31 August 2012

Some notes on PT for the Irregular Force

It's gotta be a man thing. Every guy I know thinks he's in shape. It doesn't matter if he weighs 245, with 27% bodyfat, and the only "athletic" activity in his life is performing 12oz curls while watching NASCAR, motherfucker is convinced he's an Olympic-caliber athlete.
Folks, I'm going to let you in on a secret...unless you have a measurable, quantified assessment in place for your PT standards, just like you do for your marksmanship standards (you DO have marksmanship standards, right?) you're not in shape. How can I say this unequivocally? Because it's the truth. Without standards in place to measure against, you don't have any way of verifying, which is the same thing as saying it's just not the case.
Combat, whether a knock-down, drag-out, stomp on their throats brawl behind the bar, a quick skirmish in the swampy jungle, a firefight in the mountain vastness, or a close-quarters gunfight in an urban area, is one of the single most physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually taxing endeavors you will ever undertake. It doesn't compare to chores, no matter how much farm work you do keeping up with your two dozen chickens and three hogs. It doesn't compare to gym work, no matter how much you bench press. It doesn't compare to running down the street in sneakers and gym shorts. That's not to say those don't matter, because they do (well, except possibly the running part). It's just that, if you don't tailor your PT to your goals, and measure your gains to ensure you're still making gains, you will not be in the type of shape you need to be in when the balloon goes up.
Lots of guys in the liberty/preparedness/survivalist community come up with excuses regarding why they can't do PT. "I'm too tired after work" (I've used that one myself), "I can't afford gym fees," "I can't afford to purchase a home gym set-up," "I've got old injuries that PT only makes hurt too much," "I don't want to get all big and 'swole' like a gay-ass bodybuilder." They're all excuses, and they're all horseshit.

"I'm too tired after work." Think you're NOT going to be tired when surviving in an UW environment? There are professional athletes who built their conditioning program and athletic prowess while working extremely physical, blue-collar, labor jobs. Take a few minutes off from work to relax and unwind, go for a walk to cool off, then hit the fucking weights. Quit being a pussy.

"I can't afford gym fees." Bullshit. You don't need a gym membership, but even if you did, you can afford your six-pack of beer, your cigarettes, your Copenhagen (my sinful habit), and a Big Mac for lunch everyday. You can afford your Starbucks Super-Duper-Extra-Mocha-Chocolatta-Wanna-Be-A-Fat-Ass. Gym fees are not that fucking expensive. But, like I said, you don't need a gym membership, and are probably better off without one.

"I can't afford a home gym set-up." This one is complete, unfettered horseshit. How many fucking guns do you own? If you've got more than a sidearm, a fighting carbine, and a .22LR, you're full of shit. I'm the last guy in the world that's going to insult anyone for owning lots of guns, but if you are sincerely dedicated to fighting and killing your enemies, you need to possess the fundamental attributes necessary in combat, of which physical conditioning is certainly one of the foremost. Sell a gun and buy a home gym. You need a squat rack, an Olympic-style weight bar, a minimum of 300lbs of Olympic-style weight-plates, and a bench...maybe a 100lb heavy bag as well. Not too much, and you can pretty easily find it all for less than the cost of a decent AR15.
"I've got old injuries that PT only makes hurt too much." Again, unmitigated horseshit. I've had a broken back, a broken hip, both knees have been blown out, and both shoulders have severe rotator-cuff damage. I jumped out of airplanes, carrying as much as 200-plus pounds of gear strapped to my body, in the middle of the night, for nearly a decade. I've done serious combat sports like judo and Brazilian ju-jitsu for over twenty years. I know about old injuries, and I'm telling you, right now, a solid PT program will do nothing but help you in this regard. End of story.
"I don't want to get all big and 'swole' like a gay-ass bodybuilder." Good thing, because unless you're juicing, it ain't gonna happen, and even then it probably won't. So, quit being a fag, and start doing PT.

There's a couple different considerations when looking at developing a PT program for tactical applications.

