fitness trainer can use tactical training strategies for both clients with a tactical profession, but also for clients who want to train and see results like a tactical athlete. Tactical fitness programs were originally built for military personnel and first responders. Being able to pass an army combat fitness test is no easy task. Likewise, first responders need peak levels of human performance under extreme conditions to save lives. So, it makes sense that a specific style of training has been developed for tactical athletes. 

However, this style of fitness is valuable for clients as well. Unlike many traditional workouts that activate specific, isolated muscle groups, tactical fitness training strategies are more comprehensive in their breadth and scope. The goal is not to be “in shape,” but to maintain all the elements of optimal fitness including power, maximal strength, agility, speed, muscle stamina, flexibility, endurance, and mobility. 

Research from the International Journal of Exercise Science shows that elite tactical athletes are capable of higher aerobic performance and muscular endurance than the average person. What’s more, your clients don’t have to fall into the elite category or prepare for the special forces to reap the benefits of a tactical fitness regimen. 

Use these five training strategies to incorporate tactical fitness into your clients’ existing workout plans.

Keep Reading: 8 Best Military Athlete Exercises for Functional Training

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Focus on Functional Movements

The main objective of tactical fitness is not on how much weight your client can bench-press or how long it takes them to run a mile. While these are achievements to be proud of, the real aim of tactical fitness training is to optimize a client’s level of functioning in daily life. Movements such as crawls, lifts, swims, carries, grips, runs, climbs, and rucks are built into a tactical fitness program to boost functional mobility. Remember, developing a functional training program is all about what is functional for the client’s unique needs. So, function in a tactical profession is different from the functional requirements of an 80-year-old woman living alone. 

Traditional linear exercises—such as lunges, for instance—focus on just one back-and-forth range of motion. For the most part, this movement, and other exercises in a traditional gym setting, only move in the sagittal plane of motion. But the movements used in tactical fitness are multi-planar to keep the entire body strong, balanced, flexible, agile and coordinated. In addition to the sagittal plane of motion, this includes the frontal plane of motion (side to side movements). It also includes the transverse plane of motion (rotational movements). This style of fitness is especially valuable for older clients, according to the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine. However, it is at lower intensities. In addition to being multiplanar, the movement should be compound and using more than one plane of motion. For example, a turning lunge to an overhead press uses movement in both the transverse and sagittal plane. Additionally, this type of exercise will tax the body’s ability to balance- another important element of functional training.


Combine Resistance and Cardio

A study in the PLOS One Journal found that tactical fitness programs with a combination of aerobic and resistance training yield more musculoskeletal, cardiovascular and respiratory benefits than other exercise regimens. This joint emphasis on both cardio and resistance will help your clients increase their bone density and lean muscle mass, control their blood pressure and strengthen their heart rate. This is critical when training the active aging population or groups aiming to lose weight.

When designing a tactical program, remember that you don't need to use weights in order to make tactical fitness effective. The client’s body weight can provide enough resistance. That doesn’t mean the workouts need to be boring. Further, there’s more than just pushups and situps you can do with bodyweight. In fact, a little creativity shows there are plenty of at home exercises you can do with clients outside of a traditional gym setting. 

Then, you can bring in new and challenging strength and conditioning equipment like ropes, ladders, tires, rings, cones, or sleds to run obstacle course-like athletic drills. This type of cardio-resistance training not only keeps the workouts fresh, but enhances your clients’ motor skills for quick and nimble reflexes as well.

Keep Reading: Does Cardio Burn Muscle? What You Need to Know


Focus on Maintenance, Not Just Visible Gains

Most clients want to achieve toned muscles, lower body fat percentage, and a lean physique from working out. However, tactical fitness training is not concerned with external appearance. Instead, the goal is longevity maintenance—which means making slow and steady progress over time. 

The too much, too soon intensity might deliver short-term gains, but real tactical fitness is about the long-term. As athletes learn to focus more on the efficiency, consistency, and sustainability of their workouts, they’re able to maintain physical resilience and durability over time. With the everyday client who maybe works a desk job, you’ll need to progress the workout carefully. Beginning with a comprehensive fitness assessment will help you identify movement impairments that could lead to injury. So, using this information, you can (and should) include corrective exercise strategies to make sure their bodies can handle the more intense demands seen in a tactical athlete training session. 

For example, you might build this style of training into a 30-day cardio challenge. Not only does formatting the workouts in this way help motivate clients, but it also reminds them that progress takes time. From there, you can schedule 1:1 sessions to build on what they’ve learned. As with any fitness program, you should factor in recovery time. This allows the body to repair itself and prevent overtraining and fatigue. Taking one week off every six weeks can help a client come back with even more strength, energy, and ability to make greater advancements.


Highlight Mental Sharpness and Physical Strength

Tactical fitness doesn’t only work to strengthen the body. It also stimulates the mind. This form of exercise increases neural plasticity which makes the brain sharp, adaptable and emotionally regulated, according to the Genes Journal. When performing these tactical moves, your clients hone their mental acuity, focus, alertness and reaction time, in addition to physical fitness. 

In order to maximize their output, reinforce the mind-body connection in these exercises. For example: 

  • Teach your clients how mental toughness can help them overcome challenges and push through perceived limits.
  • Discuss personal awareness and how to use their own cues to push harder or slow down.
  • Train clients on breathing patterns that can be used to maximize the workouts and movements.

Imagine a special forces individual in the field. They’ll need to be laser focused and have the ability to emotional self-regulate in times of great stress. This includes applications of breathing techniques to reduce stress, narrow focus, and strategically plan for what needs to happen next. In fact, these types of techniques are used with elite athletes of all sorts in the field of sport psychology. They even show up in certain executive coaching programs because even executives need these skills. Therefore, this type of training is great to include with any athletic client you’re working with. 


Remind Your Clients: There Are No Shortcuts

The idea of quick and easy results sounds appealing, but the reality is, all exercise requires time, effort, patience, and consistency. Sustainable outcomes are achieved through hard work and commitment—and tactical fitness training is no different. Hard work and long term commitment come from enhanced fitness motivation. Clients who are in a tactical profession have the motivation of staying alive, supporting others, and keeping their job. Therefore, you might need additional fitness motivation strategies when working with the everyday client to keep them committed and disciplined over the long haul.

Encourage your clients to stick with their workouts, building milestones, benchmarks, and tests into the program. And, in addition to outcome goals, also include process and performance goals. This will further help their motivation levels for long-term success. Slow and steady progress leads to long-term strength and health, allowing them to stay fit (mind and body) well after your workouts are done.

Keep Reading: Overtraining Recovery and Avoidance: How to Support Your Clients

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Tactical Fitness Can Be an Integral Part of Any Exercise Program.

Whether you have a client who just started their fitness journey or a client who’s been an athlete for most of their life, tactical exercises are ideal for any skill and experience level. The benefits extend well past the gym into functional daily activities, and the movements can be performed by just about anyone. So implement these tactical fitness strategies into your clients’ workout plans—and they’re sure to appreciate the results.      

Having a sound understanding of how the body responds to movement and stress is what exercise science is all about. When you get a degree in exercise science from Lionel University, you learn how to design any type of fitness program. Further, the doors to fitness job opportunities are wide open. Regardless of whether you’re pursuing an associates degree, bachelor’s degree, or master’s degree, specialists in exercise science are in demand.

As you go through your degree program at Lionel, you’ll also earn your personal training certification and Master Trainer certificate in the first few months. This means you can start working as a personal trainer while you finish your program! And, with the help of financial aid, earning your exercise science degree is even more of a possibility. 

Check out our programs and contact Lionel today!