8 Weeks To Tactical Fitness

We all admire the combination of strength, stamina, and unparalleled grit that typify special operators and SWAT teams. But how do you build it?

Any discussion about the fittest men and women in the world has to include "tactical athletes" at some point. From special operations warriors to SWAT officers, these operatives have to maintain elite fitness not as an option, but as a necessity. For them, being out of shape doesn't result in failing to set a PR or bailing on a squat. It could be a matter of life and death—theirs or someone else's.

The training required to be a 24/7-fit tactical athlete is as unique and unpredictable as their duties and schedules, which makes it tough to make any generalizations about how they should train. However, there's no doubt about the types of qualities that make these men and women effective.

If you're preparing for a career in a tactical field, or just want to train like hell for anything and everything, the field can throw at you, this is your plan.

But make no mistake: This style of training isn’t just for special operators. “We can all can benefit from training in a tactical style,” says Steve Weatherford, NFL player and True Grit athlete. “Balancing strategic strength work, power training, and running intervals has been a game changer for me—literally! It leaves me lean, conditioned, and packing more strength per pound than ever. But just as importantly, it trains the sort of undefinable grit that serves helps our fighting men and women accomplish any grueling and unpredictable physical task. Who doesn’t want that?”

If you're preparing for a career in a tactical field, are a soldier or officer in need of a plan, or just want to train like hell for anything and everything the field can throw at you, this is your plan. This is the gritty world of tactical fitness.

The Operative Word

Depending on the specific needs of his or her job, individual demands for any tactical athlete will vary. There are a few principles that are universally present, however. An effective training program for any tactical operator needs to focus on:

  • Injury prevention
  • Aerobic and anaerobic conditioning
  • Strength
  • Power

Injury prevention tops the list of priorities because an injured operator is a liability to themselves and their team, plain and simple.

Strength and power are important for any type of combat athlete.

Aerobic conditioning is also paramount, for several reasons. First and foremost, aerobic conditioning is vital to the job itself. Tactical operators need conditioning that goes beyond the anaerobic system. Whether it's chasing a suspect, running up 15 flights of stairs to a fellow officer calling for help, or wrestling with someone who refuses to go quietly, eventually the aerobic system plays a significant part.

In addition, many organizations still measure aerobic capacity in some form as a job requirement. Anaerobic training comes into play at those times, when shorter bursts of conditioning are necessary.

Strength and power are also important for any type of combat athlete. When overcoming resistance from hostile opposition, if all other things are equal, the stronger and more explosive person will win. In addition to raw power, there are also more specific strength demands for the tactical athlete, such as grip and neck strength.

How to have it all

Even with all the varying qualities a tactical athlete needs, having an effective program isn't enough. The program also needs to be an efficient one that doesn't present needlessly complicated daily demands. For that reason, the program I've presented below can be arranged a couple of different ways.

Perform the warm-up before each workout, followed by strength training. As for the conditioning workouts, you can perform them either directly after the strength training or as independent workouts. The former option will help you learn to keep going when your muscles want to stop. The latter will allow more intensity.

You'll notice a strong emphasis on unilateral movements to develop balance and prevent injury. The strength-training portion is designed to build strength and explosiveness, and is broken into a higher-volume initial phase to develop a strong base, followed by a higher-intensity phase focused on raw strength and power.

The burning sensation you'll soon feel in your forearms is a sign that you're also developing grip strength. For the tactical athlete, grip strength is immensely important, whether for controlling an unruly suspect, climbing, or weapon retention. Using thick grips is a great way to develop hand strength, so expect to use them in a range of lifts.

The conditioning portion of this program follows a similar pattern to the strength training. The first four weeks are designed to develop a strong aerobic base, followed by a higher-intensity block with a higher focus on anaerobic development.

