How to Train Like a Navy SEAL: Combat Power, Battlefield Speed, and Fight Endurance

Navy Seal's Hell Week
 U.S. Navy photo by Photographer's Mate 2nd Class Eric S. Logsdon


Tactical athletes need to make the most of their workouts and prepare for the unknown. Tactical training is about combining workouts to defend yourself, build self-reliance, and becoming an actual capable person walking down the street who can respond when faced with a threat—whether it’s a bad guy or a car jumping the curb—without hurting yourself.

In the typical fitness world—whether it’s bodybuilding, powerlifting, running, swimming, even CrossFit—goals are very linear, very finite. You can define them ahead of time and then work toward and achieve them. On the battlefield or in combat, you have infinite potential goals—everything is multi-directional, random, and chaotic. You have to go from different obstacles or environments and still have the endurance to keep going. You might find yourself in a fight one minute, and then running the next, and then fighting again, and then running, and then fighting, so you have to be fit aerobically and anaerobically at the same time.

The key movements I focus on are the push, the pull, the strike, and the grip. I’m not reinventing anything—I’m just applying the same philosophies more realistically, so when people exercise they’re becoming more proficient humans.

Hand-to-hand combat is part of every Navy SEAL’s pre-deployment training schedule. The key elements never change—be violent, hit first, hit hard, hit repeatedly, stay on your feet, and get off-target as soon as possible. We are also realistic, knowing that most fights start standing upright and tend to end on the ground, which makes hitting first, hard, and repeatedly very important. Needless to say, we train for worst-case scenario, which includes MMA-like fighting systems and a fair amount of grappling with all of our gear on.

For this lesson, let’s focus on exercises that increase striking speed, power, and endurance. There are more than 32 different body parts used to inflict damage, but let’s keep it simple—fist, hammer fist, palm, and elbow.

Clint Emerson is a former member of SEAL Team 6. He is now a published author, speaker, instructor, and motivator. For more, go to clintemerson.com.

Clint Emerson

Part 1: Battlefield speed

Speed is so important because you want to deliver more strikes than your adversary throws at you. Interestingly, the faster the strike the less time your adversary has to react—or, even more advantageously, they react late and leave themselves open for your next strike that’s already on its way.

Navy SEAL Speed Workout

1. Shadow Boxing With Weighted Fists (e.g. 20-oz boxing gloves)
Rounds: 3 Reps: 2 min. work / 30 sec. rest

2. Strikes With Resistance Bands
Rounds: 3 Reps: 30 sec. work / 15 sec. rest

3. Plyo Pushups
Pyramid Sets: Do 1 rep, rest, then do 2 reps, rest, up to 10 reps. Then, work your way back down from a 10-rep set.

Part 2: Combat Power

Power is what makes a strike devastating. Technique is instrumental to generating and delivering a powerful blow. Power is what breaks lower orbital ridges, maxillary sinus cavities, and, of course, jaws. Power also depends heavily upon velocity or speed. Power is always generated from the ground up. Whether you’re on your back, knees, or feet, how well you’re anchored to the earth will determine how much power you can generate. Your core is vital to harnessing your anchors (back, knees, or feet) and transferring energy from your core to your extremities to deliver the strike.

NAVY Seal Combat Power Workout

1. Heavy Bag Alternating Hooks
Rounds: 3 Reps: 3 min. work /30 sec. rest

2. Squat/Deadlift Superset
Rounds: 20 Reps: 1-10-1 stack/pyramid

3. Extended Plate Standing Plate Rotations
Sets: 5 Reps: 40 (each side)

4. Kneeling Kettlebell Woodchops
Sets: 5 Reps: 40 (each side)

Part 3: Fight Endurance

If you can’t breathe after 30 seconds of maximum effort, then you’re going to lose the fight. Your energy systems are just as—if not more—important than speed or power. If you can’t go the distance, then you will not win a fight. Muscle endurance is no different—your legs, core, and upper body must complement your heart and lungs.

Navy SEAL Endurance Workout

1. Superset: Sprints / Heavy Bag
Sprint 100 meters
Heavy bag for 1 minute
Do 5 rounds, resting 30 sec. between rounds.

2. Superset: Box Jumps / “Gloves On, Fists Up”
Sets: 5 Reps: 20

3. Superset: Shadow Box / Stair Climbs
3 min. of shadow boxing
1 flight of stairs
Do 5 rounds

4. Superset: Jump Rope/Speed Bag Supersets
100 count jump rope
2 min. on speed bag
Do 5 rounds