Archive for the ‘Military Workouts’ Category

Pull-​​ups: Three Part Series — From Zero to Twenty Reps

Why Bodyweight Exercises Rule!

I received one of the best email responses in over a decade of writing articles on tactical fitness and fitness testing this week.  In fact, it was such a good introduction to Major Posey (USMC) that I wanted to share the story of this Marine going from zero pull-​​ups to 20 pull-​​ups!

Major Posey writes:  I read your article where you spoke about young girls not being educated physically like they should and about how this is a societal issue.  I couldn’t agree more.  I stumbled across the same information in my research for my pull-​​up paper (Duped by The Frailty Myth).  So, I definitely agree it is a socialization and educational issue.

After I wrote a basic news /​ opinion piece on the USMC delaying the pull-​​up portion of the PFT for women, I realized I needed to focus more on education and TEACH methods to improve on pull-​​ups not just argue that women can do pull-​​ups if they just do them.  With the assistance of Major Misty Posey, we are creating a three part series on

1) HOW to get your first pull-​​up, (this article)

2) Getting the USMC women’s maximum pull-​​up (8 reps), (coming soon)

3) Getting the USMC maximum pull-​​ups (20 reps). (coming soon)

Focus on the Specific Movement:  Specificity

So, we agreed to keep it simple, because the plan has to work for Marines ANYWHERE and ANYTIME.  In fact, all you need is a pull-​​up bar for the first phase of your pull-​​up journey.  We have a three-​​part plan that will focus on the specific movement of the pull-​​up exercise first.  There is NO NEED to touch a dumbbell or isolation exercise at this point.  Later in our progressions, we will add in weights, TRX options, and others when we turn the pull-​​up exercise from a strength exercise to an endurance exercise adding multiple repetitions to your first few pull-​​ups. Major Posey comments about her personal journey, “The reason I succeeded in learning the first elusive pull-​​up was because after months of struggling, I received a bit of pull-​​up training advice that worked:  Get off the assisted pull-​​up machine and onto a pull-​​up bar!”

Here is Major Posey’s personal pull-​​up development story:

When I first joined the Marine Corps, I used to stand on the backs of male Marines to get “lifted” into the start position for the flexed arm-​​hang (FAH).  I did not want to waste precious energy before the clock started for the FAH; lifting my own body weight was not a requirement, nor did I think I was capable of doing so.  A lot has changed since then.  I no longer stand on the backs of my buddies because I can now perform 20 dead-​​hang pull-​​ups (and I am not alone), yet, I do not have a “significant” physical advantage over other female Marines with respect to pull-​​up capability.  I did not play sports in high-​​school or college.  I was never a gymnast.  I only began lifting weights after I could do 20 pull-​​ups.  I am very close to the maximum weight for my height and my body fat is average.  In other words: If I can do it, any female Marine can do it.

Back to the Societal Problem:  Many women do not think they can learn to do one pull-​​up, let alone twenty.  This is because the 40-​​year old requirement for female Marines to perform the FAH created a false perception of their physical potential.  The belief that women could not perform pull-​​ups, in turn, discouraged them from even trying.  Women not trying to learn pull-​​ups subsequently made the behavior true, which reinforced the initial erroneous assumption that weakness was their natural and irreversible condition.

What makes the women who can do pull-​​ups different from those who cannot?  Most Marines don’t ask this question and dismiss these women as hard-​​charging “anomalies.”  These women are not anomalies, however.  They are simply closer to their athletic potential than other female Marines.  Although a woman performing pull-ups—let alone many repetitions—is unusual, this does not mean that a woman who is able to perform pull-​​ups is “uniquely” gifted.

 The Pull-​​Up Training Conundrum

Frequent practice is paramount and specificity is essential.  It is crucial to practice pull-​​ups to learn how to perform pull-​​ups — thus the confusion.  How can a person practice pull-​​ups when s/​he cannot perform the exercise?  The answer is to perform pull-​​up progressions on a pull-​​up bar, using the following exercises:

The Progression of Exercises to Get to Pull-​​up #1:  (see video description)

In order of Easiest to Hardest Options: Try to do a pull-​​up – when you fail, resort to the next level of the progression that challenges you the most.

