Monday, June 20, 2011

Adding Mass Action to TACFIT

Some readers may know that I started into TACFIT Commando a little while back (actually, at writing it's exactly thirteen days ago). I've had a few personal requests to explain this program in a bit more detail, which I'm going to do shortly.

This week, I've decided to step above and beyond the TACFIT protocols to increase a bit of mass action. There are some areas where the program itself doesn't quite feel like it's building the way it could. Don't get me wrong. There are plenty of places where TACFIT kicks the hell out of muscles I never use. But let's start with the program outline first.

The whole system works on three levels: Recruit, Grunt and Commando. I'm at the Recruit level, which is the starting point. Nobody should start any higher than this, because there are quite a few coordination exercises that need to be taken incrementally in order to execute them correctly. Each level consists of 84 days of training (21 four-day cycles). You have a four-day cycle to relax after the first level before moving on to the next. 84 days is about three months, so you have a nine-month commitment to see this system through to the end.

Without getting into the background of the system, TACFIT is, first and foremost, tactical fitness. This means it has to meet the requirements of producing exceptional conditioning, high levels of mobility and excellent flexibility. It also has to be compact (i.e., not taking up more than a body length in any direction) and portable (i.e., not using any equipment). It is, for all intents and purposes, a bodyweight strength and conditioning routine.

TACFIT's "intensity wave" strategy provides the user with a four-day cycle of intensity. On Day One, the movements are basically mobility and flexibility exercises with no intensity. On Day Two, the same exercises are stepped up to provide something of a low-intensity calisthenic performance. On Day Three, a warm up of six exercises is followed by the "real" workout, and concluded with another set of six cool-down exercises for stretching out the muscles. Here, the core workout objective is "moderate" intensity, meaning harder conditioning and strengthening, but with a focus on perfecting the movements. The fourth day uses the same order as Day Three, but at a high intensity.

On days three and four, the core workout itself is comprised of six exercises. Each exercise consists of eight sets of twenty seconds each, with a rest period of ten seconds between sets. The goal is to get as many reps as possible within those twenty seconds (at the prescribed rate of intensity, of course). There's a one-minute break between exercises.

This sucker is fast, and it's full-body. I have to say, on the high-intensity days I've never felt so totally burned out from an exercise sequence...even to the point that I'm unable to execute Push Ups during the circuit! But the real beauty is this: after the moderate and high-intensity days, there are two days of active recovery, where you don't get to stop moving. The muscles and joints are still put through their paces and kept mobile so the body doesn't seize up in a flex the way traditional strength training programs often do. And in truth, once the first couple of high intensity days were done, the adaptation is day-after pain, and what is there gets worked out and melted off in the next day's no-intensity work. Beautifully planned.

Now, what I've noticed is that there is a lot of leg, shoulder, back and triceps work in this routine. That's great, and it really does make a difference in the overall burn (we very often concentrate only on the "front view muscles" like biceps, pecs and abs). But having said that, I also do need some work on the biceps and abs, and I wouldn't mind a bit more work in trying to manage those pesky Pull Ups.

*Tip: If you're like me and have that great combination of loose rotators and a sore back, Pull Ups can be tough to do. Get a door-mounted pull up bar and leave it up. When you walk by, fire off one to three reps. They will get easier over time, so you'll soon be able to do full sets.

To deal with this, I'm throwing in a bit of extra work, using similar protocols but mixing up the timing. So, while the TACFIT training goes in a four-day cycle, I'll be doing this routine on a Mon-Wed-Fri cycle to build additional strength and metabolic spikes into the process:

  • Arms: Dumbbell Curls (8 sets of 20 seconds each: targeting 10 reps/set)
  • Legs: Squats (with dumbbells) (8 sets of 20 seconds each: targeting 8 reps/set)
  • Back/Arms: Pull Ups/Chin Ups (8 sets of 20 seconds each, alternating between exercises; as many as you can do)
  • Abs: Crunches (8 sets of 20 seconds each: targeting 10 reps/set)

Slipping this little routine into the process actually serves two purposes. On the surface, it does provide a bit of extra targeting strength training for areas that aren't fully covered in the TACFIT Commando progam. But it also throws in some extra calorie burning activity while increasing muscle mass and core training that are outside the program itself. I've started off light with just 10 lb. dumbbells. You can gauge how much weight you should be using based on the first few sets of dumbbell curls. If you can't make it to 10 after the first two sets, you're probably using too much weight. It should be difficult, but not impossible.

Yes, there is a bit of overtraining here, but what we're going for is an adaptive response. Sometimes, that needs a bit of a kick to get started (and some recovery supplementation, like a good post-workout shake). Once the muscle building kicks in, the fat burning furnace heats up as well. I'll keep you posted as I go and let you know how that's working for me.

There's also an eating plan in the system, which I should probably start on sooner rather than later!


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