Two Months to Tactical Strength

Warm-up

Warm-up


Strength training

Month 1, Week 1

Day 1: Lower body
1

Clean high pull from hang

3 sets of 6 reps
rest 90 sec.
Clean high pull from hang Clean high pull from hang

2

Front squat

3 sets of 8 reps
rest 90 sec.
Front squat Front squat

Superset
3

Single-leg Romanian deadlift

3 sets of 10 reps
rest 30 sec.
 Single-leg Romanian deadlift  Single-leg Romanian deadlift

Ab wheel

3 sets of 10 reps
rest 60 sec.
Ab wheel Ab wheel

Triset
4

Bulgarian split squat

3 sets of 10 reps
rest 30 sec.
Bulgarian split squat Bulgarian split squat

Neck flexion

3 sets of 10 reps
rest 30 sec.
Neck flexion Neck flexion

Neck extension

3 sets of 10 reps
rest 30 sec.
Neck extension Neck extension

Day 2: Upper-body push
1

Incline bench press

3 sets of 8 reps
rest 90 sec.
Incline bench press Incline bench press

2

Single-arm standing dumbbell push press

3 sets of 8 reps
rest 60 sec.
Single-arm standing dumbbell push press Single-arm standing dumbbell push press

3
Alternating flat dumbbell bench press with thick grips Alternating flat dumbbell bench press with thick grips

Superset
4

Close-grip bench press (with pause)

3 sets of 10 reps
rest 30 sec.
Close-grip bench press (with pause) Close-grip bench press (with pause)

Hanging leg raise

3 sets of 15 reps
rest 60 sec.
Hanging Leg Raise Hanging Leg Raise

Day 3: Upper-body pull
1

Weighted pull-up

3 sets of 8 reps
rest 90 sec.
Weighted pull-up Weighted pull-up

2

Barbell row with thick grips

3 sets of 8 reps
rest 60 sec.
Barbell row with thick grips Barbell row with thick grips

Circuit
3

Face pull

3 sets of 15 reps
rest 30 sec.
Face Pull Face Pull

Rear-delt raise

3 sets of 12-15 reps
rest 30 sec.
Rear-delt raise Rear-delt raise

Barbell curl

3 sets of 12-15 reps
rest 30 sec.
Barbell Curl Barbell Curl

Weighted sit-up

3 sets of 25 reps
rest 60 sec.
Weighted sit-up Weighted sit-up


Month 1, Week 2

Day 1: Lower body
1

Clean high pull from hang

4 sets of 4 reps
rest 90 sec.
Clean high pull from hang Clean high pull from hang

2

Front squat

4 sets of 6 reps
rest 90 sec.
Front squat Front squat

Superset
3

Single-leg Romanian deadlift

4 sets of 10 reps
rest 30 sec.
 Single-leg Romanian deadlift  Single-leg Romanian deadlift

Ab wheel

4 sets of 10 reps
rest 60 sec.
Ab wheel Ab wheel

Triset
4

Bulgarian split squat

3 sets of 10 reps
rest 30 sec.
Bulgarian split squat Bulgarian split squat

Neck flexion

4 sets of 15 reps
rest 60 sec.
Neck flexion Neck flexion

Neck extension

3 sets of 15 reps
rest 30 sec.
Neck extension Neck extension

Day 2: Upper-body push
1

Incline bench press

4 sets of 6 reps
rest 90 sec.
Incline bench press Incline bench press

2

Single-arm standing dumbbell push press

4 sets of 6 reps
rest 60 sec.
Single-arm standing dumbbell push press Single-arm standing dumbbell push press

3
Alternating flat dumbbell bench press with thick grips Alternating flat dumbbell bench press with thick grips

Superset
4

Close-grip bench press (with pause)

4 sets of 8 reps
rest 30 sec.
Close-grip bench press (with pause) Close-grip bench press (with pause)

Hanging leg raise

3 sets of 15 reps
rest 60 sec.
Hanging Leg Raise Hanging Leg Raise

Day 3: Upper-body pull
1

Weighted pull-up

4 sets of 6 reps
rest 90 sec.
Weighted pull-up Weighted pull-up

2

Barbell row with thick grips

4 sets of 8 reps
rest 60 sec.
Barbell row with thick grips Barbell row with thick grips

Circuit
3

Face pull

4 sets of 15 reps
rest 30 sec.
Face Pull Face Pull

Rear-delt raise

4 sets of 12-15 reps
rest 30 sec.
Rear-delt raise Rear-delt raise

Barbell curl

4 sets of 12-15 reps
rest 30 sec.
Barbell Curl Barbell Curl

Weighted sit-up

4 sets of 25 reps
rest 60 sec.
Weighted sit-up Weighted sit-up


Month 1, Week 3

Day 1: Lower body
1

Clean high pull from hang

4 sets of 6 reps
rest 90 sec.
Clean high pull from hang Clean high pull from hang

