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The Tactical Athlete
Mark D. Stephenson, CSCS,*D, ATC

1.1 The Tactical Athlete
A new breed of athletes help to protect our communities.


1.2 Rest and Recovery

Learn the importance of proper rest intervals and recovery stategies.

1.4 Suspension Training

ho is the Tactical Athlete? The Tactical Athlete is anyone whose operational readiness requires speed, strength, agility, endurance, and quickness. In other words, most military, police, firefighters, and rescue personnel that are forced to perform in the tactical environment to execute their mission/ operations. Based on the physical needs and skills required to successfully carry out their job duties it is necessary for these individuals to physically condition and prepare themselves as if they were professional athletes.

field events1. However, unlike the modern day athlete, these soldiers were not training for specific sports. They were training to be stronger, and more powerful and agile than their enemies on the battlefield. Their superior athletic prowess was developed for the primary purpose of becoming physically prepared for battle. Ironically, the traits that we generally consider to be components of athleticism were requisite based on the demands of war. Thus, many of the first competitive athletes were actually soldiers. Typically, the tactical operator devotes time to improving operational skill without much focus on improving operational strength, conditioning and/or nutrition. Unfortunately, this does not adequately prepare the officer/operator for operational fitness or readiness. As with a professional athlete, a professional operator in the law enforcement community is obligated to maintain a certain level of operational fitness. By implementing the latest cutting edge training methods and fundamental scientific principles, the TSAC program focuses on enhancing athleticism for today’s tactical operator. Thus, the tactical athlete is born. 

Re-discover an exercise method that strengthens the total body.

1.8 Exercise Technique: The Turkish Get-Up
Learn how to develop total body strength, stability, and coordination using this old strongman exercise.

The Tactical Strength and Conditioning (TSAC) program’s primary purpose is to develop operational fitness for Military and Law Enforcement personnel. When developing a comprehensive strength and conditioning program, operators and officers must consider the physical demands of operational related activities in order to optimize physical performance. Physical training for operational performance is not a new concept. In fact, throughout history warriors and soldiers physically trained by performing various strength and conditioning exercises that later evolved into athletic events, such as boxing, wrestling, and many track and


Pangrazi, R.P. (2004). Dynamic Physical Education for Elementary School Children (14th ed. ). Menlo Park, CA: Addison-Wesley.

National Strength and Conditioning Association •

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Beginners require more recovery adaptations occur during recovery. More experienced athletes require highSo how do you determine how much er intensities and volumes to continue recovery time you need? The amount of seeing gains with training. So their workouts are divided or split so that opposing muscle groups or body parts are targeted on consecutive days.lends itself nicely to a Monday. These variderstand how improved strength. Now there is more time in each training session since only half of the body is tar- Rest and Recovery: The Forgotten Training Component Keith E. power. This is the key to building more time into workout sessions. This provides four training days per week. Friday design (see Table 1 below). As a result experienced athletes may train with 72 hours of recovery between workouts of the same muscle group. and volume increases. training or whatever parameter you are work. ing on will benefit you in becoming operationally fit. and volume to achieve their page 1. Wednescovery. you un. intensity. your body will not achieve all the day. The question is ever. Howof operational readiness.depends on several variables. so should recovery time. volume.nsca-lift. ables include: training history. intensity.NSCA TSAC REPORT • ISSUE 01 SEPTEMBER 2007 experience.*D T raining is a key component for any recovery time required between workouts athlete. as the tactical athlete gets older (40’s when do all the sets and repetitions pay – 50’s) the more time they may need to off. is not seen as important. Beginners only require 48 hours of recovery between workouts. The advanced athlete requires more frequency.2 . a common split is to perform upper body exercises on Monday and Thursday and lower body exercises on Tuesday and Friday. As a tactical athlete. As training Monday Bench Press Squat Row Shoulder Press Leg Curl Lat Pull Down Triceps Extension Bicep Curl Tuesday Recovery Day Wednesday Bench Press Squat Row Shoulder Press Leg Curl Lat Pull Down Triceps Extension Bicep Curl Thursday Recovery Day Friday Bench Press Squat Row Shoulder Press Leg Curl Lat Pull Down Triceps Extension Bicep Curl Table 1 Sample Beginner Workout with 48 hours rest.*D. recovery often ery between strength training sessions. while working with a larger recovery period. the A program with this type of frequency bottom line is that without proper re. Although each area is only targeted twice per week versus the three times per week with the beginners program. In reality. MA. You also understand that As more years of training are accumulated. NSCA-CPT. which time than experienced athletes. Beginis why recovery is such a vital component ners should train with 48 hours of recovto your training. National Strength and Conditioning Association • www. more time is available to train each area (see Table 2 next page). For example. training will help you improve in these less recovery time is needed because the areas to allow you to maintain a high level body has adapted to the training. and program goals. when do the adaptations occur? These recover. However. Cinea.intensity. and they are most likely performing full body workouts. potential benefits from training. CSCS.