Start in this order:

Pullup – try to get one /​ do a negative while on the bar.  Follow pullup non-​​rep with:

Dead hangs – Hang with shoulders flexed for as long as you can.

Negatives – Lower yourself off the bar slowly counting 4–5 seconds
(also demonstrated – L sit negatives, and weighted negatives)

Pausing Negatives – Stop your downward movement for 4–5 seconds half way down

Jumping Pull-​​ups – Drop off the bar and try to get back to the up position by jumping /​ pulling yourself.

Partial ROM pull-​​ups – Try half pullups.  Half way down /​ back up.  All the way down /​ half way up.

Partner /​ Equipment Assist – Have spotter push you when needed and lower yourself without a spotter helping the downward motion.  If using a char or bench, step up to the UP position and bend your knees and control your descent for 4–5 seconds.

Dead hangs:  The dead hang is a simple exercise that involves hanging from a bar and is a great way to develop grip strength, which is fundamental to pull-​​ups.

How to do it:  Grip an overhead bar (or rings) and hang with feet suspended from the floor with arms straight at the elbows.  Keep the shoulder blades flexed down and back and chest ‘up’ to fully engage the back muscles and to keep your arms from feeling like they are being pulled from their sockets.  Sustain the dead hang for as long as possible without losing form.  Rest and repeat. A good start-​​point is to aim for a minimum of ten-​​second holds and build up to a minute.

Negatives:  One of the best pull-​​up progression exercises is the negative.  It is a highly effective technique to train your central nervous system to learn the mechanics of a pull-​​up movement while simultaneously building strength for pull-​​ups.

How to do it:   Get yourself to the UP position using a chair, step, or partner lift and fight gravity on the way down as long as you can.  Try to count to 5–10 on the descent. Once you cannot control your descent, you are finished with the negative exercise for that set.  When you are in the “bottom” position with arms fully extended (dead hang), dismount the bar and repeat.  The idea of a negative is to make your muscles work harder by deliberately resisting gravity on the way down.

Pausing Negatives:  One variation of the negative is to pause during the decent. Pausing for a few seconds while your chin is below the bar is especially helpful in developing strength since the top position of the pull-​​up is relatively easy to hold.

How to do it:  Basically, begin the decent portion of a negative but stop and hold a flexed-​​arm position for as long as you can, then finish with a controlled negative movement.  Stop at 25%, 50%, or 75% of the pull-​​up descent—wherever you are weakest.  Practice pausing at all three positions when you get stronger.

Jumping pull-​​ups:  Jumping pull-​​ups are effective because they strengthen the nerve impulses of the exact muscles of the movement necessary for full body-​​weight pull-​​ups by using explosive pushing, jumping, and pulling strength.  Jumping pull-​​ups provide momentum with the pulling up portion of the exercise by allowing you to use your legs to defeat gravity and help propel your body to the top position.

How to do it:  Start by standing under a bar and be able to reach it by jumping from the ground.  The taller the bar, the harder the jumping pull-​​up will be; the lower the bar, the easier the jumping pull-​​up will be.  If the bar is too tall, you may “shorten” it by using a plyo-​​box or by finding a lower bar.  But in either case, you should have a sturdy platform from which to “jump off” in the execution of a jumping pull-​​up.

Once you determine the height is correct, jump upward, and grab the bar with your desired grip.  Go right into a pull-​​up without pausing, using your momentum to help you get your chin above the bar.  This is one rep.  Now, lower yourself down SLOWLY, dismount the bar, and repeat.  Controlling the descent (resisting gravity) more than normal during the lowering portion of a jumping pull-​​up is known as a “jumping negative.”

