The Tactical Physique: A Functional Strength Training & Conditioning Workout

Brad Borland
Written By: Brad Borland
May 12th, 2020
Updated: April 7th, 2021
1.4M Reads
strong men and women working out in the gym
Improve performance (and aesthetics) with this functional strength training program. Bodyweight movements, conditioning work, and supersets work together to help you build a stronger foundation for a functionally fit physique.
Workout Summary
  • Main Goal
    General Fitness
  • Workout Type
    Split
  • Training Level
    Intermediate
  • Program Duration10 weeks
  • Days Per Week
    4
  • Time Per Workout60 minutes
  • Equipment Required
    Barbell, Bodyweight, Dumbbells, Other
  • Target Gender Male & Female
  • Recommended Supps
  • Workout PDF Download Workout

Workout Description

Body part split training is great and all but what about muscle that can function in the real world as well? Functional strength training has gotten a lot of press lately for good reason: It’s not only a new and (not so) unique way of training but also one that has a practical purpose attached. What good is it to have perfectly proportioned pecs and highly-peaked biceps if you can’t lift a sack of cement?

Strong legs, back and shoulder girdle developed not only for mass and muscularity but also for lifting, holding, pushing, pulling, throwing and heaving can benefit you in more ways than you think. When the whole body is strong and works synergistically, you develop a flow and strength that isn’t easily gained by traditional body part splits of one muscle group per day type training. Bombing a single muscle into submission over time will serve little in the way of walking out of the gym and having the ability of overall strength and capability.

Case in point: What good is it to kill your legs, squeezing every single morsel of energy from your quads, calves and hamstrings with additional intensity techniques such as drop sets, super high reps, negatives and forced reps only to limp out of the gym? 

Related: 4-5 Day Workout for Building Muscle & Strength

Enter The Tactical Physique

Some may argue that the terms “functional” and “physique” don’t necessarily belong in the same sentence. As functional is more of a practical, performance-based idea and physique has a little more to do with aesthetics, looks and nice biceps.

The purpose here is to bridge a gap so to speak. To focus on the functional side of training and letting the physique benefit in the meantime. Let’s be honest; you know you want to be functional, fit and have the ability to actually use the muscle and strength on your frame but another goal is to look good too.

Let’s look at how you can work toward both goals at the same time and kick butt outside of the gym too. Let’s stop limping out of the gym with our heads hanging low exhausted, frazzled and beat down and make our time, effort, sweat and tears benefit us for once.

Functional Fitness: A Change of Mindset

First and foremost you need to wipe the slate clean in your mind. Get away from the traditional thinking of pummeling a single body part until there is nothing left. Let’s start focusing on whole-body functionality – what your body is truly capable of when all those individual parts start working together like a well-oiled machine.

Military Special Forces, specially-trained Police Officers and Firefighters all have an indelible need to become and maintain a functionally fit body. The simple act of wearing and carrying heavy, cumbersome equipment for extended periods of time while under extreme amounts of stress requires a body that is capable of handling those conditions and then some.

It’s time to start thinking of your training around different variables, different planes of action and different levels of performance. Your body is one whole unit, not separate little pieces loosely strung together.

Shoring Up Common Weaknesses

Now, let’s break down a few of the more common weak links in the traditional lifter when it comes to strength. This isn’t an exhaustive list by any means, but will serve to point out some unknown problematic areas that will directly affect other lifts regarding strength and development.

  • The posterior chain: As this subject could be another article by itself, the posterior chain comprises all muscles comprising the posterior area of the body, functionally speaking. The yolk (traps and posterior delts), all back musculature, lumbar, glutes and hams make up this often neglected area. Most lifters focus on the mirror muscles; chest, biceps and quads. Over worked pecs and underworked lats, for example, can pull the shoulders forward, concaving the chest. Weak hams and glutes can hinder not only the development of the quads but also the performance on squats and other lower leg moves.
     
  • Overhead pressing: Real, full range overhead pressing is a rare site in most gyms these days. A properly performed overhead press provides the entire shoulder girdle with stability and strength that will carry over into other lifts such as bench presses, pull-ups and rows.
     
