Weird Workout Hacks that Actually Work

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It’s not hard to find hundreds of search results for workout tips when searching the internet. That’s why I was on a mission to find quick and easy workout tips that actually work, proven by scientific studies.  Below are my findings:

High Blood Pressure During High School Physical

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Teenage high blood pressure occurs with some frequency and is often caught when high school student-​​athletes get physicals prior to joining a JV /​ Varsity athletic team.  Here is an email from a young man who wants to one day serve in the military but tried out for football this past summer.  He states:

“Stew, I took your advice and joined some team sports while is high school in order to prepare for being a part of a team when I join the Marines one day.  But, I was borderline high blood pressure and not sure why — during my annual physical for sport.  Is this something I can reduce with more exercise, diet, or do I need to see a doctor and get medicine?”

It is never a bad idea to do more than occasional blood pressure checks over the next several months.  I would get your blood pressure checked at least every month to establish if borderline high blood pressure increases or decreases due to many causes. If you see any more high blood pressure scores, then yes, I would go to a doctor, BUT there are many causes for TEMPORARY high blood pressure.  In fact, only about 1–3% of teenagers actually have high blood pressure, so it can be something you have to deal with but chances are low.

Gut Check

Gut Check Obstacle Course

Have you ever heard that expression, “I had a gut feeling”?  Maybe you’re about to make an important decision and you stop to do a “gut check.”   For those of you in combat situations or as first-​​responders, you may find yourselves going with your “gut instincts”.   The phrase “gut check” is even defined in the Oxford Dictionary as “an evaluation or test of a person’s resolve, commitment, or priorities.”  Merriam-​​Webster calls it “a test of courage, character, or determination.”  It’s no accident that our gut seems to have the ability to guide us through challenging situations.  You may be surprised at just how important your gut is to your physical stamina, mental sharpness and emotional health.  

Workout of the Week #17

Combat Swimmer Stroke

Here is a swim workout that requires a video to best explain.  The focus is on three events:

Life Saving Buddy Tow — 25m
Combat Swimmer Stroke 50m
Freestyle 100m (6–10 strokes per breath)

The goal is to push yourself on the buddy tow — recover with the 50m CSS — then push your heart /​ lungs with 100m freestyle hypoxic type swim set.

 

See previous weeks workouts on the Stew Smith Blog Sections.

Peak Your Performance…Now!

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Have you ever enjoyed a summer day that you wish would never end?  Labor Day was one of those days for us here in Maine.  Usually, by this time of the season, the crisp chill of autumn has set in and I’m reaching for my fleece.  Instead, this week has ushered in steamy, hot weather and brilliant sunshine.  So, you guessed it, I’m spending as much time as possible outdoors to soak up every ounce of warmth before it becomes a fleeting memory in a few short months.  Last week we talked about peaking your performance with a better approach to sports nutrition.  Whether you’re at the gym, on a bike, in the water or at home, this week we’ll continue to shed the light on overcoming inflammation to keep you moving. 

The Two Minute Bodyweight Workout –4 to Floor

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The Two Minute Bodyweight Workout –4 to Floor

This article was authored by Sergeant Michael Volkin, inventor of Strength Stack 52 bodyweight exercise cards.

I don’t know about you, but I have too much stuff to do. Like you, every day I deal with email, Facebook, tweets, work, pets, family, and so on. Finding time to go to the gym is getting harder and harder each day. Well, have no fear. I have assembled for you a workout you can do anywhere called the 2 Minute Workout that only takes, you guessed it, 2 minutes! This workout will get your blood pumping, increase your energy level, burn some calories and strengthen muscles.  Not a bad way to spend 2 minutes!

