Soldiers need to know how to keep themselves fit and healthy so we explored the 3 things every tactical athlete must know during our seminar at the Canadian Grenadier Guards. I spent a Tuesday night with coach LP explaining to soldiers of the Canadian Grenadier Guards the importance of strength training, sleep and self-myofascial release. This seminar is part of my “Keeping Our Warfighters Fighting” protocol for members of the military.
What Is A Tactical Athlete?
A tactical athlete is a person with the physical ability, stamina and strength to function on the battlefield.
Tactical athletes possess:
- High levels of physical endurance
- Exceptional stamina
- Excellent agility and mobility
- Superior levels of strength
- Extraordinary mental toughness
Basically, in order to be a good soldier, you need to be a good athlete. This may come as a shock but soldiering is hard AF. Combat arms troops know this better than their Air Force counterparts (I can’t help myself to take a shot there). The reality on the ground for an infantry troop is that it’s going to be extremely physically demanding. In order to be able to close with and destroy an enemy, the 5 attributes above must be well-dialled in.
I’m a firm believer that we can dramatically improve the morale and lethality of our military if we just focused on not letting our soldiers break. The research exists. It just needs some “out of the box” leadership to apply some low-touch, high-value protocols at the section and unit level. This is why I love going to units like the CGG to share some of these simple protocols so that a handful of their troops can avoid the avoidable consequences I fell prey to.
- In the Canadian Armed Forces, we have approximately two thousand medical releases every year and 60% of those are released due to physical injuries.
- The average battle load of a British infantry soldier has progressively increased since the Boer War; from 27kg to a whopping 56kg or 123 lbs in Afghanistan.
- Limited ankle dorsiflexion increases the risk for mid-portion Achilles tendinopathy in infantry recruits.
- Increased body mass 98kg v. 87kg, significantly reduces failure rates on tactical police selection.
A 2.4km run time slower than 11 mins significantly increases the chances of injury.
Dr. Kelly Starrett, who has been a guest on The Hard To Kill Podcast numerous times, has worked with loads of American military units and said the following on my podcast:
What we need to do is say…here is the most robust a person we can create, in this moment and we’re going to minimize the degradation of this person during this combat mission. They’re gonna get back and we’re going to help rebuild that system to the best of our ability. Our hypothesis is that we can do better. If we have someone in the Marine Corps not retire on full disability, that’s a win.” – Dr. Kelly Starrett
The 3 Things Every Tactical Athlete Must Know
How To Sleep
“Sleep Or Die – The 30 Minutes That Might Save Your Life”
I had a chat with Dr. Kirk Parsley on The Hard To Kill Podcast about how he helped his Navy SEALs overcome their irritability, loss of strength and chronic pain issues through the power of sleep. As a Navy SEAL himself, he knew the effects poor sleep can have on his performance.
Here are the main takeaways for sleep:
- No sleep equals no growth (no muscle mass)
- No growth equals no testosterone
- No testosterone equals fat, tired, unhealthy
- Fix it tonite and do these 3 things:
- Make your bedroom cold (<18 deg C)
- Make your bedroom really dark (no lights from electronics)
- No cell phone, tablet, or laptop 2 hrs before bedtime
How To Eat
“Use Your D*ck Beaters For Something Productive”
I’ve struggled with my weight since I was a kid. Now that i’m in my 40s it’s even harder to maintain a stable weight without a solid set of SOPs for nutrition. The easiest way to ensure you get the right amount of macro and micro nutrients every day is to use my FPT method.
FPT stands for Fist, Palm, Thumb. It’s a way to measure out your food, per meal, without breaking out the scale. Fair warning, you’re likely WAY undereating protein and need to get that sorted today. If you’re not eating well, you can forget about gains and progress. Especially if your goal is to improve athletic performance, nutrition is likely your biggest deficiency after PT.
So simple even you can do this. Your next meal needs to look like this. That also means you need to plan your meals ahead of time.
Don’t start getting lost in the weeds with whether you should do “paleo”, “keto” or eat only bull testicles and horse liver. Get the basics down first. This is the basics. You’re likely going to a massive increase in energy and feelings of well-being if you try this and stick with it for at least a month.
How To Train
“Train Hard, Fight Easy”
It should go without saying but your fitness level directly correlates to your effectiveness on the battlefield. Don’t let it slip, EVER. I spent a year getting physically ready to deploy and it saved my ass. Here are some of the main takeaways you need to apply to be more well-rounded than just a typical Army runner.
Apply the concept of minimum effective dose (MED).
- 20 mins of medium-grade activity a day (ie walking)
- 1 x heavy lifting session per week (typically 5 sets of 5 reps style program)
Don’t confuse exercise with training.
- Exercising is being active without a specific goal in mind. Training has a specific goal in mind. Always have a plan. Can’t figure out what plan to do? Reach out to us.
The Power of Soft Tissue Work
- Break out the foam rollers and lacrosse balls every day or every week at a bare minimum
- Find your trouble spots and tissue smash them and take the pain because the pain you’ll have later with herniations and arthritis will be significantly more devastating. Start with my 3 BEST SMR EXERCISES here.
Your PT Standards
As a former infantry officer and senior NCO, I’ve seen a lot of troops come and go. Getting ready for a basic course or DP1 takes some structure so that you can show up fit and not get sent home due to a preventable lower body injury like shin splints.
Here are my standards before heading out to BMQ (Basic training). If you want to get yourself up to these standards with a proven method, then head to my app and begin your 8 week training plan today.
If you’ve completed your basic training and are now embarking on the next phase of your military career and what to smash through to some new PT levels, then our Alpha Military Program is designed for you. This is significantly harder than the DP1 standards and the program is a lot more gym-focused. You’re gonna be sore. It’s a great way to expose your weaknesses and get yourself super dialled in for PLQ, Ranger School, Phase 3 or any other demanding Army career course.
This is just scratching the surface of how to get yourself sorted with PT and health. I recommend you start using the challenges I put forth here and start applying them one at a time. The best time to start investing in your health and PT was yesterday.
For loads of free info on health and fitness for the tactical athlete, subscribe to my Hard To Kill Podcast, voted the best veteran Army podcast in the world, and be the first to hear about cutting-edge research and training tips from some of the world’s best experts.
Other useful resources:
Join the DMPT Hard To Kill Facebook group. Come learn with thousands of other troops and veterans how to get fit, remain fit and become harder to kill.
Listen and watch special episodes of The Hard To Kill Podcast on the Hard To Kill Youtube Channel. Loads of fitness-related videos for the warfighter and educational How Tos to keep you fit to fight.
Train Hard, Fight Easy.
Dave is a retired infantry officer and Afghanistan war veteran. He’s the creator of the HRD2KILL training programs that were built on the principles that got him from not being able to get out of bed to competing in the Crossfit Open, Spartan Races and the the Ironman. You can find more mobility based exercises in his new book, “The Nimble Warrior”, now available on Apple Books and Amazon or tune into his new HRD2KILL Podcast