Ask Stew: How to Train for Special Forces When You're a Teen

Infantrymen assigned to 2nd Battalion, 35th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, scan and rush to their objective during squad room-clearing training as part of a special forces combatives training program. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Armando R. Limon)

Many young adults begin to prepare for military training by playing sports, weight lifting and learning teamwork and mental toughness that will help ready them for future military challenges, while others will get involved in martial arts, skateboarding, band or academic clubs.

A cross section of society will find its way to the military. The military is stronger for this diversity, but the one common denominator is that, eventually, you need to prepare your body for the work capacity and durability required by your future profession.

One cannot rely on basic training to get into military shape. You need to join with a foundation of fitness so you do not injure yourself or fall to over-training symptoms such as shin splints, tendonitis or, worse rhabdomyolysis.

Here is a sample question from a young man seeking to serve with very challenging future selection programs in his future:

Hello, Mr. Smith.

I'm 15 years old. I currently play football and am looking to join the wrestling team and possibly a spring sport. Since I can remember, I've wanted to join the military and serve my country like my dad did. As of right now, my goal is to become a Green Beret. I'm doing a lot of powerlifting because of football. I know that having that background can help me on things such as rucking and obstacle courses, but I also know that I will need to work on my muscular and cardiovascular endurance. I have begun working on a fitness plan to help me achieve my goals of Special Forces. Any suggestions? -- Jack

Dear Jack,

Football and wrestling are great for several things that will help prepare you for special ops. These sports will help you develop strength and power for load-bearing activities, speed and agility for fire and movement, and learning to endure pain to develop mental toughness. Wrestling is excellent for cardiovascular health, muscle stamina, combative activity and one-on-one mental toughness that will go a long way into building you a solid soldier.

In season, I would focus on your sports rather than adding more workouts. By adding workouts into the mix, you might negatively affect your sports performance. However, during the off-season, you should start mixing in a combination of lifts, calisthenics, and running longer distances -- 2 to 5 miles built up over time.

Try to follow these rules when putting together training programs:

Don't work the same muscle groups daily. Alternate upper-body and leg workouts every other day. Supplement calisthenics using the same muscle groups on days you lift, such as push-ups on days you do bench presses or squats and lunges with no weight on days you do squats/deadlifts with weights. This will help mix in some muscle stamina.

Focus on running or lifting. If you're working to get faster at running, don't do heavy one-repetition maximum lifts with your legs, as both activities will suffer. You can still run after lifting, but do not expect to get much faster in timed runs and do not run too much or you could lose the strength benefits of lifting that day.

Mix in calisthenics. When not in a lifting cycle, doing legs days for running, mix in calisthenics squats/lunges like this:

In closing, my No. 1 recommendation is to be a kid while you can. Play sports, have fun and learn how to be a good team player. That is a great skill to go into the military with -- knowing how to work as a team with your peers. And finally, join the military when you finish growing and are fully prepared, not just because you turn 18 years old.

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