Strength Training
A lot of supposed experts like to brag about their relative strength. This is how strong they are, relative to their own body weight. Gymnasts tend to have extremely high relative strength. Unfortunately, if you're a 120lb stringbean, your 1:1.5 relative strength is completely irrelevant compared to my 210lb 1:1 relative strength. Yes, you have higher relative strength, but I'm still going to put your fucking head through the wall, because my absolute strength is way the fuck higher. Push-ups and burpees are cool. Christ knows, they can be a smoking good exercise. However, they are NOT the end-all, be-all of tactical fitness training. Guys, you need to be lifting iron. The ONLY way you will get stronger, and then continue getting stronger, is to lift progressively heavier shit. I'm not a strength coach, nor do I play one on television, but I've had a lot of experience teaching people to get strong enough to fuck up other people. This is not a book on strength training, so I'll recommend some reading.
1) Starting Strength by Mark Rippetoe.
2) The Strongest Shall Survive: Strength Training for Football by Bill Starr.
Read them both, and learn the skills they teach. Master them. While Starr's book was originally written specifically for football (he was actually the first strength coach in the NFL), it is all about getting stronger and more athletic. Written in the 70s, it's still relevant. Evolution doesn't work that fast.

Rippetoe is an awesome coach, and an extremely funny motherfucker. I like him particularly well because he may actually be as profane, and irreverent as I am.
Some Rippetoe gems:
"If you can't train and work in a warehouse at the same time, you probably have ovarian cancer. Consult your gynecologist."
On the ethics of meat eating:
"Okay, have you ever been around chickens? They are stupid, uncooperative, inconvenient, ill-tempered creatures. They get what they deserve. Fuck chickens."
"Any idiot can get on a treadmill and watch TV and then take great pride in the fact they've 'exercized'".
"There are few things graven in stone, except that you have to squat or you're a pussy."
"Strong people are harder to kill than weak people, and more useful in general."
"The deadlift is more functional in that it’s very hard to imagine a more useful application of strength than picking heavy shit up off the ground. "
If you appreciate the irreverence and profane honesty of my writing, you'll dig Rippetoe's. I promise.
If you're too cheap to buy the books, check out the Stronglifts 5x5 website for an Reader's Digest-condensed version of these types of lifting programs. In the meantime, here's some concepts to consider:
Focus on multiple-joint, compound movement exercises. They allow you to lift more weight, which makes you stronger, and they are more "functional" in the idea that this is how your body actually works. The only time I try to "isolate" a muscle in the real world is when I isolate my trigger finger make my marksmanship more accurate. "Isolation" strength training is fucking gay (and I don't mean gay in the "cool," socially-acceptable, "I like it in the ass" sense of the word. I mean, it's fucking GAY!).
Nature doesn't give two shits how strong you are relative to your body weight. It only cares how strong you are relative to the task at hand. That is referred to as absolute strength. More absolute strength is ALWAYS better than less. That is inarguable, so don't bother trying.
Ignore the bodybuilders in the gym. You should be interested in athletic performance, not aesthetics. That having been said, if you focus on getting stronger, you will LOOK stronger too. Chicks dig that, trust me....even your wife will appreciate it, but more importantly, you will BE stronger, instead of just looking stronger. Focus on complex, multi-joint, compound-movement exercises (didn't I say that already? Remember high school, when the teacher told you to pay special attention to the shit she said repeatedly? It applies). These include the squat, deadlift, overhead press, bench press, power cleans, and shit like that. It most definitely does NOT include leg curls, bicep curls, or other retarded lifts like that.
Look, I grew up in the pre-GWOT Ranger Regiment. That meant we ran. We ran a lot. We ran 6-8 miles a day, at a 6:30-7:00 minute/mile pace. Twice a month, we ran a half-marathon. I consistently ran a sub-12:30 two-miles on my APFT. It was actually kind of cool. I could bench over 300lbs, squat close to 500lbs, and run that fast. I'd go home on leave and run with a high-school buddy who was a college track athlete. It'd drive him bat-shit crazy, because here I was, big, strong, scary dude (who'd been the proverbial 100lb weakling in high school), who could run just as fast as he could (I didn't say he was a particularly GOOD college track athlete). Yeah, it was cool.
The only shitty part was...running for tactical fitness is pointless. It does not, in any way, shape, or form, prepare you for combat effectiveness. Even the Rhodesian light-infantry and Selous Scouts in the 70s that did these ridiculously long runs to escape overwhelmingly enemy forces, did it with their fighting gear on. The reality is, running in shorts and sneakers uses completely different muscle groups and makes different energy systems demands on the body than running and sprinting in your fighting load.
Is there a need and place for long-sustained distance work in tactical fitness? Absolutely, there is. But strapping on your Nikes, a pair of panty-length shorts, and running down the street is NOT the type of cardio you need.
Instead, a couple of times a week, do 2-3 miles with a rucksack on. Load it as heavy as you can safely manage, and go as fast as you can. Build up to doing it with a 60-70lb load, at a 10:00 minute/mile pace. Don't tell me you're too old to do it. In Afghanistan in 2001, Billy Waugh was running circles around young guys in the mountains of the Hindu Kush, and dude was in his fucking 70s at the time!
There are operational SOF guys today who are doing it, with prosthetic legs. So, quit being a pussy. On your non-rucking days, do sprints. Run as fast as you can, for 50, 100, 200, 400, or 800 meters, with your fighting load on, or a similarly weighted load (don't go traipsing through suburbia with your LCE and weapon. It's as stupid as open-carrying to make a political point by scaring soccer moms). Develop a plan to incorporate metabolic conditioning, along the lines of Crossfit, into your PT program. Do bodyweight exercise variants of met-con circuits with your fighting load on.
Try burpees with your plate carrier on. It sucks. Ask me how I know.
Gunfights are short, intensive bursts of high speed activity, interspersed between longer periods of less intensive activity. Are there 20-hour gunfights? Absolutely. Is anyone involved running and gunning for the entire 20 hours? Fuck no. You need the ability to go full-bore, high-speed boogie for a minute or two, and then recover quickly, before doing the full-tilt boogie-woogie for a minute or two again.

