The Tactical Physique



The purpose here is to bridge a gap so to speak. To focus on the functional side of training and letting the physique benefit in the meantime. Let’s be honest; you know you want to be functional, fit and have the ability to actually use the muscle and strength on your frame but another goal is to look good too.

Let’s look at how you can work toward both goals at the same time and kick butt outside of the gym too. Let’s stop limping out of the gym with our heads hanging low exhausted, frazzled and beat down and make our time, effort, sweat and tears benefit us for once.

Functional Fitness: A Change of Mindset

First and foremost you need to wipe the slate clean in your mind. Get away from the traditional thinking of pummeling a single body part until there is nothing left. Let’s start focusing on whole-body functionality – what your body is truly capable of when all those individual parts start working together like a well-oiled machine.

Military Special Forces, specially-trained Police Officers and Firefighters all have an indelible need to become and maintain a functionally fit body. The simple act of wearing and carrying heavy, cumbersome equipment for extended periods of time while under extreme amounts of stress requires a body that is capable of handling those conditions and then some.

It’s time to start thinking of your training around different variables, different planes of action and different levels of performance. Your body is one whole unit, not separate little pieces loosely strung together.

Shoring Up Common Weaknesses

Now, let’s break down a few of the more common weak links in the traditional lifter when it comes to strength. This isn’t an exhaustive list by any means, but will serve to point out some unknown problematic areas that will directly affect other lifts regarding strength and development.

  • The posterior chain: As this subject could be another article by itself, the posterior chain comprises all muscles comprising the posterior area of the body, functionally speaking. The yolk (traps and posterior delts), all back musculature, lumbar, glutes and hams make up this often neglected area. Most lifters focus on the mirror muscles; chest, biceps and quads. Over worked pecs and underworked lats, for example, can pull the shoulders forward, concaving the chest. Weak hams and glutes can hinder not only the development of the quads but also the performance on squats and other lower leg moves.
  • Overhead pressing: Real, full range overhead pressing is a rare site in most gyms these days. A properly performed overhead press provides the entire shoulder girdle with stability and strength that will carry over into other lifts such as bench pressespull-ups and rows.
  • Stabilization and core: With a heavy use of machines and seated exercises, there is a growing epidemic of weak cores. Your ability to stabilize your body serves to provide you with whole-body control and strength. Developing and strong core is key when you need lower back strength and a steady trunk.
  • Lower body range of motion: Half and quarter rep squats will get you nowhere fast. Sure, you can pile on the weight and impress your friends, but how can you apply this practice? Limited ranges of motion are most common amongst lower body lifts. Developing muscle through a full range of motion will strengthen that muscle through the entire scope of its function.
  • Unilateral training imbalances: Utilizing too many machines and bilateral weight movements will eventually develop imbalances. One leg, hip, arm or shoulder stronger than the other will not only spell injury down the road but also significant strength differences from one side to the other. Unilateral training will quickly build balanced strength.
  • Bodyweight strength: Again, with the massive use of machines including plate-loaded machines, the average gym-goer’s ability to manipulate their bodyweight with purpose and control is rare. Real-world strength requires some form of bodyweight training including core development which is essential.

8 Training Variables For An Effective Functional Strength & Conditioning Workout

Below are some of the main variables you will utilize toward your new functionally fit, tactical physique. Each day of training will include every variable but one will be the main focus for specific days.

  • Strength: You will work with low reps to develop raw strength. Low reps and multi-joint movements will carefully be regulated regarding volume of work.
  • Hypertrophy: Some moves will be for good ole-fashioned muscle size. Increasing the cross sectional fiber size of muscle will help with other aspects of the program and will build an impressive physique at the same time.
  • Muscle endurance: As an often overlooked aspect of performance, muscle endurance will not only serve as a functional benefit but will also aid in fat loss.
  • Power: The ability to move weight or your own bodyweight quickly and deliberately serves yet another important aspect of performance.
  • Cardiovascular endurance: For the most part, you will forego the traditional form of low intensity steady state (LISS) cardio exercise and adopt high intensity interval training (HIIT). More efficient, more intense.
  • Speed and agility: Increasing your body’s ability to accelerate and inject some sprinting intervals will go a long way toward fat loss. Agility will enhance your ability to manipulate your bodyweight to change direction with speed and accuracy. It will also serve as good cardio work.
  • Prehab: This will include dynamic warm-ups and stretching and foam rolling. Priming and prepping the body for the work to come is essential for not only increased blood flow and performance but also longevity regarding the prevention of injury.
  • Range of motion and stretching: This will entail not only a stretching component at the conclusion of each training session but also adhering to a full range of motion of each exercise. The more a muscle stretches, the more it will contract.

Related: Warming Up For Dummies: A Lifter’s Guide to Injury Prevention

Tips to Achieve Your Best Physique

The program laid out here will address these issues and more. Wiping your proverbial slate clean and starting on a new path of not only restructuring your training plan but also sticking to it is not an easy task. You will be challenged and tested. Shifting from a traditional body part split training plan to a more comprehensive and holistic approach will take discipline, consistency and most of all a complete and utter belief in your new direction.

Once you have the tools in place and are acclimated to the new workouts it will be time to turn on the intensity and work to progress past your limits and reap the reward of more strength, power and muscle and less fat.

Here are just a few points when beginning the Tactical Physique Training Plan.

