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The Program

Lessons from Elite Military Units for Creating and Sustaining High Performance Leaders and Teams

By Eric Kapitulik & Jake MacDonald

Discover the military’s keys to excellent leadership and team building training

The Program: Lessons From Elite Military Units for Creating and Sustaining High Performing Leaders and Teams offers a hands-on guide to the winning techniques and tactics of The Program, the acclaimed team building and leadership development company. Drawing on the actual experiences of The Program’s instructors from their personal combat stories to working with world-class athletic teams and successful corporations, the book clearly shows how The Program’s training operations can help to achieve life goals and ambitions.

The Program offers a road map that contains illustrative examples, ideas, and approaches for improving teammates and leaders at all levels within an organization of any size or type.

  • Bring your organization to the next level of success
  • Discover how to hold your leaders and teammates to the highest standards
  • Understand how accountability increases effectiveness
  • Learn to communicate effectively

This important book explores the military’s leadership and team building concepts that can be implemented to ensure an organization creates and sustains performance that adheres to the highest standards of excellence.

Eric Kapitulik addressing a leadership conference
Jake MacDonald instructing a college athletic team

The Authors

Eric Kapitulik

Eric Kapitulik was born and raised in Thompson, CT. He attended the United States Naval Academy, where he was a 4-year Varsity Letter winner and played on three NCAA Lacrosse Tournament teams. He graduated in 1995 and went on to serve as both a Marine Infantry Officer and a Special Operations Officer with 1st Force Reconnaissance Company, 1st Marine Division. Eric left active duty after eight years of service and graduated from the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business in 2005. He is an ultra-endurance athlete and an avid high-altitude mountaineer who has summitted Mt. Everest.

Eric is now the Founder and CEO of The Program, a leadership development and team building company that works with major corporations and numerous collegiate and professional athletic organizations around the United States.

Jake MacDonald

Jake MacDonald graduated in 2000 with a degree in English from Tufts University, where he was a four-year starter and Captain of the Varsity Football team. After graduating, Jake was commissioned as an Officer in the United States Marine Corps. While on active duty, Jake completed two combat tours to Iraq as a Light Reconnaissance Platoon Commander. He continues to serve his country as a Major in the Marine Corps Reserve and recently deployed to Afghanistan as a Scout Sniper Platoon Commander. Jake has received multiple awards for combat valor as well as a Purple Heart after being wounded in action.

Jake is now a Lead Instructor with The Program, where he has been a proud teammate for eight years.

Sample Physical Toughness Workouts

One of the most important ways that we become better team leaders and better teammates is by becoming physically and mentally tougher. The Program is not a strength and conditioning company. It is not our mission to make people bigger, faster, or stronger.

However, pushing ourselves out of our physical comfort zones and battling adversity is central to who we are. At almost every event people will ask our instructors what workouts we do in our personal lives to improve our mental and physical toughness. The following are some of our favorites...

Jake MacDonald preparing to face adversity

Lifting Workout

Here is one of our favorite lifting workouts to attack with our teammates. This is a great team workout to help improve both your physical and mental toughness. Everyone gets a say in what the workout is and is guaranteed to be able to do something that they are good at. However, it is also very likely that they will also be doing something that they are not good at.

We like to aim for about 6 - 10 different exercises depending on how long we want the workout to take. Depending on the number of teammates are taking part in the workout, each teammate will choose 1 or fewer exercises. If you have 8 teammates, everyone picks 1 exercise to do. If you have 4 teammates than everyone picks 2 exercises for a total of 8. We’ve even done this as a partner workout where each of us picks 5 exercises.

In this example we are attacking this workout as a four person team. Each of us picks two exercises (usually something we are personally good at it). Jake MacDonald picks Deadlifts and Bench Press. Cory Ross picks Box Jumps and Push Presses. Eric Kapitulik picks Pull-Ups and 8-count Body Builders, and Sam Cila picks GHD Sit Ups and Front Squats. Our rep scheme for this workout is 11,10,9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1 and done as a circuit (whichever exercise you start on, you do 11 reps and then go to the next exercise and do 11 reps. Once an entire circuit of exercises at 11 reps is complete, you then do the next circuit doing 10 reps). The Mission is to complete the workout as fast as possible.