Workout of the Week #16

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It is testing focus month for us in August /​ September (1st week) so we tend to mix in fitness testing elements with workouts.  Here is one we did to help with PT and running:

PT Test:

Pullups max
Pushups 2 min
Situps 2 min
2 mile timed run

Repeat 5 times
hill runs or 1/​4 mile sprints
rest 100m walk

Run 2 miles of intervals: 
– easy half mile
– timed half mile
– easy half mile
– timed half mile

PT Test:
pullups max
pushups 2 min
situps 2 min

Sports Nutrition — A Game Changer

(Photo by Lance Cpl. Sarah Wolff-Diaz)

As summer winds down, I’m noticing an interesting trend that has developed over the past few months — my pension for all things water-​​related.  From swimming to kayaking to paddle boarding, I’ve been on a mission to stay on or in the water as much as possible.  I now officially have the SUP (stand up paddle board) addiction!  Put me on the water with a paddle in my hand and I’m content for hours.  If you haven’t checked it out, SUP-​​ing is an awesome full body workout engaging your core for balance, increasing flexibility, upper & lower body strength and decreasing stress…seriously, is there anything more calming than dipping your paddle into a clear, tranquil lake or the invigorating rush of catching the surf?  My newly discovered passion has made me even more aware of how to tweak my nutrition to keep me on the water as long as possible this year. 

Top Reasons Why People Fail Special Ops

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I love getting email questions that require me to think and recall over the years some of my experiences to share.  These questions are from a future SOF candidate, who asks a simple question, “Why is the attrition rate so high?”  Here is his specifics:

I was curious Stew, why are the attrition rates for SOF so high? It seems that to get into any SOF training program you have to pass a physical examination to show you can handle training, academic tests, and reach a pretty high level of fitness. Therefore; all those who start should technically be able to complete the course? But of course most end up quitting. Through what means do trainees feel that the course isn’t for them? Or is it that people believe the workload isn’t worth the reward? Is it naive to think that because you only meet the minimums that you cannot succeed in the course? Is it more of a solid success-​​driven mentality requirement?

In my personal experience and after talking with recent graduates as well as failures from various SOF training programs that include:  BUD/​S, EOD, Ranger, Army SF, RECON, AFPJ, and various SWAT training programs, I have developed the following list of reasons why people do not make it through SOF training.  Let’s call this the Top Ten Reasons Why People Fail in Special Ops:

There are many ways to fail out or quit any of the Special Ops programs utilized by our military as well as city, state, and federal police departments.  But typically the biggest reason someone fails is the candidate is not prepared in some way.  Here is a list of reasons why most people do not make it through the various Special Ops training programs available:

Physical /​ Mental Toughness Failure: I have discussed this term “mental toughness” and tried to define it many ways, but it is critical in your success in any of these programs.  You have to understand that the physical challenge gets so overwhelming that you have to dig deep into your “how much you want it” pocket to find the fuel when the tank is empty.  It does not matter how great a runner, swimmer, lifter, shooter, etc…if you are not tough mentally — you will likely not make it through training. See related articles:  Top Ten List of Mental Toughness /​ Science of Mental Toughness.

Physical Reasons People Fail:

Running – Face it – it is a running man’s game out there.  You have to be a good runner with a solid foundation of long distance /​ fast paced running no matter what your size.  I have seen 220+ lbs men run 18 minute 3 mile runs and sub-​​200lb men fail.  If you cannot run well, you will be the first to leave typically – either by failing to keep up or by over-​​use injury caused by not being physically prepared to run.  I list this one near the top, because almost every graduate I talk to comes back and says, “I wish I had run more – it is a running man’s game.”

Swimming – You do not have to be a world class swimmer to ace even the toughest Spec Ops swimming programs including BUD/​S and AFPJs, but you have to be in good swimming condition, have solid technique, and be comfortable in the water.  Failing to swim well typically keeps you from getting INTO Spec Ops training, but one of the less likely events to fail during training.  Now the swimming skills – that is a different story.  See water confidence below.

size0Rucking – If you are training for the Army and Marines, you will be rucking.  The Special Ops world is the same.  Even at BUD/​S that used to start rucking once doing land warfare (3rd phase) are now rucking in every phase to prepare their graduates for future rucks in mountain /​ sandy regions of the world.  So start rucking if you have not started yet.  Finding how to wear your ruck, how to pace yourself for longer distances is as critical as conditioning yourself for endless rucking days.  Most people who fail rucks did not practice rucking, had weak legs and core strength to carry the ruck at a passing pace.  See - What is a Ruck article.