  • Stabilization and core: With a heavy use of machines and seated exercises, there is a growing epidemic of weak cores. Your ability to stabilize your body serves to provide you with whole-body control and strength. Developing and strong core is key when you need lower back strength and a steady trunk.
     
  • Lower body range of motion: Half and quarter rep squats will get you nowhere fast. Sure, you can pile on the weight and impress your friends, but how can you apply this practice? Limited ranges of motion are most common amongst lower body lifts. Developing muscle through a full range of motion will strengthen that muscle through the entire scope of its function.
     
  • Unilateral training imbalances: Utilizing too many machines and bilateral weight movements will eventually develop imbalances. One leg, hip, arm or shoulder stronger than the other will not only spell injury down the road but also significant strength differences from one side to the other. Unilateral training will quickly build balanced strength.
     
  • Bodyweight strength: Again, with the massive use of machines including plate-loaded machines, the average gym-goer’s ability to manipulate their bodyweight with purpose and control is rare. Real-world strength requires some form of bodyweight training including core development which is essential.

8 Training Variables For An Effective Functional Strength & Conditioning Workout

Below are some of the main variables you will utilize toward your new functionally fit, tactical physique. Each day of training will include every variable but one will be the main focus for specific days.

  • Strength: You will work with low reps to develop raw strength. Low reps and multi-joint movements will carefully be regulated regarding volume of work.
     
  • Hypertrophy: Some moves will be for good ole-fashioned muscle size. Increasing the cross sectional fiber size of muscle will help with other aspects of the program and will build an impressive physique at the same time.
     
  • Muscle endurance: As an often overlooked aspect of performance, muscle endurance will not only serve as a functional benefit but will also aid in fat loss.
     
  • Power: The ability to move weight or your own bodyweight quickly and deliberately serves yet another important aspect of performance.
     
  • Cardiovascular endurance: For the most part, you will forego the traditional form of low intensity steady state (LISS) cardio exercise and adopt high intensity interval training (HIIT). More efficient, more intense.
     
  • Speed and agility: Increasing your body’s ability to accelerate and inject some sprinting intervals will go a long way toward fat loss. Agility will enhance your ability to manipulate your bodyweight to change direction with speed and accuracy. It will also serve as good cardio work.
     
  • Prehab: This will include dynamic warm-ups and stretching and foam rolling. Priming and prepping the body for the work to come is essential for not only increased blood flow and performance but also longevity regarding the prevention of injury.
     
  • Range of motion and stretching: This will entail not only a stretching component at the conclusion of each training session but also adhering to a full range of motion of each exercise. The more a muscle stretches, the more it will contract.

Related: Warming Up For Dummies: A Lifter’s Guide to Injury Prevention

Tips to Achieve Your Best Physique

The program laid out here will address these issues and more. Wiping your proverbial slate clean and starting on a new path of not only restructuring your training plan but also sticking to it is not an easy task. You will be challenged and tested. Shifting from a traditional body part split training plan to a more comprehensive and holistic approach will take discipline, consistency and most of all a complete and utter belief in your new direction.

Once you have the tools in place and are acclimated to the new workouts it will be time to turn on the intensity and work to progress past your limits and reap the reward of more strength, power and muscle and less fat.

Here are just a few points when beginning the Tactical Physique Training Plan.

  • Give the program at least four weeks, preferably six. Any new plan takes time to shift into gear and for progress to be made. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither will you so build not only muscle and strength but also your discipline over time. Overnight fixes are for dreamers.
     
  • Each day will begin with some prehab and dynamic warm-ups/stretches. These are vital to your success. Skip them and see your gains slow and injury risk increase instantly.
     
  • Most of the training is at a quick pace. Pay very close attention to rest periods. Each session should last around one hour. Anything too much longer and you (not the program) are wasting time.
     
  • Challenge yourself. Just because you perform some supersets doesn’t mean you can go light and take it easy just for the sake of finishing out your set. Load some weight on the bar and get to work.
     
  • Form and function are an absolute requirement. If this is a problem then cut your weight in half and practice textbook form. Sloppy form equals a sloppy physique.
     