Partial Range of Motion (ROM) pull-​​ups:  A partial ROM pull-​​up is when you either do not go all the way down, or do not go all the way up, or both (anywhere from 1/​4 to 3/​4 ROM).  Even though you do not get credit on the PFT for partial ROM pull-​​ups, if you are still too weak or too heavy to perform full ROM unassisted pull-​​ups, partial ROM pull-​​ups will help get you over the hump.

How to do it:  Start by grabbing the bar with your desired grip (palms facing or away from you).  Come to a dead hang, pull yourself half way up (or as far as you can go), lower yourself, and repeat.  To do a partial ROM pull-​​up from the top position, get your chin above the bar and lower yourself half way down (or as low as you can), then pull yourself back up until your chin is above the bar, and repeat.

Partner-​​Assisted pull-​​ups:  A partner helps you with the UP portion of the pull-​​up by “spotting” you on the way up.  By spotting you, your partner allows you to practice the full ROM by reducing some of your body weight.  The concept is similar to using assistance bands or pull-​​up assist machines.  The difference is partner-​​assisted pull-​​ups more closely resemble the mechanics of a full ROM pull-​​up (if done properly).

How to do it:   Begin by pulling yourself up as far as you can go.  Your partner should wait to spot you until you have no more upward momentum.  This will help you get the most out of your workout.  Partners should provide assistance by pressing on your mid/​upper back with their hands rather than “holding your feet.”  Most trainers discourage holding the feet for the same reason they dislike the pull-​​up assist machines—holding a person’s feet provides “too much” assistance which causes you to lose form and allows you to use your legs to assist you too much. Plus, you could face plant if your grip tires and your partner is holding your feet.

Add in the Pull-​​up Progressions below as a supplemental plan to your daily workout routine:

Do pull-​​up progression exercises 4–5 times per week, spread throughout the day, using the following methods before/​after and during workouts.

Days 1 and 3
(Throughout the Day)
Day 2 and 4
(During Workouts)
Day 5 optional 
Partial ROM pull-​​ups:  1–3 reps, if possible.  Skip if unable to do and resort to the next exercise on the progression list:Partner /​ equipment assisted pull-​​ups (ie; chair): As many as you can.

Pausing Negatives:  1–3 reps.

Do this every time you walk past a pull-​​up bar, multiple times during the day.

Workout of the day should have other muscle groups like legs, pushing exercises, core, and cardio in addition to this pull-​​up progression program.

Jumping pull-​​ups /​ Jumping negatives:  As many as you can.Negatives:  1–3 reps

Dead hangs: as long as you can hold.

Perform above as the PULLING exercise during your normal weight room or PT workout.

Follow with cardio of your choice.

USMC PFT:  2 min max crunches.Pull-​​ups:  Try pull-​​up – if you fail — resort to:

Partial ROM pull-​​ups: max

Partner /​ equipment assisted pull-​​ups — 1–2 reps

3 mile timed run

Throughout the rest of the day

*Pausing Negatives:  1–2 reps — for as long as you can.

Do this every time you walk past a pull-​​up bar, multiple times during the day.

  • Do this pull-​​up progression program 4–5 days a week until you get your first pull-​​up.  Rest 2 days per week of your choice.
  • Loss of body fat (if you have body fat to lose) will also assist in your pull-​​up abilities – consider diet, full-​​body exercise, and cardio (anaerobic is especially helpful) to further aid in the attainment of your first pull-​​up.

Are You a Captain America?

Captain America1

I consider my sister-​​in-​​law, Dana, a real sister to me.  She is kind, compassionate, fun, wonderfully opinionated and loves me unconditionally.  I always welcome her advice and recommendations and she has never steered me wrongly.  Last summer she said I must watch The Avengers movie.  What a fun ride!  It was cool to see so many of my favorite characters like Thor, Ironman, and the Hulk joining forces to fight evil.  The only challenge was that I knew nothing about Captain America.  Friday night, I finally watched the first Captain America movie and can’t wait to see the sequel that apparently was a blockbuster at this past weekend’s opener. What caught my attention was the desire this scrawny little guy had to serve his country and sacrifice for the greater good of mankind.  Fortunately, you don’t have to look too far to find those willing to raise their shields to protect our country.  From our incredible service men and women to every day difference-​​makers, we all have a little bit of Captain America in us.

