later in the day…even just an hour’s walk…will help you get ready for how tiring a normal day may feel.

Army Rangers have to hump a ruck and run five miles in under 40min so I don’t know where the ‘emphasis on upper body’ came from.

www.stewsmith.com

Go to Shadowspear.com and visit the Special Operations Selection Preparation section of the forum.

I’m very aware of the ruck and run requirements, so I wasn’t suggesting that he have an emphasis on upper body. I was suggesting that the back and shoulders will take a pounding from constant rucking, constant running/dragging/carrying objects or dummies during team week in SF selections. I am not suggesting he emphasize upper body at all, rather what I am suggesting is that when he trains upper body he focuses on making his back and shoulders very resilient to repeated use and abuse besides just doing push-ups.

I have no idea what kind of specific selection his country’s special forces does, but based on the information that I gathered from talking to a number of guys already gone through selection, there is the possibility of doing anything from 6 mile run to a 3 hour long torment in the “pit” lifting a log over your head countless times with your selection groupmates, alternated with pushing till you’re sick and rolling around in the mud. Basically what that comes down to is a specific muscular endurance and “gut check” test, which is what I am familiar with at least in the first week of the 3 week SF selection process for Army. I had more than one person in the community tell me specifically that shoulders and back take a beating so get them strong.

Obviously there is no way in hell you are going to make it through selection if you can’t run and ruck for miles on end at a very quick time–along with land nav in all conditions–but if you’re ousted in the first couple days because you’re physically too weak then it doesn’t help you either. There are a bunch of people in the Army that can ruck and run but can’t pass the physical test week in selection. That either comes down to guts and toughness or physical muscular weakness. Nothing you can coach in guts or attitude, but getting strong and resilient is definitely something coachable. Emphasis on resilient.

Again, I’m not trying to suggest that he should emphasize the upper body.

Like the other guy said…if you are training like a beast you WILL lose weight and get fit…no way around it. just eat smart. Dont over do the long runs at first…The recommended method is to not add miles every week but ramp up a few and then stay even…
With your body…just do main big lifts to get a solid base.
No carbs and you are dead…I tried it. Just eating well I went from 185 being big and strong to 165 over night by running and doing endurance lifting…

You might consider buying a weighted vest and fill it. And having a sixpack isnt optimal, you need alot of energy in your training and small fatbelly stores nice amounts of energy and keeps you warmer in cold.

I laud your idea of deadlifting and shoulder pressing, total body exercises. I successfully completed SF asseesment and selection 25 years ago and my friends laughed at my advocating of deadlift training in preparation for such a course. Back then the Army was heavy into a running mindset. I was unique in my passion for weight training. I do remember cardio conditioning didnt matter after about 2 weeks…your body was so broken down by then. The guys who could run like gazelles in the first few days, smoked everyone. By the end of the course when our bodies were totally trashed, I remember starting to pass them on the runs. I still contend to this day that it was the deadlifting and other powerbuilding moves that kept my body durable.

Were it me, I would do the following:

  1. Find a recent veteran of the unit. If he is willing to give you details about selection, learn from his experience. Take his advice, whatever it is. Heck…hire him as a trainer, if you can.

  2. If you have a year, then I would suggest you start rucking now. With a year’s worth of prep time, you can start really light, work up slowly and condition your legs and feet properly over time. Take good care of your feet now, build up the callous you need to, and it will pay dividends later.

  3. Build a base of strength. I don’t think you can ever be “too strong”, but you can get “too big”. Focus on gaining strength and keeping it relative to your bodyweight. I’d keep it to deadlifts, squats and overhead presses for barbell lifts. Lots of push ups sit ups and pull ups too.

  4. If you can, go to militaryathlete.com and do the operator sessions. Also, the owner, Rob Shaul, sells a Ruck Based Selection program. It has been used by a number of people who frequent the site with stellar results. There are plenty of people who have used it to get through RASP, SFAS and even Delta selection. With all due respect to some of the SEAL oriented fitness sites, I know Rob Shaul’s stuff has a reputation for working in the community.

  5. Ditch the Paleo idea. Selection isn’t a bodybuilding contest. Nobody cares if you carry extra bodyfat or if you have “hawt abz”. They care about whether you can accomplish the task you have been given. Plenty of athletes trapped in fat bodies have pushed through.

  6. My impression from your original post is that you have spent a LOT of time researching. You need to put the books down and start DOING. Start rucking in the heat, the rain, the snow…whatever. Find our if it’s what you REALLY want to do. You need to prep yourself mentally, and going out and actually doing some of that stuff is going to tell you whether it’s for you or not.

  7. Embrace the suck, keep your sense of humor and good luck to you.

For many units, at least in the US, there are indoc and other training phases designed to get you physically ready for the start of the official training.

By the sounds of things you(the OP) are from the UK ?

I’ll echo what others are saying and recomend you check out militaryathlete.com, maybe check out mtnathlete.com aswell, Shaul’s got lots of programs designed to “build lungs and legs” which would obviously be beneficial to someone in your situation.

re prehab : The stronger you are the harder you’ll be to kill, lifting heavy will get your body used to abuse far better than any ext. rotations or “clamshells” and the like will. That being said, Turkish getups would probably be the best bang for your buck exercise I can think of in terms of “prehab”.

Good Luck man, now go get after it.

Since this thread is still around, just thought I’d mention SealFit. I’ve started using them recently. 90+ minute workouts, but they train all facets you’d need for military purposes. And it’s free, whereas military athlete and mountain athlete cost money got what I consider to be very similar style training.

Do you have remember where I could find that preparation program he wrote, all I could find was his rowing program.