Lack of muscle stamina /​ endurance – It is great to be strong, but having the ability to move your body weight countless times up and down, over and under objects comes with specific training.  High repetition calisthenics is needed more than heavy weight training.  I am not saying you should not lift, in fact you should do both, but with a focus of muscle stamina not 1 rep max lifts.

Injury – Injuries happen sometimes due to lack of preparation for runs, rucks, swim, carrying boats /​ logs, sometimes it is an accident that could happen to anyone.  Sometimes it was not meant to be.  It is true but injuries happen to the best candidates.  If you have performed well to the point of your injury, you will likely be rolled and allowed to heal and join the next class.  However, if you are borderline failure or failed a few events (eventually passing) over the course of training and you get injured, you will likely be kicked out of training due to failure /​ performance combination.

Ocean /​ Land Navigation /​ Tactical Skills (physical /​ academic tests) – Some find it difficult to do proper ocean, land navigation or underwater navigation for that matter and fail tactical training tests.  There are several academic tests one must take when navigating land, ocean, sub-​​surface (SCUBA) as well as combat medical courses, dive physics, weapons system nomenclature and more.  All of which are stressful and many are oral /​ performance tests under duress.  The academic tests can also be tough to someone who is a poor student and the tactical tests can be stressful when placed under the clock and you have to perform to a certain standard.

Mental reasons why people fail:

11surfWater confidence – Like I said earlier, you do not have to be an All-​​American swimmer, but you have to not be scared of water and be able to move comfortably in any situation.  Drown-​​proofing, life-​​saving, underwater knot tying, SCUBA, underwater swimming are just a few of the skills a maritime Special Ops candidate will have to endure.  These claim many Special Ops candidates statistically and probably one of the biggest deterrents why some people choose not to attempt Special Ops programs that involve underwater operations.

training for military fitness 6Fear (water, darkness, claustrophobic, underwater at night, heights) – If you are a student at a Special Operations school, you will be introduced to many of your fears and forced to deal with them.  Many people fear cold, wet, and dark water forcing you to either successfully navigate through the fear and conquer it or the fear will conquer you.  I remember our first night swim (boogie man swim they called it), we had quitters that night and they were not even wet yet.  I personally never liked jumping out of airplanes, was near ill every jump. Many others and I shared the same feeling and somehow dealt with it until it became more natural to us and actually felt weird landing in an airplane.  What is your fear?

Instructor /​ Event Intimidation (aka mind-​​game) – Usually the instructors will make every pass/​fail event one of the toughest events ever that no one ever passes.  Having an instructor critique you constantly and making you pay physically for any errors or indiscretions is stressful and can get under your skin if you cannot handle negative feedback.  You will be told you are the worst student ever and it is up to you how to process that and come back stronger.

General Physical Discomfort (Cold, Hunger, Exhausted, Sleepy, Wet, Sandy) – This last one is borderline mental and physical.  Sometimes the thought of being cold or wet or both can cause people to quit while still dry.  Sometimes you just cannot handle being cold, wet, sandy, and being tired anymore and just want to call it quits.  This one is part mind-​​game and part physical pain /​ discomfort.  Spending days uncomfortable and tired will either make you stronger and appreciate those nice warm nights under a blanket, or completely break you mentally so you lose focus and cannot continue.

As you can see, there are many reason why people do not graduate Special Ops programs.  In fact, there are many more than these I just listed like not being a team player or mature enough to handle high levels of stress.  Though pre-​​screening of Special Ops candidates has advanced over the last few decades, the REAL TEST is the actual training course.  Testing to get TO the training will never insure someone gets THROUGH the training.   Though all Special Ops recruiters are getting better at picking those that have the highest potential for success, there is no test to date that can measure a candidate’s heart and will.  It is the Special Ops training course that does that.

