I made the drive to Bellingham. It’s suppose to be an hour and a half drive, but those of you that have seen I-5 around Seattle know to double your time minimum. It took me four hours. I had just spent 19 hours the day prior sitting in HMMWV’s, so needless to say I was quite tight and worn out. I got some dinner and passed out immediately after in my hotel room.
Next morning I headed to the RMAX gym located in the Bellingham Athletic Club. I aked where the Tacfit certification was being hosted. I then cruised to the back room of the gym where there were rings hanging, plyo boxes, paralettes, kettlebells and of course the clubbell. Most the students were already there and chit chatting introducing each other. Turns out some of these cats had just gone through 3 days of CST certification, they were going 5 days straight!
Most the attendee’s were looking pretty ripped and in pretty good shape. There were some firefighters, military(to include a soldier from Singapore), a physical therapist and the rest were trainers of some form or another. For those of you not familiar with Tacfit, it’s a metcon program designed by coach Scott Sonnon specifically designed for first responders. Also in attendance were coaches Ryan Murdoch(Who just released Tacfit Commando, a completely bodyweight version of the program) and Joe Wilson.
Tacfit has several interesting points that no other program can match. Although the protocols may appear crossfit-ish, they are designed in a much more specific process and the specifically the exercises made for good tactical habits. Each workout is 20 minutes long, which is a great help to those short on time. A joint mobility warm up and prasara warm down will make everything more effective and results quicker, but isn’t mandatory but highly recomended. Combined they add less than 15 min to the overall workout.
Classroom portion started off on the white board. Main points went over the 6 protocol wave format of the Tacfit workouts. The six protocols are organized in a very specific format from one to the next. There are 26 workouts total, each one building off the prior. Also there is four level to each of the 26 workouts and 96 exercise sets, Delta being for those new to metcon work, Gamma for those that have been at it a couple months, Beta for those that are very proficient after a couple months and finally Alpha strictly for bragging rights and may take a year or more to achieve if ever.
The first is the Tabata protocol of 20 sec work 10 sec rest. You’ll find as you work through Tacfit, there is a large sports psychology element to everything. This first protocol is meant to make you work fast and hard and force yourself to recover in 10 sec before bursting again. Did I mention Tabata’s are well proven to be some of the best work for body composition changes?
The next protocol consists of 4 min of work with 1 min rest between exercises. Most people when first exposed to metcon(metabolic conditioning) type workouts try to pace themselves.
The first workout protocol interrupted that thought process and forced you to recover in a timespan you didn’t think possible. Now with this protocol you have a sustained effort, but we tricked your brain to work faster from the first workout. So now you’ll be doing a repeated effort faster than you would have if you hadn’t had the first protocol.
The third protocol is each min on the min. The faster you complete your work, the higher quality and longer rest you get. Without the precursor exercises most will try to pace and end up with no recovery period. Again the tabata protocol teaches you to burst. Here you’ll get more rest if you finish faster.
Next protocol is the hardest for us coaches to monitor students intensity. It’s as many rounds as possible in the 20 min time period. Here you need to take all your body has learned from the previous protocols and apply it to get as many rounds as you can.
The fifth protocol is a compression of the second. It’s 90 sec of work 30 sec rest. Again using the previous protocols to get as much work as possible in the timeframe.
The last protocol is for time, as in doing so many reps of certain exercises as fast as possible. The goal here is to recover as best as possible during continuous work without reducing your pace over the duration. In other words sustained speed of work over the 20 min.
After a discussion on these protocols, some random notes I happened to write down before the pain train started. If you train above your max heart rate, your body does not adapt, also high skill level drops off extremely fast. Many of the exercises in Tacfit are very complex. This is meant to teach the operator to be able to perform high skill work even when in a high stress enviroment. Metcom work differs slightly from traditional gym workouts. In the gym you may get DOMS(Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) 24-72 hours after your workout. Metcon will have a similar feeling but it’s actually a biochemical “drag” feeling. It will probably take an external set of eyes, especially with a high heart rate, if you are creating “cheats” on exercises, then you need to drop a complexity level. One idea coach Sonnon brought up is that your complexity will be determined that day. Some days you’re ready for more, some days less, don’t force a level you aren’t ready for ‘that day’.