Plyometrics and Vertical Jumps

Plyometrics became popular for Olympic-​​bound athletes. And many professional and elite athletes are familiar with workouts that include vertical jump training to improve their performance on the track or on the court. But you’re a soldier. Is it possible that plyometric training can provide some value for the military?

The short answer is yes. Let’s talk about what plyometrics is, and isn’t, and how you can use it to improve your performance on the battle field.

The Key to Avoiding Back Pain: It’s not What You Think

They key to the best workout plan is balance. You need just the right amount of push and pull and you need to protect your back. Avoiding back pain while working out is all about balancing the muscle groups your strengthening and stretching, and how often you are rotating those exercises.

The goal is to keep the muscles that support your back strong and flexible. And while most of us work our core, we either do too many of one type of exercise and not enough of the other (causing an imbalance that leads to back pain), or we think we are working one muscle group when we are actually working another and thus NOT getting the results we really want.

Pre-​​Training Meals: Make it Count!

There is more to bodybuilding than just pumping iron. True, resistance training will result in crucial muscle tears that are required to build muscle; however without providing your muscles a strong foundation at the most basic level you won’t get the results you desire.

Think about building anything — like a skyscaper. Wouldn’t you agree that it’s important to build that physical structure, with quality building materials all laid out on a strong foundation?. Your body requires the same kind of thought and planning. Just like a building that is intended to be around for year, it requires the best quality and best mix of nutrients. This helps to sustain your gains for the long haul and allows you to build muscle to last.

Bottom line: Nutrition is crucial for muscle growth and retention.

Rucking — Calories Burned?

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Here is a an interesting question concerning people who like to ruck for exercise as well as to keep them in tactical fighting shape. Whether the enemy is a terrorist in the mountains or a wild fire on a high desert plain, some people ruck for a living.  I have always wondered this question as well, especially when rucking is compared to normal walking or running for calorie burning numbers.  Here is the email question:

Stew, As a former 82nd Airborne Division officer/​paratrooper and current  firefighter/​paramedic, I love your workouts — thanks for all you do!  I have an app (cardio trainer) that I use to keep track of my mileage when I run or ruck. It also keeps track of calories burned but obviously it is not  the primary reason for my workouts. It is a fun motivator though. My  question is, do you know of any sort of calorie conversion for ruck marching?  The app tells me how many I burned for walking 5 miles (and I realize that is just an estimate, but I assume I burn a lot more calories carrying a 40 pound ruck the same distance. It would just be fun  to know how many?  

Great question and thanks!  I do not know the weighted walk conversions BUT I would guess it would be similar to if you weighed an extra 40 lbs you would burn more calories.  As you know a 250 lbs person burns more calories walking than a 200 lbs person.

Walking at 4mph with /​ without weight

I just went to a calorie calculator online and did a 60 min walk at 4 miles per hour for my weight of 200lbs — I burn 468 calories.  With 50lb pack I would weigh 250lbs and I would burn 585 calories for the same pace.

So it looks like you can add in 100–150 calories by adding a 40–50 lb back pack to a 4 mph walk.

Jogging at 5 mph with and without weight 

Since walking with a ruck at 4mph is the bare minimum standards for military rucking — here is a good test if you put out a little more.  Try 5mph or a 12 min mile with 40lbs.  Still not blazing fast but a better indicator of effort with /​ without a ruck.
If you input a 60 min jog at 5 miles per hour for a weight of 200lbs — I burn 768 calories.  With 50lb pack I would weigh 250lbs and I would burn 960 calories for the same pace.