On farm work for PT:
Guys, I know that historically, insurgents have come from rural farming backgrounds and the toughness they developed from working in the fields was more than adequate to help them survive in unconventional warfare.
There's a couple problems with using that paradigm for future reference.
On the one hand, you won't be fighting a third-world military. You will be fighting security force personnel who are extremely well-fed, and have ready access to some of the best gyms and fitness science professionals to coach them.
On another hand, I don't care how tough you think your work regimen is, it doesn't compare to some third-world campesinos. Hell, it doesn't compare to what a migrant laborer in this country puts up with. You get done with your chores on your hobby farm, then go inside your nice house and sleep in your nice bed, next to your nice wife. You use all kinds of technology to make your chores easier, and you get plenty of food to eat. You are not a third-world farmworker, fella. It don't compute.
I live in the intermountain West. I know full-time working cowboys on big ranches. These guys are nothing but bone, muscle, and gristle. They spend their days in the saddle, fighting raunchy horses, and raunchier cattle, in nasty, rough, terrain, in all types of mountain and desert weather. They are as tough as any group of men I've ever met, but they also know they aren't going to take on a fucking infantry platoon of professional warfighters and win.
Do your PT, and quit making excuses.

(This is intended as a quick, down and dirty, overview of some of my thoughts on PT for UW. It is not in the vein of most of my articles where I describe specific TTPs to follow to improve your tactical expertise. That's because there is plenty of information out there, easily available, on the relevant subjects. Do the research, and stick with it....but do your PT. A suggestion made during the AAR in the recent open-enrollment class was that I throw out a specific set of PT standards that guys should be able to accomplish as a pre-requisite for attending my classes. I'm not going to do that, for a couple of reasons, but most importantly of all for two reasons.
1) If I gave you my personal standards, you'd either shit yourself and crawl back into bed with the Missus, thinking I'm a fucking nut-case, or,
2) You'd be so discouraged you'd refuse to even consider a class.
Nevertheless, guys, do your fucking PT.)