2

Front squat

4 sets of 8 reps
rest 90 sec.
Front squat Front squat

Superset
3

Single-leg Romanian deadlift

4 sets of 10 reps
rest 30 sec.
 Single-leg Romanian deadlift  Single-leg Romanian deadlift

Ab wheel

4 sets of 10 reps
rest 60 sec.
Ab wheel Ab wheel

Triset
4

Bulgarian split squat

3 sets of 10 reps
rest 30 sec.
Bulgarian split squat Bulgarian split squat

Neck flexion

4 sets of 15 reps
rest 60 sec.
Neck flexion Neck flexion

Neck extension

3 sets of 15 reps
rest 30 sec.
Neck extension Neck extension

Day 2: Upper-body push
1

Incline bench press

4 sets of 8 reps
rest 90 sec.
Incline bench press Incline bench press

2

Single-arm standing dumbbell push press

4 sets of 8 reps
rest 60 sec.
Single-arm standing dumbbell push press Single-arm standing dumbbell push press

3
Alternating flat dumbbell bench press with thick grips Alternating flat dumbbell bench press with thick grips

Superset
4

Close-grip bench press (with pause)

4 sets of 10-12 reps
rest 30 sec.
Close-grip bench press (with pause) Close-grip bench press (with pause)

Hanging leg raise

3 sets of 15 reps
rest 60 sec.
Hanging Leg Raise Hanging Leg Raise

Day 3: Upper-body pull
1

Weighted pull-up

4 sets of 8 reps
rest 90 sec.
Weighted pull-up Weighted pull-up

2

Barbell row with thick grips

4 sets of 10 reps
rest 60 sec.
Barbell row with thick grips Barbell row with thick grips

Circuit
3

Face pull

4 sets of 20 reps
rest 30 sec.
Face Pull Face Pull

Rear-delt raise

4 sets of 20 reps
rest 30 sec.
Rear-delt raise Rear-delt raise

Barbell curl

4 sets of 15 reps
rest 30 sec.
Barbell Curl Barbell Curl

Weighted sit-up

4 sets of 30 reps
rest 60 sec.
Weighted sit-up Weighted sit-up


Month 1, Week 4

Day 1: Lower body
1

Clean high pull from hang

3 sets of 3 reps
rest 90 sec.
Clean high pull from hang Clean high pull from hang

2

Front squat

3 sets of 5 reps
rest 90 sec.
Front squat Front squat

Superset
3

Single-leg Romanian deadlift

2 sets of 10 reps
rest 30 sec.
 Single-leg Romanian deadlift  Single-leg Romanian deadlift

Ab wheel

2 sets of 10 reps
rest 60 sec.
Ab wheel Ab wheel

Triset
4

Bulgarian split squat

2 sets of 10 reps
rest 30 sec.
Bulgarian split squat Bulgarian split squat

Neck flexion

2 sets of 10 reps
rest 60 sec.
Neck flexion Neck flexion

Neck extension

2 sets of 10 reps
rest 30 sec.
Neck extension Neck extension

Day 2: Upper-body push
1

Incline bench press

3 sets of 5 reps
rest 90 sec.
Incline bench press Incline bench press

2

Single-arm standing dumbbell push press

3 sets of 5 reps
rest 60 sec.
Single-arm standing dumbbell push press Single-arm standing dumbbell push press

3
Alternating flat dumbbell bench press with thick grips Alternating flat dumbbell bench press with thick grips

Superset
4

Close-grip bench press (with pause)

2 sets of 10 reps
rest 30 sec.
Close-grip bench press (with pause) Close-grip bench press (with pause)

Hanging leg raise

2 sets of 15 reps
rest 60 sec.
Hanging Leg Raise Hanging Leg Raise

Day 3: Upper-body pull
1

Weighted pull-up

3 sets of 5 reps
rest 90 sec.
Weighted pull-up Weighted pull-up

2

Barbell row with thick grips

2 sets of 10 reps
rest 60 sec.
Barbell row with thick grips Barbell row with thick grips

