This Workout Will Help You Ramp Up Your Tactical Fitness

A senior airman performs one-arm dumbbell rows in the Predator Fitness Center at Creech Air Force Base, Nevada.
A senior airman performs one-arm dumbbell rows in the Predator Fitness Center at Creech Air Force Base, Nevada, Dec. 11, 2014. (Airman 1st Class Christian Clausen/U.S. Air Force photo)

If you are training to become a tactical athlete within the military, police or firefighting professions or are currently serving. In that case, you may have struggled with your programming to "get good at everything."

“Good at everything” is the basic training dogma of those working to become a completely well-rounded athlete. It means you have the following fitness elements: strength, power, speed, agility, grip, muscle stamina, endurance, flexibility and mobility. As you can see in the diagram below, a lot goes into these professions, depending on your specialty, but all of them improve optimal performance and longevity:

Tactical athlete graphic

Once you have a decent foundation for your training goals and general fitness, consider the following method to maintain or see improvements as well.

The Warm-up

As you age, you may find that a five-minute jog or bike ride is not enough to warm up before a workout. Try this classic half-pyramid jogging/walking model to help you not only warm up but also maintain your calisthenics base:

If you are doing an upper-body day, try these one to 10 half pyramid (ladder) warm-ups of push-ups (and pull-ups) mixed with short runs, jumping rope or biking, if needed. It looks like this:

  • 1 pull-up, 1 push-up, jog 50 meters (or 10 jump ropes/jumping jacks or 10 seconds of biking/rowing)
  • 2 pull-ups, 2 push-ups, jog 50 meters
  • 3 pull-ups, 3 push-ups, jog 50 meters
  • Keep going up to when you feel warm or stop at 10 for 55 pull-ups and push-ups as your warmup.

Finish the warm-up with a five- to 10-minute jog or bike ride.

The Workout

This lift can be exchanged with any upper-body lift day you prefer, but the key is to place it here between the calisthenics warmup and the cardio cooldown.

Repeat 3-4 times.

  • Bench press 5-10 reps (pick weight that allows this range -- no more, no less)
  • Dumbbell rows 5/arm (do on a bench in-between sets as a "rest set")
  • Cardio recovery of 10 minutes before the next lift event.

Repeat 3-4 times.

  • Weight vest pull-ups max*
  • Weight vest push-ups max*
  • Dumbbell biceps curls 10
  • Dumbbell military press 10
  • Minimum rest between this pull-push circuit.

* Weight vest of 10-20 pounds

If you must maintain core exercises like planks and sit-ups (or both), this is a good time to add a little core activity before the cardio cooldown. Usually, a few sets of sit-ups and planks are a good balance to help you maintain or improve your fitness testing scores.

Cardio Cooldown

This is for maintenance or improvement of any running, swimming or rucking event you must prepare for in regularly scheduled fitness tests or upcoming advanced training opportunities. If you have multiple options for your job, consider picking running on your upper-body days, rucking on your leg days and swimming, which can be a cardio-only day mixed with mobility work.

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you're looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to

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