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NSCA’s Essentials of Tactical Strength and Conditioning

NSCA’s Essentials of Tactical Strength and Conditioning contains scientific information to assist in implementing or restructuring strength and conditioning programs at commercial or government fitness centers that work with these tactical athletes.


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The physical demands of tactical professions such as military, law enforcement, and fire and rescue require those workers to be in top physical condition to perform their jobs well and decrease the risk of injury. NSCA’s Essentials of Tactical Strength and Conditioning contains scientific information to assist in implementing or restructuring strength and conditioning programs at commercial or government fitness centers that work with these tactical athletes to achieve those goals.

Designed primarily as a preparatory resource for the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) Tactical Strength and Conditioning Facilitator (TSAC-F) certification, the text is also useful as a manual for government agencies or a daily reference for strength and conditioning professionals. Editors Brent A. Alvar, Katie Sell, and Patricia A. Deuster have extensive experience as scholars and practitioners in their respective fields. They have assembled a team of distinguished contributors who bring to light current trends in strength and conditioning through their combined experiences as professionals in the fields of academia, athletic training, firefighting, law enforcement, military, nutrition, physical therapy, and strength and conditioning.

The contributors not only provide foundational knowledge of exercise physiology and biomechanical movement patterns, but they also comprehensively review all of the components necessary for TSAC Facilitators to design and operate successful training programs for tactical athletes. Separate chapters focus on the specific physiological issues related to military, law enforcement, and fire and rescue personnel, including how a strength and conditioning program should directly correlate to their critical job tasks and the specific environmental, occupational, and exposure concerns for each population.

Topics such as nutrition, supplements, injury treatment and rehabilitation, wellness interventions, and assessments and evaluations are discussed for professionals who work with tactical populations. Additionally, exercises, drills, and techniques targeting the specific needs of tactical athletes in areas such as flexibility, mobility, speed, agility, power, and aerobic endurance are described in great detail and accompanied by full-color photos.

Each chapter of NSCA’s Essentials of Tactical Strength and Conditioning begins with learning objectives and incorporates key terms, diagrams, detailed photographs, and key points throughout the text to help guide readers and facilitate comprehension of concepts. Sidebars and sample programs are included in some chapters to help readers apply theoretical concepts in their professional practice.

Additionally, for instructors using the book, or the TSAC-F exam prep symposia, a presentation package plus image bank with more than 300 photos and illustrations is available, making preparation easier with the use of predeveloped materials that correspond with the book’s content.

Ultimately, the goal of NSCA’s Essentials of Tactical Strength and Conditioning is to help prepare those seeking TSAC-F certification and to serve as a resource for professionals so that they can implement an optimal strength and conditioning program targeted for tactical athletes that will decrease their risk of injury and optimize performance.


Preparatory guide for those seeking to obtain National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) Tactical Strength and Conditioning Facilitator (TSAC-F) certification. Also an applied reference book for health and wellness professionals who work with tactical populations such as military, law enforcement, and fire and rescue personnel.

Additional information

Weight 4.8 kg
Dimensions 11 × 8.5 cm
Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Tactical Strength and Conditioning: An Overview

Brent A. Alvar, PhD, CSCS,*D, RSCC*D, FNSCA

Katie Sell, PhD, CSCS,*D, TSAC-F

Patricia A. Deuster, PhD, MPH, CNS


Duties of a Tactical Athlete

Job Analysis of a Tactical Athlete

Assessment of the Individual

Program Design

Chapter 2: Cardiopulmonary and Endocrine Responses and Adaptations to Exercise

Denise Smith, PhD

Cardiovascular Structure and Function

Pulmonary Anatomy and Function

Acute Cardiovascular Responses to Exercise

Acute Respiratory Responses to Exercise

Acute Endocrine Responses to Exercise

Chronic Adaptations of the Cardiopulmonary and Endocrine Systems to Exercise and High-Stress Situations

