Are you ready to sign on the dotted line and serve your country? If you think so, there are a few questions you need to ask yourself. What are your fitness / physical weaknesses? Have you accepted the fact that you have a weakness? Are you enjoying the journey of turning a weakness into more of a stronger part of your fitness foundation? If so, you may be ready to serve.
We All Have Weaknesses
Even a seasoned athlete in multiple sports can have a weakness in one or more of the elements of fitness: Strength, Power, Muscle Stamina, Endurance, Speed, Agility, Grip, and Core / Joint Stability, Flexibility, Mobility. It is quite difficult to be good at all the above elements. Stereotypically speaking the following types of athletes can have a variety of the above weaknesses in their foundation. This may require extensive focus and time on the perceived weakness. My personal realization that I was ready was not necessary when I achieved competitive scores on the fitness tests prior to selection, BUT when I was starting to actually enjoy working on what used to be a horrible physical event.
Strength and Power Athlete – A foundation in strength can go a long way in any tactical program you seek after your sporting days are over. However, if you still think anything 100 meters is long distance, you may have a weakness in your cardiovascular endurance as well as muscle stamina could be a weakness. Flexibility and mobility of the hips and shoulders are typical weaknesses of the strength / power athletes depending upon the sport they also play. If you observe the needs analysis of certain types of athletes, you will see most will require strength to see better performance in tactical professions. However, if you are already a strength / power athlete, your focus must be the specifics of your future training and typically cardio, flexibility, and other specific skills (swimming, rucking, running). Some weight loss may also be required for optimal performance if you are changing from a lineman in football to a Navy SEAL student for instance.
Cardiovascular Endurance Athlete – Being good at running, swimming, and rucking can be critical to the branch of service you select. Going special operations will test you in all of them eventually and expose a weakness in any of them quickly.
Non-Impact Athlete – Sports like swimming, rowing, biking, and even contact sports like hockey can make running more painful if you are not doing a lot of running cross-training as well. In fact, many hockey players and swimmers especially are susceptible to quick over-use injuries such as tendonitis, shin splints, and stress fractures. Swimming – A swimmer needs to add in more running during the off-season to condition the bones and joints for impact. Playing in zero gravity 100% of the time is not helpful if you have a future wish to serve in the military as you will have to run at boot camp and maybe even ruck if depending upon the branch of service. Biking – Biking athletes have strong legs that are hard to challenge aerobically and anaerobically. However, impact from running and never focusing on upper body strength can hamper a biker when joining the military. Adding in a progressive running program during non-competitive times will help build running capacity. Rowing – Rowers are cardiovascular animals and they typically cross train with running. However, they can also have a push – pull imbalance. There have been many 220+ pound rowers who could do 30+ pullups but not bench press their bodyweight. Adding a lifting and high rep calisthenics cycle to balance out upper body imbalances with exercises like bench press, military press, dips, pushups, and others can help create a well-rounded athlete ready for military service.
Running Athlete – It is a running person's game in many military programs. However, adding weight in a ruck requires preparing the posterior chain for weight bearing programming with exercises like dead lifts, squats, farmer walks, and hang cleans. Also, running athletes tend to neglect their upper body strength and stamina. Adding in a hard cycle of lifting and calisthenics will help build up for fitness testing qualifications and the follow-on training for military service.
Hybrid Athletes – Sports like lacrosse, wrestling, MMA fighters, and rowing tend to do well at certain special ops selections as they practice and train in many elements of fitness. They lift weights, do high repetition calisthenics, and run significantly on top of their aggressive team work and mental challenges in competition. However, neglecting certain skills like swimming (water comfort) for Navy SEAL, RECON, PJ, or rescue swimmer, or neglecting rucking (Ranger, SF, Marines) will challenge even the most experienced cross-trained athletes.
Hyper Mobile Athletes – Dancers, gymnasts, martial artists, even baseball players and others may not have issues with being inflexible, but might be so flexible that their joints are unstable. Laxity is not that common but can affect up to 5% of all athletes as it can be congenital as well as created after years of flexibility requirements of certain activities. These athletes also need to cross train with running, add weight training to create more stability in various joints (shoulders, elbows, knees, hips). However, pound for pound a few of these athletes are typically the strongest in body weight exercises, core strength, and grip (gymnast, dancers).
General Flexibility and Mobility
Most athletes can find a weakness in flexibility and mobility, unless you are a dancer, martial artist, gymnast, or a long-time yoga practitioner as discussed above. Stretching, foam rolling, dynamic stretches, and working the joints in full range of motion can be done in as little as 10 minutes a day. But even that can be neglected by the busy athlete. Consider it is part of your warmup or cooldown and do not skip it even if you have to do it separate from your regular workout schedule.