  • If you find yourself gassed and unable to finish a session, reduce the number of sets slightly and slowly build your endurance. Don’t sacrifice intensity for the sake of going easy and just completing the workout.
     
  • As stated earlier, each session will include all training variables to a degree; however, each day will also focus mostly on one or two of those variables.
     
  • If after four or six weeks you find the program isn’t for you, simply go back to what you were doing before. No hard feelings.
     
  • If you are up to the challenge then let’s go to work!

Each session will be performed once per week with an optional weekend day thrown in for those who want to go the extra mile. Your week may look something like this:

  • Monday: Day 1 - Strength
  • Tuesday: Day 2 - Hypertrophy and Muscular Endurance
  • Wednesday: Off
  • Thursday: Day 3 - Power
  • Friday: Day 4 - Speed and Agility
  • Saturday: Day 5 - Optional full body conditioning
  • Sunday: Off

The Tactical Physique Training Plan

Foam rolling/massage. Be sure to perform a few minutes of either foam rolling or simple massage of certain areas such as hips, quads, hamstrings, lats and shoulders.

Dynamic warm-up/stretching. The following will be performed prior to each training session. You may increase or decrease the volume slightly, but it will be necessary to include for better performance and a safer workout.

Perform all moves with little rest for one round:

Post training. Be sure to perform a comprehensive stretching routine focusing not only on the specific muscles stresses but also other areas affected by the training session.

Day 1: Strength

Exercise Warm Up Sets Working Sets Rest
Barbell Back Squat 3 x 8-12 4 x 5 2min
Barbell Romanian Deadlift 1 x 12 4 x 5 2min
Superset:
A1: Incline Bench Dumbbell Press 2 x 12 4 x 5-8 *
A2: Wide-Grip Pull-Up 2 x 12 4 x 5-8 *
*Rest for one minute between supersets
Superset:
B1: TRX Row - 3 x 10-15 *
B2: Plyometric Push-Up - 3 x 10-15 *
*Rest for one minute between supersets
Superset:
C1: Hanging Leg Raise - 3 x 15-20 *
C2: Planks - 3 x 20-30s *
*No rest between supersets
Sprint Intervals - 8 sprints 1min

Day 2: Hypertrophy and Muscular Endurance

Exercise Warm Up Sets Working Sets Rest
Superset:
A1: Standing Barbell Shoulder Press 2 x 12 4 x 10-15 *
A2: Rear Delt Rope Pull 2 x 12 4 x 10-15 *
*No rest between supersets
Bulgarian Split Squat 2 x 12 4 x 10 each leg 30s
Superset:
B1: TRX Curls 1 x 12 4 x 10-15 *
B2: Parallel Bar Triceps Dips 1 x 12 4 x 10-15 *
*No rest between supersets
Superset:
C1: Dumbbell Deadlift - 3 x 10-15 *
C2: Single Leg Calf Raise - 3 x 10-15 *
*No rest between supersets
Superset:
D1: Incline 3-way Sit-Up - 3 x 15-20 *
D2: Lying Leg Raise - 3 x 15-20 *
*No rest between supersets
Sled Pull or Drag, or Farmer's Walk - 3 Lengths 1min

Day 3: Power

Exercise Warm Up Sets Working Sets Rest
Clean and Press 2 x 12-15 3 x 5-8 1min
Jump Squat or Box Jump 1 x 10 4 x 10 30s
Walking lunge - 3 lengths 1min
Plyometric Push-Up 1 x 10 3 x 5-8 30s
Single Arm Dumbbell or kettlebell flat bench press - 3 x 5-8 1min
Bent-Over Barbell or Dumbbell Row 1 x 12 3 x 5-8 1min
3-Way Plank* - 1xAMRAP -
*Alternate from side, middle, to other side for 10s each (for total of 1-2min)
Sprint Intervals - 8 sprints 1min

