Starting a Special Operations Preparation Workout
Almost daily I receive e-mail from young men who want to get into various special operations units around the world. I have been forced to look back in time to when I was a 16 year old boy with aspirations of jumping out of airplanes, fast roping out of helicopters, and running through the woods at night. It was a time of innocence and a time of dreams and high hopes as I prepared to enter the world far away from my Northern Vermont home.
I was better off than most when it comes to preparation for Selection. I grew up on a farm drinking fresh milk, working under weight all day long, working long hours, and when I was ten my brother starting weight lifting and bodybuilding. Naturally I followed his lead through out my teenage years and I was well prepared for selection with an excellent base of core strength. All I needed was some refinement and they took care of that in Selection in no time.
But what is a young man to do when he grows up in the city with no history of manual labor, hard living, and work out knowledge? I used to see it every week when we tested new candidates for selection. We would start with about 100 or more men and in two hours there were 2-10 left. That's a hell of a statement about the physical state of most 18 year olds in this country. The Nintendo generation may be smart on computers, but they are physically weak.
After thinking long and hard about this, I have decided that the average kid off the street needs a good dose of General Physical Preparedness. What that means is a beginning program of physical conditioning that will advance the average Joe safely to his goal of being a special operator.
While at this time I hesitate to offer a canned program, I will elaborate on methods. If you are a 16-18 year old with some or no athletic background, start by doing body weight work. Push-ups, pull-ups, sit ups, squats, lunges, pistols, 8-count body builders, sit-ups (Janda's are preferred), rope climbing, and short jogs up to a mile every other day. workout
daily, but every other day drop your sets OR reps by 50%. Learning to swim
should also be a part of this first phase. Vary the intensity each day and test your self every 2-4 weeks allowing 5-10 minutes between exercises. During the daily Workouts
vary your rest periods. Be sure to choose a reasonable number of exercises to start with. In the beginning just a few sets of pushups and pull-ups might leave you in a puddle on the ground. Add exercises as you progress. Keeping your reps to 25 or less and do as many sets as you can in good form is a good start.
After 2 months its time to start adding weight to the mix. Start with Pavel Tsatsouline's Power to The People routine of Deal Lifts and Side Presses. To incorporate this program, do the DL and the SP every other day followed by a run. Increase the mileage by ½ mile every week or two. Vary the runs by doing plenty of cross-country running as well as road runs. On the days you do not do PTP, do your Calisthenics work but start to add weight where you can. A good example is the Farmers Walk and weighted pull-ups. Just add 5-10 lbs on a belt and do pull-ups. You should see an increase in your numbers shortly. Alternating pull-up Workouts
with and with out weight is most effective. You should swim
on the days you do Cals and work up to 2000 meters using the freestyle
stroke. At the end of 2 months you should be up to running 5 miles over varied terrain and your back and legs should be visibly stronger. You should be swimming 2000 meters and your pull-ups and your ability to carry loads should have increased dramatically.
Now after four months of training you should begin to look and feel like you are in shape and progressing. Now start adding ballistic weight drills to your Workouts
. Drop your DL and SP weight by 30% and add KB
or DB swings and snatches to the mix. This is high rep work and there is no limit except for your form. Keep it tight. Start doing heavy weighted pull-ups, pushups on blocks and clapping pushups, jumping for distance and speed, rope climbing with no feet, and rolling/tumbling drills. If you don't know how to roll, find your local Ninjutsu or Aikido school and learn. Your running should begin to focus on speed. Do intervals on Thursdays if you are following my Intervals article. Buy a pair of Rocket
Fins and a mask and start finning. You should also start swimming underwater with and with out fins. Do this for another two months. At the end of these six months you will have a good base of GPP to prepare you for more radical Workouts
. At anytime in this process you can begin using kettlebells
work will be of even greater benefit to you. I mention it at the end because most 16-18 year old don't have the money or resources to buy KBs. However, schools should be encouraged to purchase them for their athletics programs. The Janda Sit-up
The Janda Sit-up is the creation of Dr. Janda, a Czechoslovakian physical therapist. He discovered a way to truly isolate the Rectus Abdominus muscle of the stomach. He found that by contracting the hamstrings and the glutes, you effectively relax (thereby removing from the sit-up equation) the hip flexors. The hip flexors are the muscles that most people actually use when doing sit-ups which often results in unhealthy stress on the lower lumbar spine. What does this mean to you?
The abdominals are essential for every motion you make. Strong abs support the back, which in turn support the entire body physically and neurologically. Weak abdominals are the road to ruin. Normally I would discourage isolation exercises, but in the case of the rectus abdominus it is a must. Abdominal strength is essential for any and all lifting so take heed and start doing the Janda Sit-up. You will see some dramatic changes in your abs, I guarantee it.
To start the Janda, assume the traditional sit-up position, feet flat, knees bent at 90 degrees. Now, have a partner hold your legs with their hands behind your calves. Be sure he is in a position where you can't possibly hook your toes and use your hip flexors.
Start in the up position, arms parallel to the floor. It is easier to start on the down motion. Now, inhale, brace your abs as if you were about to take a punch. Squeeze your glutes as if pinching a coin between your cheeks and roll your body down as if unrolling a piece of paper. Be sure to keep your back flat against the floor when in motion. If you fall through at the end it is because you did not keep your glutes tight. At the bottom exhale, take a breath, inhale, and reverse to the start position. This may prove to be beyond your abilities. If so, get into the starting position and just work the down motion until you build the strength required to do a full rep. Remember it is the contraction of the hamstrings and glutes that deactivates the hip flexors so concentrate on those muscles.
The real measure of a man is five reps! If you are doing five sets of five you are turning into quite a stud. You may progress in difficulty by raising your arms until they are eventually above your head or use a small weight. Be sure to have a buddy critique you. It is easy to cheat on the Janda so a spotter is invaluable to keep you honest.The Fireman's Carry Workout
Here is a great way to get your heart rate going and exercise some functional strength at the same time. You will need a victim/partner. Set a 32kg KB
(or one you can handle) 50 meters from a pull-up bar. Do 30 to 50 swings (or a number you can handle safely). Drop the KB
and Fireman Carry your partner to the pull-up bar as quickly as you can. Do several pull-ups (but stop several reps short of failure) and jog/walk back to the KB
. Rest for 1-3 minutes and repeat until your form begins to suffer.
To give yourself more of a rest you can switch out after each circuit and share the pain. To make this more evil, do lunges, bear crawl
or low crawl
, or hop back to the KB
. You may substitute a DB for a KB
Living by the Motto,