you need to be mentally aware that you are recovering. A program that places you in a phase of training where the goal is maintenance. your body may not completely recovery from the workout. intensity and volume should page 1. For more experienced individuals. The only time that any changes may occur is during your recovery time. and does not need the cumulative stress of an additional intense workout. it does play a part when complete recovery from the workout is needed for executing operations/missions. If you are not drinking enough water. So be sure when designing your training program to include appropriate recovery periods. or eating the right things. If by your next weight training session you do not feel you have the same energy or intensity. Consequently. The body still needs to continue recovering from the previous workout. but not one that many individuals consider. but it does not mean doing nothing. nutrition. it will provide 72 hours of recovery between lower body exercises. then the training intensity should be very high. For a beginner who is not performing strength training on Tuesday or Thursday. On the other end of the spectrum.  This article originally appeared in the NSCA’s Performance Training Journal 4.nsca-lift. A program that places you in a phase of training where the goal is to improve power (such as pre-season). getting enough sleep. the maximum possible potential at that time will not be realized. but it is just as important as every set and repetition that you perform. Worse yet. Other things to consider during recovery are sleep. One option is an active recovery. Program goals also affect recovery. and act accordingly. This longer recovery time is vital for adaptations to occur with advanced programs. longer rest periods can be used in between sets. Guidelines for Recovery Recovery from working out is important. All these things tend to come into play during recovery. or higher volumes and intensities. The key is to keep the intensity light. Although you may not be in the weight room on your recovery day.2 National Strength and Conditioning Association • www. if too much recovery time is used. then your recovery day was too intense. The weight room is important. moderate conditioning can be done on your recovery days. however. recovery should be high as well. along with feelings of fatigue and staleness. and hydration. During overtraining performance decrements occur. Additionally. can be used.3 . Optimizing Recovery If your recovery time is too short. you may reach a state called “overtraining”. It may not be the most exciting part of your training program. less recovery is needed when the goal is maintenance. Although it does little good to recover so rapidly from a workout that may not be repeated for a week. geted that day. not improvement. Recovery is a key component of any training or conditioning program. Additionally. in a program that is properly designed you may actual detrain. This four-day spilt provides 72 hours of recovery between upper body exercises. As a result of high training intensity. and not go all out during the active recovery workout. all the changes you are driving for need time to occur.NSCA TSAC REPORT • ISSUE 01 Monday Bench Press Row Shoulder Press Lat Pull Down Triceps Extension Biceps Curl SEPTEMBER 2007 Thursday Bench Press Row Shoulder Press Lat Pull Down Triceps Extension Biceps Curl Tuesday Leg Press Leg Curl Leg Extension Calf Raise Wednesday Recovery Day Friday Leg Press Leg Curl Leg Extension Calf Raise Table 2 Sample Advanced Workout with 72 hours rest. or lose the attributes you are trying to improve. a light cardiovascular workout or recreational game may be an option. This way more exercises.