Chapter 3: Skeletal Muscle Anatomy and Biomechanics

Michael R. Deschenes, PhD

Raymond W. McCoy, PhD

Bones and the Skeleton

Skeletal Muscle

Muscle Mechanics

Neuromuscular Anatomy

Neural Responses During Exercise

Biomechanical Principles

Types of Muscle-Strengthening Exercises

Biomechanical Factors Affecting Muscle Strength

Chapter 4: Physiological Adaptations and Bioenergetics

Todd Miller, PhD, CSCS,*D, TSAC‐F, FNSCA

Bioenergetics and Metabolism

Physiological Adaptations to Exercise

Detraining and Retraining

Chapter 5: Basic Nutrition for Tactical Populations

Steve Hertzler, PhD, RD, LD

Amanda Carlson-Phillips, MS, RD, CSSD

Guidelines for Dispensing Nutrition Information

Step 1: Understand the Demands of the Tactical Athlete

Step 2: Understand Basic Fueling Concepts

Step 3: Provide Nutritional Guidance

Step 4: Create Nutritional Recommendations to Support Performance and Recovery

Providing Guidance on Energy Balance and Nutrition Tools

Chapter 6: Tactical Fueling

Maj. Nicholas D. Barringer, PhD, RD, CSCS,*D, CSSD

Maj. Aaron P. Crombie, PhD, RD

Nutritional Needs of Tactical Athletes

Nutrient Requirements of Tactical Athletes Under Various Conditions

Nutrition-Related Conditions and Chronic Diseases of Tactical Athletes

Chapter 7: Ergogenic Aids

Abbie E. Smith-Ryan, PhD, CSCS,*D, FNSCA

Colin D. Wilborn, PhD, CSCS, ATC

Eric T. Trexler, MA, CSCS

Regulation of Dietary Supplements

Anti-Doping Agencies and Dietary Supplement Resources

Risk Stratification of Supplements

Common Performance-Enhancing Substances: Potential Benefits, Risks, and Side Effects

Illegal Performance-Enhancing Substances

Signs and Symptoms of Ergogenic Aid Abuse

Chapter 8: Testing and Evaluation of Tactical Populations

Bradley J. Warr, PhD, MPAS

Patrick Gagnon, MS

Dennis E. Scofield, MEd, CSCS

Suzanne Jaenen, MS

History of Fitness Testing in Tactical Occupations

Types of Performance Tests

Testing Procedures

Evaluation of Performance Test Results

Use of Performance Test Results

Chapter 9: Development of Resistance Training Programs

Nicholas A. Ratamess, PhD, CSCS,*D, FNSCA

Needs Analysis

Resistance Training Program Design

Chapter 10: Periodization for Tactical Populations

G. Gregory Haff, PhD, CSCS,*D, FNSCA, ASCC

Defining Periodization

Goals of Periodization

Principles of Periodization Models

Structural Components of Periodized Training

Sequencing and Integrating Training

Applying Periodization Theory to Deployment-Based Tactical Athletes

Applying Periodization Theory to Nondeployed Tactical Athletes

Chapter 11: Resistance Training Exercise Techniques

Jason Dudley, MS, CSCS,*D, TSAC‐F, RSCC, FMS‐1, USAW‐1

Brad Schoenfeld, PhD, CSCS, NSCA‐CPT, FNSCA

Performing Exercises With Alternative Implements

Warm-Up Before Resistance Training

Guidelines on Body Stance and Alignment, Breathing, and Spotting

Resistance Training Exercises

Chapter 12: Flexibility and Mobility Exercise Techniques and Programming

Mark Stephenson, MS, ATC, CSCS,*D, TSAC-F

Daniel J. Dodd, PhD, CSCS

Comparison of Mobility and FlexibilityTypes of Flexibility and Mobility Exercises

Exercise Technique and Cueing Guidelines

Program Design

Chapter 13: Plyometric, Speed, and Agility Exercise Techniques and Programming

Mike Barnes, MEd, CSCS, NSCA‐CPT


Plyometric Training

Speed Training

Agility Training

Chapter 14: Aerobic Endurance Exercise Techniques and Programming

Matthew R. Rhea, PhD, CSCS,*D

Brent A. Alvar, PhD, CSCS,*D, RSCC*D, FNSCA

Warming Up Before Aerobic Endurance Training

Exercise Techniques and Cueing Guidelines

Step 1: Exercise Mode

Step 2: Training Frequency

Step 3: Training Intensity

Step 4: Exercise Duration

Step 5: Exercise Progression

Program Design Recommendations

Chapter 15: Evidence-Based Approach to Strength and Power Training to Improve Performance in Tactical Populations

