Ask Stew: Getting Ready to Move from Infantry to Special Ops

Spending four years or more in the infantry is tough work. With the miles and load bearing required of your feet and body, you can develop some common imbalances that often lead to injury. Injuries to shoulders, lower back and knees are too common in the tactical professions and the need to supplemental training that helps you correct overcompensating postures is critical to both your future tactical and personal life. Here is a question from a young man in the Marine infantry who has desires to transfer into Navy SEAL training after his initial four year contract.

Hey Stew – I am currently in the Marine Corps (infantry). I have one year left in the Marine Corps and I want to move to the Navy and become a SEAL. I don’t know where to start. I have pretty bad mobility in my hips and my shoulders are rolled forward. Should I fix my hips and shoulders then begin, or will I be fine going straight into training for BUDS while trying to correct my mobility problems? Many thanks, Ed

Ed — You should continue training, maybe just not training specifically for SEAL training yet. Focus on correcting some of the imbalances it sounds like you have by not skipping reset, mobility and flexibility training. Make sure you add in mobility sessions daily. One thing I like to do is to start every swim workout with a 10 minute tread and end with a 10 minute dynamic stretch session in chest deep water.

Mobility and flexibility: Make every workout day a mini-mobility day at the end of the day or workout period.

Do this:

Repeat 2 times

5 min of walk, bike, row, swim, dynamic stretches, etc..

5 min of stretch, foam roll or massage tool.

Then, static stretch.

And, of course, hydrate and add electrolytes when the workday is hot or humid causing profuse sweating. If available, getting into a pool after these hot or humid days will also benefit recovery and mobility as well.

But you should get in the pool, too, as the non-impact forces of treading and swimming are ideal for you right now — plus you need some water skills where you are going. This can have both mobility and training advantages if you get in the water and try the treador dynamic stretches combo after swim workouts.

You should also mix in some PT Reset exercises for your shoulders especially after upper body days. Do this:

The PT Reset Circuit:

Here is a full core circuit that helps balance out the many miles under a ruck, many sets of push-ups and sit-ups by working the upper backside of the torso and the lower back muscles. The forward internal rotation you have needs to be balanced out by doing more pulling exercises (pull-ups, pull-downs, rows, reverse-flys, etc.). These exercises stretch the front side of the torso by flexing the back side of the torso. Also, using isometric flexes of the lower back, these exercises are relatively safe for most people (active or inactive). You can also do it with calisthenics as listed below.

Repeat 2 times

Reverse Pushups 10-20

Birds 10-20

Arm haulers 10-20

Swimmers 1 min

Side plank 1 min (right)

Plank 1 min

Side plank 1 min (left)

Dirty Dogs — 10-20 per leg

Donkey kicks – 10-20 per leg

The first three exercises (reverse push-ups, birds, arm-haulers) are calisthenics to stretch the chest and work the opposing muscles groups (shoulder girdle or upper back) of the push-ups.

These are also great for posture and can be done at any age. The next four exercises (swimmers, plank, left and right plank) are essentially lower back exercises, but engage the entire core system. Anytime you do sit-ups or crunches, you want to balance out your core with these lower back exercises.

The final two exercises are hip exercises that will help keep mobility, especially after practicing running for fitness tests and sitting (or standing) all day for your workday. These also work the glute muscles (butt) which can help you prevent typical overuse running injuries like Illiotibial band (ITB) by having stronger glutes specifically the gluteus medius.

Finally, consider speaking to a physical therapist. You may have more serious problems that need some specialized assistance to overcome. But if you want to do something first, add swimming workouts, PT reset exercises, and the water mobility and dynamic stretches.

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you’re looking to starting a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to stew@stewsmith.com.

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