National Strength and Conditioning Association • www.4 Now a new method of training called suspension training can be used for those facing deployment and/or a lack of proper training facilities. Suspension training has several advanpage 1.NSCA TSAC REPORT • ISSUE 01 SEPTEMBER 2007 Sample Suspension Training Program Day 1 • Suspended Crunches 2 x 10 • Side Planks 2 x 10 each side • Hamstring Bicycles 2 x 10 each • Hip Press 2 x 10 Day 2 • Suspended Oblique Crunch 2 x 10 each side • Suspended Pendulum 2 x 10 each side • Body Saw 2 x 10 • Suspended Pikes 2 x 10 Suspension Training Mark D. Today suspension training is used not only by the military but by all levels of athletes. This simplicity allows for unlimited creation of full body exercises and functional movement patterns. Deployment issues and lack of facilities or funding may limit the ability of these elite forces to maintain the high level of fitness required. Suspension training was re-introduced as method of training by former navy SEAL Randy Hetrick who was responsible for the physical fitness of his team members2. His team trained with these materials and discovered that they not only maintained their strength throughout deployment but increased it as well. All that is required is the suspension training straps and an anchor point that can hold the bodyweight of the user. Suspension training uses only body weight and simple physics such as gravity. Randy utilized parachute cords and materials that he looped over elevated beams to increase resistance for rows and presses using only body weight and gravity. keeping themselves in top physical condition is a matter of life and death. Deployed soldiers do not necessarily have weight training facilities and often have to resort to implement training for resistance. CSCS. thus suspension training was born.*D. Stephenson. Resistance can be adjusted from 5% to 100% of the user’s bodyweight. fulcrums. Looking for ways to maintain his and his team’s operational readiness.nsca-lift. Randy realized by adjusting his position in relation to gravity he could increase and decrease the resistance. ATC F or Special Operation Forces (SOF) and elite law enforcement personnel (SWAT).org/TSAC . Finding an affordable method to maintain operational physical readiness has been difficult until recently. and vectors.

At the NSCA’s HPC we have developed a low back strengthening program for SWAT and SOF operators. SEPTEMBER 2007 Figure 1 Figure 2a (figure 1) Suspended Crunches Figure 2b Start in a prone position with the feet in straps and the hands in a push-up position. our tactical athletes may be much older and suspension training has less impact on the joints. push the heels into the strap. suspension training develops full body strength as well as metabolic page 1. Begin by lifting the hips up and pulling both knees into the chest before returning to the start position. Unlike most athletic programs. Implementing a suspension training routine targeting the core will help reduce low back discomfort. Second. National Strength and Conditioning Association • www. supported by the arm.NSCA TSAC REPORT • ISSUE 01 tages. Although a daily lumbo-pelvic stability program is recommended1. Begin by pulling one heel towards the buttocks and then return it to the start position while bringing the other heel towards the buttocks. Suspension training is used in the TSAC training program with both soldiers and police. suspension training allows the operator the mobility of a full strength training program with minimal equipment to be implemented anywhere. Core strengthening is important for any type of performance and suspension training enables the user to develop both core stability and strength. lifting the hips off the ground.nsca-lift. Then take the free arm and slowly reach under the body and “tap” the ground before returning to the start position. training the core as little as twice per week may be effective in strengthening the trunk musculature. Side Planks Figure 3 (figure 3) Hamstring Bicycles Start in the supine position with the feet in straps and the hands along side the body on the ground.5 . suspension training is user friendly and allows for creativity. Keeping the legs straight. (figures 2a and 2b) Start with the feet in the straps while lying on your side. Thirdly. First. At the NSCA Human Performance Center (HPC) we use suspension training for recovery workouts as well as high intensity workouts. Continue to alternate for the desired number of repetitions. A strong core means a strong low back. Begin by lifting the hips upward and reaching with the free arm towards the sky.

Start in a prone position with the feet in straps and the body supported by the elbows and forearms. then return to the middle and pike again. Begin by pushing the forearms forward causing the body to move backwards. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions. Bend the knees to 90 degrees. (figure 5) Suspended Oblique Crunch (figure 7) Body Saw Start with the feet in straps and the hands in a push-up position. hold. Return to the start position.NSCA TSAC REPORT • ISSUE 01 SEPTEMBER 2007 Figure 4 Figure 6 Figure 5 Hip Press Suspended Pendulum Figure 7 (figure 4) (figure 6) Start in the supine position with the feet in straps and the hands along side the body on the ground.6 . and return to the start page 1.nsca-lift. keeping the knees at 90 degrees. National Strength and Conditioning Association • www. bringing the feet toward the hand on the other side of the body. Begin by pushing the heels into the strap and lifting the hips towards the sky. Begin by “piking” at the hips. Begin by bringing both knees towards the arm on one side of the body. keeping the feet flexed towards the shins. Start with the feet in straps and the hands in a push-up position. bringing the feet toward the hand on one side of the body. then return to middle and bring both knees towards the arm on the other side of the body. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

