Load Carrying and Tactical Strength & Conditioning

When it comes to actually carrying a large load, long distances, quickly, as most tactical operators are wont to do, there are a few factors to consider. Fortunately for those of you that have converted to this crazy CrossFit stuff you’ll notice some incredibly familiar similarities.

You can do it wrong…

Soldiers Rucking

Yup, just like running and biking and swimming and CrossFitting and sitting your number one priority should be to dial in your mechanics. Does gear selection come into play? Absolutely. However the fanciest gear in the DOD budget won’t keep you from breaking down as fast as poor mechanics will. In the CrossFit Endurance seminars we teach three keys to mechanically correct running: Pose (or posture), Fall, and Pull. Each of these things will make or break you as a runner (literally), turns out it is the same in the rucking world.

Mid-line stability

At CrossFit Endurance we also spend a significant amount of time drilling proper posture. In the CrossFit world we talk about mid-line stabilization being a major key to success. The same hold true for our weight bearing athlete (Military, Fire, Police). It turns out that if you can’t brace yourself under the load of a barbell your chances of being able to brace under the load of a pack or body armor much tougher. Proper body position is the key to safe and efficient athletic movement and it all starts with the mid-line. Good posture is where falling can being.

Falling & Perception

Gravity is free and we can use it to propel ourselves in the horizontal direction. This is a concept we cover in depth at the CFE seminar. The more lean, the faster we fall. The faster we fall, the faster we go. Make sense? Movement begins when balance is destroyed. Maintaining proper posture and leaning from the ankles allows us to propel our general center of mass (GCM) forward. This becomes are problem when we artificially change the location of our GCM (i.e. Rucking). When we put a pack on our back our GCM is shifted back and up which does screwy things to the brain. When your GCM is shifted backwards and you maintain proper posture you’ll probably fall over backwards. Good news: Your brain figures this out before you realize it. Bad news: Your natural instinct will be to bend forward to counter balance. This, if you’ve read the paragraph before, is no bueno… So what do you need to do? Just lean forward enough to find your new neutral position without changing your posture. This will not feel natural at first but I bet squatting correctly didn’t feel natural either…

A walk in the park

I’ll keep this short…The mechanics of walking (rucking) do indeed differ from the mechanics of running due to the fact that one foot is always on the ground while walking. Not much else changes. Cool?


Navy SEALs

Okay so since I’m going to be required to walk loooong distances with a pack on my back I must have to just go out and walk long distances with a pack on my back, right? Turns out, no you don’t. Oh and don’t just take my word for it, the NSCA (gasp!) agrees with me. Check out their article titled Physical Training to Optimize Load Carriage in the Tactical Operator.

…the higher intensity, lower volume groups improved the greatest in the progressive load march test compared to the lower intensity, higher volume groups. In addition, the higher frequency (once per week) training groups made significantly greater improvements in the physical performance outcome measures than the lower frequency (bimonthly) groups. These findings suggest that improvement in load carriage performance is highly dependent on training intensity (load), followed by training frequency (sessions per week), and then by training volume (distance).

Bottom-line: High intensity (load and pace) low volume training protocols are superior to low intensity high volume training. Now if you are a fan of CrossFit or CrossFit Endurance this may be of no surprise to you… If you were on the fence about whether or not high intensity interval training could improve your ability to go long and slow… Well hopefully this has help sway to to the dark side!

Questions, comments, concerns? Let me know in the comments below!

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  1. Mike Spicer says

    Try going through SF Selection following the Crossfit Endurance Rucking protocol and you will not make it. I think it’s funny that Crossfit is pushing intervals as a way to train for covering 12 miles everyday for 2-3 weeks. Good luck with those intervals!

    • PJ says

      Thanks for you unhelpful comment…

      Perhaps you would like to share your experience with SF selection to my readers so that they could possibly learn what you did and make and educated decision about what is best for them?

      Many of them will probably be interested in your insights considering that they did use ideas from both CrossFit and CrossFit Endurance to pass their selections.

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