  • Give the program at least four weeks, preferably six. Any new plan takes time to shift into gear and for progress to be made. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither will you so build not only muscle and strength but also your discipline over time. Overnight fixes are for dreamers.
  • Each day will begin with some prehab and dynamic warm-ups/stretches. These are vital to your success. Skip them and see your gains slow and injury risk increase instantly.
  • Most of the training is at a quick pace. Pay very close attention to rest periods. Each session should last around one hour. Anything too much longer and you (not the program) are wasting time.
  • Challenge yourself. Just because you perform some supersets doesn’t mean you can go light and take it easy just for the sake of finishing out your set. Load some weight on the bar and get to work.
  • Form and function are an absolute requirement. If this is a problem then cut your weight in half and practice textbook form. Sloppy form equals a sloppy physique.
  • If you find yourself gassed and unable to finish a session, reduce the number of sets slightly and slowly build your endurance. Don’t sacrifice intensity for the sake of going easy and just completing the workout.
  • As stated earlier, each session will include all training variables to a degree; however, each day will also focus mostly on one or two of those variables.
  • If after four or six weeks you find the program isn’t for you, simply go back to what you were doing before. No hard feelings.
  • If you are up to the challenge then let’s go to work!

Each session will be performed once per week with an optional weekend day thrown in for those who want to go the extra mile. Your week may look something like this:

  • Monday: Day 1 – Strength
  • Tuesday: Day 2 – Hypertrophy and Muscular Endurance
  • Wednesday: Off
  • Thursday: Day 3 – Power
  • Friday: Day 4 – Speed and Agility
  • Saturday: Day 5 – Optional full body conditioning
  • Sunday: Off

The Tactical Physique Training Plan

Foam rolling/massage. Be sure to perform a few minutes of either foam rolling or simple massage of certain areas such as hipsquadshamstringslats and shoulders.

Dynamic warm-up/stretching. The following will be performed prior to each training session. You may increase or decrease the volume slightly, but it will be necessary to include for better performance and a safer workout.

Perform all moves with little rest for one round:

Post training. Be sure to perform a comprehensive stretching routine focusing not only on the specific muscles stresses but also other areas affected by the training session.

Day 1: Strength

Exercise Warm Up Sets Working Sets Rest
Barbell Back Squat 3 x 8-12 4 x 5 2min
Barbell Romanian Deadlift 1 x 12 4 x 5 2min
A1: Incline Bench Dumbbell Press 2 x 12 4 x 5-8 *
A2: Wide-Grip Pull-Up 2 x 12 4 x 5-8 *
*Rest for one minute between supersets
B1: TRX Row 3 x 10-15 *
B2: Plyometric Push-Up 3 x 10-15 *
*Rest for one minute between supersets
C1: Hanging Leg Raise 3 x 15-20 *
C2: Planks 3 x 20-30s *
*No rest between supersets
Sprint Intervals 8 sprints 1min

Day 2: Hypertrophy and Muscular Endurance

Exercise Warm Up Sets Working Sets Rest
A1: Standing Barbell Shoulder Press 2 x 12 4 x 10-15 *
A2: Rear Delt Rope Pull 2 x 12 4 x 10-15 *
*No rest between supersets
Bulgarian Split Squat 2 x 12 4 x 10 each leg 30s
B1: TRX Curls 1 x 12 4 x 10-15 *
B2: Parallel Bar Triceps Dips 1 x 12 4 x 10-15 *
*No rest between supersets
C1: Dumbbell Deadlift 3 x 10-15 *
C2: Single Leg Calf Raise 3 x 10-15 *
*No rest between supersets
D1: Incline 3-way Sit-Up 3 x 15-20 *
D2: Lying Leg Raise 3 x 15-20 *
*No rest between supersets
Sled Pull or Drag, or Farmer’s Walk 3 Lengths 1min

Day 3: Power

Exercise Warm Up Sets Working Sets Rest
Clean and Press 2 x 12-15 3 x 5-8 1min
Jump Squat or Box Jump 1 x 10 4 x 10 30s
Walking lunge 3 lengths 1min
Plyometric Push-Up 1 x 10 3 x 5-8 30s
Single Arm Dumbbell or kettlebell flat bench press 3 x 5-8 1min
Bent-Over Barbell or Dumbbell Row 1 x 12 3 x 5-8 1min
3-Way Plank* 1xAMRAP
*Alternate from side, middle, to other side for 10s each (for total of 1-2min)
Sprint Intervals 8 sprints 1min

Day 4: Speed and Agility

Exercise Warm Up Sets Working Sets Rest
Timed Shuttle Run (at least 10 yards) 3min jog 5 x max effort 1-2min
A1: Weighted Front Lunge 3 x 5 *
A2: Weighted Side Lunges (both sides) 3 x 5 *
A3: Weighted Reverse Lunge 3 x 5 *
*Rest for two minutes between supersets
Seated Calf Raise 3 x 12 30s
B1: Reverse-Grip Chin-Up 1 x 12 3 x 8-12 *
B2: Flat Bench Barbell Press 1 x 12 3 x 8-12 *
*Rest for one minute between supersets
C1: Dumbbell Shrug 3 x 8-12 *
C2: Hyperextension 3 x 8-12 *
*Rest for one minute between supersets
D1: Floor Crunch 3 x 15-20 *
D2: Bent-Knee Hanging Less Raise 3 x 15-20 *
*No rest between supersets

Day 5: Optional Full Body Conditioning

Complete the following exercises back-to-back with no rest between exercises. This counts as one round. Rest 1-2 minutes after each round. Perform 3 rounds, resting when necessary, eventually building up to 5 rounds without rest.

Exercise Reps
Push-Up 20
Prisoner squat 20
Pull-up 10
Walking or stationary lunge 10 each leg
Triceps bench or parallel bar dip 10
Short sprint Varied lengths
Ab crunch 20


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