Day 4: Speed and Agility

Exercise Warm Up Sets Working Sets Rest
Timed Shuttle Run (at least 10 yards) 3min jog 5 x max effort 1-2min
Superset:
A1: Weighted Front Lunge - 3 x 5 *
A2: Weighted Side Lunges (both sides) - 3 x 5 *
A3: Weighted Reverse Lunge - 3 x 5 *
*Rest for two minutes between supersets
Seated Calf Raise - 3 x 12 30s
Superset:
B1: Reverse-Grip Chin-Up 1 x 12 3 x 8-12 *
B2: Flat Bench Barbell Press 1 x 12 3 x 8-12 *
*Rest for one minute between supersets
Superset:
C1: Dumbbell Shrug - 3 x 8-12 *
C2: Hyperextension - 3 x 8-12 *
*Rest for one minute between supersets
Superset:
D1: Floor Crunch - 3 x 15-20 *
D2: Bent-Knee Hanging Less Raise - 3 x 15-20 *
*No rest between supersets

Day 5: Optional Full Body Conditioning

Complete the following exercises back-to-back with no rest between exercises. This counts as one round. Rest 1-2 minutes after each round. Perform 3 rounds, resting when necessary, eventually building up to 5 rounds without rest.

Exercise Reps
Push-Up 20
Prisoner squat 20
Pull-up 10
Walking or stationary lunge 10 each leg
Triceps bench or parallel bar dip 10
Short sprint Varied lengths
Ab crunch 20

 

225 Comments
Dan
Posted on: Sun, 08/28/2022 - 10:45

Hi , I’m a bit confused how the warm ups and supersets work . For example on workout 1 ,am I doing 2 x 12 warm up sets of incline press with no rest then straight into 1 set of working inclines then straight into warm ups for pull ups then 1 set of working pull ups and back to inclines or doing all warm up sets for all exercises together then straight into working sets ? Apologies if I’m being a bit dense
Thanks

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Roger
Posted on: Sun, 08/28/2022 - 14:01

Rest between the warmups. When you do the work sets, that is when you go into superset mode. For example, incline, immediatly into pullups, then rest. Repeat for the listed number of supersets.

Ali
Posted on: Sun, 08/07/2022 - 17:55

Hello Roger,
This plan worked really great for me got me back in shape, I didn't use day 5 as I grapple 5 days a week sometimes 2 sessions a day, but now I only got 3 days a week for lifting and I don't to elements day 4 I got 2 hours for the gym so what would you advise? Thanks

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Roger
Posted on: Sun, 08/14/2022 - 09:49

Greetings, Ali, thanks for reading M&S. Hope you're well. I got a good one for you. Check this one and let me know what you think.

https://www.muscleandstrength.com/workouts/shaun--s-3-day-muscle-buildin...

Adam
Posted on: Sun, 06/19/2022 - 13:21

I have two weeks left of this plan, any recommendations for what kind of plan to follow next?

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Roger
Posted on: Wed, 06/22/2022 - 19:58

What's good, Adam? What is your main focus right now? Let me know how this one worked for you, and what you want to do going forward, and I'll find the best one to help!

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Roger
Posted on: Tue, 06/28/2022 - 09:36

Correct, Adam, do them in a row before taking a break.

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Roger
Posted on: Mon, 06/27/2022 - 08:44

Hey Adam, check this one out and see if it would work for you. If not, then run this one again.

https://www.muscleandstrength.com/workouts/5-day-high-intensity-function...

Adam
Posted on: Mon, 06/27/2022 - 09:04

Thanks Roger, that looks daunting but a great challenge. One question, when exercises are listed 1.a ,1.b, 1.c, is this some kind of super set or a giant set?

Adam
Posted on: Thu, 06/23/2022 - 16:06

This plan has been excellent for me, I'm returning to the gym after a six year absence, so just gradually building up my strength and fitness. My one problem I've encountered, is sore knees by the eighth week, but that is a tendency I have with my knees, whatever I do. Is there a similar program to this one that would act as a good follow on?
Thanks for your time

Sandi
Posted on: Sat, 06/04/2022 - 14:34

How would you go about cramming this in 2 workout days? Fell in love with the routine but due to life can only afford 2 days a week to train

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Roger
Posted on: Wed, 06/08/2022 - 09:54

Hi, Sandi. Going to be completely honest. You're not going to get all the benefits that come with this program by cramming it into only two days a week. You might need to check out other programs here on M&S to find one that would be closer to your schedule.