So it looks like you can add in 100–200 calories by adding a 40–50 lb back pack to a fast walk/​jog depending on your weight and pace.

Backpacking Pace

Now there is a calorie burning standard for backpacking, which is typically a weighted stroll at a much slower pace of 1–2 mph.  At my weight of 200 lbs, I burned 670 calories “backpacking” and 840 calories burned if I place an extra 50lbs on me.   So — yes it makes sense that you would burn more calories by either going faster than “backpacking pace” which I would average out at 4–5 mph as well as when you are carrying even more weight in a ruck.

So a precise answer is tough as this is a bit all over the place. I think a safe calorie estimate for rucking with 40-​​50lbs is to add 40 — 50% to what a walking /​ jogging calorie burn would be at that pace.  So if you are burning 450 calories just walking at 4mph, then you would add 180–225 calories to that number of 450 and get roughly 630 — 675 calories burned an hour with rucking.

Calculator Source: http://​www​.healthstatus​.com/​p​e​r​l​/​c​a​l​c​u​l​a​t​o​r​.​cgi

Making it TO and THROUGH Training

logstew

Many people confuse the training programs groups like active duty Special Ops perform to maintain their fitness levels for the demands of the profession with how they prepare for challenging schools like BUD/​S, SFAS /​ SFQC, and PJ training to name a few.

Here is a question to better describe a very common issue with candidate training program selection:

Stew, I have been watching some Youtube videos showing active duty special ops guys working out like SEALs, Rangers, SF, and others.  They are huge and lifting very heavy weights so I have been lifting more and doing less cardio.  Is this OK?  I am preparing for BUD/​S for the next year and trying to gain some muscle mass.

The short answer to your question is YES.  This is fine.   But you want to arrange the workouts where you decrease your cardio /​ increase your weight training so you cycle through this type of training for 6–8 weeks — maybe 12 weeks if you have a year to train.  Where some special ops candidates make mistakes is they fail to drop the heavy weights and switch to higher repetition calisthenics to help with muscle stamina, and they fail to get good and running, rucking, and swimming at fast /​ high miles per week.  Many people have said, including myself, that they never once wished they had lifted more weights at BUDS — they wished they had run more or had swum more with fins.

For the past 15 years, I have been teaching /​ performing personally a winter weight lifting cycle that reduces repetitions and running distances to give the joints a recovery period from high reps and impact miles.  However, for BUD/​S candidates I recommend this is a great time to add in a progressive swimming with fins cycle for extra cardio work.  Add rucking in as well if your branch of service training specifically tests that skill too.   See related article about how to incorporate periodization though the year.

Making it TO training programs requires you to specifically train for a fitness test.  This has been where I have been specializing for over 15 years now.  Preparing people for tactical professions:

1runptPRE Training — Acing the fitness test /​ building a foundation of fitness so your body can handle the actual training (BUD/​S, SF, PJ, Fire, Police academies is the specific focus on training you must have.  This process can take 1–2 years depending on your starting fitness level or as little as 4–6 months depending on your athletic history.  Regardless, you do not want to go to ANY training program without having reaching near the maximum standards of the fitness requirements.  Otherwise, the likelihood of injury, failure, other delays are certain.  You have to “train for the training”.

 

Tactical Fitness and Special Ops Training

Prepare for the Duration - Specificity is ALSO required to get THROUGH the training after you have focused much of your exercise on making it TO the training.  If your training program requires graded 4 mile timed runs, 2 mile ocean swims, long runs and rucks, hundreds of reps of calisthenics (pushups, pullups, dips, squats, flutterkicks) several times a week, you need to practice those events and get your run /​ swim /​ ruck mile pace down to an acceptable level to insure success.

