Original Strength For The Tactical Athlete – Book Review

It’s always funny to think about how you came across something new.

Years ago, Jason Ferruggia introduced me to deadlift world record holder Andy Bolton. And Bolton introduced me to Pavel Tsatsouline through their co-authored book, Deadlift Dynamite.

At least, I think that’s how it happened.

Through Pavel’s work, I came across legendary strength coach Dan John. And after reading Pavel and Dan’s co-authored book, Easy Strength, I became a convert.

Every idea and method of theirs that I tried worked. I threw away everything I thought I knew about lifting weights. I quit beating myself up every workout and became a much better athlete.

For years now I have followed Pavel and Dan John. Their books, blogs, videos, and workshops have changed my life.

So when they say something works, I listen.

A while back, Dan John wrote that he starts every day with his Original Strength RESETS. He described rocking and rolling on the ground and how it helps with his mobility. I didn’t know what he was talking about at the time, but I had to find out.

It didn’t take long before I was crawling, rocking, and rolling all over the place, too.

Original Strength (OS) is a system developed by Tim Anderson and Geoff Neupert. It consists of five main “RESETS”. These RESETS, when practiced regularly, help restore and maintain movement and mobility.

The main Original Strength book, Pressing RESET, was one of my favorite reads from 2018 and is a great resource for getting started with OS.

Since incorporating OS in my life, my views on training, recovery, and mobility have changed. It’s so simple. But it works.

Because I believe in the OS system, I was excited to dive into Original Strength for the Tactical Athlete.

Original Strength for the Tactical Athlete by Chad Faulkner and Tim Anderson

From the beginning, the authors make it clear that this book is not intended to stand on its own. Original Strength for the Tactical Athlete is a companion book to Pressing RESET.

Pressing RESET provides a much more detailed overview of the entire OS system. This book simply shows how a tactical athlete can incorporate the OS system into their training.

If you want the “why” and “how”, check out Pressing RESET. If you just want to be told what to do, Original Strength for the Tactical Athlete is fine.

The authors define a tactical athlete as “a person who trains for physical and mental skill, stamina, and strength in order to handle complex situations in non-permissive and stressful environments.” And it’s clear that their preferred audience is gun-carrying professionals. I would argue, however, that this book can help people beyond the military and police worlds.

This is a short book. Less than one hundred pages, actually. But sometimes that’s a good thing. In the words of the great Kevin Malone, “why waste time say lot word when few word do trick?“.

Where Pressing Reset dedicates an entire chapter to each of the five OS RESETS, OS for the Tactical Athlete covers them all in a few short pages.

But, for most people, this is enough.

The movements are simple. And for those interested in learning more, there are other resources available.

While I would have loved more sample workouts or flows, the authors don’t waste the reader’s time. They say what they need to say with a lot of pictures and not so many words.

Why write lot word when few word do trick?

Highlights from Original Strength for the Tactical Athlete

The most valuable section of this book may be the chapter titled “Do You Need OS?”. In this section, we’re provided with a three-part baseline test.

This is a valuable tool.

The test, in summary, is as follows:

Can you crawl with your knees off the ground and head up, breathing only through your nose, for three minutes?

Are you able to walk 50 yards while holding 1/3 your bodyweight three inches in front of your chest?

How long can you balance in a push-up position with one arm and one leg off the ground?

Now, can you do all of these without warming up?

This simple test provides us with a way to “check-in” on our mobility, balance, and general athleticism.

An equally valuable section of the book is the “RESET Flows” chapter. Here we’re given a few small RESET workouts that can help in specific circumstances. For example, there is a RESET Flow to do after you’ve been sitting for a long time. And another to do as a warm-up before a physical fitness test.

These flows are very simple. Don’t expect anything fancy. The flows are a nice addition to the book, though, and, while I wish there were more, the four or five provided are useful.

What you should expect from Original Strength for the Tactical Athlete

With less than one hundred pages and a lot of pictures, this is a very short read. If you’re looking for something to keep you occupied during a cross country flight, this isn’t it.

But if you want a basic understanding of how to apply the OS RESETS into your “Tactical Athlete” training plan, you’ll get a lot of good ideas from this book.

I am not in the military, nor do I own a gun. I ruck and compete in obstacle course racing, though, and got plenty of good ideas from this book. Specifically the RESET Flows and “Do You Need OS?” test.

Testing myself with the “Do You Need OS” baseline test on a regular basis seems like a good idea.

Original Strength for the Tactical Athlete is not a complete workout program. But it provides good information on how to stay healthy, move well, and get the most from your training. All good things.

The Book That Could Have Changed My Life

It was only a few weeks into my collegiate wrestling career. I remember shooting for my training partner’s leg. Then, nothing.