PJ
Posted on: Fri, 05/13/2022 - 15:34

Good afternoon! Are the warmup sets to be done immediately before the each working set, or do you do all the warmup sets then all of the working sets? Thank you.

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Roger
Posted on: Wed, 05/25/2022 - 18:44

Warm-up sets immediately before working sets, PJ. Hope this helps!

Samantha
Posted on: Thu, 03/03/2022 - 21:38

How long is a 'length' for the farmers carry and walking lunge? And how long of sprints?

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Roger
Posted on: Fri, 03/11/2022 - 21:29

Good question, Samantha. I can't speak for Brad on this, but my suggestion would be to shoot for 50 feet lengths to start and work your way up. As for the sprints, go for 100 yards if possible. If not, find the longest area you have access to and go for it.

Kirby
Posted on: Mon, 02/21/2022 - 17:30

Hi, would it be a bad idea if I replaced the optional day 5 with a core/forearm workout?

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Roger
Posted on: Thu, 02/24/2022 - 20:26

Actually, I like it, Kirby! Go for it, and let us know how it goes.

Roman
Posted on: Sat, 02/12/2022 - 22:30

Hi Brad! I love this program and has been doing it for a while.

What would be your recommendation if I want to switch to 3 sessions per week but still want to do a full body tactical physique?

I don't want to drop a whole category out of my routine.

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Roger
Posted on: Thu, 02/17/2022 - 18:46

Hi, Roman! How much time do you have to train each day? We want to provide the best answer for you to this question.

Roman
Posted on: Thu, 02/17/2022 - 21:51

About 1 - 1.5 hours including warm-up and cool-down.

Roman
Posted on: Sun, 03/06/2022 - 22:20

Thanks a lot, Roger! That helps.

I will share the feedback after running the schedule for some time.

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Roger
Posted on: Sat, 02/19/2022 - 11:14

Alright, this is probably going to push you to the 1.5 mark. If I had to make adjusments, this is how I would do it.

Take Days 3 and 5 and combine them into one. If you have to make any cuts, cut the second half of Day 3 out. Hopefully you won't have to cut much out.

Take the first half of Day 2 and combine it with the first half of Day 4. So your new schedule would look like this.

Day 1 - Strength
Day 2 - Half Hypertrophy/Muscular Endurance, Half Speed and Agility
Day 3 - Power and Optional Conditioning

Plug in off days based on your individual schedule. I hope that helped.

Dax
Posted on: Sun, 11/07/2021 - 12:43

Anyone out there run this program?

Lucas
Posted on: Mon, 05/31/2021 - 19:45

Can I swim on day 5 instead of doing the optional full body conditioning?

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Abigail
Posted on: Fri, 06/04/2021 - 10:53

Hey Lucas - yes you can

To
Posted on: Sun, 04/04/2021 - 09:32

Can u mix cardio in this plan?

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Abigail
Posted on: Tue, 04/06/2021 - 09:22

Hey To - it's best to follow this program as written. If you feel like you still need additional cardio with this program, you can add that in. Keep in mind you should have one complete rest day per week.

Rubi Leslie
Posted on: Fri, 03/12/2021 - 09:28

What do you do if you've followed this program for awhile ? Do you guys do custom online programming at all?

Taylor Vukosa
Posted on: Sun, 02/28/2021 - 17:39

for the warm up sets, are we supposed to use weight? or just body weight?

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Abigail
Posted on: Mon, 03/01/2021 - 10:41

Hey Taylor - you can do body weight or a light weight.

TP
Posted on: Sun, 02/28/2021 - 14:53

Bello questo schema di allenamento, io per 5 anni ho fatto crossfit e posso dire che gli somiglia tantissimo mi piace, da provare subito. Grazie

Lester
Posted on: Wed, 02/24/2021 - 01:51

I was wondering, should I use lighter weights in hypertrophy and speed day? What I usually do in the first exercise of hypertrophy day is I lift the heaviest weight I can and if I can't lift anymore, I quickly decrease the weights by 5 lbs. Or should I stick to a lighter weight that allows me to lift it for 4 sets with 10-15 reps? In speed day, do I need to do the exercises as quick as I can? For example the bench press, should I opt for a lighter weight that I can lift up and down fast or is it just a normal bench press?

