Lift Big Eat Big & the Tactical Athlete

As the mantra of Lift Big Eat Big spreads to the masses I have noticed more and more Military and Law Enforcement members jumping on board. This subset or community is often referred to as Tactical Athletes (TA). For years this community lifted like body builders, and there is nothing wrong with that, except you are a Tactical Athlete and not a body builder. Some of you are already clued in to this so skim the details if you want, for those of you who still lift the way your high school gym teacher showed you, listen the F up.

When you are wearing fifty plus pounds of gear, plus a rifle and maybe a ruck you need a strong posterior chain. Your hams, glutes and your entire back need to be as strong as possible. How do you fix that? You start by getting off the hip sled and hack squat machine and picking up your man card. Deadlift and deep squats are going to be the first thing you had better start taking seriously. I realize that being a TA can be tough on your knees, this is not an excuse not to squat. Instead I would recommend you go deeper on your squats and supplement accordingly. Wallowing around on the hamstring curl machine is not going to functionally strengthen the hamstrings and glutes. When do you ever pull something up to your butt with your heal? Instead, start deadlifting like a beast. Lift Big Eat Big programming is about as close to real functional strength building as you are going to get.

As we build our posterior chain we also need to look at another aspect of training as a TA and that is explosive power. Burpees are great for soccer moms and people that don’t have to wear body armor. Other than the conditioning aspect they are not going to build the amount of raw explosive strength you need to perform many of the actions you perform in hostile situations. Instead look at the Olympic lifts. The snatch is a great example of moving a lot of weight quickly through a plain of motion. If you have ever tried to get a wounded buddy up off the ground and into a fireman’s carry you know all too well how difficult it can be. Even with good technique it is a challenge, and more so when you are smoked. Adding in movements like the snatch and power cleans will improve your ability to move weight through space, this applies to moving gear like ammo cans full of mortar rounds just as much as it does to moving people. An easy way for a TA to figure out what type of weight they should be moving on a given exercise is to calculate the weight of the heaviest member of their squad or team with full equipment, then add 10-20% for fatigue. If you can move that amount of weight then you can probably help to save their life.

Besides having the strength to accomplish the mission why else should the TA Lift Big Eat big? Simple, it’s all about presence. As any Law Enforcement Officer or Personal Security Team Member can tell you the first weapon in your arsenal is your presence. If you look big, strong, and fit people are less apt to test you. Deterrence is the best defense. Getting big can be difficult in austere environments like Afghanistan where the altitude and climate can eat you alive. As an operator in Iraq and Afghanistan I have continuously gained mass. How did I do it? I ate constantly and made rest important. If I am not on mission or in the gym I make sure I am doing things that will allow my body to recover and rest. I make getting sleep a priority I stretch and work with a roller and tennis ball whenever I can. When I lift, I lift with my team mates. If you are a TA you are already a meat eater and since the chow halls on FOBs might not be the healthiest of places I do supplement where I need to, like bringing a protein shake to dinner when I know they are not going to have enough protein rich food sources available. I load up on hard boiled eggs in the morning and if there are not enough protein rich food sources at lunch, I add 3-5 eggs to it.

Lift Big Eat Big is a way of life for the TA, review your training, look at you diet, where can you make improvements. This is about your ability to accomplish the mission and it is just as important as any other part of your training. If you are not sure how to conduct the lifts I have discussed or are new to the game, Check out the YouTube videos by Marshal White, he explains form and how to conduct the lifts in a way that even a knuckle dragger like me can understand. Now go Train Your Ass Off!

About the Author: Dave ‘Knuckles’ Libbey Currently is serving in Afghanistan as a PSD operator and writes a weekly post for the Blue Line Radio Facebook page. He spent 10 years in the Marine Corps as an instructor and operator prior to becoming a civilian contractor and ISSA CPT. He remains actively engaged in training deployed Special Operations units. He can be reached at

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