In recent years, there has been a paradigm shift in how the tactical community – for example SWAT teams, special operations military and others - approaches it’s PT training designed to better prepare them for the job. The majority of this change has come from the individual operators looking to improve their general physical preparedness (GPP) for the job via an emphasis on more “functional” training.

Let’s be honest here, the term “functional training” or “functional fitness” is all the rage right now, some of it being  well thought out, some of it being crap, but I digress…this positive trend toward training that is more functional and job applicable or “real world” in nature, has recently found some acceptance by various branches of the military and tactical law enforcement community, just as it has in the civilian market. Yes, everyone and his mother has jumped on the “functional fitness/functional training” bandwagon, and that’s not a bad thing per se. However, let’s just say some do it better then others…

Of course Elite Fitness Systems, via Dave Tate and his crew, have been ahead of the curve on training that was “real world” applicable and functional well before the current fads out there. EFS line of strong man type products, such as drag sleds, chains, med balls, etc, and of course, the Prowler, allow for anyone to develop highly effective programs. For example, I used the Prowler with one of the SWAT teams I worked with last year:

The Prowler 2

I also used drag sleds, sand bags, and other  equipment donated by EFS, which had the team place 7th out of nearly 40 teams at the nations third largest SWAT competition.

Obviously, most EFS readers are athletes, but no doubt, a good % of them may be military and or law enforcement.

So what is “functional” training?

As a general rule, a correctly designed program for tactical athletes will lead to improved job specific GPP, will attempt to balance physical capacities, strength, endurance, simulate job specific movement patterns, and do it without (hopefully) adding injuries or over training syndromes to the officer(s) following it. Others may have slightly different definitions and or opinions on what I wrote above, but you get the general idea.

To summarize, the benefits of such training - if applied correctly - will be two fold:

• An improvement in job specific GPP and overall physical performance

• Reduced injury rates, which can lead to an increased operational longevity of the tactical athlete, be they SWAT, SOF, or “other.”

Remember, second place for “losing” in this line of work these people operate, is not a smaller trophy, but potentially coming home in a body bag. This shit has to work, and they have to be trained both physically and mentally to perform under worst possible circumstances.

Optimal Swat P.A.S.T program

Military Starting to “get” the Functional Training Thing….


It should be noted that within the military, there is new found appreciation for training that is more realistic, “functional” and job applicable to tactical athletes. An  example of the shift in paradigm, is the Marine Corp. developing the Combat Fitness Test (CFT);  Marines must pass  in addition to the standard  Marine Corps Physical Fitness Test (PFT). The Marine Corp. Times states:

Unlike the familiar Physical Fitness Test, the Corps’ new Combat Fitness Test is designed to assess Marines’ physical strength, endurance and agility where it really counts: in battle.” **


A fairly recent article in the Journal of Special Operations Medicine (JSOM)* examined the training related injury patterns/ Musculoskeletal injuries from the 5th Special Forces Group came to some useful conclusions.

This study revealed that physical training caused 50% of all injuries. Injuries resulted in 10-times the number of profile days (lost work days) as illnesses with the leading reason for outpatient visits being musculoskeletal disorders.

Most relevant to this article however, was the authors  comments on prevention:

Finally to focus more on prevention, Special Forces Groups should modify unit physical training programs to incorporate the fitness and performance fundamentals used in today’s top athletic programs. Military researchers have shown that modified physical training programs can result in lower injury rates with improvements in physical fitness. Training regimens that emphasize core strength and cross-training would likely increase physical readiness while decreasing the incidence of spine and lower extremity injuries.”

Bottom line here is: training hard and training smart, are not always interchangeable concepts. The latter leading to superior performance and reduced injury rates, with improved operational readiness and (potentially) greater operational longevity for the SWAT operator, soldier, PMC, and other tactical athletes. The top coaches involved in “today’s top athletic programs” follow similar guidelines  mentioned above, but programs do need to be modified for the unique requirements of the tactical community.

FIST (Fire Support Team) Staff Sergeant section chief and Modern Army Combatives Program Level II instructor and trainer Nathan Cragg made a salient point for example:

“… make sure your training does not interfere with your job performance. Some sore muscles may not slow you down too much on the exterior, but it's not worth risking…” (1)

Point being, not all training is suited for tactical athletes which may otherwise be fine for other populations. And that fact needs to be taken into consideration when developing programs for the tactical community.

Practical Applied Stress Training (P.A.S.T) Concepts

So the above discussion gives a general overview on the potential benefits of training programs and testing, etc that attempts to be more “functional” in nature, and hopefully, will “emphasize core strength and cross-training” that is adjusted for the requirements of the tactical community. So far so good, and if the reader has not already done so, I encourage you to look more into the various programs out there that exist for that type of training, much of which can be found on the EFS web site.

This brings me to Practical Applied Stress Training (P.A.S.T) concepts. P.A.S.T is not specifically a GPP program for tactical LE per se, but more an adjunct to it. The general concept goes like so: It’s the common practice for the majority of SWAT teams to train diligently on their firearms skills and tactics, while hitting the gym or the road as a separate training rotation. P.A.S.T attempts to bridge that reality and parallel what the “real world” event may demand - which is the simultaneous demands on shooting proficiency, as well as anaerobic and aerobic energy systems - which will greatly impact the operators abilities to perform under pressure. The only way to perform in such a situation is to have experienced the effects of physical and mental stress on marksmanship skills  and test whether or not your job specific GPP and shooting skills are up to the task. The only way to prepare for that scenario, is to do it!

Per my comments above regarding the essential elements of what makes an effective training program for tactical LE, P.A.S.T  focuses  on functional strength, improving bodyweight to strength ratios, dealing with unbalanced loads, and overall fitness and conditioning combined with shooting rotations. P.A.S.T  prepares the tactical athlete to perform efficiently under worst case scenarios which greatly improves survivability of dynamic situations they may be confronted with.

Unfortunately, It’s often the case that PT related training and marksmanship don’t come together until the officer is in the middle of life and death situation, where the ability to perform is tested as never before, and the outcome unsure. Thus, the trend toward more “functional” style training in the tactical community is a positive one to be sure, and should be encouraged, but P.A.S.T adds a dimension to the training of tactical LE not duplicated by other programs. That’s P.A.S.T training in summery, with many details left out due to space limitations, but hopefully the readers gets the gist…



The intention of this article was to support the current shift toward more functional “real world” job applicable PT training for the tactical community. The benefits of such training – when implemented correctly to the specific requirements of the community – will be improvements in physical preparedness /job specific GPP combined with reduced injury rates, which may lead to an increased operational longevity of the SWAT operator.

Finally, an additional dimension of training - that has the potential to substantially improve job related performance, GPP, and survivability under stress - P.A.S.T style training allows tactical athletes to experience an enhanced level of  job related stress training that will be another tool in the tool box. For information on the P.A.S.T Program see:

Optimal Swat P.A.S.T program

Stay safe…

More About Will Brink