Ask Stew: Conditioning for Special Forces

Spc. Efren Gandara performs leg tucks during a pilot for the Army Combat Readiness Test at Fort Lee, Va., Sept. 2017. (U.S. Army photo by Sean Kimmons)

Joining the military is a process. If you have previous injuries, the military medical professionals will have to review your status during the recruiting phase. Building a foundation of fitness or rebuilding after an injury requires time and smart effort. Consider a To and Through Strategy by preparing to get TO the training by acing the fitness tests in your future and then focus on getting THROUGH the training be doing longer runs, rucking, lifting, and still calisthenics. Consider these phases in a periodization cycle.

Stew, I am 24, college grad with a few previous lifting injuries (lower back). For the longest time I've wanted to join the Army Special Forces (Green Berets). Due to various circumstances I haven't been able to pursue this however, I have decided that I'm going to get myself in the best shape possible for the pipeline, even if that means leaving my decent paying career. Do you think a year of physical conditioning will be enough? I'm much more mature than I was when I was a teenager and I'm happy I have waited to mature before starting this endeavor. Thank you, Tim

Tim - good question. Quick answer YES. A year is typically enough time to specifically train, but obviously - it depends. It depends on your current fitness level mainly and how recovered you are from previous injuries. You will need to build a foundation of strength to help your lower back. Hopefully those injuries were just pulled muscles / not disk / nerve issues as those may take more time. Once you start the recruiting process, you will be asked all these questions about your medical health. If you have these medical issues in your record, surgeries, physical therapy, or other ailments, they will be reviewed during your MEPS (Military Entrance Processing Station). There are military medical professionals who will screen your record and current health status.

Training to get TO the training is phase 1 of your goal. Focus on the fitness test / even the new fitness tests you will see in the next year in the Army: Pushups, situps, pullups, 2 mile runs will be tested as quick assessments but you will also be taking the OPAT - Occupational Physical Assessment Test. By the time you are in the Army, the new Army Combat Fitness Test will be in full swing.

These test require: OPAT - long jump, seated power throw, dead lift, beep test shuttle run.

ACFT – This new fitness test will replace the pushup, situps, 2 mile run test by 2019.

Strength Deadlift. This is a three-repetition maximum deadlift to test muscular strength; it mimics movement to safety and effectively lifting and carrying heavy loads.

Standing Power Throw. This event involves throwing a 10-pound medicine ball as far as possible over the head and to the rear. It measures upper and lower muscular power, balance and flexibility.

Hand-Raised Push-ups. This event forces the soldier to go all the way to the floor and raise his hands before coming back up again, measuring upper-body muscular endurance.

A 250-Meter Sprint, Drag and Carry. This is five different events within one event -- a 50-meter sprint; a backward 50-meter drag of a 90-pound sled; a 50-meter movement; a 50-meter carry of two 40-pound kettle bells; and a final 50-meter sprint. It measures muscular strength, power, speed and reaction time.

Leg Tuck. A soldier hangs perpendicular to the pull-up bar and brings his knees up to his elbows and back down again for one repetition. It measures muscular strength, endurance and grip.

Two-Mile Run. The ACFT retains the two-mile run portion of the APFT, which is designed to measure aerobic and muscular endurance.

Time to get on it. Start off within reason of your current running. Progress logically so you do not find yourself doing too much, too soon and wind up starting off this journey with overuse injuries. Build up your lower back and get a solid base of running (15-20 miles a week) before adding weight and rucking.

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