Ask Stew: Tactical Training On Deployment

Capt. Joseph Fix, commander of Alpha Battery, 3rd Battalion, 27th Field Artillery Regiment, leaves the sandbag event for the next exercise during a command team physical training event (Photo Credit: Benjamin Parsons).

Thank you to the men and women who are deployed all over the world. Here is a common question from an active duty member of our military seeking to take some time available to train hard while deployed. However, the facilities on deployment are typically limited, so getting creative is necessary. 


Mr. Smith,

I’m deployed and I have been slacking off the first half of this deployment and now I’m focused on getting back in shape. I desire to have a tactical style workout and was wondering how would you build one with minimal equipment (calisthenics, dumbbells, cardio machines)?  Is there any possible way that you could draft up a workout that includes bodyweight, dumbbell free-weight and cross training style workout for me so I will be tactically fit. Thank you for taking the time to read my email and for continuing to serve. God Bless, Jake.

Jake – there are many levels to consider when building a tactical athlete. Mainly, I tend to start with assessing strengths and weaknesses and make the first cycle of workouts to focus on both. For instance, you have to get specific with your training and do the things you enjoy (calisthenics, weights, cardio) but mix in your weaknesses. Typical weaknesses vary as well. Many are strong athletes but lack cardio endurance. Many can run all day, but lack strength and power. Many tend to lack muscle endurance / stamina depending upon their height and weight and athletic history.

I would start off with what I call the Classic Week of PT. This is a full body calisthenics based week of training with a variety of cardio options done after or during the workout itself. Mixing in cardio events with calisthenics and weights is a great way to hit many elements of fitness required for tactical athletes. Also adding in improvised equipment like chains, weight vests / body armor, TRX or straps, can help you create some variety that will help make training less monotonous.

Create Cycles of Focus for 4-6 Weeks

PT Test Training – As an active duty military member, it is never a bad idea to mix in calisthenics and running to maintain above average fitness levels of the fitness test. This requires a combination of strength and muscle stamina to score well on the PT events (pushups, pullups, situps) and cardiovascular endurance to do well on the runs.

Weight Vest / Body Armor – You can decrease calisthenics repetition and take your training to a new level by adding weighted versions of pushups, pullups, dips, squats, and lunges. Walking with weight burns twice as many calories than walking without weight. Adding other cardio events with weight can have similar benefits producing higher calorie burns in shorter times when short for time.  Weight Vest Wednesday.

Sandbags – Depending where you are deployed, sand is usually in abundance. Getting sturdy sand bags or even making your own “sand babies” can add to your workouts with a bigger variety of challenges. See Sand Baby Murph Workout.

Tactical Fitness and Nutrition – As we age, tactical fitness is still a requirement, but eating the way you did 20 years prior is not! In fact, after 35, you may find that you cannot outwork your diet and need to eat clean with smaller portions or gaining unwanted weight can still occur.

Good luck with the rest of your deployment and thank you for your service. Enjoy the options you have available and make time for training and see the results.

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