Tactical Strength and Conditioning Program

Tactical Strength and Conditioning Program

BLOCK-PERIODIZED TRAINING IMPROVES PHYSIOLOGICAL AND TACTICALLY RELEVANT PERFORMANCE IN NAVAL SPECIAL WARFARE OPERATORS

Abt JP, Oliver JM, Nagai T, et al.  JSCR 2016;30(1):39-52.

A review of the latest Tactical Strength and Conditioning Program from the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research

Big Time Takeaways:

1-You’re are more often to injure yourself at a bodyfat above 15%

2-For better health don’t just work on strength and stamina, work on agility, balance, accuracy, and coordination as well

3-Three intense weeks of training followed by a deload week showed improved ability to recover, lose bodyfat, and improve strength levels.

Special Operators of all services remain the most important weapon in current military conflicts.  They provide much more through the human element than any technology ever could and have much more of a vested interest in their performance than any professional athlete ever would – their lives depend on it.   High operational tempos in both training and deployment make it exceedingly tough, however, to stay in a rigid and consistent training/nutrition program.

Many of us in our daily lives feel the same burden of chaos in staying on a consistent program.

A recent paper looked at 85 Navy SEALs, who underwent a 4 week block periodized program with the control program being nonlinear & periodized.  A 4 week block periodized program utilizes a progression in resistance and workload over 3 weeks with a “deload” week during the 4th week.  We have written on such programs in the past and I currently use one at present.  What you are about to read is what program I’ll probably be using in the future…

Total study time 12 weeks (3 blocks) assessing physical, physiological, and performance outcome measures before and after the study period.

Pre- testing/posttesting was performed to assess body composition, aerobic capacity/lactate threshold, muscular strength, flexibility, landing biomechanics, postural stability, and tactically relevant performance.

Both groups displayed an increase in aerobic capacity and improved lower and upper body muscular power and upper body muscular endurance (stamina).

However, the experimental group also lost significantly more body fat (7 times as much actually), improved balance and landing ability, had increases in posterior shoulder flexibility and ankle dorsiflexion (control group actually lost mobility in the shoulder, knee, and ankle), and gained more in agility and total body muscular strength.

So, what kind of program did this experimental group undergo?  Is there something we can learn from the efforts of our special operators?

Experimental Protocol

Resistance training was performed before metabolic conditioning 4 days/week. Two other days for conditioning were performed for a total of 6 days of exercise per week.

The 12 week program was divided into three training blocks lasting 4 weeks each.  Each block targeted a specific performance characteristic with an unload week scheduled the fourth week of each block to allow for recovery before initiation of the next block of training.   We have seen this style of programming in many strength programs we’ve covered before such as 5/3/1.  The design of the block-periodization model training program was based on the biomechanical, musculoskeletal, and physiological characteristics of Naval Special Warfare (NSW) Operators previously tested to improve on activities deemed suboptimal. These activities were performed before exercise on those days in which resistance training was performed (4 days per week).

Tactical Strength and Conditioning Program

So….the breakdown on resistance training days were: Skills, then Resistance training, then Metabolic Conditioning (MC)

This progression is important because you want to work on skills (Coordination, Accuracy, Balance, Agility) when the nervous system is fresh and you definitely want to put strength before cardio.

Block 1: Develop basic abilities (Strength, Endurance, Coordination)

M – Upper and Lower Body Pulling; MC with intervals

T – Upper and Lower Body Pressing; Tempo endurance (25 min)

W – Slow endurance (30-60 min)

Th – Upper and Lower Body Pulling; MC with intervals

F – Upper and Lower Body Pressing; Temp endurance (25 min)

Sa – Slow endurance (30-60 min)

*Resistance training with 8-12 reps with 2-3 min rest between sets

Block 2: Develop Stamina and Power

M – Olympic Lifts (4-6 reps with 2-3 min rest interval); HIIT 15 min

T – Metabolic Circuit (10-15 reps every 60 sec)

W – Slow endurance (30-60 min)

Th – Olympic Lifts (4-6 reps with 2-3 min rest interval); HIIT 15 min

F – Metabolic Circuit (10-15 reps every 60 sec)

Sa – Slow endurance (30-60 min)

Block 3: Strength, Power, Tactical Drills at high intensity (and short rest)

M – Olympic lifts (3-5 reps with 2-3 min rest interval); Agility Drills

T – Maximal compound lifts (3-5 reps with 2-3 min rest interval); HIIT 25 min

W – Slow endurance (30-60 min)

Th – Olympic lifts (3-5 reps with 2-3 min rest interval); Agility Drills

F – Maximal compound lifts (3-5 reps with 2-3 min rest interval); HIIT 25 min

Sa – Slow endurance (30-60 min)

Thus, each of these blocks were conducted as described above with progression in weight and reps from week 1 to week 2 to week 3. Week 4 was a “deload week” where participants performed resistance training with a suspension sling (likely the TRx system)

Deload Week:

M – Upper body 4 sets of 10 with suspension trainer; Slow endurance (30-60 min)

T – Lower body 4 sets of 10 with suspension trainer; Slow endurance (30-60 min)

W – Off

Th – Physical Fitness Test

F – Slow endurance (30-60 min)

Sa – Off

Control Protocol

This was a nonlinear periodized program that varied in 2 week increments and repeated over the course of the 12 week program.  Although the program was not clear in detail from the article it appeared to mirror some of the strength training and Olympic lifting involved in the experimental protocol.  Each day of the 12-week block focused on the development of trainable characteristics congruent with the blocks of the experimental group.

Block 1: (2 weeks)

M – Strength training and Olympic lifts (3-5 reps); HIIT 15 min

T – Whole body resistance training (4-8 reps with 2-3 min rest interval between sets)

W – Slow endurance (30-60 min)

Th – Strength training and Olympic lifts (3-5 reps); HIIT 15 min

F – HIIT for strength for 25 min

Sa – Slow endurance (30-60 min)

Block 2: (2 weeks)

M – Tactical conditioning (O course, Sand Dune runs, etc)

T – HIIT

W – Slow endurance (30-60 min)

Th –  Tactical Conditioning

F – HIIT

Sa – Slow endurance (30-60 min)

Tactical Strength and Conditioning Program

To note, among NSW Operators, previous research has revealed a positive correlation between the percent body fat and injury count and determined 15% body fat as a threshold for injuries to begin becoming more common. When compared with this threshold, the current NSW Operators were just above the threshold. This implies that Operator training based on a block- periodization model may be more effective at reducing body fat below 15%. Maintaining a leaner body composition is important to optimize physical performance and decrease injury risk.

The experimental group engaged in plyometric exercises which have an advantage in improving landing technique.  Agility training has been shown to improve neuromuscular control of the quadriceps and hamstrings musculature, whereas strength training alone does not improve muscular reaction time. Given that anterior tibial translation forces are a primary factor in potential ACL ruptures, enhanced neuromuscular control of the knee joint alone would make agility training a worthwhile investment for Operators not currently using this method.

Here’s the program

https://www.healthandperformanceupdate.com/training/navysealfitness/

By: Lanny Littlejohn, MD

www.healthandperformanceupdate.com

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