Oh My Aching…

Marine Staff Sgt. Daniel Kachmar

We just put the finishing touches on our latest project…a custom-​​built bar made out of reclaimed barn boards, posts, and a massive slab of live-​​edge pine as the bar top.  Mark can now boast that he has an official man-​​cave!  The project required a lot of mental energy and more than a few trips up and down the stairs to get it done.  In the end and by some miracle of construction and design prowess which comes naturally to neither of us, everything ended up level, plumb, and square.  No small feat when you’re dealing with 100+ year old lumber, a tile floor and unskilled labor!  The keys to our success were patience and preparation.  Those qualities rarely translate to others areas of my life especially when it comes to working out.  If you find yourself diving in too fast, you may be surprised by the latest research.

Workout of the Week (#22) — First 5 x 5

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As the weather gets cooler up here in the Northern hemisphere, we typically transition from the higher rep calisthenics, mileage of runs, and move toward the heavier lifting cycles, some cold weather rucking, and indoor swimming for a healthy mix of non impact cardio.  If you do not have a pool and cannot swim with fins for 1–2 miles of cardio, try the stationary bike, elliptical, rower or a SPIN class even.  Here is our first 5 x 5 workout of the season.

Strong Defense, Part II

(Ohio National Guard photo by Cpl. Daniel Eddy)

Like most football fans around the country, I took some time out of a busy weekend to catch some college and professional football games.  Since I married a Buckeye, please forgive the indulgence when I brag on his favorite team for a moment.  On Saturday night, the Buckeyes dominated one of their top rivals, Michigan State.  Now, the biggest challenge here is that Mark’s parents and brother are Michigan State alumnus.  Fortunately, the family enjoys healthy competition and,win or lose, everyone appreciates a good competition.  The Buckeyes knew their opponent well and despite a more seasoned challenger, this young and agile football team stuck with their game plan and executed it nearly flawlessly.  This season, it’s good to know your opponents well and have a strong plan to keep you and your immune system in the game.

Workout of the Week (#21)

Combat Swimmer Stroke

We developed a new workout this week using a theme often used in the swimming workouts by making pyramids of the following distances:  500, 400,300,200,100.   Check out the adjustment to exercises and reps:

Warmup with burpee pyramid run:  1 burpee — 50m run, 2 burpee — 50m run, …3,4,5…stop at 10 = 55burpees

Stair crawl — (up /​ down 1 flight in bear crawl mode)

How To Build Bigger, Stronger Pecs Using Functional Exercises

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One advantage of being in the military is having a fit body. But you can’t look buff without big pecs, so whether you’ve hit a plateau or you haven’t been focusing on your chest at all (tut tut!), this is a workout to help you work your chest region and get bigger, stronger pecs.

Strong Defense

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Over the weekend, we experienced our first snow of the season — yikes!  While the harsh weather stripped most of the remaining leaves from our trees, we have a pear tree outside of our front windows which remains in defiance of the looming winter weather.  Despite the storms, its leaves have yet to turn and all of its fruit remains on the branches.  That proved to be a sleep wrecker last night as the blustery winds caused it to sway against the bedroom window knocking us awake at unfortunate regular intervals.  This morning it got a much-​​needed trim and hopefully a gentle nudge that it’s time to hunker down.  Like nature, we all can get a little out of sync when the seasons change especially when we’re not prepared.  Here are three simple ways to put up your best defenses against winter and beyond. 

Periodization — Do I Need it?

Top fitness concerns for men

Here is a short but sweet question that requires a fairly lengthy answer to do it justice.  Periodization is nothing new to fitness and the training world, but it is one of those things that people have a hard time applying to their fitness program.  Here is the email question:

Stew, I am in my mid 40’s and have been doing roughly the same thing for more than a decade (run, lift, and some PT) – seems to be working for me.  I read about your periodization concept.  I think I understand the basics but what is periodization and why it is important to me?

The best definition I have seen:  Periodization is an organized approach to training that involves progressive cycling of various aspects of a training program during a specific period of time.  (Kravitz)

How To Smash The Military Fitness Test Using These Simple Exercises

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If you’re determined to have a successful military career, you’re going to have to make fitness and working out a big part of your life. While your personality, work ethic, and skills will also have a huge bearing on your success as a member of the armed forces, it’s those things are not as easy to change and improve as your fitness level.

