Tactical Fitness: How Much is Too Much?

Tactical Fitness: Pushup count.

Here is a great question about pre- military training for special ops-world fitness levels.  This young man is preparing for what will be very tough physically and mentally – SEAL Training.  The days are physically grinding and all candidates get to a point where they have to dig deep mentally to keep pushing themselves physically.

So, the question:  How do I prepare for this type of training so I can do well without hurting myself in the process?

This is a great question and it is very smart to think about training in these terms because there is a fine line between being mentally tough and being stupid. Here are some rules I recommend following when preparing for a training cycle that can include running 30-40 miles a week and doing several hundred pushups each day. And, in general, these routines include long days of moving; you’ll often be doing something all day and some nights while wet and cold.

The key is to have a strong fitness foundation of running and swimming. Building up your cardio-vascular system and joints to handle 30 or more miles of running and 2-3 miles of ocean swims with fins on a weekly basis requires a progressive plan of swimming with fins and running. You should build up to 30-35 miles a week over the course of 4-6 months even if you are already reaching 10-15 miles each week.  Try to go even longer if you are just starting your running program. 

The second point is to build up muscle stamina for the countless pushups and other calisthenics. But, like with running, you can overdo it with too much calisthenics for too many days each week.  I follow the 5TIMES Rule.  Take your current max reps in any exercise and multiply it by 5. This number is the average number of reps you should be doing every other day. 

For instance:

If you can do 20 pullups, 80 pushups, and 80 situps, a good and challenging calisthenics workout would be 100 pullups, 400 pushups and situps. That may sound like a lot of reps to you – well, it is!  And when you hit this kind of volume in a workout, you need to recover. It is all relative however.  If you can only do 10 pullups, 40 pushup, and 40 situps, it is too much to do 50 pullups, 200 pushups, and 200 situps day after day after day.

NOTE – any time you do that many situps, you should follow it with as many seconds in the plank pose working the lower back. So 400 situps requires 400 seconds in plank total in a workout; 6-7 one minute sets will do the trick.

Still Too Much – If you are well above your 5x max repetition total during a workout too often, you will pay, usually with some form of tendonitis of the elbow, shoulder-to-chest connections, or bicep connections (worked in pushups, pullups, and dips).  So take it easy on the 1000 rep workouts and 250 pullups workouts. I am not saying you cannot push yourself every now and then and test those numbers, but be smart and recover, rest, and go back to normal numbers and split routines of moderate reps in your workouts for a month or so before doing too much again.  Your joints will thank you for it.

PS:  Just because you have to do daily pushups at BUDS does not mean you should do it before BUDS.

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

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