Circuit
3

Face pull

2 sets of 15 reps
rest 30 sec.
Face Pull Face Pull

Rear-delt raise

2 sets of 15 reps
rest 30 sec.
Rear-delt raise Rear-delt raise

Barbell curl

2 sets of 15 reps
rest 30 sec.
Barbell Curl Barbell Curl

Weighted sit-up

2 sets of 25 reps
rest 60 sec.
Weighted sit-up Weighted sit-up


Month 2, Week 1

Day 1: Lower body
1

Snatch high pull from hang

3 sets of 5 reps
rest 90 sec.
Snatch high pull from hang Snatch high pull from hang

2

Front squat

3 sets of 5 reps
rest 90 sec.
Front squat Front squat

Superset
3

Romanian deadlift with 5-second eccentric

3 sets of 6-8 reps
rest 60 sec.
Romanian deadlift with 5-second eccentric Romanian deadlift with 5-second eccentric

Barbell rear lunge

3 sets of 10 reps
rest 60 sec.
Barbell rear lunge Barbell rear lunge

Triset
4

Palloff press (half-kneeling)

3 sets of 10 reps
rest 30 sec.
Palloff press (half-kneeling) Palloff press (half-kneeling)

Neck flexion

3 sets of 10 reps
rest 30 sec.
Neck flexion Neck flexion

Neck extension

3 sets of 10 reps
rest 30 sec.
Neck extension Neck extension

Day 2: Upper-body press
1

Push press

3 sets of 5 reps
rest 90 sec.
Push Press Push Press

2

Paused bench press

3 sets of 5 reps
rest 90 sec.
Paused bench press Paused bench press

3

Incline dumbbell bench with thick grips

3 sets of 8 reps
rest 60 sec.
Incline dumbbell bench with thick grips Incline dumbbell bench with thick grips

Superset
4

Skull crusher

3 sets of 10-12 reps
rest 30 sec.
Skull crusher Skull crusher

Dumbbell spell caster

3 sets of 12-15 reps
rest 60 sec.
Spell Caster Spell Caster

Day 3: Upper-body pull
1

Weighted pull-up

3 sets of 5 reps
rest 90 sec.
Weighted pull-up Weighted pull-up

2

Dead-stop dumbbell row with thick grip

3 sets of 10-12 reps
rest 60 sec.
Dead-stop dumbbell row with thick grip Dead-stop dumbbell row with thick grip

Triset
3

Face pull

3 sets of 15 reps
rest 30 sec.
Face Pull Face Pull

Rear-delt raise

3 sets of 12-15 reps
rest 30 sec.
Rear-delt raise Rear-delt raise

Spider Curl

3 sets of 12-15 reps
rest 30 sec.
Spider Curl Spider Curl

Superset
4

Ab wheel roll-out

3 sets of 15 reps
no rest
Ab wheel roll-out Ab wheel roll-out

Lying leg raise

3 sets of 25 reps
rest 60 sec.
Flat Bench Lying Leg Raise Flat Bench Lying Leg Raise


Month 2, Week 2

Day 1: Lower body
1

Snatch high pull from hang

4 sets of 3 reps
rest 90 sec.
Snatch high pull from hang Snatch high pull from hang

2

Front squat

4 sets of 3 reps
rest 90 sec.
Front squat Front squat

Superset
3

Romanian deadlift with 5-second eccentric

4 sets of 5 reps
rest 60 sec.
Romanian deadlift with 5-second eccentric Romanian deadlift with 5-second eccentric

Barbell rear lunge

4 sets of 10 reps
rest 60 sec.
Barbell rear lunge Barbell rear lunge

Triset
4

Palloff press (half-kneeling)

3 sets of 10 reps
rest 30 sec.
Palloff press (half-kneeling) Palloff press (half-kneeling)