So after this short little classroom portion we’re told we’d be going through all six protocols. So I’m thinking three today, three tomorrow, this is c=gonna suck! So we jump right into the Alpha workout(they are all named by the UN alpha-numeric alphabet code system). Alpha is the grueling tabata protocol with four total exercises with a full tabata protocol of each. 20 min of suckage. Just prior to starting we were shown some recovery breathing exercises. These were reinforced throughout and did seem to help. Ok so that makes your lungs burn a bit…. And ten min later on to the next workout.
So we jump into Bravo. Some what tame in comparison to Alpha. So one Tacfit workout alone is equivelant to 4 hours of traditional cardio, now we’re torching calories. So I’m thinking well we must be doing the third workout after lunch……
Then I hear coach Sonnon tell one of the other students we were doing all six today!! It’s time to really start sucking down the Surge Workout Fuel. Charlie was up next. Every minute on the minute is the bane of my existance, I hate it with a passion. I hate it so much, I was the first one done every round at about the 30 sec mark haha. Amazing how your hate fuel will get you better recovery. After being drenched by Charlie, I head to my truck and slam down my serving of Surge post workout with 5g of creatine mixed in. Lunch time at last. We’re told to force feed if need be. I had trouble eating and was too wound up to nap even though I was tired.
We all came back from lunch walking a bit slower and awaiting the next three workouts.
Delta, Echo and Foxtrot went by, completing the remaining three protocols. Day one was finally done. I chugged another serving of Surge/creatine, grabbed some dinner and headed to the hotel. I racked out pretty early and woke up around 0230 with my left arm locked at a 90 degree angle. It was so stiff, it took about 15 min using my right hand to straighten it out. I clamped my wrist between my knees to keep it straight and made sure my right arm was straight as possible as well, and went back to sleep. I woke up with my entire upper body stiff.
I arrived at the gym a few minutes early and entered from the back. Once everyone was there, Coach Joe Wilson(who is a long time police officer, now working with secret service on their fitness program) took us through a good long joint mobility session. It helped break up some of the adhesions and get the fluid back in the joints from the day priors trial by fire. Which as it turned out coach Sonnon’s fellow coaches had actually used as a joke, and he took them serious…Thanks guys…
After the mobility warm up, there was another brief white board class. The emphasis of the day was to go through ALL 96 exercises, progressions and regressions. But the class portion was focused on the true shining point of Tacfit, coaching cues. The coaching cues brings the program from a metcon that sculpts bodies into greek gods, to a tactically functional program that involves sports pyschology. This sports pyschology starts bringing in points like- above 85% heart rate, the brain will only hear one thing. The coach should make cues that are important over and over again. Some may not pick up on it the first time, or the second or even for several months or years. But eventually those cues will start to penetrate and take effect. Some are absorbed sub-consiously. There is also a heavy emphasis on teaching recovery with just as much power as technique. This will lead into “cognitive recovery”. What this means is getting the operators/students thinking during recovery. This translates to high stress situations such as the lull in a gunfight and gets the operator to think about what needs to come next.
On to the exercises. I won’t go too in depth on the actual exercises, but describe how they translate to the tactical arena. Every one of the 96 exercises was picked specifically to either train what I call ‘good tactical habits’ or assist in balancing out the body for specific things that occur with first responders/tactical athletes. For instance Kettlebell Goblet squats and gorilla crawls are designed to help with the stressors of armor by increasing mobility in area’s that get overly tight by heavy gear/airpacks. As far as good tactical habits, several are obvious, some not as much. For instance kettlebell getups are done differently than traditionally seen, but it teaches to plant and come up onto the edge of the foot rather than the ball of the foot which is less stable than the broad surface of the edge of a foot.