I woke up on my back in the wrestling room with my coach and trainer standing over me.

How many concussions I had had leading up to that one, I honestly couldn’t tell you. It must have been double digits, though.

I’d always felt I was a better football player than wrestler. But after several concussions, taking a wrestling scholarship seemed like the safer bet. My previous head injuries had almost all come from football.

All my life I had been an athlete. In high school, I played every sport I could. If I wasn’t moving, I wasn’t happy. It was all I’d really known.

But on that day, just weeks before my 18th birthday, it was all taken away from me.

With my history of head injuries, the doctors told me it was in my best interest to retire. And at that point, it was hard to argue. I had constant headaches. I struggled to pay attention in class. Words floated and danced around on pages when I tried to read. How I was supposed to succeed in university like this was beyond me.

I didn’t know who I was anymore. I had no identity. And suddenly I had nothing but time on my hands as I couldn’t practice or workout.

I filled that time by doing what everyone else did – drinking alcohol. A lot of it.

The next three years of my life were tough. I did a lot of stupid things I wish I could take back. I went from the quiet, polite kid with good grades, to a complete ass.

I became an aggressive, selfish jerk.

Oddly enough, people seemed to enjoy hanging out with me more during this phase. It used to be interceptions and gold medals that had people cheering. Now it was the ridiculous stunts I’d pull while under the influence. Go figure.

Thankfully I had a couple of great friends who kept me under control as best they could. My friend Billy, in particular, wouldn’t hesitate to tell me when I was crossing the line.

If it wasn’t for meeting my wife when I did, though, it’s hard to say if I’d have ever turned my life around.

Samira liked me for me. I didn’t have to put on a show or pretend to be someone else. I didn’t have to do crazy, ridiculous things to get her attention. As our relationship grew, I felt comfortable being quiet and polite again. She fixed me.

To this day, when I’m with her, I don’t have to be anything but me.

And I love her for that.

I’m telling you this because there’s no doubt in my mind that my wife changed my life and made me a better person. She did for me what I believe Pound The Stone can do for a lot of other young men.

Pound The Stone is not a “great book”. It’s not going to win any literary awards. And due to the number of pop culture references, it may be irrelevant in ten years. Which is unfortunate. But it is the book I absolutely needed as a seventeen-year-old kid looking for his place in the world.

It’s a story about a high-school basketball player named Jason. It’s a very easy read with short chapters, making it something a teenager may actually dive in to.

Jason sees many highs and lows through high school. He always feels sorry for himself and thinks he deserves better.

Despite his natural talent, Jason gets kicked off the basketball team due to character issues. He learns that he must earn his way back on to the court. This sets off a chain of events that changes who he is, his outlook on life, and what he thinks it means to be a man.

Through different mentors, Jason learns many valuable lessons. In most of the chapters, Jason is taught basic concepts and values from other popular books. For example, there are chapters on “Grit“, “Extreme Ownership“, “Sweeping the Sheds“, and “You, Inc.“.

Jason learns what it takes to be great, how to earn respect, how to lead, and that there is more to life than basketball. Important lessons for all men.

Reading Pound The Stone is almost as valuable as reading a dozen other books. Especially for young men. The key messages are shared in a way that makes it easy for Jason, and us as the reader, to relate and understand.

I listened to this audiobook while rucking the past couple of weeks. And even though the story is a bit jumbled at times, I actually found myself choking up on a few occasions. I wasn’t exactly emotionally invested in the story, but I couldn’t help thinking, “I wish someone would have told me that,” more than once.

This book would have been invaluable during my most difficult years.

My experiences are far from unique. Details will vary, but nearly everyone I know has gone through difficult times. Some much more difficult than mine. While I was fortunate to find people to steer me back on track, others are not so lucky.

It’s tough as parents.

When I was a teenager my parents couldn’t tell me anything. I knew it all.

We want to be there for our kids and help guide them. I try to share my experiences, and lessons I’ve learned the hard way, as much as possible. But sometimes the message means more when it comes from someone, or something, else.

The lessons in Pound The Stone are extremely valuable. They’re presented in a way that is understandable and relatable. It’s everything we want our teenage sons to know, coming from something much cooler than us.

This book belongs on the bookshelves of young men everywhere.

12-Mile Thoughts

Every month, GORUCK sends out unique challenges to their official ruck clubs. These “Ruck Club Callouts” are fun ways to get more people out rucking.

Members of the Conviction Ruck Club have taken part in a few in the past.

We’ve done flutter kicks while getting sprayed with a hose for the “Rain Ruck”. We’ve sung Christmas Carols while rucking for the “Caroling Ruck”. And we picked-up trash and shoveled snow at a local park to earn our “Service Ruck” patches.