Nous Defions!
John Mosby
Somewhere (new) in the Mountains


  1. Thanks for more toe stomping brother. This is not as fun as painting my rifle. -55six

  2. John,

    Thanks for the kick in the ass.


  3. :-)

    Good stuff. Agree 100%.

    Keep it up.

  4. JM- can you share the standards for your classes? (maybe I missed it in a previous post)I've been ramping up my PT. I realize some of us have been so idle that we'll need to rebuild some structure before going to training in load outs. guys just need to use commons sense. If you can't run a couple miles now in shorts, I would think it dangerous to try it in field kit and risk injury that delays you further from getting into shape.

    And I agree this all should have happened yesterday.

  5. Craigslist is awesome for strength training gear. I just picked up almost 300 lbs. of olympic plates for $100. Way way cheaper than retail.

  6. Like a lot of others I don't exersize like I should ,BUT; I havn't run the qween since Jimmy pennut was prez.I'm in my 50s ,have had cancer twice, my bones HURT, and am way too old for this shit thats commin'. Having had my wine, I can still walk 20 miles, am a damn good shot, and remember most of that 11-B shit. The fact is, WHEN it gets sporty a lot of us are gonna have to improve, FAST, or die. A lot of em' are gonna die.We all need to deal with that, cause WHEN this go,s bad we are ALL gonna be ass deep in a hot LZ. Keep tellin'em' to GOYA John we need to get our asses in gear.

  7. Lol!
    Excellent points sir. I've been banged up for a few yrs but now I'm on the right track again. Still a little ways to go, but I'll stop when im dead.
    I do realize, however, my days as an effective rifleman are limited, so I'm starting to learn new tasks. First is lock picking. Next will be computer security shit to learn everything i can about getting into places in cyberspace where I don't belong.
    Above all, I think the most critical skill I need to learn is how to [i]teach[/i]!
    If you think you're too old or not quite in shape enough, learn something useful, folks. Turn off the tv and learn how to do [i]somethng[/i] useful. First aid, driving a truck, operating machinery, chemistry (:)), cyber warfare, good old fashioned spy craft, the list is long and skills of all sorts will be required. Minimize idle downtime, but don't burn out.
    Dan Knowles

  8. One of the things I've been learning over the last few months, after years of bad diet and no exercise - if you're overweight, out of shape, and have no energy for exercise, fix your diet.

    Odds are you have metabolic syndrome: central obesity + high triglycerides + low HDLs + high blood pressure.

    You're not overweight because you eat too much, or unable to exercise because you are too lazy, you're in a state of cellular starvation because your insulin levels are chronically too high. All those carbs you're eating are going straight into fat, and not into energy for your muscles, and that's why you are overweight and have no energy for exercise.

    And it doesn't matter how you try to starve yourself, or how hard you push yourself to get more exercise, nothing will change until you get your insulin levels down.

    And the only way to do that is to cut out the carbs.

    Over time your weight will drop, your blood tests will improve. But almost immediately, you'll see a significant increase in energy. Your changed metabolism will push you into exercise to burn off the excess energy. (And if you've as much stored fat as most of us, you'll have plenty of excess energy to burn.)

    If you're lean, in reasonable shape, and generally in good health, ignore me. But if you're not, try a no-carb diet for two weeks, and see how you feel.

  9. Just train where you live. Anything is better than nothing but if it was easy, everyone could do it. The mental toughness and the physical toughness will go hand in hand, the mental toughness will lead to physical toughness during your PT sessions.
    Just walk out the front of your residence and walk fast for 1 hour then turn around and walk back. Starting is just that easy. If you can do it good now with an extra 40 lbs of body fat, you can do it with a light combat load later. Just loose the fat and fast. Time is short. An extreme diet is mental toughness. It won't get any easier when there just isn't any food to be had so might as well get used to it now and lose the fat. Mental toughness; just keep doing it and quit complaining.

  10. No one puts the fear of God in me like you do John, when it comes to such things. Graduate school is a tough act to balance with war preparations. But dang it, I'm doing the best I can. My biggest fear is being useless, and even if I turn out that way, no one will deny that I tried.