The military requires its men and women to have outstanding physical fitness. They need to be able to perform at the highest level, not only to be recruited into the military, but throughout their careers. Their country is depending on them, so slacking is not an option.

But how should an army hopeful prepare for the fitness tests and career before him? Which workout resources should he or she use? Whose advice should he or she take?

In this article, we set out the movements you should focus on and the exercises you should do to prepare yourself for the boot camps, the fitness tests, and the rest of your career in the Army, the Air Force, the Navy, or as a coast guard. Get stuck in.

Fitness Instructor Goes Boutique Bouncing in NYC

NikkiFitness Faves: NYC Boutique Class Review –4 in one week!

I work in fitness, and I love it so much, that sampling the city’s hottest boutique classes has become a hobby. Often, instead of going to restaurants, museums and Broadway plays, I multitask workouts and hang with friends at the newest fitness club or studio. I started thinking fitness should be fun at an early age as a college cheerleader at Syracuse University. After graduation, I became a fitness instructor to build my schedule with classes that mimic “practices with my best friends” — sweat sessions that didn’t feel like work even though they completely worked your body. Even while traveling, sampling the local workout is a must.

Operator Grip

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Having a good grip comes in handy not just shaking hands, but doing many tasks required of military and special ops personnel.  Here is a recent email asking about improving grip for exercises that include rope climbs, pullups, and even dry firing with your non-​​dominant hand.

Stew, I am actually pretty good at pullups, but have found it tough to do multiple sets of higher reps not because I cannot do any more pullups, but because I cannot hang on the bar any longer.  My forearms are on fire!  I have the same issues when doing rope climbs and even some tactical skills.  How can I get my forearms stronger?  

This is an excellent question as there are many things you can do to supplement your workout to get a better grip.  Your grip muscles are actually located in your forearm and your hand is mostly tendons attaching them with a few hand muscles involved as well.  This is why when doing pullups, rope climbs, farmer walks, and other tasks you feel your hands getting tired as well as your forearms.  The good news is that grip and forearm strength /​ endurance /​ muscle stamina can be added fairly quickly with a 5–10 minute circuit following normal workouts for upper body.  In a few weeks, you will notice a difference if you do the following circuit 2–3 times a week.  In a few months, you will have that “old man grip strength” that can hold onto anything for long periods of time too.

How to Score in Every Sport

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Autumn does more than usher in a change in season, for sports enthusiasts it’s the best time of year to catch grid-​​iron action one day and the crack of the bat the next — all the while the swoosh of the net rivals the slap of the puck for your attention.  No matter your sport, staying in optimal condition before, during, and after the game is always a winning formula. Check out what some professional athletes are doing this season to get back in the game.

PRAMEK: How to Move Scientifically and Defend Against any Threat

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Have you martial artists and self-​​defense combatives practitioners, as well as you professional operators, wondered how to blend science and use it to learn to fight better?

PRAMEK is the answer and solution to that question. First, let me tell you about the background of the founder.

Week #20: Favorite Workout

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This series of articles is a favorite workout of the week for TWENTY weeks.  This is WEEK 20.  See links below for weeks 1–19 for great ideas to add to your workout routine.  These are some of the latest workouts we have been doing with our Spec Ops Heroes of Tomorrow group.  If you are ever in the Annapolis MD area and want some of these workouts they are FREE to people seeking military, police, fire fighter professions or those serving /​ have served.

This is a mix of weights and calisthenics and higher intensity cardio events using the Tabata Interval protocol.

We do 5 minute sets of the Tabata Interval which is a 20 second sprint /​ 10 second easy pace repeat 10 times (equals 5 minutes).  Then you spend roughly 5 minutes in the gym doing a Push, Pull, Full Body, Ab exercise for 1 minute each.  Give yourself 15–20 seconds in between each exercise for transition time.

