Tactical Fitness: Periodization Training in High School and College

Tactical Fitness: Swimming in lanes.

A young man or woman in high school who's focused on serving our country is a great thing to witness. Their focus on something greater than themselves should reassure us that there are still people from younger generations willing to serve. Here is an email I received from a young man who is concerned about preparing himself for a future in the SEAL teams while still training for various sports.

Hey Stew, I am in 9th grade and I am seriously considering the SEAL challenge. I just recently got done with track and moved on to weight training. Track really helped me with endurance and I am really good at core workouts and pull-ups and push-ups. Weight training is a challenge because I'm not used to it, but the coach there is saying he wants to work on my explosiveness for football next season. I was considering doing cross country again instead of football because of the long distance runs and the mental side of it. My question is, would it be a good idea to stay with the weights till I graduate and be more explosive or moderate the weights with some core and PT throughout my high-school years?

Pick the sports you prefer and enjoy doing. These will provide great skills for you to learn. Your skills as a team player can be enhanced by activities in high school and college, so keep up what you're doing. Running is an invaluable skill as well at SEAL training, but, so is having a strong upper body, core, and legs, so lifting is something you should do with the guidance of your coaches. 

I think it is great to play multiple sports – that way you build strength, power, and speed in sports like football and endurance and stamina in track and cross country. Now you will have to pick between football and cross country as both are competing Fall Sports. But, if you like running, try running track in the Spring. Some mentally tough races are the 800m, 1500m, and 3000m races if you like longer distances. You could also try some of the shorter speed events or the jumping events as well. Like I said, find what you enjoy doing.

The one thing you will have to fit into your year will be swimming. Swimming can be a great way to build cardio endurance in a non-impact way as well as prepare you for swimming and water confidence in a future profession. Swimming after running and practice is a great way to loosen up joints and only takes 20-30 minutes at the most to get an effective workout. Just treading water with no hands is a way to loosen the hips, knees, thighs, hamstrings, and calves.

What you have to do is arrange your workouts so you are lifting during the off-season of cross country, but you can mix is some calisthenics during running season to keep some muscle mass. If you change it up during the season, pre-season, and post season throughout the year, you will be an all-round stronger athlete. Here is how I would break up your year, but there are many ways to do it – this is just one way, not necessarily the only way.

Focusing on Football and Track Workouts (Fall and Spring Sports)

This will give you the summer and winter season to do all your pre-season training where you can also mix in some SEAL based training such as swimming and calisthenics testing elements (pullups, pushups, situps) into your days.

During the summer months, you can mix in lifts and speed workouts for football, but you will have time to recover from other workouts during the week such as swimming and supplemental calisthenics on your lifting days.  Make sure you are eating extra anytime you are working out longer with additional workouts and strive not to work the same muscle groups on back to back days. Try to gain some weight with muscle and bulk for football – you will need it.

Fall Sports

During football season, you should focus on more maintenance lifting and healing the bumps and bruises that occur. Getting in a few swims per week is great if you have time for 15-20 minutes of tread or technique swimming of the CSS – See CSS Teaching video breakdown.

Off Season and Winter

This is a combination time to heal from the rigors of a contact sport, but also a time to start your running progression. Your coach should have a standard running build up for you to get up to competition speed and may have you lifting for a few months prior to the season depending on what events you decide to do.

Spring Track

Now you are in season sports again, mainly doing specific training that will help you peak at the end of the season. Focus on the specifics here only using swimming and treading as a cool down recovery workout a few times a week. The rest is a running and mobility focus.

There is a term for this type of training: periodization. It is just a word that means scheduled changes to training in many cycles through the year. At the end of the year of a two sport year, you will have become faster, bigger, leaner, stronger, and if you actively pursue recovery and mobility regularly, you will have some amount of flexibility too.

Check out this related article on Periodization.

Stew Smith works as a presenter / editorial board with the Tactical Strength and Conditioning program of the National Strength and Conditioning Association and is Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS).  There are also over 800 articles on Military.com Fitness Forum focusing on a variety of fitness, nutritional, and tactical issues military members face throughout their career.

Latest Fitness Books: Navy SEAL Weight Training and Tactical Fitness

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