Neck flexion

3 sets of 15 reps
rest 30 sec.
Neck flexion Neck flexion

Neck extension

3 sets of 15 reps
rest 30 sec.
Neck extension Neck extension

Day 2: Upper-body press
1

Push press

4 sets of 3 reps
rest 90 sec.
Push Press Push Press

2

Paused bench press

4 sets of 3 reps
rest 90 sec.
Paused bench press Paused bench press

3

Incline dumbbell bench with thick grips

4 sets of 8 reps
rest 60 sec.
Incline dumbbell bench with thick grips Incline dumbbell bench with thick grips

Superset
4

Skull crusher

4 sets of 10-12 reps
rest 30 sec.
Skull crusher Skull crusher

Dumbbell spell caster

4 sets of 12-15 reps
rest 60 sec.
Spell Caster Spell Caster

Day 3: Upper-body pull
1

Weighted pull-up

4 sets of 3 reps
rest 90 sec.
Weighted pull-up Weighted pull-up

2

Dead-stop dumbbell row with thick grip

4 sets of 8-10 reps
rest 60 sec.
Dead-stop dumbbell row with thick grip Dead-stop dumbbell row with thick grip

Triset
3

Face pull

4 sets of 15 reps
rest 30 sec.
Face Pull Face Pull

Rear-delt raise

4 sets of 12-15 reps
rest 30 sec.
Rear-delt raise Rear-delt raise

Spider Curl

4 sets of 12-15 reps
rest 30 sec.
Spider Curl Spider Curl

Superset
4

Ab wheel roll-out

4 sets of 15 reps
no rest
Ab wheel roll-out Ab wheel roll-out

Lying leg raise

4 sets of 25 reps
rest 60 sec.
Flat Bench Lying Leg Raise Flat Bench Lying Leg Raise


Month 2, Week 3

Day 1: Lower body
1

Snatch high pull from hang

5 sets of 4 reps
rest 90 sec.
Snatch high pull from hang Snatch high pull from hang

2

Front squat

5 sets of 5 reps
rest 90 sec.
Front squat Front squat

Superset
3

Romanian deadlift with 5-second eccentric

4 sets of 8 reps
rest 60 sec.
Romanian deadlift with 5-second eccentric Romanian deadlift with 5-second eccentric

Barbell rear lunge

4 sets of 15 reps
rest 60 sec.
Barbell rear lunge Barbell rear lunge

Triset
4

Palloff press (half-kneeling)

3 sets of 10 reps
rest 30 sec.
Palloff press (half-kneeling) Palloff press (half-kneeling)

Neck flexion

3 sets of 15 reps
rest 30 sec.
Neck flexion Neck flexion

Neck extension

3 sets of 15 reps
rest 30 sec.
Neck extension Neck extension

Day 2: Upper-body press
1

Push press

5 sets of 4 reps
rest 90 sec.
Push Press Push Press

2

Paused bench press

5 sets of 4 reps
rest 90 sec.
Paused bench press Paused bench press

3

Incline dumbbell bench with thick grips

4 sets of 10 reps
rest 60 sec.
Incline dumbbell bench with thick grips Incline dumbbell bench with thick grips

Superset
4

Skull crusher

4 sets of 12-15 reps
rest 30 sec.
Skull crusher Skull crusher

Dumbbell spell caster

4 sets of 12-15 reps
rest 60 sec.
Spell Caster Spell Caster

Day 3: Upper-body pull
1

Weighted pull-up

5 sets of 4 reps
rest 90 sec.
Weighted pull-up Weighted pull-up

2

Dead-stop dumbbell row with thick grip

4 sets of 10-12 reps
rest 60 sec.
Dead-stop dumbbell row with thick grip Dead-stop dumbbell row with thick grip

Triset
3

Face pull

4 sets of 20 reps
rest 30 sec.
Face Pull Face Pull

Rear-delt raise

4 sets of 20 reps
rest 30 sec.
Rear-delt raise Rear-delt raise

Spider Curl

4 sets of 15 reps
rest 30 sec.
Spider Curl Spider Curl

Superset
4

Ab wheel roll-out

4 sets of 20 reps
no rest
Ab wheel roll-out Ab wheel roll-out

Lying leg raise

4 sets of 25 reps
rest 60 sec.
Flat Bench Lying Leg Raise Flat Bench Lying Leg Raise


Month 2, Week 4

Day 1: Lower body
1

Snatch high pull from hang

3 sets of 3 reps
rest 90 sec.
Snatch high pull from hang Snatch high pull from hang

