Tony Sentmanat, 38-year-old former Marine and SWAT officer, first catapulted to social media fame with a video snippet from one of his "What the f*&#%" workouts that, for him, was just another day in the gym.
"It was two pro fighters kicking me in the stomach while I was squatting 315," he says.
Every time he'd stand up from a rep: Thwack! Thwack! Then, down for another rep, and up for a flurry of kicks again, Sentmanat not so much as blinking. With 700 SWAT operations and 200 fist fights under his belt, this type of workout wasn't crazy—it was practical.
"I didn't think anything of it," he says. I'd been training that way more than half my life. But it went viral, and I gained a lot of social media followers, so I started running with it. I showed people what it means to be a hybrid athlete: strong but with a lot of agility and jumping. I was 235 pounds and moving like a guy who was 200."
These days, Sentmanat has synthesized everything he learned from his nearly two decades of experience in the Marines and police force to develop the Real World Tactical training system. It's the basis for all of the explosive workouts you see in his videos.
"When I started police work, one of my instructors told me my fitness would determine whether I lived or died," he says. "And, that happened many times. If I wasn't as fit as I was, I probably wouldn't be here today."
Once, during his police career, he and a partner spotted a car fitting the description of one carrying armed and dangerous criminals. After a car chase, the suspects ditched their vehicle and fled on foot. Sentmanat, in full kit with body armor, sprinted after one of the suspects for three blocks and followed him into a warehouse.
The 6-foot-3, 260-pound suspect hid, jumped out from a blind corner, blindsided Sentmanat, and went for his gun.
"I was in a fight for my life for 2 minutes," he says. The bad guy lost.
Sentmanat started on the path to mastery early, having jumped into hardstyle Shito Ryu karate at the age of 4, earned his black belt at age 9, and competed at a high level nationally along the way. But, in the midst of it, a hard lesson at a young age tested his sense of justice and set him on the path to whom he'd become as a man.
"In third grade, I was standing in line and this kid in fifth grade got into an argument with me and punched me square in the face," he says. "I looked over his shoulder and saw the PE teacher—who was a mentor to me and who I looked up to—and he shook his head 'No,' like 'Don't do it.' I took that punch to my face, hating life and walking away. The PE teacher told me I did the right thing. But I told myself that if anyone ever touched me again, I would break their fucking head open."
During high school, Sentmanat dreamed of being a U.S. Marshal and opted out of college, eventually choosing four years in the Marine Corps instead. In the Marines, he became a firearms and close-quarters combat instructor. He left to become a corrections officer, then a police officer. He quickly became a SWAT team member for Hialeah, the second-largest city in Miami Dade County, the sixth-largest city in the state of Florida, and a hotbed of violent crime.
"Being part of the SWAT team was the love of my life," he says. "We were very busy. In the mid 2000s, it was the Wild West. Shootings and car chases were an everyday occurrence. If dudes didn't have guns, they'd settle scores with machetes—just hack people up."
A Brand is Born
A long-time strength and conditioning coach, Sentmanat maintained a ferocious training regimen throughout his time as a Marine and police officer, eventually developing a hybrid training method that he knew built faster, better, stronger tactical athletes.
In 2014, he put his knowledge into practice to launch Real World Tactical, teaching strength, conditioning, and firearms training for both civilians and law enforcement officers. The objective is for his trainees to survive and thrive in the complex, unpredictable, high-risk confrontations that are the milieu of the tactical athlete.
Sentmanat has an online training program that any athlete can access, and he travels the country hosting seminars and training sessions and working with some of the top names in powerlifting, bodybuilding, kickboxing, and the UFC. His videos have garnered millions of hits and seen numerous imitators pop up.
Drawn from Sentmanat's Real World Tactical training principles, here are six keys to becoming a fighting machine:
1. Get 20/20 Vision
Sentmanat's program is oriented around the 20/20 concept.
"The goal is to be faster than a guy 20 pounds lighter than you, and stronger than a guy 20 pounds heavier than you," he says. "You have to be prepared for whatever gets thrown at you out on the job, whether that's jumping fences, chasing people, or having to fight, all in full kit with plate carriers and all of your gear."
2. Do Core and Stabilization Work
At the center of Sentmanat's system is core and stabilization training with an emphasis on dynamic whole-body movements performed standing up.
"Core strength and stabilization work helps you to do unorthodox lifting, like pulling bodies off the ground and having to drag people," he says.
One of his favorite moves for core and stabilization training is picking up a 100-150-pound sandbag from the ground, throwing it onto the right shoulder, returning it to the ground, then picking it up and throwing it onto the left shoulder—then repeating the sequence over and over.
"That works power and core and is a totally functional movement."
3. Be Truly Functional
Sentmanat applies a strict definition of functional strength that's geared toward developing the proficiencies tactical athletes need on the job.
"To me, functional strength is moving strength," he says. "That's not a deadlift or a squat. That's picking up something heavy and moving it while you're pushing or pulling a sled at the same time."
Uncommon and awkward objects work well for this style of training. In his videos, you'll see Sentmanat work with everything from body dummies to punching bags to the aforementioned sandbags to kegs. To Sentmanat, you should work with whatever you can get your hands on.
"The key is that you're moving, covering distance, and it requires some form of strength."
4. Train for Explosive Power and Agility
One of the most impressive aspects to Sentmanat is how quickly and quietly he moves for a straight-jacked 6-foot-2, 240-pound man.
"You need explosive power for fighting, for punching, grabbing, and throwing," he says. "You need agility to be able to sprint, run, change directions, and jump fences. As a police officer, I got in foot chases where I had to jump refrigerators, 3-foot fences, 6-foot fences, and then fight."
To develop this explosiveness, he prescribes simple moves like box jumps and punches and kicks paired with agility moves, while wearing a heavy resistance band anchored to a wall or cage.
5. Develop Stamina and Endurance
In Sentmanat's system, it's not enough just to be strong and fast. You have to be able to go long, too, to meet the demands you'll face in life or in the field—areas that don't necessarily spell out when, where, or for how long you'll have to engage or evade an opponent.
"You need to be able to do 30-40 minutes of incredibly high intensity work and still have enough gas to fight and finish the job," he says.
To develop this, he prescribes workouts like half-mile run repeats with burpee box jumps and snatches between efforts.
6. Get your Mind Right
Finally, Sentmanat emphasizes that all trainees must work just as hard on their mental clarity and focus as they do on their physical training.
"If you're training for football, baseball, or any other sport, there are stakes. But when you lose, nobody dies," he says. "Most of my adult life, the main reason for my training was to be proficient at my job, so everyone could go home at night."
Accordingly, Sentmanat preaches that the body is more capable than we think. To overcome mental fatigue, he says, the body must experience pain.
"Go to the utter limit, and then do 5 more reps," he says. "That's how you get better and stronger, and become a world champion at what you do."
To learn more about Sentmanat and his training system, view upcoming courses and access online training, visit realworld-tactical.com.