Crushing Cortisol

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Last weekend I returned to my parent’s home for a reunion with my mom’s family.  We spent our days relaxing by the lake, talking up a storm and laughing until our sides were about to split!  It took a couple of years for my mom to pull off this reunion as everyone’s schedules and circumstances were decidedly chaotic and stressful.  I’m sure my family will agree that it was one of the most fun times we’ve had together in a long while. In fact, any stress we may have carried into the weekend was quickly diminished.  When I left on Monday, everyone looked relaxed and happy.  It made me realize that stress can take its toll on all of us and yet there are simple ways we can all crush it.  

NikkiFitness “Back To Shape” Fall Fitness Faves Product Review

Athleta Fast Track Jacket

Fall is around the corner, and while kids are going back to school, our barely-​​clothed beach jogging turns to bundled up runs, indoor gym classes and DVDs indoors again. My newest NikkiFItness Faves include tech gear that bends like a yogi, fitness clothes that look as good as they work, healthy fruit to keep summer sunshine in your veins, and tools to help everything from cracked, calloused feet to sore muscles.

Workout of the Week #15

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Here is a favorite combination workout we like to do once a week during late Summer /​ early Fall.  It is a combination workout of weight training, running, calisthenics, and swimming and/​or rucking.  Fullbody workout in it’s truest form:

Weight Room
Repeat 4 times
Weighted Pullups max
Dead lift 5 or tire flips
Hang clean 5
Flutterkicks 50
Fire man carry 25m or farmer walk 50m

Repeat 4 times
Run 1 mile timed
Max pushups 1 min
Max situps 1 min

Swim Workout
Swim 500m warmup — any stroke

Repeat 10 times
100m swim sprint
50m easy (CSS)
(no rest)

and /​ or ruck 30 minutes in place of swimming

What Does It Matter?

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I am an unabashed space nerd — galaxies, black holes, matter and anti-​​matter — you name it, I’m in especially when it coms to science fiction.  From reruns of Star Trek to my ongoing obsession with the Star Wars super saga, the whole idea of “Space, the final frontier…to boldly go where no man has gone before” blows my mind.  Whether you love to geek out over sci-​​fi, or not, isn’t it fascinating to imagine space travel?  If we could get to the moon and back on the equivalent computing power of a tiny little hand-​​held calculator, imagine what we are capable of when we tap into the “strange new world(s)” between our ears!  

Advice on Over-​​Training

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For years, I have written about and discussed the fine line between training for Special Ops type programs and over-​​training.  But until recently, I realized I forgot one very important piece of information:

TELL OTHERS AROUND YOU THE SYMPTOMS OF OVER-​​TRAINING.

Because, you will not notice it until it is too late (typically).  Even though, over-​​training is actually hard to do by just training — it is easy to see symptoms pop up occasionally when your recovery balance is off:  Not enough sleep, not eating or hydrating well, and too many crazy workouts in a week are just the things to push any training program into the over-​​reaching /​ over-​​training zone if not attended to.

Workout of the Week #14

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Workout of the Week #14:

This is a way to mix in running mile pace runs with PT Pyramid training:

Pt Pyramid /​ Mile Goal Paced Runs

Run 1 mile timed  

Do 10 sets of

Pullups x 1

Pushups x2

Abs x 3

(do ten sets of the pyramid of the three exercises in circuit fashion selecting your abdominal exercise of your choice — for example situps, crunches, flutterkicks, plank pose (per second) Sample Set 1:  pullups 1, pushups, 2, situps 3  each set progresses until set 10 = 10 pullups, 20 pushups, 30 situps.…

How to Workout the Most Neglected Muscle Group

Come on, you know where the back machines are in your gym right? Well if you don’t, it’s the group of machines that rarely have anyone on them. That’s because people like to work muscle groups that get attention, like biceps and abs.  However, those with strong backs will be the first to tell you it is one of the most important muscle groups on your body, not only for posture, but for any type of athletic movements.

