One of the most prominent questions that revolve around physical training for the Tactical Athlete is, “How do we best program and prepare operators with irregular and unpredictable deployment/ work schedules?” This is a general malaise of strength & conditioning professional that work with SWAT and Special Forces operator (this is obviously not limited to these groups; however, they are the most popular with respect to the question).
It is easy to get discouraged with physical training progress when you’re athletes are consistently sent into combative work scenarios that demand peak performance. Furthermore, we need to better define how we define peak performance through this irregular schedule.
I believe that that answer to this fairly simple. We must understand that physically training the Tactical Athlete necessitates a significant paradigm shift on behalf of the strength & conditioning community. There needs to be an understanding that physical training gains will be made at a far slower pace and that the ultimate goal will not necessarily be achieving the athlete’s genetic physical potential.
Does this mean that we are setting the bar lower?
No. The goal of training the Tactical Athlete is three-fold.
- Building corrective postural and biomechanical strength
- Injury prevention
- Capacity building
Therefore, we need to achieve this goal in the same manner we would train an Olympic athlete. We develop a periodized program and system, dealing with schedule breaks as they come and not being discouraged when Life causes us to adapt. Our understanding that Life’s “hick-ups” in scheduling happen more often to the Tactical Athlete creates a different perspective regarding our progression of strength & conditioning gains.
Physically training the Tactical Athlete is WORK. It is a never ending adaptation that can be exhausting for the athlete and the strength & conditioning coach. However, this is the job we singed up. These are the men and women we owe the “extra mile.” And this is what makes us better and stronger as an industry and community.