Updated: 8 July, 2018

Webbing runs and Battle PT (physical training) are critical fitness capacities for soldiers and especially for Special Forces ('SF') Selection. The ability to manoeuvre (run, swim, carry, climb and fight) under load is crucial to battle effectiveness.

Webbing-runs are timed running events which require you to wear webbing and carry a weapon (AKA 'Patrol-order') for the duration of the run.

Battle PT is a physical training session which requires you to conduct arduous exercises while performing: a military skill (e.g. shooting); or military drill (e.g. contact drill); or a military related task (e.g. stretcher-carry) while wearing Patrol Order (webbing and weapon) and/or pack.

Most SF Selection processes include a timed webbing-run as part of their selection criteria, and a lot of the physical training ('PT') events and punishment events during Selection require you to wear webbing. Therefore it's important to be able to configure you kit and carry your kit correctly while running efficiently and effectively.

This type of fitness is also very important because during operations you must be able to manage stress, communicate, think clearly and shoot accurately under adverse conditions when you are extremely physically exerted. If you are not accustomed to carrying equipment when you train then you will not be prepared for when you are truly tested. So it is extremely important to develop this capacity.

Development can take some adjusting so it is important to do this progressively over a suitable period of time. Incorrect execution can adversely effect your career. Key things to consider when building up your battle-fitness are:

  1. Adhere to proven training principles. The principles of Progressive Overload and Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands ('SAID') apply. This means that you must slowly increase your intensity (I.e. distance, load and speed), over time. You body needs to have enough time to adjust to these 3 variables before advancing to the next stage. This is especially important for weighted carries like webbing and pack-work because of the increased impact on the spine due to the up-and-down jolting movement of the webbing and/or pack. The postural muscles and supporting tissues and structures need time to strengthen before increasing load. Too much load too early can cause chronic back pain and potentially spinal damage. The lack of patience and the presence of ego can cause many military athletes to try to progress too quickly by going straight to the prescribed load. This can have long-term detrimental effects on your career and on your chances of passing Selection.
  2. Technique is key. Running is highly dependent on your running skill. Poor technique can increase run-times and potential for injury so it's important to get good advice on how to run efficiently, effectively and safely. Technique includes your head position, running posture, hand and arm positions, gait and forward lean. These require the development of a strong core. Having a strong core is the cornerstone of strength and power, so ensure that this is developed prior to adding loaded workouts.
  3. Build aerobic foundation. Build your aerobic fitness prior to adding/increasing load. Having a strong foundation of aerobic fitness is the cornerstone of fitness. High aerobic capacity enables greater work output. It also better enables the body for quicker recovery therefore greater resilience to the negatives effects of introducing new tasks, skills, loads and intensity. For example (as a suggested program): if you have to complete a 3.2km webbing-run in under 16-minutes, then firstly you need to build up your aerobic capacity to complete the distance in well-under the required time without webbing. Then add webbing to the run, with minimal weight. Slowly add weight over a period of weeks and a number training sessions (I.e. Wk 1 - 2kg; Wk 2 - 4kg; Wk 3 - 6kg; Wk 4 - 0kg (zero); Wk 5 - 4kg; Wk 6 - 6kg... 'progressively overload'). 
  4. Use the correct tools for the task. Modify or customise your equipment for the task. Ensure that your webbing and boots are worn-in or broken-in. Always ensure that you have 2-sets of your key items (i.e. '2 is 1; 1 is none') like webbing and boots. It is better to have a spare of each which is already broken-in and ready for immediate use. Take the time to tinker with different webbing configurations and harness heights etc to allow you hips and legs freedom of movement. Your webbing set-up (like your pack) should be configured to spread the weight across your hips evenly reducing the strain on your back.

In summary:

Like pack training you must develop a strong-core (strong postural muscles), build an aerobic base then build up to the benchmark webbing/pack (ruck)-weight. You should, firstly be able complete the benchmark distance (without weight) well within the benchmark time. Adding webbing will greatly increase your run time and slightly change the dynamic of your running technique. So try to maintain the intensity of your run (i.e. pace) then slowly add more weight each time you complete the run in training. This test is also about pace and intensity, not weight (this is set), so the primary focus is on setting and maintaining the right pace.

Remember 'ego is the enemy', so don't let it sabotage your development. "Drop the ego - focus on the skill/technique". Let technique and skill carry your strength and fitness. Once your technique is dialled-in then 'slow becomes smooth and smooth becomes fast'.