When you saw the movie Predator, did you wish you were badass enough to rumble in the jungle with a high-tech interstellar juice monkey that possessed a face only a mother could love?
Of course you did. That’s why games like Halo are so popular. Sure, there are real-life ways in the realm of fitness to make you feel more badass. I’ve done some of them, like running a fast marathon, going for the 315 bench press, sea kayaking through five-foot swells, and running outside in testicle shriveling weather.
But what about training that’s more warrior-specific? What about following a program that is built around training fighters and soldiers? Would that make you feel even more badass? Probably. It would get you in damn good shape, at least. And there are a couple of options you can follow that allow you to embrace your inner warrior. Let’s start with …
Fighter-Based Training: Training for Warriors
Martin Rooney has a master’s in health science. He went to college on a track and field scholarship and was on the U.S. bobsled team. Then he got into combat.
“When my bobsled career ended I became one of Renzo Gracie’s first students in jiu-jitsu,” Rooney told me. “I was very fit, and Renzo asked me to give his team physical training in exchange for me receiving fighting training.” And that started a career traveling the world, coaching fighters in physical and mental development. But it didn’t stop there.
“I’ve trained hundreds of NFLers, Navy SEALs and Army Rangers,” Rooney said. He ended up writing a book called Training for Warriors and self-published it, but it became so popular it was later picked up by a major publisher. This led to the formulation of his Training for Warriors certification that is now offered by affiliates around the world. “We have over 1,500 trainers in 100 Training for Warriors facilities around the world.”
“Bring out the warrior within” is their motto. “Most people don’t tap into it. We want to influence the rest of people’s lives. My whole thing is being a crusader for fitness,” Rooney told me. “The program is born from fighters and it’s proven that it can make people the best fighters in the world, so imagine what it can do for a regular guy.”
They get a mixture of clients. Some are already fit, but others are not. “There is no degree of ability you have to have. It is tailored depending upon ability.” It’s also important to note that it’s not a sport. “You’re competing against yourself. We don’t want people to get hurt so we don’t encourage competition with other people. One of our guiding principles is that anybody can make somebody tired, but not everybody can make someone better.”
So What Is the Workout?
It’s broken down into two types of sessions: metabolic training and strength training.
The goal of metabolic training is “to create a brief yet powerful storm of exercise.” Here is a sample of what it looks like:
Do a warm-up to get the mind and body ready.
Sprint intervals with exercises in between each sprint: kettlebells, dumbbells, body weight pushups, body squats. Low weight, higher rep.
The strength-training aspect is more based on traditional weightlifting, with a focus on the big six compound lifting movements:
Bent over rows
It uses a combination of heavy weights in the lower rep range, along with less weight in a moderate (siz to 10) rep range. “It’s a mix of strength and hypertrophy,” Rooney told me. Both the metabolic and strength session are team-based, with the lifting sessions being smaller groups of six to eight to allow coaches to provide individual technique advice.
“It’s about creating a family,” Rooney said. “We use the power of the group.”
Soldier-Based Training: SEALFIT
If SEALFIT founder Mark Divine doesn’t qualify as a bad ass, I don’t know who does.
What Is SEALFIT?
“It’s primarily conditioning for combat,” Divine told me. “It was designed after I was hired by the Navy to mentor SEAL and Special Ops candidates.”
So why would the Navy hire Divine to condition their soldiers? Because he used to be one. I mean, after doing some time as a bean counter for a major consulting firm. At 26, he left accounting behind to pursue his dream of becoming a Navy SEAL officer. He spent nine years on active duty and 11 in the reserves, retiring with the rank of commander in 2011. He also has black belts in two different karate styles and training certifications coming out his ears.
After a year of training soldiers he wanted to do something that was beyond passing military physical fitness tests. “I decided to do it right and train individuals,” Divine said. “I wanted to create something that involved strength training and martial arts.” He also — as he puts it — likes to eat his own dog food.
“I was an early affiliate in CrossFit and took the strengths and shored up the weaknesses to make it more about strength and stamina development to allow people to operate for a long time under austere conditions.” You know, like a soldier in the field. “I stripped away a lot of the sport-specific work in CrossFit and replaced it with warrior athlete work.” He likes using sandbags, but says that anything heavy will do. “We steer clear of fancy equipment and fancy movements. We want people to learn to use what you have through functional movement. If all you have is your body weight, you can still get a smoking workout going.”
And like with Training for Warriors, Divine is big into teams.
“There is a lot of value in training as a team in terms of mental toughness and personal accountability. There is a lot of personal awareness as well. You have to pay attention to your team. It’s not just about you anymore. We don’t just want to make you more fit, but we want to make the team a better unit.”
But SEALFIT doesn’t affiliate. If you want to train with them, you need to be in Encinitas, Calif. “I have resisted the urge to license it because I don’t want it to get mucked up. I want to maintain the integrity. Money is not what drives the decision.”
But there are still SEALFIT workouts you can do. “People are learning about it because we post the Advanced Operator Workout on the website,” Divine said.
They also have academies, and you have to pack your toothbrush, because you won’t be sleeping in your own bed at night. “These are live-in academies. It isn’t a ‘train the trainer’ academy. People don’t leave with a SEALFIT certification. They are for teaching people to kick their own ass.” Level 1 academy is three days, Level 2 is five days, and the “Special Ops Immersion Academy” is three weeks. Again, you live there. That’s hardcore.
And you need to be in shape before you can play.
“We require people to be able to move their bodies functionally. You have to understand the basic lifts, have good range of motion and be able to move safely.” You also have to be a good teammate.
And to train at the facility daily you need to meet basic standards as well, passing what is called the Murph test, where you put on a 20-pound vest, perform a mile run, do 100 pull-ups, 200 pushups, 300 air squats, and another mile run. You need to do all this in under 75 minutes, but Divine prefers if you can do it in under an hour.
So Who Is Doing SEALFIT?
“Predominantly we are getting people who are inspired by the warrior ethos. We get Special Ops candidates and military members, first responders and industrial athletes, people who need to be in shape for their jobs like fishing-boat captains and oil workers. We’re also getting a growing number of professionals who are tired of not getting challenged in their regular workouts.” Women are doing it too, and doing well.
Divine is big into conditioning for combat, but actual training of hand-to-hand combat is only available in the three-week immersion academy. “It’s the pointy end of the spear,” he said. What he’s most dedicated towards is the development of mental toughness, which is why he wrote a book about it called Unbeatable Mind.
If you’re tired of your regular exercise regimen and looking to up your game to a more hardcore level, one of these programs might be for you.
But use caution. With hardcore comes increased risk. Don’t wreck yourself.