How to Crush an Epidemic

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Even though Maine has a short summer, it makes up for it in a spectacular color show when the leaves change.  It’s a double edged sword, however, as leaf raking too quickly turns to snow shoveling.  Most of us experience the four seasons of Spring, Summer, Winter and Fall (Autumn).  Defined seasons aren’t arbitrary either as they are driven by our earth’s rotation.  Or so you’d think.  Our society has created a slew of other “seasons” like allergy, cold & flu seasons.  This fall has ushered in even more buzz words like outbreak, contagion, and virus creating what feels like “fear season.”  So, I say it’s time to turn the calendar and crush epidemics with a new weapon that may just surprise you.

The Negative Health Effects of Skipping a Single Meal

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Less is more, right? Yes, if you’re talking about miles per hour when you get pulled over for speeding, but not in the realm of eating. Whether you’re a celebrity-​​diet fan or experienced a night of too much booze and Burger King, chances are you’ve heard of the term fasting.  Fasting may seem appealing when you’re in a crunch or trying to undo some serious damage, but think twice before you consider it.

Here’s what happens to your body when you skip a meal (yes, just a meal!):

Power Pumpkin Workout

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Here’s a fun way to save your body from looking scary this Halloween: before you decorate the jack-​​o-​​lanterns with your family and friends, grab a heavy gourd and use to tone your trouble spots! My new video, the Slimnastics Stability Ball Workout (www​.nikkifitness​.com) was the inspiration for these moves, because you typically use a medicine ball or stability ball to perform them. My 4 year old is the reason we bought the pumpkin in the first place.

Running More Than You Want To

Top 5 Tips for Proper Running Form

Every so often, I get asked how to train for a long run like a half marathon or marathon.  Many young men and women prefer the accountability of a race and the thrill of competing in runs while preparing for Special Ops professions.  If running is a weakness you must work on in order to succeed in future training programs, preparing for races that are also entertaining can be a great way to turn a weakness into more of a strength.  Though a marathon is not necessary, it does make a great gut-​​check if you can keep from getting injured prior to your training.  Here is an email from a young man who is making the transition from a collegiate power athlete and working on his skills to become a better long distance runner:

Stew, I just finished my senior year of college in AZ and have been trying to get better at running as I am preparing for Army Special Forces.  As you know, this training requires you to run and ruck many miles each week, but I am having issues with keeping my focus during longer runs.  Any suggestions?  Should I try running different locations, races, marathons, different cities, elevation, beach/​desert, trails?  Thanks – Sean.

What is the best way to…?

2012 London Olympics

For over a decade and a half of writing about working out and acing fitness tests primarily, I often get questions that start off with, “Stew — what is the best way to (insert event)?  The most common one is “run faster in timed runs”.  Or “do more pull-​​ups, push-​​ups, sit-​​ups” is often asked.  And, of course, there is swimming times related question — “What is the best way to increase my swim speed /​ decrease swim times per given distance?”  Or a very controversial topic — “What is the best way to build muscle?”

The reason why I bring up this topic is after reading an email from a young man trying to ace his situp test, I got distracted.  He is seeking a goal to keep a pace of one sit-​​up per second or scoring 120 situps in 2 minute period.  This is a great goal!  It is not uncommon in the Spec Ops candidate world to see 120+ on 2 minute sit-​​up tests and there is a way to build up to get there.  Is MY way the BEST way?  I do not know — depends on how you define BEST.  Here is the question:

It’s Getting Spooky Out There

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Every once in a while, I feel the urge to unplug from the news, social media and technology.  Recently, after a two year hiatus from the news, I decided that enough time had passed to re-​​engage.   I’ll admit that the timing couldn’t have been worse.  It’s getting really scary out there, isn’t it?  From rampant viruses to political turmoil, the news isn’t very encouraging.  Fortunately, we, as a country, can still cling to some simple yet powerful truths — we have a strong military to protect us, the most advanced scientific achievements to make our lives better, and the resilience and fortitude that makes us all Americans.  As Americans, we also have the freedom to take care of ourselves and there may be no better time than now to do that in a big way.

How to REALLY Build Muscle-​​Forget 3 Sets of 10 Reps

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If you have ever stepped into a gym, most like you’ve used the old school method of 3 sets with 10 reps to try and build muscle.  Then, 90% of you won’t return after a month because you don’t see any gains. Of course not! Think about what you’re doing. In order for a muscle to increase in size you have to first break it down. You’re not going to accomplish that will 3 measly sets of a weight you can lift 10 times.