What Makes a Person Successful in SpecOps?
Special Operations (SPECOPS) hopefuls often wonder whether there’s an ideal physical composition that explains why one person passes SpecOps training and another does not. The military’s spent an enormous amount of money on answering the same question. Because SPECOPS has such high attrition rates, the military commissioned the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NCSA) to create the Tactical Strength Conditioning Program (TSAC). One of the goals of the TSAC was maximizing the tactical endurance and operational lifespan of SpecOps warriors.
Baseline Fitness Matters
According to a former Navy SEAL and Basic Underwater Development School (BUDS) Instructor, “the physical abilities of candidates coming into training matters. If you come to BUDs in poorer physical condition, you’re more likely to fail than your better-conditioned teammates.” What doesn’t seem to indicate a trainee’s success is the specific physical conditioning he’s undertaken in the past. A wrestler is as likely to pass BUDs as is a long-distance swimmer.
Does Specific Muscle Fiber Type Make a Difference?
NSAC was also commissioned to determine whether a specific muscle fiber ratio makes one person a better tactical athlete than another.
The average human’s muscles are comprised of about 50% slow-twitch (Type1) fibers and 50% fast-twitch fibers (Type2). Findings showed that professional endurance athletes, such as marathoners, can possess up to 80 percent of Type 1 fibers, whereas wind sprinters can have up to 80 percent of Type 2 fibers. This suggests that intense, event-specific training might force muscle fibers to adapt. However, researchers could not discount genetics as a contributing factor.
What Kind of Training Is Best for SpecOps Hopefuls?
Tactical operators must possess both superior endurance and strength. According to Robb Rogers M.Ed, CSCS, MSCC and former director of the NSCA’s Human Performance Center, “…Periodization is the key to long-term success. High-rep calisthenics and long-distance running and swimming takes its toll on the body, as does heavy weight lifting. Both endurance exercises and strength/power exercises should be balanced…to maximize gains in both strength and endurance.”
Mental Performance Plays an Important Role
The jury’s still out on whether certain types of training can change an athlete’s muscle-fiber composition, but candidates who have passed SpecOps training have come from an array of prior athletic endeavors. If you ask a career Navy SEAL why he was more able to complete BUDs over the next guy, he’ll likely cite the Forty Percent Rule: when the body says you’re done, you’re only forty percent there. The other sixty percent is about mental fortitude.