Nearly three decades since his iconic role, Jason Scott Lee is again in top shape.Read article
When it comes to the business of battling insurgents or serving high-risk warrants, there are a lot of things that can go wrong. Weapons fail, plans fall apart, bad guys get away. But of all the many variables involved, the last thing that our military and law enforcement want to worry about is their level of fitness. They need to be able to sprint to cover, carry a teammate out of harm’s way or hurdle obstacles, all with a high level of efficiency. Relative strength, power, stamina and speed all come into play. So with lives hanging in the balance, operators tend to train in earnest to meet all of these tasks.
Rob Shaul, CSCS, is the founder of Military Athlete (www.militaryathlete.com) in Jackson, Wyoming, a company specializing in fitness programming for military and law enforcement athletes. One of the tests he has developed to test physical preparedness is called “Operator Ugly,” a grueling 90-minute-plus gauntlet of exercises that are vital to Special Forces as well as local SWAT and elite federal units like the FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team and the U.S. Border Patrol’s Tactical Unit. The test offers an unfiltered measure on an athlete’s level of physical and mental fortitude.
“There’s no way to game the test,” Shaul says. “In general, stronger, bigger guys score better. But scoring and results are also based on bodyweight. Also, the test is leg-core-and-lungs dominant. We call the area between the knees and the shoulders the ‘combat chassis’ – the most important area for military athletes. The test is very comprehensive and examines an athlete’s strength, work capacity, sprinting ability, endurance and mental fitness. It’s no joke.”
You might not need to kick down any doors or tackle rugged terrain in the Hindu Kush but occasionally assessing your level of athleticism is never a bad idea. Give Operator Ugly a try the next time you’re curious about how you stack up against our fighting elite.
Perform each event in the order listed and score yourself based on the parameters outlined here.
Warm-Up (recommended, not mandatory)
Goblet Squat x 10 (12 kg)
Push-Up x 8
Sit-Up x 10
EVENT 1: BENCH PRESS, MAX REPS
Men: 185 pounds | Women: 95 pounds
Shaul recommends that men perform a warm-up set of 10 reps at 135 pounds and another of five reps at 165. For women, do 10 reps at 45 pounds, then five at 65. Then hit your prescribed weight for as many reps as possible.
“Any rest is done with the barbell at full extension,” Shaul says. “The barbell must touch the athlete’s chest for each rep, and finish with the elbows locked out. Feet must remain on the floor, and the athlete’s butt cannot lose contact with the bench.”
EVENT 2: FRONT SQUAT, MAX REPS
Men 185 pounds | Women: 115 pounds
This event calls for a similar warm-up protocol. Men should do 135 pound for 10 reps, then 165 for five reps before going for max reps at 185. Women should warm-up with 65 and 85 pounds.
“Again, only rest in the standing, or rack position,” he says. “The athlete must lower the barbell until his thighs are at parallel or below. If you have a medicine ball, place it below the athlete, and have him or her touch the ball with is butt for the bottom position. The top of the range of motion is standing with the hips locked out at full extension.”
EVENT 3: DEADLIFT, MAX REPS IN 60 SECONDS
Men: 225 pounds | Women: 135 pounds
Male athletes should warm-up with 10 reps at 135, then five at 185. Women should do 10 reps at 65, then five at 95 pounds.
“There is no bouncing allowed on these,” Shaul says, referring to the true nature of a deadlift, which calls for a dead stop at the bottom of each rep. “The athlete may rest by setting the barbell on the floor and standing up without it.”
EVENT 4: SPRINTS, 4 x 25 METERS FOR 60 SECONDS
In this round, you’ll bust out sprints between two cones, spaced 25 meters apart, for 60 seconds straight. Each time you touch a cone it counts as one rep. So each trip out and back is essentially two reps. Impartial reps as time expires do not count toward your total. Rest 60 seconds between bouts.
“This tests anaerobic endurance and the athlete’s ability to recover metabolically. I chose sprints as the mode to test anaerobic endurance and recovery over other means because I feel sprinting is a key fitness attribute for military athletes. Plus, no special equipment is needed for this test.”
EVENT 5: PULL-UPS
One of the best pure measure of upper body strength, the pull-up belongs in any athlete’s training regimen. But you won’t find any kipping among tactical operators.
“These are dead hang and strict, chin above bar pull-ups,” says Shaul. “No kipping, no chicken necking, no BS. The athlete can rest while hanging on the bar in the bottom position. There is no set warm up for this test. The athlete may do a couple warm up pull-ups if he likes.”
EVENT 6: SANDBAG GET-UP, MAX REPS IN 10 MINUTES
Men: 80 pounds | Women: 60 pounds
Ever pick up a sandbag? A real, full sandbag? They’re heavy but most of all they’re awkward. Operator Ugly doesn’t care about your delicate sensitivities. This balance-wrecking move helps you become comfortable with discomfort.
“Start standing with the sandbag on one shoulder,” Shaul explains. “Lay all the way down, then get up any way you want. The finish is a full standing position, knees and hips at full extension, feet shoulder width apart. The athlete may or may not switch shoulders with the sandbag as he or she wishes.” You will wish. Just sayin’.
Check out this Sandbag Get-up video to see how this move is performed.
EVENT 7: 3-MILE RUN WITH 25-POUND VEST UNDER 30 MINUTES
When was the last time you logged three miles of running…in a day? Some among you area likely more gifted in this area than others but who among you has ever run those miles wearing a 25-pound vest? Tactical operators never get to run in shorts and light tees. It’s usually carrying loads of heavy equipment while wearing an ungainly set of boots.
For this event, you’ll likely be as warm as you need to be. Just start within 10 minutes of finishing the sandbag get-ups. It is a pass or fail event with a 30-minute limit.
PASS / FAIL (CIRCLE ONE)
Reps vs. Max Effort Strength
Being able to bench press a Cadillac might be the standard for some superheroes but for our heroes in uniform, relative strength is more important.
“I’ve been intrigued by the 225-pound for reps bench press test the NFL uses at its Combine but knew that 225 was likely too heavy for military athletes,” Shaul says. “So I chose 185 for loading. A military athlete should be able to bench press 185 for reps.”
Exercise Selection & Balance
“One of the most interesting things about strength is when an athlete is balanced, his front squat and bench press maxes will be very close,” says Shaul. “The same is true for max reps, like this test. With the front squat test, I’m not only testing leg strength, but also strength balance between upper and lower body.”
EVENT 1: TOTAL x 1
EVENT 2: TOTAL x 1
EVENT 3: TOTAL x 1
EVENT 4: TOTAL x 1
EVENT 5: TOTAL x 1
EVENT 6: TOTAL / 2
EVENT 7: PASS OR FAIL
Minimum passing score is 100 and finishing the run within 30 minutes.
Male athletes 160 pounds or less
Male athletes 161-199 pounds
Male athletes 200 pounds or more
Female athletes 125 pounds or less
110 is the standard
Female athletes 126-150 pounds
130 is the standard
For female athletes 151 pounds or more
150 is the standard
How’d you do? Interested in improving your score? Contact the team at Military Athlete for training ideas or info on how to attend one of their programming courses at www.militaryathlete.com.
Rob Shaul, CSCS, is founder of Military Athlete (www.militaryathlete.com) in Jackson, Wyoming. Military Athlete specializes in day-to-day programming for military and and law enforcement athletes, as well as focused, sport-specific training plans for military fitness tests, special forces selections and training schools.