Majority of the (shooting based) stress induced training isn’t…..
 

 

Sad but true. Every man and his donkey is running around flat out with bullshit endless exercises, running on treadmills, flipping tyres and box jumps. Some have the right intention and others are just as bad as vegan movements and hippies. 

“If you want to truly stress a man, have him run a drill, isolated, in front of his peers and (performance) gauged against a minimum standard” Aaron B. 

It seems in an attempt to stay relevant, especially in the US, a lot of training companies keep pushing the “stress” barrier with intense workouts. Smoking guys to replicate a gun fight. 

Yes, it (the fight) is physically arduous. It’s true - fine motor skills do begin to deteriorate after 115bpm. No you shouldn’t be doing excessive PT on the range to smoke guys and no this isn’t adequate stress induced training. 

Why? Lets break it down and look at the approach and methodology at play. 

There are two parts to stress induced training.  

Physical stress to test and deteriorate an individual’s physical strength, gross and fine motor skills at an elevated heart rate. We already have those examples in abundance getting executed poorly right across the board. 

The second, psychological stress. The most neglected and important part and no, I don’t mean giving the shooter a mathematical equation or a shooting sequence with pretty circles and triangles to assess cognitive performance. Another poorly executed method. 

Physical capability will only get you so far when the brain ticks over and it realizes that the killing has begun. Welcome real stress that comes along with all your religious/ lack of religious dilemmas, personal and moral beliefs and your worst fears being dumped on you consciously and sub consciously in the following seconds of the killing game beginning. Psychological stress is the real reason immersion and stress based training is simulated in the special operations community as close as possible to the real thing. 

It has effects physiological stress doesn’t. Auditory and visual exclusion, decreased cognitive function and reaction times, and PTS. We’ll focus on decreased cognitive function and reaction times because this is what all the geniuses think they are replicating but aren’t. If done wrong, which is what happens regularly, you are forcing the brain into “survival” mode and to take short cuts to reach a desired outcome. On the range this will re-enforce bad habits and all those perfect reps will mean nothing. Another by product of poor execution is increasing the chances of trigger stall.

Increased heart rate via physiological stress vs psychological stress differs greatly. Both can be trained, with relatively easy methods of approach and accessible tools. And, both at the same time. We, the industry, are always talking about shooting to your standard and raising it yet very rarely are people going outside of their comfort zones and hitting competition stages to experience psychological stress; nor are they seeking training from outsiders to assess and judge their existing performance with further intent to raise their game. 

Okay so, this would be the ONLY thing I would take from the civilian shooting game. The mental aspect required to perform in a psychologically demanding environment. From my experience in Northern VA and working with some Aussie shooters, majority of these dudes are cool as cucumbers and have a psychological advantage majority of regular/ new law enforcement officers (LEOs) don’t have. Constantly executing their skills on display for the world to see and being judged accordingly. Along with the consequence: doing this repetitively and with a cool head is just good business because if you lose - you fail the team/ club. Not as drastic as death but, the fear of failure is a primary drive and focus for competition shooters that is (should) be shared among LEOs. Failure is a consequence and is something that all professionals should avoid in an operational setting. This drive should transfer over to law enforcement and enforce the desire and need to constantly be tested and assessed with consequences so as to avoid failure in an operational environment.

The static department standards you are passing are not an adequate measurement - looking at you WAPOL. They are designed for the lowest common and incompetent shooter to pass easily. Some will do better than others in these re-qualifications, no doubt, but hope is not a course of action. The amount of times I’ve heard officers tell me “on the day of the re-qual, you get nervous because you hope to do good because you haven’t shot in ages” is staggering and a sad reflection of professional development and mind set. All this talk of warrior mind set, TBL and the Punisher in the industry yet I see mind set and skills poorly executed regularly. Back to our stress standards dilemma for now though. 

Auditory and visual exclusion is a by-product of psychological stress and can’t be replicated via intense workouts. Through constant exposure to new training environments and introducing various stimuli and scenarios, only then can you weaponize and control the stress which is optimal at the range of 115-145bpm for combat shooting. Essential for dominating a threat.

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Just like we would train to increase our strength vs body weight ratio for output over time, you should be aiming to increase and maintain the peak arousal state of stress to maximize performance and capability. This, in turn, increases capability and lethality.  

How? First step is to hit the competition circuit and organize some solid training that isn’t developed around pre-9/11 static standards and methods. Feel free to hit us up (Australia) and dial in a session before the end of the year. This will help you to develop coping measures for psychological stress and the first step in becoming more capable.

Now, the most over used and even more poorly executed component, physiological stress. No need to go in depth in what other guys in the industry are doing. You’ve seen it all. Below should be your primary focuses: 

  • Increased heart rate

  • Increased distal fatigue

  • Accumulative fatigue focus

Okay, so we now have a legitimate method of approach, what’s the execution? You don’t have to do all but most certainly two or three components at a minimum. 

  • Short sprints (50m max)

  • Dead lifts

  • Hit a tyre with a hammer - not flip it!

  • Sand bag carries, tosses and over the shoulder tosses

  • Body drags (220lb minimum)

  • Climb and crawl movements paired with alternate firing positions

This is why drills executed in our MMS-P program set you up for success. The VO2, dumb run and our final scenario (to name a few) all put everything into play with a measurable standard and consequence over a set peak load time - no we aren’t going to give you our secret sauce. Come train with us.  

Not only this, the approach and execution needs to be scalable to the student(s) role and current mission profile. If you remember our write up on developing department/ agency standards, the drills need to test  the proficiency of the good guys (make them struggle to achieve the goal) in the group along with be demanding for the juniors (make them put in real work to meet the minimum standard). If you can’t do this then you need to step away from instructing. Piss poor training approaches that enforce poor standards and the shooters mind to take short cuts are all too common in the industry and needs to stop. 

Too often people (military instructors) are also forgetting general duty LEOs don’t have the same performance standards or needs as special operations or even regular military personnel. This is the biggest mistake in the industry. To the trainers - you want to enforce positive training and mindset in realistic environments/ scenarios your shooters will actually be dealing with; not crushing them and having them shy away from the fight due to poorly executed scenarios on your behalf and “big dick, spartan, molon labe” BS approach. If you’re already doing this, enforcing correct training measures, high five. We are on the same page and I would share a brew with you.

Without forcing adequate psychological and physiological stress in shooting packages, you are setting yourself/ your shooters up for failure. Life goes on beyond the range. Work it accordingly. Train smart and do more than smoke sessions.

 

Related Reading Material

  • Sharpening the Warrior’s Edge by Bruce K. Siddle

  • On Combat by Dave Grossman and Loren W. Christensen

  • Warrior Mindset by Dr. Michael Asken, Loren W. Christensen, Dave Grossman and Human Factor Research