2

Front squat

3 sets of 5 reps
rest 90 sec.
Front squat Front squat

Superset
3

Romanian deadlift with 5-second eccentric

2 sets of 8 reps
rest 60 sec.
Romanian deadlift with 5-second eccentric Romanian deadlift with 5-second eccentric

Barbell rear lunge

4 sets of 15 reps
rest 60 sec.
Barbell rear lunge Barbell rear lunge

Triset
4

Palloff press (half-kneeling)

2 sets of 10 reps
rest 30 sec.
Palloff press (half-kneeling) Palloff press (half-kneeling)

Neck flexion

2 sets of 10 reps
rest 30 sec.
Neck flexion Neck flexion

Neck extension

2 sets of 10 reps
rest 30 sec.
Neck extension Neck extension

Day 2: Upper-body press
1

Push press

3 sets of 3 reps
rest 90 sec.
Push Press Push Press

2

Paused bench press

3 sets of 3 reps
rest 90 sec.
Paused bench press Paused bench press

3

Incline dumbbell bench with thick grips

2 sets of 10 reps
rest 60 sec.
Incline dumbbell bench with thick grips Incline dumbbell bench with thick grips

Superset
4

Skull crusher

2 sets of 10 reps
rest 30 sec.
Skull crusher Skull crusher

Dumbbell spell caster

2 sets of 12-15 reps
rest 60 sec.
Spell Caster Spell Caster

Day 3: Upper-body pull
1

Weighted pull-up

3 sets of 3 reps
rest 90 sec.
Weighted pull-up Weighted pull-up

2

Dead-stop dumbbell row with thick grip

2 sets of 15 reps
rest 60 sec.
Dead-stop dumbbell row with thick grip Dead-stop dumbbell row with thick grip

Triset
3

Face pull

2 sets of 15 reps
rest 30 sec.
Face Pull Face Pull

Rear-delt raise

2 sets of 15 reps
rest 30 sec.
Rear-delt raise Rear-delt raise

Spider Curl

2 sets of 15 reps
rest 30 sec.
Spider Curl Spider Curl

Superset
4

Ab wheel roll-out

2 sets of 20 reps
no rest
Ab wheel roll-out Ab wheel roll-out

Lying leg raise

2 sets of 25 reps
rest 60 sec.
Flat Bench Lying Leg Raise Flat Bench Lying Leg Raise


Conditioning

Weeks 1-4 (After strength work or on separate day)

Day 1
1

Running

2 miles as fast as you can
Running Running

Day 2
1

Interval run

4 intervals of 1/4 mile fast, 1/4 mile slow
Running Running

Day 3
1

Slow jog

20 min.
Slow jog Slow jog


Week 5

Day 1
1

Sprinting

4 sprints of 30 sec., rest 2 min.
Running Running

Day 2
1

Interval run

4 intervals of 1/4 mile fast, 1/4 mile slow
Running Running

Day 3
1

Interval run

2 reps of 1 mile fast, 1/4 mile slow
Running Running


Week 6

Day 1
1

Sprinting

5 sprints of 30 sec., rest 2 min.
Running Running

Day 2
1

Interval run

5 intervals of 1/4 mile fast, 1/4 mile slow
Running Running

Day 3
1

Interval run

2 reps of 1 mile fast, 1/4 mile slow
Running Running


Week 7

Day 1
1

Sprinting

6 sprints of 30 sec., rest 2 min.
Running Running

Day 2
1

Interval run

6 intervals of 1/4 mile fast, 1/4 mile slow
Running Running

Day 3
1

Interval run

2 reps of 1 mile fast, 1/4 mile slow
Running Running


Week 8

Day 1
1

Slow jog

20 min.
Slow jog Slow jog

Day 2
1

Slow jog

20 min.
Slow jog Slow jog

Day 3: Rest

Strength and athleticism for any challenge

The end result of this program is a stronger, fitter, grittier athlete or combatant—no matter what type of uniform he or she wears. When you're done, you can repeat the plan again, building on the progress you've made, or you can begin a different program with different goals.

What you pick is up to you, because you'll be—and feel—ready for anything after this!


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