We proceeded through all levels including Alpha exercises demonstrating proficiency in each of the 96 exercises. Some of which I thought would be a big problem turned out being ok once I was properly coached on how to perform it, even with the day prior. One leg squats were still a problem for me, but clapping pullups, high level gymnastic exercises and clubbell exercises I had never been properly coached on came through without many problems. I noticed during day 2, some of those that had done better on the workouts the day prior were starting to drag. Those of us military or fire service, didn’t seem to have as much of a problem. I strongly believe going through the combatives courses and weeks in the field helped my body to pace itself.
The day ended with some more quick notes by all the coaches. The certification course had ended. My arms were stiff and hurt to lock out. I chatted with Joe Wilson a bit about how he programmed when he was in charge of his departments fitness program for the academy. He said he used Tacfit on Mon Wed Fri and had the cadets perform the events for the departments physical test on Tue and Thurs. Ideally Tacfit should be done on the high intensity day of a 4 day wave. The day prior to your Tacfit workout, you would perform strength work, all your deadlifts, squats, hypertrophy, kettlebells that sort of thing. Or you can do a Tacfit workout at a lower complexity level. The day after your high intensity day will be no intensity, but that doesn’t mean do nothing, you need to do full joint mobility. The next day completing the 4 day cycle is low intensity. This can consist of compensation like prasara/stretching or light bodyweight type stuff or some skills work.
I would reccomend if you are training for to keep yourself and those around you alive, to have a good strength training program in conjunction with Tacfit. I’ve found through my practice that Tacfit, that it fills alot of gaps that may have never noticed, but lifting heavy things isn’t one of them. It wasn’t designed for that since you are suppose to do that the day prior. Lift heavy things, do Tacfit, ensure you’re actually doing the compensation and mobility stuff and you’ll be set. Right now I’m trying a mix of AMD(Jim Smith/Diesel Crew) and Tacfit, and having huge success. The cool thing is, if you want to emphasize another skill you can switch your Tacfit into the moderate/strength day and have your emphasis placed in the high intensity. That’s what I’m trying with Tacfit at a lower complexity and AMD the day after. I feel rock solid already after only a week. I foresee huge success with this.
So this was the first field instructor certification for Tacfit. It’s my pleasure to be apart of it. I would have liked a third day that went over programming more and got into some of the business aspects for those that would like some side income, but also these tactics still apply when training your own organization. But with the time given, there was about as much crammed in as possible. I mean 6 high intensity workouts, 96 different exercises and some classroom is tough to squeeze into two days. Also I think there is alot of this material for the Team Leader certification which isn’t formated just yet.
All in all, if you’re an MMA fighter, first responder or military, I highly recommend you checking out Tacfit for your metcon program. It’s not just asskicking, it’s structured for what we do. The exercises, the coaching cues and sports psychology all bring us up the pyramid from GPP(General Physical Preparation) to SPP(Specialized Physical Preparation) and even the top with emotional/mental/pyschological. It takes everything you need to have a program for your organization and takes all the guess work out of how to apply work skills by stimulation not simulation. You’ll still need a good strength program like Joe DeFranco, Zach Even-Esh or Diesel Crew to complete your program.
The firefighters at the certification had been doing Tacfit for a couple years since they were the original test subjects and have been guinea pigs since. Carson is a freaking beast, he was doing alot of stuff at Alpha and Beta levels even after six workouts. They said most of the guys doing it had increased their air time and were much better at work. For law enforcement types, I would add in some form of grappling as your strength work, you’ll be slinging people more than lifting heavy things. For the military guys, skip a tacfit workout every other week and exchange it for a road march, still maintain a good strength program that emphasizes postural symmetry and allow for strengthening the load bearing structures while allowing enough time for spinal decompression. Hanging upside down often may be the answer. Also injury prevention should be priority over anything competitory, compete during your Tacfit sessions, practice during strength sessions. As always feel free to exchange a Tacfit session(or even a month) every so often with something new or change of pace, just make sure to keep consistent or progress will come to a screeching hault.
There is so much beneath the surface of this program and I’ve tried to peel back some of the onion layers. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me and I’ll try to answer as best I know. There is plenty I’ve yet to learn.
Nathanclubbells conditioning kettlebells metabolic conditioning metcon tabata tacfit