And how about the barbell row on Power day? Should I add weights and move more explosively or should it be like a normal barbell row? Thanks!

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Abigail
Posted on: Wed, 02/24/2021 - 09:56

Hey Lester - yes, you should use lighter weights for the speed and hypertrophy days. You'll want to use the same weight across all sets for a given exercise. The speed day strength exercises should not be done as fast as possible. You can focus on being explosive with the movements, but don't just crank out the reps as fast as you can. The weights you use on power days should be heavier.

Lester
Posted on: Wed, 02/24/2021 - 10:01

Ok! Thanks for the reply and thank you for the free programs in your website!

Tomas
Posted on: Sun, 12/06/2020 - 16:16

Love this program. Just finished it and want to start a similar one, but they are really hard to find. Can anyone suggest a similar program?

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Abigail
Posted on: Mon, 12/07/2020 - 08:40

Hey Tomas - you can repeat this program if you would like.

Tomas
Posted on: Fri, 12/04/2020 - 08:58

Me and a friend have been using this program for 10 weeks now. Loved it. I do combat sports beside weight training and this program seems to be very helpfull. Before I have only been training "normal" weight training.

We want to start a new, similar program, but it is very difficult to find a program that is as good as this. Does anobody know of a program similar to this that we can use?

Farish
Posted on: Mon, 10/26/2020 - 07:07

Possible to explain the sprint intervals? that's a sprint for example 30 seconds all out or a certain length?

Terry
Posted on: Tue, 10/13/2020 - 21:07

I've created a simple home gym and like to workout there. Unfortunately, I don't have a place to do sprints as I work out early morning (too dark outside), and I do not own a treadmill. Any suggestions?

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Abigail
Posted on: Wed, 10/14/2020 - 10:43

Hey Terry - jump rope is a great alternative. Plus it takes up minimal space!

Grant
Posted on: Wed, 09/30/2020 - 11:12

This workout seems to be very similar to the “6 week navy seal workout routine” that Brad also posted. They are essentially the same exercises in different orders (Link below). I have been on that program for months and love it. I have seen results and I am interested to know if switching to this workout would be any more beneficial than the other one?

https://www.muscleandstrength.com/workouts/6-week-navy-seal-workout-routine

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Abigail
Posted on: Thu, 10/01/2020 - 10:31

Hey Grant - The two workouts are similar, however, this workout is a little more tailored to the functional fitness world. If you're wanting to switch up your routine from the navy seal workout, this would be a great option!

Quincy Lowder
Posted on: Thu, 09/24/2020 - 01:26

Hi, I was thinking about starting this workout plan. I was wondering if this plan is also good for reducing body fat as well as building muscle.

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Abigail
Posted on: Thu, 09/24/2020 - 13:40

Hey Quincy - this is a great program for improving your overall fitness, including losing body fat and building muscle. If fat loss is your primary goal, nutrition should be a priority.

Jake
Posted on: Sat, 08/01/2020 - 15:02

Brad, this was The Perfect Workout. I'm in the state of my life where I know that building size is going to be hard, but functionality is a must. As a 37 year old father of five I need to be functional for my kids. This was exactly what I was looking for. Thank you!

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Yoshi
Posted on: Mon, 08/10/2020 - 13:16

So glad we could help you, Jake!

NickJones
Posted on: Fri, 07/10/2020 - 22:48

This workout is insane, I'm out of shape but won't be for long. I'm beat coming out of the warmup and then the real work starts. Appreciate the workouts you guys put the effort into making (for free!). Loving the variety and the way my heart rate kicks up throughout this one. Thanks.

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Yoshi
Posted on: Mon, 08/10/2020 - 13:16

Thanks for the kind words, Nick. Keep us posted on your results!

Nathan
Posted on: Sun, 05/10/2020 - 17:42

I don’t have barbell or bench at the current moment due to restrictions. Will this be as effective if I substitute barbell exercises with dumbbells and substitute bench with Swiss ball or the floor?