Tactical Fitness: Mixing Power Lifting with Tactical Fitness Training

Tactical Fitness: powerlifting in the Army.

Mr. Smith,

I have a few questions regarding my current training and future preparation for a life of military service.  I have over a year to train before I enlist, so I would like some advice please. 


1. In my powerlifting program we do a lot of power cleans and my coach says it's a great exercise for powerlifters, bodybuilders, and athletes. Is there any way to incorporate them into the program I am starting to prepare for Army Special Forces?

I also came from a powerlifting and football playing background and found that it was near impossible to stay max rep strong and drop my mile pace. It is fine to lift heavy, but you may want to stop if you are trying to get your mile pace faster or your distance longer. For Army SF training you need to be a running and rucking machine.

You will not lose your skill or your strength, but it is tough to add endurance and stamina while you are lifting heavy.

2. How do I incorporate grip work such as farmer walks and power holds?

I like to do grip work on the same days I do pullups or rope climbs in my regular workout.  But you can add farmer walks and holds as either a grip or full body core workout supplement. Check out this grip program.

3. My gym also has a prowler sled, can I use that as well? If you want to add the prowler sled on leg days that is fine, but if you are not running and rucking, you are not getting better at running and rucking. You will see weights and prowlers again once you are finished with bootcamp, AIT, Airborne, Ranger, etc but getting to and through these type of training programs requires a different type of athletic skill.

4. I know I need to ruck. How do I get started and what do you recommend as far as a type of ruck?  Is using a weight vest ok?

A weight vest is a fine substitute for a ruck. But, half of rucking is getting your ruck perfectly fitted for you, your shoulders, lower back, getting the weight situated perfectly.  While you are progressing the weight vest is a great tool.  Check this page for the types of rucks you can consider. Learn how to pace yourself at varying speeds.

5.  I have a buddy who wrestles in college and sometimes he uses something called and "elevation mask." He says it helps increase his endurance and so forth. Should I invest in one? If so how do I implement it?

I do not think they are necessary.  Just work out hard.  No need for gimmicks.

Since you have over a year to train, complete your lifting cycle. But soon you will want to focus on a running, rucking, high rep calisthenics PT program. Your foundation in powerlifting will carry you far and you will find that you will not lose your strength, but if you stop running, it's easy to quickly lose gains in cardiovascular endurance.  And when you lift again after your selection training programs, you will see old max rep lifts back to normal within a 4-6 week cycle.

Good luck.

Stew Smith works as a presenter / editorial board with the Tactical Strength and Conditioning program of the National Strength and Conditioning Association and is Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS).  There are also over 800 articles on Military.com Fitness Forum focusing on a variety of fitness, nutritional, and tactical issues military members face throughout their career.

Latest Fitness Books: Navy SEAL Weight Training and Tactical Fitness

Show Full Article