In this article, we will cover the primary developments in the Ranger Athlete Warrior Program (RAW) over the past two years. The concept for the Ranger Regiment’s human performance initiative dates from the summer of 2005. Refinement of the program continues based on feedback from across the Regiment and interaction with physical training professionals, both military and civilian.
A major objective for version 3.0 and the training that accompany it is to clarify the intent of the program. RAW is not a series of training events but rather a philosophy. A fundamental tenet of the program is that Rangers are tactical athletes. To the degree that anyone depends on their physicality for occupational success, they are an athlete and must live accordingly. Such a life requires a smart, disciplined approach to 1) physical training, 2) nutrition, 3) mental toughness, and 4) prevention and management of injuries – the four components of RAW. Leaders are charged with guiding young Rangers down this path.
The major changes in RAW over the last two years are as follows:
- The addition of assessments that measure a broad range of physical attributes.
- A three-phased approach to training subject matter experts within the unit.
- Increased education on nutrition and supplementation while adding precise body composition assessments.
- Increased education on the mental component of peak performance.
- Addition of power-endurance/hybrid workouts.
The primary purpose of the RAW assessments is to identify individual and team/squad areas needing improvement. This in turn guides subsequent physical training. The first nine tasks are athletic assessments that should be conducted twice during a complete training/deployment cycle. Tasks 1-7 are conducted in order during a single, 90-minute PT session. Tasks 8 and 9 require gym equipment and are conducted separate from Tasks 1-7, but within five calendar days of those tasks. The Ranger Physical Assessment Test (RPAT) is the primary tactical assessment and is conducted once per training/deployment cycle, separate from any athletic assessments by at least two days.
Field Expedient Assessments (for task/conditions/standards, see Appendix)
- Illinois Agility Test
- 4kg Backward Overhead Medicine Ball Throw (BOMB)
- Metronome Pushup
- 300-Yard Shuttle Run
- Heel Claps
- 20-Meter Shuttle Run
- Deadlift with barbell at 225-lbs, max reps
- Bench Press with barbell at 185-lbs, max reps
In the Ranger Regiment, squad leaders are the primary physical trainers. They bring a wealth of knowledge and understanding of the Ranger physical requirement. To enhance their practical experience, we are training representatives from each platoon or section to attend a three-phased SME course. The first week is spent with the Regimental RAW team, learning the program philosophy and foundational drills. The second phase is a five-day experience at the Athletes’ Performance Institute (API – www.athletesperformance.com). API’s specialty is core and movement skills training. The final phase of training is a two-day seminar provided by the Gym Jones group (www.gymjones.com). This very practical phase focuses on the operator. A variety of hybrid drills blend power and endurance training. Careful consideration of Ranger-specific program planning is given during this phase.
Just as a high performance sports car will not function optimally without high octane fuel, Infantrymen limit their physical performance when they fail to choose sound nutritional practices. Although this makes sense, many Tactical Athletes train hard and make poor nutritional choices. In the RAW program we educate Rangers on how to incorporate sound nutritional practices into their daily life. Rangers get feedback on their diet and training not only through the RAW physical assessments but through body composition assessment.
We use the Bod Pod for body composition assessment. Rangers receive feedback regarding their body mass, body fat percentage, fat free mass, fat mass, and estimated caloric needs. The system allows us to collect data and adjust the Ranger’s diet and body composition for optimal performance. Dietary supplementation is also a big issue in the military. Rather than take the “all supplements are bad” approach, we take one of proper education to make intelligent decisions. Rangers are regularly educated with the most up to date information on dietary supplementation. The benefit to this approach is it empowers Rangers to understand and make sound choices on what they put or do not put into their bodies.
