Get Stronger for easier Pack Marching!

Get Stronger for easier Pack Marching!

We have searched far and wide for info on how to improve your pack marching using strength and conditioning before you hit the terrain, no luck! So here it is!! What should you be doing to get stronger for easier pack marching?

For those of you new to this idea, pack marches are a common way in which a soldier moves X amount of his tools (his fighting tools, his living tools, his heart and mind tools, whatever tools he needs basically) from point A to point D,I,Z,H,K,E, etc etc (probably more likely in that order than A to B). Simple.

The issue arises for many when it comes to the weight of the pack and the terrain that is to be passed x by the time under tension.

How to improve?

What can improve your pack marching is simply done by performing the exact thing you want to get better at, more. You HAVE to pack march to get better at pack marching. The difference in improvement however can be dramatic when paired with the correct strength and mobility tools.

A lot of the time people tend to focus on leg press, squats and lunges for improving a ‘yomp’ – this has some merit as knee extensors are loaded yes, but they are not in isolation, and in fact they are not, rather should not be the primary workers here.

The main muscles we should be looking to load are the glutes, hamstrings, calves, back and abdomen and the main tissues we want to prepare are connective tissues in the knees, ankles and spine. As for corrective health – shoulders, thoracic spine and hips should all be focused on.

Below I’m going to give you an insight into how we program our Tactical Fitness LeagueI’ll give you some exercises for all of these and a bit of an explanation as to why I choose these areas.


  • Upper back – we need a powerful upper shoulder carriage and mid upper trap area to maintain a strong support for the straps of the pack and to help stabilise the lumbar spine and cervical spine. A strong upper back will also help keep our chest from collapsing (restricting breathing) and from forcing our head down (if you can’t lift your head to see what’s around you that’s bad, and cadre staff notice that). A great exercise for this would be the Snatch high pull.
  • Lower back – this is crucial and often the weakest link for most people. A weak low back means you have no major supporting strength where you need it the most. You are not going to be able to handle load through the spine well and are more likely to herniate your spine or abdomen with extreme load. Also a weak low back makes your lumbar spine mobile (losing stability here is very bad). One of my favourite ways to strengthen this and specifically for pack work and loaded athletes – Good Mornings (many variations but for this one we will use seated to begin with).
  • Abs – a strong and stable core that can brace, relax, twist, extend and flex smoothly and strongly are the key, and a great little circuit for you guys to do 2-3 times per week at the end of a session is this – (aim to squeeze the abs hard for all of these).

  • A1 Ab wheel roll out x 8-10 reps (if you feel this in your back or arms you are doing it wrong, brace the core hard and aiming to contract the abs immensely)
  • A2 Hollow body dish hold x 60 sec
  • 3 sets of A1 A2, resting 60 sec after A2 only.

  • B1 Weighted sit up x 6-8 reps
  • B2 Hanging leg lift or swedish bench lift x 6-8 reps
  • 3 sets of B1 B2, resting 60 sec after B2 only.

  • C1 Standing cable crunch x 10-12 reps
  • C2 Standing cable side crunches x 10-12 reps each side
  • 3 sets of C1 C2, resting 60 sec after C2 only.

  • Glutes – if you get the glutes working well, most things will fix themselves in the back, hips and knees. An incredible way to build useable strength and switch on the glutes hard… Snatch grip deficit deadlifts.
  • Hamstrings – The hamstrings are powerful contractors and they have 2 main jobs 1- contract powerfully and explosively to provide hip extension and give you the ability to run fast, jump high and walk powerfully. The second is stabilisers – they are a main stabiliser of the knee and help to absorb a lot of force through the leg. They are one of the most overlooked athletic muscles that people need to switch on more. The most powerful exercise I’ve ever come across for doing just that – The Harrop curl.
  • Calves – Calf raises, single leg, double leg, weighted, toes in, toes out, donkey calf raises… lots of them..frequently, BUT stretch them least 3 min a side (90 sec each calf passive stretch off a step for 3 sets each is great. As for strength range, 20 reps..5 sets is brutal and will work great.


  • Active pigeon
    Start with 10 reps and a 10 sec isometric hold on the last rep – avoid pain.
  • Diagonal stretch
    Start with 10 reps and a 10 sec isometric hold on the last rep – avoid pain.

2-3 sets of above exercises approached gently and listen to your body, 2-3 times per week.

Connective tissue:

For these connective tissue exercises, typically low intensity, higher reps, 10-20, and listen to the body, 2-3 sets, 1-2 times per week max is plenty 🙂 Avoid pan, only take to pressure.

This guys is my go to list for preparing stronger bodies to handle the rigours of pack marching. You must become an ox. Big, Strong, Stable and Supple.

Click here for a FREE week of Frogman Project programming.

When you’re ready to practice your pack marching, here’s an example workout from Tactical Fitness League.

Perform 4 Km pack march with 10 kg pack, aiming to complete this in under 35 min.
+ 20 Min of Seated box breathing and meditation + 10 min total time of Passive hang from bar


Coach Sean

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