National Strength and Conditioning Association • www.. the emphasis is greatly dependent on your or your team’s needs. pulling the feet towards the hands. 2007. Begin by slowly “piking” at the hips. Registrants have 1 in 120 chance of winning. (2007).  1 2 Gamble P. As with any training method. Fitness Anywhere.  You do not need to be present to win. 2005 Participating in the 2007 Endurance Training Symposium enters you for a FREE iPOD® Nano and Nike + iPod Sport Kit. you agree for us to use your name and picture for promotions and testimonials on NSCA page 1. Inc. Origins of the TRX. October 19. One iPOD® Nano and Nike + iPOD Sport Kit is drawn on Friday.nsca-lift. 29(1):58 – 68. publications and web site.7 . and then return slowly to the start position. Hold this position.NSCA TSAC REPORT • ISSUE 01 SEPTEMBER 2007 (figure 8) Suspended Pike Start in prone position with the feet in straps and the hands supporting the body in a push-up position. CA. Suspension Training is an innovated way to train the entire body and may give you a logistical advantage to implementing a physical conditioning program for your team. please contact the NSCA Conference Department at 800-815-6826. TRX Suspension Trainer Manual. Strength and Conditioning Journal. If you have any questions about winning the iPod® Nano and Nike + iPod Sport Kit. San Francisco. An Integrated Approch to Training Core Stability. If you win.

get up on one knee (Figure 3). While keeping the arm fully extended and the weight in the air.8 . and using the support hand to assist in retuning to the starting position previously described. slowly sit down and lie back until your back is flat against the ground. awareness. NSCA-CPT. Starting Position Begin by grasping a dumbbell or barbell in one hand. and while keeping the weight close to the chest. ruck sack.  Descent National Strength and Conditioning Association • www. such as when holding equipment or weapons while crossing water. Then extend the arm and press the weight into a position directly over the chest (Figure1) Ascent (Upward Movement) Equipment Needed Dumbbell. until the foot is in full contact with the ground and tuck the opposite leg underneath. or other weighted implement.nsca-lift. shift your body weight to the free. supportive hand (Figure 2). and shoulders) and requires total body coordination. and stand without allowing the arm to flex or the weight to touch the ground (Figure 4). CSCS. barbell.*D I n many operational situations the tactical athlete may be required to hold an item or implement page 1. The Turkish get-up is an old strongman exercise used to develop strength and stability in the muscle of the trunk (abdominals. Bend one knee (Downward Movement) Return to the starting position by kneeling down on the same knee as in the ascent. lower back. and agility.NSCA TSAC REPORT • ISSUE 01 SEPTEMBER 2007 Figure 1 Figure 2 Figure 3 Figure 4 Exercise Technique: The Turkish Get-Up Jay Dawes. in order to successfully complete their mission. MS.

ATC Art Direction John Conner Photo courtesy of Colorado Springs Police Deptartment.*D. CO. TSAC Powered By… National Strength and Conditioning Association • www. CSCS. Contributors Keith Cinea.*D.*D Jay Dawes is the Director of Education for the National Strength and Conditioning Association and serves as an assistant coach in the NSCA Human Performance Center.*D.*D Keith Cinea is the Publications/Communications Director for the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Carson. CSCS. Jay is also pursuing his PhD in Health and Human Performance from Oklahoma State University. CSCS. CSCS. He is also a NATA Certified Athletic Trainer. NSCA-CPT. Mark Stephenson.NSCA TSAC REPORT • ISSUE 01 SEPTEMBER 2007 The TSAC Report’s purpose is to disseminate peer reviewed information specifically targeted to the training of the tactical athlete. Email your questions to TSAC@nsca-lift. to improve athletic performance and fitness. CSCS. CO 80906 phone: 800-815-6826 email: TSAC@nsca-lift. ATC Mark Stephenson is the Director of the NSCA Human Performance Centerand heads up the NSCA Tactical Strength and Conditioning program. NSCA Mission As the worldwide authority on strength and conditioning.*D Content Editor Mark Stephenson.9 . Stephenson is responsible for the physical training of Colorado Springs Police Tactical Enforcement Unit (SWAT) and ODA teams from 10th Group Special Forces at Ft. Purpose Staff Managing Editor Keith page 1. MS.*D. Ask The Expert Ask the Expert is an opportunity for you to ask our experts about your operational fitness uncertainties. Contact NSCA TSAC 1885 Bob Johnson Drive Colorado . Jay Dawes. MA. Mark completed his Bachelors degree from Rhode Island College and is a Master’s candidate at Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions. NSCA-CPT.nsca-lift. we support and disseminate research-based knowledge and its practical application. MS.