What allows one Soldier to outperform another Soldier of similar physical abilities? What enhances physical performance in schools such as Ranger and SERE, shooting ranges, and ultimately on the battlefield? Many say it is the ability to optimize or enhance what happens in the six inches of space between the ears. We often say “I was in the zone”, or “I was on my game”, or “I just had it today.” As part of the RAW program, this is what we call mental toughness. Being able to master some basic cognitive or mental skills can significantly increase your physical performance and your leadership abilities. The overall objective of the mental toughness pillar of RAW is to create a sense of total control and confidence; the perception of having total control over a totally uncontrollable situation.
When a Soldier is mentally fatigued or if his “head is not in the game,” performance, memory, attention span, motivation, decision making, reasoning, and communication all suffer. To promote peak performance, we educate Rangers on the importance of goal setting, attention control, sleep, and energy management. Adding the use of visualization and imagery skills further enhances performance.
Although we lack objective measurements of mental toughness, most agree that “suck events” such as long distant road marching and other endurance events provide leaders insight into a man’s mental fortitude. We believe there is also great mental toughness value in combatives and relatively short but intense hybrid workouts as described below.
The hybrid, power-endurance workouts popularized by organizations such as CrossFit and Gym Jones certainly have value for Infantrymen. We have incorporated such workouts into the RAW program, but believe they should be used as one modality in a broad-ranging PT program rather than the primary mode of training. Our bottom-line guidance for their use is as follows:
- Lay a good movement skill foundation first.
- Build volume over time. If you have not been training an exercise (Ex: box jumps, kipping pull-ups, handstand pushups), don’t do 50, high-speed reps the first session – doing so is a recipe for tendinitis or joint injury.
- Don’t let fatigue win…maintain form in the face of deep fatigue. Concentrate!
- Definitely don’t let fatigue win with a weight over your head.
- Structure workouts so that more demanding/complex movements (example: Turkish Get-Ups with Kettle Bells) are performed early in the workout…before deep fatigue.
- Once techniques are mastered, perform hybrid workouts 1-2X/week.
The Ranger Athlete Warrior concept continues to evolve based on feedback from the field and interaction with performance professionals from across the nation. A key objective for the next two years is the enhancement of gyms and equipment. Legacy gyms were developed based on a split cardio/bodybuilding model. Future gyms should support the tactical athlete concept and facilitate functional workouts that blend strength, endurance, and movement skills.
TASK 1: Illinois Agility Test. The purpose of this test is to measure quickness and agility.
CONDITIONS: Given a flat, paved surface, with a length of 10 meters and width of 5 meters, four cones marking the outer boundaries and four other cones 3.3 meters apart in the center.
STANDARDS: Begin in the prone position behind the start point, outside the first cone. The grader will give a preparatory command, “Ready.” On the command “GO”, Ranger jumps to his feet and negotiates the course around the cones to the finish (see the diagram below). If during navigation of the course a cone is bumped enough to move its position, the test must be repeated. The grader records the total time taken from the command of “GO” to when Ranger passes the last cone. Individuals that slip are given one other attempt to improve their score. Individuals that fail to navigate the course properly may repeat the assessment either immediately or after others in the squad have finished.
No rest period is required before moving to TASK #2.
TASK 2: 4kg Medicine Ball Toss. The purpose of this test is to measure total-body power.
CONDITIONS: Given a 4kg medicine ball, a tape measure, and a line to mark foot placement. Ranger will have three attempts to throw the 4kg medicine ball maximum distance, using a backward/overhead throw.
STANDARDS: Stand behind the line, with the back facing the direction of the throw. On each repetition, up to three preparatory movements are allowed. There is no penalty for stepping or falling beyond the line after the ball is released. The grader records the farthest throw to the nearest ft/in.
No rest period is required before moving to TASK #3.
TASK 3: Metronome Push-up. The purpose of this test is to measure the muscular endurance of upper body pushing and core muscles.
CONDITIONS: Given a solid, level surface and a metronome set to 1 second intervals.