  11. Great moto post Mosby. I dig it.

  12. PT is important....no question about that. And everyone can do "something".
    But, an unfortunate fact of life is we all get old...some of us age faster than
    others. This means that for all of us a day will arrive where we simply cannot
    PT effectively. For a few that day will be in their 80's for a few truly unfortunate souls that day may arrive at half that age. But sooner or later
    Mother Nature is going to hand us all a yellow card. Personally I am plenty
    strong....I just have no cardio endurance. And it's not a PT issue....it's
    organic, as in a lack of blood flow to the lungs preventing aerobic activity
    above a certain level. Shit happens....we must adapt. For me that means I
    might not be able to cover ground fast enough, therefore I must be willing to take as many of them with me as possible. We all die....we don't all live.

  13. "But, an unfortunate fact of life is we all get old...some of us age faster than
    others. This means that for all of us a day will arrive where we simply cannot
    PT effectively."

    This is true, but...

    I'm not the only person who put down my increasing lethargy and growing decrepitude to an inevitable consequence of aging - when it was, in fact, a direct result of the toxic diet I was eating.

    Try fixing your diet, and you may see your ability to PT - and your desire to PT - increase significantly.

  14. Nothing will fix some physiologic problems.....if you have pulmonary artery stenosis
    no amount of PT will increase the amount of blood flow to your lungs and thus oxygen to
    the body. I'd love to take a class like this.....but the physical demands are simply beyond
    my 55 year old body with the non fixable pathology's it has. That means I can't fight the
    physical fight for an extended time frame.....I have to lay low, be subtle, blend in and wait
    for an opportunity.

  15. Dan,
    That's fine. There are certainly people who simply CANNOT, for whatever reason, achieve any semblance of functional physical fitness at a level commensurate with successfully prosecuting military/paramilitary operations. I get that. Don't fool yourself however, into believing that you're going to pull off some Gunny Hathcock sniper mission and slink away after the fact. Go back, re-read some of the older posts on the blog, and look at ways to implement the beginnings of an auxiliary role within your area. Can you provide a re-supply point for your community defense force? Can you provide medical aid, or a safehouse/hospital? Can you drive a pick-up, pulling a trailer full of horseshit that the community defense force can use to smuggle bodies through VCPs?

  16. Actually I wasn't thinking along the lines of slinking away like Gunny Hathcock.
    I was thinking more along the lines of wearing hospital scrubs etc. and getting up close and personal to do maximum damage to high value targets before the hired help stepped in. One thing you learn as you age...and develop health issues, is that death isn't all that scary anymore. Especially if that death has some kind of value. If things truly turn Orwellian and a reincarnation of
    Stalin takes power I don't plan on being able to run with the young bucks. I plan on blending in and biding my time till I can charge a price from the regime for my departure from this earth. I was told in 1987 I had a disease...
    the first word of which was "lethal". Every year since then has been a bonus.
    If the dice roll says it's time for me to go I have no problems with going, but if there are those who need to be dealt with I wouldn't mind taking a couple with me.

  17. Dan, I'd agree with John. It's not flashy, but your local militia is going to need supply lines, safe houses, recruiters, medical support, intelligence, and a variety of other mundane support that doesn't involve pulling a trigger. Being an "upstanding citizen" allows you to do things that identified militia can't; like going to the super market. Someone who can keep the beans and bandages coming without getting caught is a lot more valuable than trying to lone wolf a target.

  18. I love it when Mosby uses words to hurt my self esteem.
    I only wish he could do it in person, wearing a dominatrix outfit whilst whipping me mercilessly with a riding crop...

  19. Many thanks from many thousands kilometers away !

    Let's get out and do it.

  20. I agree with this article

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  22. So John,
    Maybe if you asked nicely and didn't hurt my feelings I would be more receptive,but you didn't mean train when its raining, cold, or too hot right. O-k you're right. I'll wash the sand out my Clit and Ranger the fuck up. Great stuff brother