Training You Shouldn’t Neglect

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We all enjoy different types of fitness, be it throwing heavy weight around in a gym, running, swimming, CrossFit and the millions of other things we do to stay in shape. Too often though, we neglect certain types of training until it is too late.  It becomes “too late” when we injure ourselves due to an imbalanced training regime. Lets face it, we all do it, and lots of people do it often.

What am I talking about? I’m talking about warming up correctly, going after certain support muscles (not just the ones we want to look better), stretching, flexibility, and correctly cooling down.  All of these things are key to maintaining a training balance. I’m going to explain each of them briefly, so you know what you shouldn’t be forgetting.

Warm up:

Dynamic warm ups are similar and follow those same principles you most likely did in high school sports. This is moving while you stretch and focusing on muscles you will use during your workout.  Dynamic warm ups have been proven by a number of studies to actually increase your performance and power (one study pubmed​.gov).  In addition to that, by properly warming up your muscles, you are greatly decreasing your chance of injury.  Some of my favorite exercises for dynamic warm ups are lunges with a twist, knees to chest, high kicks, jump squats and lateral shuffles.

Muscles you might be forgetting:

It’s very common to see many military members and athletes with shoulder instability problems that snowball into major shoulder injuries. This is simply due to not developing shoulder muscles correctly and compounding the problem with overuse.  Yes, you might be able to press 100lb dumbbells over your head, but can you do 10 reps of 25lbs of an external shoulder rotation? The same issue can be found elsewhere in the body. Focus on those supplemental exercises and avoid seeing the doc!  Lightweight Shoulder Workout

Flexibility and Cool Downs:

Can’t get down into that perfect squat position, touch your toes, or itch your back? You probably need to work on your flexibility. Look no further than martial arts or gymnastics for instruction here; a quick Google search will get you started!  The foam roller and a common lacrosse ball are also your friends here. Using these for myofascial release will increase your mobility, decrease soreness and give you a cheap massage all at the same time.  Foam Roller Article /​ Video

 Kit Dumph is the Founder of Force Fitness Kits. He spent 7 years in Special Operations with deployments around the globe. The Force Fitness Kit team believes that fitness should be easy, accessible and go where you go.  ForceFitnessKits​.com sells a complete workout kit that is designed to allow the user to stay in shape wherever life may lead them.  Mail Questions & Comments

Focus In

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I’m a bit of a photography buff and often find myself framing out pictures in my mind when I pass by a perfect sunset or a flower in bloom.  A few years ago, my family gave me a really cool camera with a 64X zoom lens.  That kind of focus gives me all kinds of creative freedom to capture images that I may otherwise miss.  The key to a perfect shot is a steady hand and a lack of distraction.   The same is true when it comes to our mental focus and sharpness.  As we continue to delve into a healthy brain, optimizing your focus and concentration can lead to a very pretty picture indeed.

Workout of the Week #13

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This week is a combination workout that combines moderately heavy weights, cardio intervals, mixed with calisthenics.  Following the non-​​impact/​lift, you mix in a run /​ pt followed by a swim (or ruck for Army guys).

Also see links to previous 12 weeks of workouts of the week at the bottom of the page:

High School and High Cholesterol

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It seems this is the time of year when high school students and graduates get physical screening tests for their sports, future military service, or college health screenings.  As the American population increases in girth, it is not surprising to see many younger adults /​ adolescents exhibit typical problems such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and pre-​​diabetes in some cases.

Recently a young man (age 16) who plays football and runs track for his High School teams, but also serving in the Civil Air Patrol and does very well on his PT tests emailed us with a concern about the results of his pre-​​sports physical. He states, “I went for my annual check-​​up and found out I am close to High Cholesterol.”  Receiving the information I thought it was a joke (I weigh 141, BMI under 20, 5 feet 8 inches tall) I am very athletic and in great shape physically. Now my diet is all red meat, ice-​​cream, vegetables, lots of 2% milk, rice, ground beef. As you can see my diet is pretty bad but I eat a normal amount of junk food compared to my peers. Any tips?”