STANDARDS: On the command “Get Ready,” assume the kneeling front-leaning rest position. On the command “Get Set,” assume the front-leaning rest position. On the command “GO,” lower the body until the upper arm is parallel to the ground. On the next metronome sound, immediately return to the front-leaning rest. On the next metronome sound, immediately return to the lower position as described above. When Ranger can no longer stay with the metronome cadence, the test is terminated and the last number of correct reps is recorded. There are no rest positions for this test. The body must be maintained in a straight line throughout. If Ranger maintains the metronome cadence, but fails to meet other performance standards (does not extend elbows fully on rising, fails to bring the upper arms parallel to the ground on lowering, sags/arches the pelvis/trunk at any point) the grader will repeat the number of the last correct repetition and tell Ranger to make the proper correction. Alternately, the grader may give a tap on the arms or back to indicate the need go lower or keep the trunk straight.
A five-minute rest period is required before beginning TASK #4.
TASK 4: Pull-up. The purpose of this test is to measure muscular strength and endurance of grip and upper body pulling muscles in relation to body weight.
CONDITIONS: Given a pull-up bar that allows full body extension without the feet touching the ground.
STANDARDS: On the command “Ready”, move to a free-hang position with arms straight and elbows locked, using an overhand grip, with the thumbs placed over the bar. On the command of “GO”, pull the body upward until the chin is over the bar. Return to the straight-arm hang position with his elbows locked. Repeat this pull-up movement as many times as possible. The body must maintain a generally straight plane from head to toe. If Ranger kicks his way up, the pull-up involved will not be counted. The grader may slow the speed of movement to ensure the elbows extend fully upon lowering. The score will be the number of correct repetitions performed.
A five-minute rest period is required before beginning TASK #5.
TASK 5: 300-yard Shuttle Run. The purpose of this test is to measure anaerobic endurance.
CONDITIONS: Given a flat, paved surface with line markings 50 yards apart.
STANDARDS: Line up in the sprint, crouch, or standup start positions with both feet and hands behind the starting line. The grader will give a preparatory command, “Ready.” On the command “GO”, run to the opposite end of the course and make a direct turn by placing at least one foot on or over the line, return to the starting line, makes another turn, and continue in this way for three round trips, sprinting past the finish line on the last trip. Do not take a circular path to make any turn. The grader records the total time taken from their command “Go” to completion of the course. A one-minute rest period is given, then the 300-yard shuttle is repeated. The rest period begins after the last Ranger in a group crosses the finish line. Leaders should organize the men so that there is minimal time separating the first and last Rangers in a group. The grader averages the two repetitions to calculate the overall score for this event.
A five-minute rest period is required before beginning TASK #6.
TASK 6: Heel Clap. The purpose of this test is to measure muscular strength and endurance of grip, pulling, and core muscles.
CONDITIONS: Given a pull-up bar that allows full body extension without the feet touching the ground, and is long enough to allow the movement to standard.
STANDARDS: On the preparatory command, “Ready,” Ranger moves to a free-hang position with elbows bent to approximately 90 degrees, using an alternating grip so that the body faces along the length of the pull-up bar rather than toward the bar. On the command “GO”, Ranger lifts his lower body upward and raises the feet over the bar to tap the heels together (repetitions will not be counted if only the toes touch over the bar). He returns to the starting position, maintaining the elbows at 90 degrees throughout. He repeats this sequence as many times as possible. The body must be held approximately straight in the lower position. Ranger cannot rest the legs on the bar or swing past the starting position on lowering. If Ranger extends the elbows to less than 90 degrees, that repetition does not count. Ranger must return to and pause at 90 degrees before attempting the next repetition. Ranger’s score will be the number of correct repetitions performed.
A ten-minute rest period is required before beginning TASK #7.
TASK 7: BEEP Test. The purpose of this test is to measure aerobic endurance.
CONDITIONS: Given two points, marked 20 meters apart, and one beep test audio file/CD.