This month’s callout was a bit different.

Rather than doing a big, fun group ruck, the challenge this month was to do a 12-mile ruck for time. Because we were to ruck as fast as possible, it made sense for each member to complete their 19.3 km on their own.

The group rucks are always fun, but this was an exciting new challenge. So, after my son’s basketball game this past Saturday, my dog, Benji, and I set out for our twelve miles.

Here are a few things I learned during our time together.

The Big Lesson – Podcasts, Books, and Silence

Before setting off for 12-miles I spent some time looking for something to listen to. Most of the time I ruck with an audiobook in my ears, but for this one, I was hoping for a good podcast. I knew I’d be pushing the pace a bit, and concentrating on a book would have been difficult.

Dan John recently shared his thoughts on this in his weekly Wandering Weights email. He wrote:

Like many of you, I find podcasts to be a good way to keep me walking and biking. I like books on tape (or whatever the cool kids call it now), but I feel like I miss some stuff on podcasts and still get the general point. With books, I don’t like to miss very much.

This made a lot of sense to me. It’s easy to miss bits and pieces of a conversational podcast and still follow along. Books are different, though.

I’ve found myself having to rewind audiobooks often as of late. My focus has been elsewhere while navigating through the snow and ice. I didn’t want to have to deal with that during a timed ruck.

After downloading interviews with entrepreneur and author Jesse Itzler, and MTI’s Rob Shaul, I was good to go.

At 4:00 pm, I rucked-up and hit my usual one-mile loop. The plan was to do twelve laps and go home. It was cold and windy, but I dressed for the weather – my earbuds tucked underneath my toque.

As time went on, both the sun and temperature dropped. It was much colder and darker than when I began and I was getting tired. Once the streetlights came on I decided to turn off my podcast.

I’m a huge fan of learning on the go. If I’m driving, rucking, or watching my kids’ practices, I try to listen to something educational.

I’d bet I’ve learned more from this habit than from my entire bachelor’s degree.

It gets to the point, though, where it can be too much. Reading, listening, and learning are all great. But if we never stop to reflect or take action, it’s kind of useless.

The “Oracle of Omaha,” Warren Buffet, invests 80% of his time reading and thinking. And if someone that smart and successful does it, the rest of us probably should, too.

When Buffet says, “I insist on a lot of time being spent, almost every day, to just sit and think,” I try to listen.

I know I’m guilty of trying to cram in as much information as possible. Always looking for that next book before fully digesting the one I just read. I’m becoming more aware of this, though, and am consciously trying to fix it.

So, even though Rob Shaul was in the middle of discussing some great training methods, I took out my earbuds. I wanted to try a few laps in silence.

Turning off the audio turned out to be a great decision.

The final laps of this ruck were the most enjoyable. They were the coldest and darkest, and I was at my weakest, but the silence was incredible. I was able to hear myself think and got a lot of brainstorming done.

Since then, I’ve spent the final third of each ruck in silence, reflecting on what I’ve listened to.

This may be a winning formula as I’ve made a couple of big breakthroughs these past three days.

Mental Struggle

As noted above, my plan was to do twelve laps around the same one-mile loop. While I changed direction, doing six laps one way and six the other, it was a mental struggle to keep going.

I wanted to go off course and explore new ground. Badly. But for a couple of reasons, I forced myself to stay the route.

First off, it was dangerously cold out. And I didn’t have any food or water, either. Should something happen to me I wanted my wife to know exactly where I was.

Second, I wanted it to suck.

Even with podcasts to distract me for the first nine miles or so, the monotony of this course was brutal. It felt like regardless of how hard I was pushing, I was going nowhere.

I am mentally tougher for having gone through it.

Food and Hydration

Three hours of intense physical activity is draining. If it was a race, there’s no doubt I would have brought food and hydration. But there was no prize at the end, and, again, I wanted it to suck. I wanted to earn my patch with a tough twelve miles.

I also wanted to see what happened to my body and performance without support.

While I was able to complete the three miles in a respectable time, my performance took a clear hit about an hour in.

At the five-mile mark, I hit the proverbial wall. My pace slowed down by about 48 seconds/mile from miles six to eight. At the beginning of mile nine, I hit another speed bump. My pace once again dropped close to 50 seconds/mile and stayed there for the final four miles.

My heart rate stayed constant. The drop in pace, though, was a clear indicator that my body could have used some food and water.

Just Keep Moving, and You’ll Be OK

This wasn’t so much a new lesson as it was a reminder.

The cold is nothing to be afraid of. The human body is an incredible organism, and, as long as we keep moving, it can create a lot of heat on its own.

Despite being out in the cold for three hours, I was completely drenched in sweat.

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