 

UTMlPics-190POST Training —  After the shock of Special Ops Selections, Training, other bootcamps, and acadmies, you have to now focus on the demands of the profession — both tactically and physically.  This is where the Teams, Ranger Battalions, and SF groups have advanced their programming by hiring actual strength /​ conditioning scientists /​ coaches to create functional programs /​ testing criteria to help make a better operator.  There are many elements to consider to creating, building, and maintaining a Special Operator foundation of tactical fitness:

- The constant needs of high repetition calisthenics, long miles of run, ruck, or swimming (or all the above) are decreased — now focus on speed, agility, balance, flexibility, strength, power, endurance, muscle stamina.

- This requires a series of training cycles to progress in each of these elements of the tactical athlete. Periodization is critical to the health and longevity of any athlete as the sports athlete has the luxury of pre-​​season, in-​​season maintenance, post-​​season recovery programming.  There is no off-​​season for the tactical athlete.

- TACTICAL athletes have to get more creative to adjust the workouts so they can actively pursue recovery even during times of interrupted sleeping patterns, fast /​ ineffective nutrition options.

- Recovery from stress is the key.   There has to be down times in your training cycles even if that recovery period is just moments of deep breathing /​ relaxing prior to sleep or cat-​​naps.  Learn how to adjust workouts to fit your seasonal demands of the profession creating programs so peaking and recovering are logical progressions for you.

Training hard for these programs is how to prepare obviously, but understanding the differences of the training required to ace the “entrance exam” or PFT /​ PST /​ PRTs depending on your branch of service to get TO the training is critical to your success.  The training required and fitness foundation needed to make it THROUGH the training will build off of the PFT scores and should advance with the specifics of the training required (PT, run, ruck, swim, logs, boats, etc).  Finally, the training you will need to perform the actual job of the tactical operator will differ tremendously and it should take you back to the days of sports training where you focused on speed, agility, balance, flexibility, strength, power, endurance, muscle stamina that helps you perform a specific skill at your optimal level.

PS:  Here is a related audio interview I did recently much about this subject:  AUDIO File

 

Tactical Fitness Ideas — Why Think and Exercise?

pyramid191

Stew, I recently heard you talk about adding thinking games into your workouts.  What do you mean?  How is that helpful to me being a better SWAT operator?   John

Being able to think while stressed is a trait all tactical operators (military, special ops, police, fire, EMS) all need to be able to do their jobs.  I have been experimenting with workouts over the years and realized that by training the brain to think while physically tired /​ stressed can help you when life or death situations occur.  This can be a simple pyramid workout where you have to do math during your workout or more advanced workouts where you have to get creative and think your way through them.  Of course, you also need the required tactical training to help perform your job, but when things are not stressful in “real life” you can simulate it in training and even your workouts.

For instance:  Here is a simple calisthenic pyramid that requires little or no equipment and can be done on a field with a set of monkey bars or pullup bars.   Calisthenics also can be a “gym free” workout routine and successful mix upper body (push /​ pull) with legs, abs, and fullbody movements – for instance:

Pullup /​ Burpee pyramid: 

Do 1 pullup — Run 20yd – do 1 burpee – run 20yds back to pullup bar
Do 2 pullups – run 20 yds – do 2 burpees – run 20yds back to pullup bar
continue until you fail…however – every FIVE sets you have to change your method of moving to /​ from pullup bar /​ burpee area.  For sets 6–10 add in lunges, fireman carries (with partner), farmer walks with heavy DB or KB or sand bag, bear crawls, low crawls, etc…
Once you reach set 10 – repeat in reverse order changing the method of to/​from every set.  There are many options of travel to and from your pullup area — so get creative and see what you can develop when the glycogen levels are low and the brain wants to stop working optimally.

This workout tires you physically but still requires you to think creatively and cognitively (math /​ numbers).  Why is this important?  Well in the Tactical Ops world where you are tired, hungry and stressed out – having the ability to still think is a skill that can be enhanced by adding these type of events to your day.