STANDARDS: Wait behind the start line and begin the event at the direction of the audio file/CD. When prompted, run continuously back and forth between the marked points, attempting to touch the line with at least one foot at the recorded beeps. It is not necessary to touch the line with the hands, nor is it necessary for both feet to cross over the line. When Ranger fails to make it to the line on the beep twice in a row the test is terminated. The score given to the Ranger is the last level he successfully completed. This score can then be used to estimate VO2 Max, a measure of aerobic fitness.
TASK 8: 185-pound Bench Press. The purpose of this test is to measure upper body push strength.
CONDITIONS: Given a flat bench with a 45-lb Olympic bar with both one 45-lb and one 25-lb plate loaded on each side for a total of 185 lbs, and at least one spotter.
STANDARDS: Lie on the bench with feet on the ground and the head, shoulders, and buttocks in contact with the bench. Grasp the bar using an over-hand grip. Remove the weight from the rack. Help from a spotter is authorized when removing the weight from the rack but is not allowed once lowering of the bar begins. Ranger will then perform repetitions by lowering the bar completely to touch his chest and pressing the bar until the elbows are completely extended. Repetitions are counted every time the elbows are locked out while maintaining all contact points. Repetitions with correct form will be performed until Ranger can no longer complete a repetition, at which point the spotter will help rack the weight. There is no time limit. The event is terminated in the following ways: 1) Ranger stops or fails to maintain upward movement once a lift is started (hits a sticking point in the middle of a lift), or 2) Ranger violates execution standards for two consecutive repetitions despite prompting from the grader after the first violation. The score is the number of correct repetitions performed.
TASK 9: 225-pound Dead Lift. The purpose of this test is to measure total-body lift strength from the ground.
CONDITIONS: Given a 45-lb Olympic bar with two 45-lb plates loaded on each side for a total of 225 pounds.
STANDARDS: Standing behind the bar with foot and hand placement of preference, lift the bar until standing erect. At the top of the lift, the body is perpendicular to the ground, without bend in the hips or knees. The grader states the number of the repetition at this point. If Ranger lowers the weight before achieving the fully erect stance, that repetition does not count. A pause of up to two seconds at the top of the lift is allowed. Ranger then lowers the weight to the ground in a controlled manner. No rest is allowed while the weight is on the ground. Repeat as many repetitions as possible. There is no time limit. The event is terminated when Ranger exceeds the two-second time limit at the top of the lift, drops the weight or fails to maintain upward movement once a lift is started (hits a sticking point in the middle of a lift). The score is the number of correct repetitions performed.
TASK 10: Ranger Physical Assessment Test (RPAT). The purpose of this test is to measure all components of fitness (strength, endurance, movement skills), using tactically relevant tasks.
CONDITIONS – Given a 3 mile course, RBA, MICH helmet, Skedco w/ 160-lbs load, 20-foot fast rope apparatus, 20-foot caving ladder apparatus and an 8-foot wall.
STANDARDS – Complete a 3-mile run and combat focused PT course in less than 1 hour. The event will be conducted at squad level, with the mindset that the Ranger is competing against himself. Each time the event is conducted, each Ranger should see constant improvement in his time and ability to negotiate the course.
- Conduct a 2-mile run wearing ACUs, boots, RBA and MICH helmet. The run will begin and end at a 20-foot fast rope.
- After the completion of the run, immediately climb the 20-foot fast rope and do a controlled descent.
- When the rope climb is complete, drag a 160-pound SKEDCO litter 50 yards, turn round and drag it back 50 yards to the start point.
- Immediately following the SKEDCO pull, climb a 20-foot caving ladder and climb all the way back down.
- At the bottom of the Caving ladder, sprint 100 yards, turn around, sprint back 100 yards and climb over the 8-foot wall.
- Conduct a 1 mile run wearing ACUs, boots, RBA and MICH helmet. The run will begin and end at the 8-ft wall. Time stops when you cross the line at the 8-foot wall.
No statement in this article is intended to be, nor should be construed as, an endorsement for a particular organization or product by the 75th Ranger Regiment or the United States Army.