Tactical Fitness: Adding Weights to an Endurance and Stamina Plan

Tactical Fitness: SEAL applicants

Often, preparing for high repetition calisthenics and fast running fitness tests in the military can be tough on a hard gainer who is also trying to gain weight prior to joining the service. An email from a young man seeking USMC RECON training poses a very common question. Here is a way to mix both strength and mass with stamina and endurance while you prepare to serve. 


I'm a senior in high school and plan on leaving for the marines once I graduate. Ultimately, I want to become a Recon Marine. I have started your 12-week program and have been incorporating a second separate workout of only lifting weights. Would building muscle mass be a good or bad idea while taking on this program?


It is going to be difficult to build much mass with all the extra cardio my workouts have you doing (at the same time as building cardio endurance). The workout you speak of features high-rep calisthenics with many miles of running, rucking, and swimming. Adding weights to that cycle with the goal of gaining mass is very difficult. All the cardio and high rep calisthenics will not mix well in a two a day program. You will not be able to eat enough to gain weight with all that calorie expenditure. Though, you can try. It will likely require 4000-5000 calories a day to gain the type of mass you are looking for.  However, you could be blocking your optimal running abilities by adding heavy leg lifts into a running cycle.

My recommendation is to create two cycles:

You need to cycle through like this: Periodization – Mixing in Different Skills Through the Year.

That is why I like to break up the year into strength and mass training in the Winter and Fall, and cardio pace and high rep stamina in the Spring and Summer. For instance, the strength and mass cycle (typically winter) is when I do not run as much, but add in rucking to get used to the load bearing of your future USMC profession. Swimming with fins is a great post leg day workout too that is more muscle building than cardio conditioning and something you will need at BRC.  

The goal of this lifting phase is to lift, get strong, pick up a few pounds of mass, but also not lose every bit of your cardio endurance gains from previous high miles, high rep calisthenics cycles.  So you will still do some cardio during lifting phases but not like what is in my 12 week plan you discuss.  It is not a bad idea to add in a ruck per week as well even during the high miles running section of the program you have. 

So in conclusion, yes, try to add in a lifting, rucking, swim with fins cycle but lay off the high repetition calisthenics / high miles of running during that cycle.  You can do pullups and dips as those of considered the "heavy lifting calisthenics" as lifting most of your body weight is required to complete a single rep.  Adding a weight vest to both of 20-25lbs is an option during this phase as well if you can already do 20 plus pullups in a test.

Also – remember, it is a running man’s game out there, so make sure you can run well with no pain and fast.  6-7 minute miles are the recommended pace.  Closer to six-minute mile pace is ideal.

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