Adding Your Own Workouts to Mandatory PT? Remember These Rules

If you’re personally training for a tough physical challenge that’s much harder than what your group is working on, you’ll need to come up with a plan that doesn’t interfere with your current fitness needs but also won’t cause you to overdo it and get injured.

That means your ultimate goal is adjusting your daily routine while both at a conventional unit and preparing for a special operations selection course. The same holds true for in-season athletes who have dreams of enlisting into special ops programs once their athletic careers are over in high school or college.

Here are some rules to help you maneuver through group workouts or team competition when adding a second workout. These suggestions can both guide as you prepare for future challenges and help prevent overtraining.

1. Find the system that the trainers or coaches of your unit or team are using for the week.

You may discover that most people in charge of creating group programming have a system that works for the group’s goals. Whether that system involves preparing for future deployment environments, PT tests or pre-season athletic training and conditioning, try to find some consistency and start to create programming around it.

For instance, if you know you are doing upper body PT with short fast runs on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and longer runs or rucks with leg PT on Tuesday and Thursday, you can work with that information to devise training that includes like muscle groups those days in supplemental lifts and higher repetitions calisthenics.

On longer run or ruck days, you can mix in some leg lifts, some shorter, faster runs or non-impact cardio mixed with leg PT (squats, lunges, jumps, etc.) to balance out the training days. This way, you will have some recovery time for muscle groups worked on these days.

2. You want to avoid back-to-back-to-back training days of the same muscle groups

That can happen if you simply go with what the group trainer is doing and following your own training plan without altering it as needed for recovery purposes. If you are not careful, you will find yourself doing high-repetition calisthenics with pull-ups and push-ups on Monday, then you may lift heavy on Tuesday with the same muscle groups, then hit the high reps again on Wednesday.

The same goes for the additional running mileage with your group training. You may not need to add running later in the day and you can focus on other non-impact cardio activities to remove the risk of overuse injuries.

3. Depending on your future goals, always keep the focus on your weaknesses.

Many non-swimming athletes will need to mix in some technique training as secondary workouts. If you want to attend a military diving, Navy or Marine Corps spec ops program, you should definitely add more swimming to your day. For most people, it is a combination of technique and conditioning. Get in the pool and swim as often as you can depending on your abilities, PST scores, treading and finning experience.

4. Adding lifts can help maintain strength and power in a running and calisthenics cycle.

If you are on an athletic team, your trainer will have you on a maintenance program during the season. The same type of program for lifting can be used with the military group PT as well. Just remember rules one and two above.

Depending on your military branch, most units allow time to lift weights and do other resistance training events in addition to the calisthenics and running in their group PT programs. The newer fitness tests in the military like the Army Combat Fitness Test and the USMC Combat Fitness Test are slowly changing the way the military trains its soldiers and marines.

If you are still focusing on special ops, you will need to still add in either more distance, more calisthenics reps, more weight training and a lot more swimming if you are not a swimmer.

Secondary workouts are meant to supplement your goals. Don’t change your goals or neglect the elements of fitness needed to accomplish them, but be smart about how you add them. Remember, a second workout day off is never a bad idea, especially when burned out or you have an upcoming challenging work or athletic competition schedule in the near future. Recovery matters.

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 start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to stew@stewsmith.com.

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