Elite Soldiers, Elite Fitness

By Staff Sgt. Matt Kostielney

In LEO/Mil

October 15, 2009

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Staff Sgt. Matt Kostielney, a Scout Sniper instructor, implements CrossFit in his training program and sees dramatic results.

I currently serve as an instructor at the United States Marine Corps Scout Sniper School, and I will give my best effort to explain what I do, what my students do, what we were doing before, and what we are doing better now with the direction given by Greg and Lauren Glassman and the rest of the CrossFit team.

Data I have collected shows the fitness achieved at the end of every Scout Sniper course far exceeded the end state observed in previous courses when we were not using CrossFit. The men who were fast are now fast and strong. Those who were strong can now carry that same strength to the fight over a longer distance—and quickly.

There is no other physical regimen better suited to produce the results needed by the combat athlete in existence today. Moreover, the CrossFit program is scalable to the needs of all, providing the individual with a fitness that is applicable in any and all eventualities.

I enjoy witnessing my students overcoming hardship, and I similarly enjoy the leadership and camaraderie created after a brutal physical task has been undertaken and overcome. These Marines learned to thrive in such predicaments, and I would with great confidence employ them anytime and anyplace because they now see no physical or mental task as insurmountable.

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14 Comments on “Elite Soldiers, Elite Fitness”


wrote …

Another excellent article, information like this makes it much easier to convince the critics that crossfit as a part of PT really is the way to go. Since I've started doing crossfit at Iowa State I've seen at least 20 other people I know start as well. The biggest push I'm trying to make is to bring my Rotc buddies on board and bring it to the attention of my leadership.


wrote …

Measurable, observable, repeatable excellence. Thank you, SSgt Kostielney. Solid work.




wrote …

SSgt Kostielney,

Great article and sweet ass pics.



wrote …

I like the inclusion of the stats.


wrote …


Measured against what?

Control group doing regular PT? If so, article doesn't say so.

Measured against pre-course data? If so, it is probable that the candidates would get fitter during a concentrated period of regular exercise, irrespective of protocols used.

The lack of injuries is noteworthy, however.


replied to comment from Josh Briggs

It's a sniper school, not an academic double-blind testing grounds.

The control group though was pre-course PT scores. You don't get into sniper school by eating potato chips on the couch so "anyone would get fitter during a concentrated period of regular exercise" because they were already doing regular exercise the old military way.

But yes it would have been nice if he threw in a few of those charts from before he started adding CrossFit classes. But most likely he had no reason to record the data.


wrote …

Fantastic article, Sarge. This captures what CF is all about. Keep up the good work.


wrote …

Awesome seeing crossfit incorporated in Sniper School. I wish I had known about the KoolAid when I was in. Instead I did concentration curls and so forth. I have never felt pain like crossfit and still benefited physically. Anything that built intestinal fortitude usually adversely affected my physical performance.
Jacob Heal,
formerly SuperPig, 3/7 Scout Snipers


wrote …

That barrel is pretty shiny in that first pic! Must've been for our benefit. Enjoyed the article...nice work SSgt


wrote …

Very Cogent Article: Not anecdotal musings on Elite Fitness and methods, rather, supported by quantitative data. Makes an argument for Baseline assessments for all CrossFitters, beyond benchmark WOD performance from the get go.

Semper Fi!


Matt Charney wrote …

The pre CF stats would have been nice to see.
It doesn't matter to me so much due to the fact that even if the improvement was only marginal the safety factor is key. Having firsthand experience with the injuries that come up from all the LSD runs it is great to see a reduction in runs yet improvements in their run times.

These guys were already at a high level of fitness according to USMC standards yet they still had some good improvements.

Wish I had CF when I was in! I have 20 kipping PUs again thanks to CF, they were allowed when I served.

Semper Fi,


wrote …

Good eye, Aushion.

They are indeed PR shots included only to illustrate the article, and they in no way reflect the teaching of the author. They were provided by the Department of Defense, and Staff Sgt. Kostielney made sure we knew the shots were PR pics that didn't depict methods he would encourage his students to use in the field. But we had to show you something, so you get a shiny barrel.

It's interesting to note that if you can take a good picture of a sniper, that sniper is doing a very bad job.

CrossFit Journal


wrote …

An outstanding, no bullshit article. Were I still leading a platoon and not waiting awaiting surgery on my knee, I'd take this article to my CO.

US Army Infantry


wrote …

SSgt Kostielney,

I am of course hopping on the bandwagon here by thanking you for this article, but so be it. I am currently writing an Air Force Position Paper and the topic is simply "Physical Fitness." I could do a boatload of research to address the problems and lack of correlation to GPP the Air Force (and other branches) have in regards to their PFT's, but this website and your article have been a great help. The PFT seems to be this beast of an institution that's almost impossible to change, and yet so many of us have this mass of proven, successful, intellectual methods (CF) that we'd love to throw at it, though it seems like it will take years to change. Perhaps this article and others like it will effect that change.



Oh, and nice response. The no BS answer is always the right answer.

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