This particular workout would look like this:

  • 11 Deadlifts, 11 Bench Presses, 11 Box Jumps, 11 Push Presses, 11 Pull Ups, 11 8-Count Body Builders, 11 GHD Sit Ups, 11 Front Squats
  • 10 Deadlifts, 10 Bench Presses, 10 Box Jumps, 10 Push Presses, 10 Pull Ups, 10 8-Count Body Builders, 10 GHD Sit Ups, 10 Front Squats
  • 9 Deadlifts, 9 Bench Presses, 9 Box Jumps, 9 Push Presses, 9 Pull Ups, 9 8-Count Body Builders, 9 GHD Sit Ups, 9 Front Squats

    ...
  • 1 Deadlift, 1 Bench Press, 1 Box Jumps, 1 Push Press, 1 Pull Ups, 1 8-count body builder, 1 GHD Sit Up, 1 Front Squat

This is one of our favorite rep schemes. It works out to 66 repetitions of each exercise. The larger sets at the beginning force you to be mentally tough in order to keep your pace up. You can then really attack the shorter sets near the end to work on “finishing.” Alternately, you could start at 1 and work your way up to 11 for a different challenge. Although it is not a workout that you can do every day, because of the volume of work required, it is a great workout to “grind” with your teammates and share some adversity. Everyone is involved and gets to do something that they are good at. Everyone is also forced outside of their comfort zone by competing at movements that they may not be good at. Further, it can be done inside a gym or with a little ingenuity and effort, outside in the elements.

Notes:

  1. We gauge the weight used in the exercises based on the ability of the participants and how long we want the workout to last.
  2. When coming up with the exercises we may direct or massage some of the choices so that all or most of the exercises do not come from the same body part.
  3. We may add some repetitions based on the exercises chosen. As an example, if “Jumping Rope,” is an exercise chosen, sets of 11 and 10 are not nearly challenging enough. Instead we may use 10x so the sets of jump rope would be 110, 100, 90, 80, and so on. Some exercise may require a distance to be used such as running, biking, rowing, etc. Again, we base the distance used on the ability of the participants and the targeted length of the workout. If a bear crawl was picked, we may use distance in 5x multiples so it would be 55m, 50m, 45m, and so on. As long as the distance and time decreases through the workout, we are good.
  4. When attacking the workout, we start the participants at different exercises so that we don’t stack up at any one particular exercise. If we do catch one of our teammates, we do the exercise beside them and then pass them. If the exercise requires a particular piece of gear that we only have one of, skip that exercise for now and then go back to it when it opens up.
  5. As always, this is a competition. Again, The Mission is to finish as fast as possible.

Eric Kapitulik attacking the sled

Hank Weede attacking the yoke

Sam Cila at the University of Miami

Post-Workout at the University of Nebraska

Running Workout

This particular workout would look like this:

  • 1 minute run as fast as possible, 1 min walk, 2 min run as fast as possible, 1 min walk, 3 min run as fast as possible, 1 min walk, 4 min run as fast as possible, 1 min walk, 5 min run as fast as possible, 6 min run as fast as possible, 1 minute walk
  • Turn Around
  • Keeping the same intervals, beat your out time

Notes

  1. Based on your physical fitness level, adjust the times accordingly.
  2. Be honest. Give your max effort on the way “out.”
  3. Don’t make excuses if the way out is mostly down-hill and hence, the way back is mostly up. Don’t game it.

Stacey Pesce attacking the Tough Mudder

Calisthenics Workout

Best case, set up a field with markers at the Goal Line, 21yd Line, 41yd line, 61yd line, 81yd line and 101yd line. Pick an exercise or a group of exercises. Choose a number to do of each. Start your stop watch. Do the first circuit of them at the Goal Line. Run to the 101yd Line and do a circuit of them there. Run back to the Goal Line and do another set. Run to the 81yd Line and do a set. Run back to the Goal Line and do a set. Run to the 61yd line… until you do a set at the 21yd line and run across the Goal Line. Stop your watch as you break the line.

Take an “appropriate” amount of time to rest based on fitness level. Pick a penalty to do if you don’t break your initial time of doing this workout. (As an FYI, The Program team typically chooses the entire routine again if we don’t break our initial time during the second running of it). Attack the second round. If you break your initial time, you’re done. If you didn’t, then do your penalty.

Notes

  1. See Notes for Workout #2, Running Workout

Axel Kapitulik (age 3) doing tire flips

Swim Workout

Warm-Up: 500 yd

Work Sets:

  • 5 x 100 yd swim 1:30 / 2:00 minute interval
  • 10 x 50 yd swim on :45 / 1:00 minute interval
  • 5 x 100 yd swim on 1:30 / 1:50 minute interval
  • 10 x 50 yd swim on :45 / :55 second interval

Kick: 4 x 200 yd w/ fins

Cool-Down: 500 yd

Total: 3,600 yds in 1:16:00

Notes

  1. Based on your swimming ability, adjust the intervals or distance accordingly.

Ghislaine Stonaker preparing for the next work set