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Try This Leg, Load-Bearing and Cardio Combo Day Workout

As you prepare for challenging basic training or special ops selections, you must build a strong foundation of leg durability, strength, flexibility and mobility through a balanced workout program.

The Leg, Load-Bearing and Cardio Combo Day workout is a typical leg day our training group does during a run cycle. This method helps maintain or build endurance and muscle stamina; it also will increase the strength and durability that a military tactical athlete needs.

Here is how it works from warmup to cooldown:

Squat and Run 100 meters in a 1-10 Pyramid

This is a warmup drill. Run an easy 100 meters between each set of the squat pyramid to level 10. You will complete a total of 55 reps of air squats, mixed with 1,000 meters of easy jogging.

Mix some dynamic stretches into some of those 100-meter sections if you need them. High knee lifts, leg swings, jogging backward or sideways, hopping and skipping are all easy ways to prime yourself for the next part of the workout.

Run or Ruck 2 miles

You can change this as required to 1.5- or three-mile runs or add the weight in a backpack, depending on your future training for Army, Navy, Air Force, USMC, Coast Guard or special ops.

The goal of this run is to assess your overall goal pace and speed ability. From here, you can plan the next phase of your training to set up your 400-meter, 800-meter and one-mile, goal-paced training speed.

For instance, if you complete a two-mile run in 14 minutes or a two-mile ruck in 30 minutes, that is a seven-minute mile run pace and a 15-minute mile ruck pace. That’s not a bad pace, but it could be better and you will need to improve if you are considering tougher infantry or special ops-level jobs. A good new goal pace should be 30 seconds to one minute faster than what you currently are running or rucking.

Lunge 200 meters

You can do these lunges with or without weight, but you may want to do your first month or so of leg days without weight, since you will be sore if you are not used to lunging this much (80-100 lunges per leg). The next challenge is to run or ruck again and see how you do on time.

Run or Ruck 2 miles

Expect this one to be a bit slower until you get used to these distances and lunging repetitions. If you are not used to running 4-5 miles in a session, you are not yet ready for this workout, but you can adjust it accordingly and drop your total miles in half if that matches your initial abilities.

See whether you can come close to matching your previous run time above or do the ruck portion if you ran first. Learn how to change speeds rucking and master different paces. If, however, you want more of a challenge, do these runs or rucks in soft sand or on hills or stairs.

Lunge 200 meters

Only do this second dose of lunges if you are able to do 200-meter lunges without being sore the next day. There’s no need to jump into a 400-meter lunge workout without building up to it first. You will find that the muscle stamina-and-strength hybrid the lunge creates is exactly what you will need when seeking to run and ruck faster and farther.

Lift, Carry, Swing and Run

Do this next portion of the workout if you still are able to move your legs. Mix in some goal-pace running at shorter distances, followed by some loaded movements. This will help with both mobility and strength. It also will increase overall durability if you are ready for this level of volume in a workout.

The workout below is a circuit. Rest as needed between events, although you eventually will want to transition with minimum rest that’s nothing more than a few sips of water, deep breaths and some stretching.

Start off with a shorter but faster run at the new goal pace needed for your next timed run event. Strive for the six-minute mile if you are currently at a seven-minute mile pace. For the 400- and 800-meter runs, that means a 1:30- and three-minute run time, respectively.

Repeat 4 times

Run 400 meters or 800 meters (your choice) at goal pace

Kettlebell Romanian deadlift: 10

Kettlebell swings: 20

Kettlebell farmer walk: 100 meters or Fireman carry: 100 meters

Carrying someone heavier than you is tough. I also recommend it to go with the farmer walk option until you have built up your load-bearing strength with more lifts, rucking and lighter sandbag carries.


This can be done on a bike, elliptical, rowing machine or even in a pool where you move for five minutes at a moderate pace. Then stop to stretch, foam roll or massage any tightness away for five minutes. If you do this twice, that is a solid 20-minute cooldown activity that should help you with most post-workout soreness.


Repeat 2 times

Bike or other non-impact cardio: 5 minutes

Stretch, roll, massage: 5 minutes

Adjust the miles, sets and reps to fit your abilities. Do this a few times a week and progress logically from there at about 10%-15% each week in total volume.

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you’re looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to [email protected]

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