Tactical Athlete Fitness Training Template

Tactical Athlete Fitness Training Template
USMC Photo By: Cpl. Paul S. Martinez

The Tactical Fitness Training Template

This is a modification of Pavel Tsatsouline’s “Total Package” strength and conditioning template (www.strongfirst.com).  This is for the tactical operator who needs strength, conditioning (metabolic conditioning or METCON), and endurance.  When you are training several fitness components at once, you must simplify.  This is a simple, but effective program that will allow you to excel at all 3 fitness components without overtraining. This is a “quality over quantity” approach.  The program template is sustainable, over the long haul, while leaving enough energy to work on the numerous other training and operational contingencies of the tactical athlete.  If your conditioning program leaves you too exhausted or too sore to do your day to day job, it is time to reevaluate!  Also, for the tactical athlete, the strength and conditioning program should not be the training element with the highest risk for injury day in and day out.  The job is hazardous enough without adding a high risk conditioning program.  The keys to the effectiveness of this program are:

  1. The right dose of METCON. Excessive METCON will cook your central nervous system and can interfere with strength gains.  METCON in itself is not an effective way to gain strength.  It should be trained separately from strength if possible.
  2. Big bang for the buck strength. Strength training is loaded movement.  If the movements are chosen carefully, very few exercises are necessary.  A program that uses big bang for the buck lifts for the 5 basic movements (1.  Upper body push, 2. Upper body pull, 3. Squat, 4. Hip hinge, 5. Core) ensures that there are no weak links.  This is not a bodybuilding program.  It is an athletic performance program. We don’t train by body parts; we train movements, loaded movements.
  3. Manageable workload overall. You can’t do 2 hour gym sessions, frequent “as many rounds as possible” or “as fast as possible” METCON sessions, and endurance training simultaneously without crashing headfirst into stagnation, overtraining, and injury.  Improving your performance (rather than trying to test yourself in the gym every day) is not about what you can do, but it is rather about what you can absorb and recover from.  The true test of the tactical operator is not how hard he can be in the gym.  The true test is whether he can put his ego aside and commit to a smart training program.  It is easy to be hard, but it is hard to be smart.  Be smart.

The weekly template is below.  You may move the Wednesday and Saturday endurance sessions to Monday and Thursday to free up some off days.  If you do this, perform the endurance portion after the strength portion, preferably later in the day after a rest period. Two basic templates are below:

7 Day Per Week Template 5 Day Per Week Template
Monday—AM strength, PM endurance
Thursday—AM strength, PM endurance


Monday and Thursday consist of two types of lifts, heavy grinds (i.e., deadlifts, bench press, pull ups, presses) and heavy quick lifts (i.e., heavy kettlebell swings, heavy kettlebell snatches, and Olympic lifts).  On the strength days, you should focus on heavy lifts and the 3-8 repetition range.  Varying the repetition range within this bracket makes sense.  Sometimes you should focus on heavy singles and doubles for the quick lifts and heavy triples for the grinds, and other times you should use lighter weights (but still heavy) for 5-8 reps.  The loading should be “wavy.”  This can be done rather randomly as you feel, or systematically.  Pick one exercise for each movement.  3-5 sets are about right.  If you are doing singles, you may do more sets (i.e., 10 X 1). Don’t rush through these workouts.  Take plenty of rest to ensure that you can move big weights with proper form. Heavy ab work belongs on the strength days as well: ¼ get-ups with a big kettlebell, hanging leg raises, hard style sit-ups, loaded carries etc.

Monday:   4 movements, squat, vertical push, pull, core

Thursday:  4 movements, hip hinge, horizontal push, pull, core


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