How a Powerlifting Football Player Prepares for Military

Air Force football game

Continuing the ongoing series of articles on the different athletic histories and body types that join the military, this post focuses on the powerlifting football player.

There are many strengths and weaknesses this type of athlete brings to the table when joining any branch of the military. The next several weeks, the topics of preparing for the military will focus on the different types of recruits and the different training and preparation journey each may need in order to be ready for whatever branch of service they choose.

The Power Lifting / Football Athlete Strengths

The football playing / power type athlete comes to the military with many strengths and some weaknesses that need to be remedied prior to arriving at military basic training and especially military special ops programs where weaknesses are quickly exposed. Here are many of the strengths – both physiological and intangible.

Team Player – Many football players know how to work well together as a team. Having a plan, a position leader, coach, the team has to “follow orders” and move the ball down the field together relying on each the entire time. Receiving negative feedback from coaching staff if part of the game and spot corrections occur all season for the football player. These skills go very well in a military environment.

Strength - Typically football / power athletes are strong – PERIOD. They may also be fast and agile on land and can typically do well on shorter, faster runs, log PT, load bearing exercises (rucking), and typical upper body fitness tests. However great their strength and short distance speed is, their endurance and muscle stamina need to be improved. This may require a significant amount of time away from the power lifting routines, short sprint runs, and more time doing calisthenics and running (rucking and swimming depending upon the service). See similar story.

Mental Toughness – You do not get to be a tough football player without being mentally tough and able to endure the pain of bumps and bruise, playing with nagging injuries, and general discomfort in pads / helmet. Two-a-day practices, tackling drills, getting dirty, picking yourself up off the ground every play is tough to do. This also translates well to wearing combat gear such as body armor, helmet, backpack, and carrying weapons. Every game is a personal gut check that has a week of preparation and planning as a team. These athletes are tough and know how to suck up pain and discomfort well.

Body Composition / Weight – As you will see, this is a strength and a weakness. The bigger athletes tend to have a lot of muscle mass, some are lean, some are not and struggle with the height / weight restrictions. With this mass comes general durability, however, the impact forces of running and the cardiovascular conditioning of running can be tough, especially since this athlete tends to think anything over 100 yards is long distance. Generally running the 1.5 – 3 mile timed runs of the various services is a challenge to meet the standard. Many of these athletes have to lose weight in order to be a faster runner, or do more higher repetition calisthenics like pullups and pushups. That may mean losing some of the strength and power and trade for some muscle stamina and cardio endurance.

The Weaknesses of the Power Athlete – Football Player

Preparation for Longer Endurance / Stamina - Football players typically come into the military preparation training knowing fully what their weaknesses are as they tend to not do so well on the timed runs. At group PT, multiple sets of high repetition calisthenics tend to fatigue them quickly as well. Accepting this weakness BEFORE entering – even up to 6-12 months prior – is a logical approach to high level preparation for military basic and beyond. This will require losing some of the weight lifting 1 rep max scores of previous years, but you can trade them for faster runs and high scores on PT tests.

Some ideas – PFT Bible – Focus on the basics first.

Pure Running / Swimming Ability - There will be very few running events this athlete will do well on if they do not prepare with a progressive running program for a good 6-12 month time (typically). In fact, in typical 1.5 – 3 miles timed runs of the various military services, the heavier power athlete will likely struggle compared to most people – even on a good day. Many athletes who play power sports are not into swimming. Learning how to swim if considering some military professions is critical and could add significant time to your adequate preparation – maybe even another year (if SEAL, EOD, Diver, PJ, RECON).

To make this transition to a better running / PT athlete: The power athlete needs to eat less food, NOT try to gain weight, lift fewer weights for both upper and lower body strength, and train hard in calisthenics in order to crush upper body PT tests for a few cycles prior to serving.

For more running, swimming, calisthenics workouts see program link.


Finding motivated and selfless servants who are preparing for a career in today’s military gives me hope for our future. Regardless of your athletic background, becoming a tactical athlete requires taking your current strengths and molding them to the service requirements and focusing on current weaknesses that could be detrimental to the new recruit or spec ops student. If you are a current power lifting football playing athlete, make sure you run longer and do more calisthenics in the off season and work on your endurance / muscle stamina.

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