Physical fitness in the past handful of years has been evolving towards the way of “functional fitness,” such as CrossFit and similar off-shoots. The functional fitness evolution has spread like a wildfire throughout the military, especially CrossFit, and particularly in special operations units.
When I first got to the Rangers almost ten years ago, the physical training regime was running, running, get smoked (push ups), running, running, and ruck marching thrown in there once in a while. A couple of years later, we adapted the RAW (Ranger Athlete Warrior) Program which incorporated some elements of functional fitness but still very different from the regimes we see today. We still spent every given minute running our asses off (as per unofficial Ranger SOP since ’74!!).
In units like Delta and Six, they have physical training down to almost an exact science. Speaking moreso for the men up in Fort Bragg, their fitness regime is a combination of three programs. The Gym Jones program is probably the most widely utilized in the unit, but there is a healthy mix of Military Athlete, as well as Mountain Athlete programming in there as well. Once in a blue moon, certain CrossFit workouts are implemented by the individual operators, but CrossFit is not exactly the most suitable fitness program for the endurance focused shooters. And nobody cares if a Delta shooter can do a muscle-up or a hand stand walk.
Gym Jones (www.gymjones.com)
Founded by Mark Twight in Salt Lake City, UT, Gym Jones is the same organization that trained the actors and stuntmen of the movie 300 back in 2005 with the “300 workout.” Since then, Mark has served as a DoD Consultant, particularly for Delta Force. Twight originally started off as a CrossFit affiliate, but he drastically evolved the typical CF program, and thus Gym Jones was born. The main difference between the Gym Jones and Crossfit is that Gym Jones programming is more endurance-oriented, but still retains many of the same CrossFit movements. Most Gym Jones workouts are usually 2-3 times longer than your typical CF workout, and about five times harder. Twight’s philosophy: “Train for an objective”
Military Athlete (www.militaryathlete.com)
Personally, Military Athlete is my favorite training regime – I just wish that I could find more time to do it! This is also another unique functional fitness regime which differs from both CrossFit and Gym Jones in terms of movements and equipment (lots of sandbag exercises). Military Athlete is also very strength-oriented, as well as endurance-oriented. Most workouts are over 60 minutes in length, and some are 120 minutes. The heavy strength training in Military Athlete is what differentiates it from Gym Jones, and the combination of endurance focus, as well as the extensive strength training, is what differentiates it from CrossFit.
Mountain Athlete (www.mountainathlete.com)
One of the lesser utilized fitness regimes at the Tier 1 level, but still done enough to warrant a mention! Brought to you by the same folks who bring you Military Athlete (specifically Rob Shaul), Mountain Athlete, as the name implies, is designed to create a faster and stronger mountaineer. For a unit at war in the unforgiving mountains of Afghanistan, this is a great program. Much of Mountain Athlete revolves around finger and hand strength, pulling strength, and endurance/stamina.
So if you want to train like the real guys, go sign your ass up! Disclaimer: these workout regimes will probably not do that much for you if you are going to Delta selection! So don’t come back blaming me if you didn’t make it. They are meant to improve your physical ability in running, jumping, or duck walking to an objective and shooting a bad guy in the face.