Combat Fitness

Whenever I talk preparedness, everyone wants to turn the conversation to gear, guns, and goodies.  These are all merely tools.  If you don’t have SKILLS, none of them matter.

For instance, a $2,500 AR platform rifle will not save your life if you don’t know how to immediately clear a double feed, or if you walk directly into an ambush.

10 years worth of food storage won’t help you if you don’t how to start a fire without electricity.

The same thing goes for fitness.  I’ve seen guys show up at events with $2,500 rifles, $1,500 pistols, the coolest plates and plate carriers, but they can’t conduct fire and movement over a 100 meter infiltration course without dying because they have zero fitness.

By fitness, I’m not talking about looking trim, of the ability to deadlift 500 pounds.  I mean combat, functional fitness to move over a distance, carrying your gear, avoiding getting shot, and arriving with enough left in the tank cardio-wise to pull the trigger while holding the rifle steady.

I know, that sounds like I’m joking or making fun, but I’m not.  It’s a direct and serious observation.

No, you don’t have to be built like a body-builder (I’m not) or rail-thin, but you do have to be able to conduct movement carrying all your Cool-Guy stuff.

As we get closer to November, fitness will become more important.  No matter who wins this election, violence will most likely ensue.

What does God’s Tactical Handbook say about it?

A wise man is full of strength,

And a man of knowledge enhances his might

Proverbs 24:5

She dresses herself with strength,

And makes her arms strong

Proverbs 31:17

Seems pretty clear and unambiguous.

So, how can the average person improve their fitness from where they are today?  Do literally ANYTHING.  Be honest, most people involved in preparedness today, are currently doing NOTHING in the fitness arena.

Let’s talk about some areas of fitness that lead to combat functionality.


The ability to take a knee seems so simple, yet watch the videos of the NFAC over the weekend and their people trying to take a knee.  Or literally any 3% or Militia group.

You need the ability to get into and out of the kneeling position quickly, and without aid or using your rifle to push yourself off the ground.

Doing lunges, either static or walking lunges, increases your fitness in this area.  Start small, and with no weight.  Once you get strong, try lunges wearing your patrol backpack and carrying a rifle, it changes things.


Another aspect of combat fitness is the ability to get down on the ground quickly, and also to get up off the ground quickly.  When conducting fire and movement, the 3-5 second rush is generally used.

Burpees are the exact equivalent of this needed combat skill.  Drop down, shoot your feet back, and then lower yourself to the ground.  To get up, push off the ground, bring your feet up, then burst forward.  Can you think of an exercise more suited PERFECTLY to combat skills?


Another area of combat skill that can be used for fitness is movement low to the ground.  If you ever done the low crawl of high crawl for 100 meters, you know what I’m talking about.  You’re practicing a skill and getting a workout.  

Crab-Walking and Bear-Walking are similar exercises that also are directly combat functional; if you’ve ever been on a rooftop and didn’t want to silhouette yourself, you know what I mean.  It’s a great way to both practice movement skills and work on fitness.  I have my martial arts students do them both regularly.

Spiderman push-ups also help in the ability of improving fitness while working on ground movement skills.  After each push up, bring one knee up to the same side elbow, alternating each repetition.  It simulates night crawling movement.

Mountain Climbers are another exercise with direct relation to both ground movement and knee strikes on the ground.  


Push ups are great for general upper body strength and are directly related to the ability to push people or things.


Body weight squats are a great exercise for improving balance and general lower body strength.  It’s directly combat related because you’ll need to get down and back up from the ground regularly.


While running is an excellent skill for staying out of combat, there is no caloric benefit to running versus walking…the benefit comes from cardiovascular ability.  For those seeking to lose weight, don’t fret because you can’t run, your body generally burns the same calories walking a similar distance as running.

So which do I choose, to be directly related to combat ability?  NEITHER.


That’s right, rucking is the way to actual combat fitness.  Rucking is putting on a backpack with 20-35 pounds of weight inside and then get out and conduct movement with it.  Some programs say use a brick, or put weights in it, but that isn’t realistic.  My patrol pack with a poncho, poncho liner, rain gear, 24 hours of food, a med kit, and some general gear weighs in at about 30 pounds.  

If I hike 4 miles carrying that, I’m working on cardio, I’m working on movement in general, and doing it all with weight resistance.  Talk about a full body workout.  Now, I don’t generally use normal, wide hiking trails, I use small footpaths with lots of elevation changes.  I don’t move fast, I move quietly, which takes more muscular activity than moving fast, and it develops combat or evasion skill.

Once you’ve mastered rucking with just the pack, add a chest rig and armor plates.  Then add a rifle….you get the idea.

It is true functional training in the gear you’ll actually use.


Many people in our community choose to run to develop cardio fitness, and I was one of them.  There is nothing wrong with that and running is never a bad skill to have.

However, recently, I’ve migrated my cardio program to Les Mills Combat.  It’s an old program, so I’m not even sure if you can still buy it.  I use it because it consists of a doing combative strike combinations in high repetitions and at combat speed to develop cardio.  It’s a HIIT program, and it’s also giving me reps of front kicks, side kicks, jabs, crosses, knee & elbow strikes.  I see as it as a win-win.

Choose what works for you as long as you DO SOMETHING.

There are two great resources for fitness that I use.

The first is to subscribe to Drew Baye’s newsletter and check out his programs at  Drew knows his stuff and ironically today he put out an article on this same topic.  Great minds, I guess.

The second is a video from Max Velocity Training called the MVT Functional Fitness Assessment, found at  It’s a great workout and a way to see where you stand.  It’s also the baseline requirement to attend any of his outstanding classes.  

Basically, you are running out of time.  Get up, get out, and get moving.  Doing anything physical is better than doing nothing, but make sure that what you are working on, has a real-life purpose.


Published by JD

I am the author of the Tactical Wisdom Series. I am a personal protection specialist and a veteran of the US Marine Corps. I conduct preparedness and self-defense training.

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