Dennis E. Scofield, MEd, CSCS

Sarah E. Sauers, MS, CSCS

Barry A. Spiering, PhD, CSCS

Marilyn A. Sharp, MS

Bradley C. Nindl, PhD

Overview of Occupational Demands

Optimizing Occupational Performance

Applying Principles of Strength and Power Training

Chapter 16: Care and Rehabilitation of Injured Tactical Populations

Danny McMillian, PT, DSc

Common Injury Prevalence and Risk Factors

Phases of Tissue Healing

Causes, Signs, and Symptoms of Overtraining Syndrome

Maintenance of Training Status During Rehabilitation and Reconditioning

Guidelines for Injury Care and Rehabilitation

Chapter 17: Physiological Issues Related to Fire and Rescue Personnel

Katie Sell, PhD, CSCS,*D, TSAC-F,*D

Mark Abel, PhD, CSCS,*D, TSAC-F,*D, USAW

Joseph Domitrovich, PhD

Critical Job Tasks for Firefighters

Environmental, Occupational, and Exposure Concerns

Injury and Illness Risks in Firefighters

Optimizing Functional Fitness

Program Design and Sample Training Approaches

Chapter 18: Physiological Issues Related to Law Enforcement Personnel

Ben Hinton, MSc, CSCS

Sgt Mick Sterli, BPhysEd, MExSc, CSCS,*D, TSAC‐F,*D

Robin Orr, PhD, MPhty, BFET, TSAC-F

Critical Job Tasks for Law Enforcement Personnel

Environmental, Occupational, and Exposure Concerns

Injury and Illness Risks

Optimizing Functional Fitness

Key Program Variables

Chapter 19: Physiological Issues Related to Military Personnel

William Kraemer, PhD, CSCS,*D, FNSCA

LTC David Feltwell, PT, OCS, TSAC-F

Tunde Szivak, PhD, CSCS

Critical Job Tasks for Conventional Military and Special Operations Personnel

Environmental, Occupational, and Exposure Concerns

Injury and Illness Risks

Optimizing Functional Fitness

Program Design and Sample Training Approaches

Chapter 20: Physical Training to Optimize Load Carriage

Paul C. Henning, PhD, CSCS

Barry A. Spiering, PhD, CSCS

Dennis E. Scofield, MEd, CSCS

Bradley C. Nindl, PhD

Impact of Equipment Load on Biomechanical Demands

Physiological and Biomechanical Demands of Load Carriage

Practical Considerations for Training Programs to Optimize Load Carriage

Chapter 21: Wellness Interventions in Tactical Populations

Robin Orr, PhD, MPhty, BFET, TSAC-F

John R. Bennett, MS, CSCS, EMT-P

Chronic Illness and Diseases Conditions Common in Tactical Populations

Risk Factors Requiring Wellness Interventions

Operating Wellness Programs for Tactical Populations

Chapter 22: Organization and Administration Considerations

John Hofman, Jr, MS, CSCS, USAW, USA T&F, FMS

Frank A. Palkoska, MS, CSCS


Layout and Organization

Policies and Procedures

Safe Training Environment


About the NSCA

The National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) is the world’s leading organization in the field of sport conditioning. Drawing on the resources and expertise of the most recognized professionals in strength training and conditioning, sport science, performance research, education, and sports medicine, the NSCA is the world’s trusted source of knowledge and training guidelines for coaches, athletes, and tactical operators. The NSCA provides the crucial link between the lab and the field.

About the Editors

Brent A. Alvar, PhD, CSCS,*D, RSCC*D, FNSCA, is a professor of health science at Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions. He is a certified strength and conditioning specialist with distinction, registered strength and conditioning coach with distinction, and a fellow of the NSCA. Alvar was named the NSCA’s Educator of the Year in 2016 and is a past member of the NSCA Board of Directors.

At Rocky Mountain University, Alvar served as the director, the associate dean and vice president of university research, the concentration track director for the doctoral program in Human & Sport Performance, and the codirector of the graduate program in health promotion and wellness. Alvar also served as the sport performance director and faculty member at Chandler Gilbert Community College while simultaneously having an appointment as an assistant research professor in the department of exercise and wellness at Arizona State University, where he earned his bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees. Alvar’s primary research focus is in the area of physical activity related to human performance and occupational preparedness as well as the muscular strength and health-related benefits from resistance training.

Katie Sell, PhD, CSCS,*D, TSAC-F, ACSM EP-C, is an associate professor and coordinator of the undergraduate exercise science program in the department of health professions at Hofstra University. Her NSCA certifications include being a certified strength and conditioning specialist with distinction and a tactical strength and conditioning facilitator. She is also an exercise physiologist certified with the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM).

Sell has been a volunteer assistant coach for the Hofstra women’s tennis program, a member of the NSCA Tactical Strength and Conditioning Special Interest Group Executive Council, and a consultant to FireFit, which is an interagency wildland firefighter fitness task group. She serves as a physical fitness standards and programming consultant with various professional firefighting departments in the Salt Lake City, Utah, region.

Sell’s primary research interests are in the areas of physical activity promotion among college students and firefighter health, physical fitness, and exercise programming. She received her doctoral degree from the University of Utah, her master’s degree from Southern Illinois University, and her bachelor’s degree from the University of Tennessee at Martin.

Patricia A. Deuster, PhD, MPH, CNS, is a professor in the department of military and emergency medicine at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USU) and director of the Consortium for Health and Military Performance (CHAMP), the Defense Center of Excelleence in the area of human performance optimization. A certified nutrition specialist and fellow of the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), Deuster is a coauthor of The Navy SEAL Nutrition Guide and The Special Operations Forces Nutrition Guide and the editor of The Navy SEAL Physical Fitness Guide.

Deuster received the Special Operations Medical Researcher Award in 2014 by the Special Operations Medical Association. She is a member of the Order of Military Medical Merit and has served the Department of Defense on its Dietary Supplement Subcommittee, Food and Nutrition Subcommittee, Human Performance Optimization Committee, Population Health Working Group, and Operational Supplement Safety Initiative.

Deuster received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the College of William and Mary, her PhD from the University of Maryland, and her MPH from USU. Among her athletic achievements, she has been a tennis professional, nationally ranked marathoner, and qualifier for the first women’s marathon Olympic Trials in 1984.


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