Circus Tricks and the Tactical Athlete

Posted on March 22 2018

Circus Tricks and the Tactical Athlete

When I was serving as a Marine, I saw a number of different servicemen and women take part in various, popular-at-the-time programs that appealed to service members with its promise that the programming would make you an elite athlete or “get shredded.” The images and the videos of these programs certainly showed athletic moves performed by athletic individuals. I recall one particular image of a fit guy, whom I know served in Special Operations and as a contractor, performing a squat while balancing with one foot on the handle of a kettlebell. I cringed as I waited for the kettlebell to twist and witness disaster. Yet social media warriors Like and Share photo’s such as this. For the truly brave…or stupid, they attempt it themselves. But is there a place for such acrobatics in Tactical Fitness?

Not so long ago, if someone thought of working out, they envisioned a barbell and weights, perhaps a sterile gym filled with machines, someone jogging down the road dodging cars, or cycling. But with the boom of the internet, more types of fitness concepts have emerged and exploded across the masses. Now there are gyms centered around spinning or Soul Cycle, Jazzercise, Pilates, TRX, Crossfit, Kickboxing (for fitness), various “Bootcamps,” Yoga, and others. The difference is that these come and go or at least shift in form. Take Yoga for example. There’s now “Hot Yoga” and I recently witnessed someone dangling upside down from what appeared to be a hammock or other type of linen hanging from the ceiling. I’m not even going to Google what this is because the splits this guy was doing while hanging in it looked seriously painful and I’m not going to subject myself to the images this might return. Some of these programs go away outright. Drive by any open gym and look at the services they offer. They change along with the years, concepts coming and going like the wind.

I would argue that a lot of the popularity of these is their promise of ease. Remember 6-second Abs? It took a few years before people realized it took more than 6 seconds to get abs. But somebody made a lot of money. Realizing that this, and things like it don’t work, people started looking at what I call circus tricks. The justification, “Squats and deadlifts are hard. But the Thigh Master didn’t work.” What to do now…enter circus tricks.

Marketing is Theater

I recently heard a well known businessman say “Marketing is theater.” He’s absolutely correct. And companies are spending millions of dollars creating that theater. I will admit, I’ve been to some competitive, circuit based events simply for the fun of it and I’ve been impressed. In one competition, I saw someone do a burpee but instead of just jumping up after the pushup, she did an entire flip backwards, landing on one leg dropping into a pistol squat…for reps. That, I will profess, is impressive. It made for great theater and I fully admit that I pulled out my phone to record it. Do their programs, and maybe you can too right? Yet during my multiple tours to Iraq and Afghanistan, when bullets were snapping over my head, I never pulled a matrix and did a backflip into a pistol squat, weapon tucked in tight into the shoulder, giving it to the enemy although that would’ve been pretty cool. But now, get a workout in, feel cool, impress others, get the likes, believe you’re ready.

Regarding the get-fit-quick schemes, perhaps it has to do with social media and other tools of convenience that have contributed to our declining attention spans. If you’re hungry, open the fridge. Needs cooked? 2 minutes on high. Blogging, such as this, used to be more popular. Now who has the time to read several pages of anything? We want it short and sweet, right now. Even with workout programs that aren’t marketed towards quick results, how long is your average Crossfit workout? AMRAP in 15 minutes? It takes you longer to drive to the gym. But do this every day and you can certainly be as jacked as Rich Froning right? Well at least Crossfit isn’t easy.

Besides immediate gratification, we insist on being entertained…or entertaining. We feed off of social media likes and the way to get there is to snatch a barbell overhead with plates that look like tires (but actually are 25lbs per). Never mind that your form is terrible and you just jacked up your back. Pistol Squats on a Kettlebell handle? Look at me in awe. Then there’s the toys. Everybody’s seen a barbell but do you have any Instagram photos with the new bamboo wobble stick thingy on your back? Heck no you don’t.

So what about for the Tactical Athlete? Sometimes the best thing for you is something you put the time and effort into. War is about violence of action and there is a brute-like component to it. And before you get to the target site, you’re carrying about 90lbs worth of gear. The lucky ones are riding it in. The right program for those that live this life are the programs that have lived through time…the tried and true programs that don’t disappear from studio windows every few years. Turning you into a warfighting machine took months and years of breaking you down and building you up. Shouldn’t your workout do the same?

Anything worth doing is hard

I’m all about the evolution of techniques and experimenting with new things, looking for the right things. But cutting through the clutter is tough when the clutter keeps getting dumped into your internet feed. What I do know is this, getting strong is not easy. Translating that strength into power is not easy either. Anything worth doing is hard and takes time and there’s a reason some programs have withstood the test of time.

Our concepts at Sheepdog Strong are simple. The work put in applying those concepts is not. If you push, you must pull. And secondly, you must move. Be strong, be powerful, move with purpose and have the energy to overwhelm when it comes time to overwhelm. Learn patience and work through mental roadblocks. And the concepts of this type of work will carry over into everyday life.

If you haven’t checked out our Daily Reps, do so today by clicking here. But be forewarned, there’s nothing too fancy about any of it, nor should there be.


Founder/Sheepdog Strong



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