Why Burpee?  You can also do this with 8 Count Pushups – The “Burpee” and 8 count pushup are fullbody calisthenics exercises made popular recently.  They are tough and work everything just about:  chest, shoulders, triceps, hips, thigh, calves, core.  This is actually a very old exercise done on football /​ soccer fields for decades now brought to the gym floor.  We used to call them “Green Bays” or “whistle drill” on the football field in the 80’s.

You can get creative and add other exercises especially when travelling to and from the pullup /​ burpee area.  Does your brain work when tired?  Give this one a try or check out the standards PT Pyramid (pullups x 1, pushups x 2, situps x 5).

Mix TRX with PT, Weights, Kettlebells

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Every now and then, I get motivated by a workout week that I created.  This week I created a program that is centered around suspension training, but each day has a combination specialty that challenges you in a variety of ways.  You need variety to your workouts, but make sure the workouts you select are still specifically developed so you will still reach your goals.  Whether the goals are weight loss, military service, special ops preparation, or law enforcement, adding suspension training can enhance your overall workout experience.  Below are some fun and challenging sample workouts recently tested by our group:

Get Insanely Hard Muscles with the 300 Rise of an Empire Workout

300-rise-of-an-empire-workout

Do you want to know how the hundreds of muscle bound bodies covering the screen in the movie 300 Rise of an Empire got so unbelievably ripped?  Well I did the research for you. Unfortunately the cast exercised for 3 hours a day under a very strict regime set forth by Gym Jones.  However, by researching the program I was able to take the core components of the regimen and create a powerful workout that anyone with one hour a day, a bit of determination and a desire to pack on serious muscle could do in their own gym.

2014-​​The Year of Fitness on the Go

pushxpro

Everyone’s busy nowadays; we’re lucky if we can find time to cook a healthy dinner for ourselves. Having an alternate plan for getting a great workout is vitally important to staying in great shape.  Our busy lives sometimes pull us away from the important things in life like healthy food and time in the gym.

I have assembled the top 5 portable fitness equipment to keep you healthy in 2014 (and beyond):

Veterans in the Fitness Business

hotshirtstew

1runptI often get emails from people young and old about getting prepared for military training, and also from veterans who want to be in the shape they used to be when they served in the military. Many are looking for veterans to help them get into “fighting shape”.  Here is a list of many former military officers and enlisted who train civilians to not only lose weight and get healthy, but prepare for military training too. If you are a veteran in the fitness business, send me a paragraph and link of what you do and I will add to this page.

Military Fitness programs are popular. In fact, many former military personnel of all ranks and services are now getting into the fitness business — myself included. Check out the list of veteran-​​owned fitness businesses around the country:

Boot Camp Fitness, Inc. — Created by former Army sergeant, Jay Johnson of Dallas TX, who has become the Official Fitness Trainer of The Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders (Enough said! THAT is a success story in the fitness business!). He has been featured on many television shows and magazine publications for his creative workouts that yield great results.

British Commando Fitness — British Army Commando “Sol” Sollerer has retired from the British Army, married an American, and has started his own fitness business in the Annapolis MD area.  Also working as an assistant boxing coach at the U.S. Naval Academy, Sol has planted roots in the US and helping active duty and future military candidates prepare for service.  Still competitive as well, Sol assists with the Heroes of Tomorrow program in Severna Park, MD giving the students a taste of how nice a drill instructor will be when they join.   He is also involved in high school /​ college team sport mental toughness and team building training.

Brad Haag of Haag’s Athletics provides online personal training and endurance coaching to anyone, anywhere in the world. As certified personal trainer, triathlon coach, and Naval security veteran Brad specializes in working with endurance athletes (triathletes, cyclists, runners) and “warrior class” athletes meaning individuals involved obstacle races, police, military, etc. If you have fitness goals that you want to achieve please contact Brad via the following link and he will certainly help you out. 
CPT SMASH FITNESS - Jess “Captain Smash” Howland graduated from Oregon State with a BSc in Exercise Science, got certified by the National Sport and Conditioning Association (NSCA-​​CSCS) to be a certified strength coach, and became one of the top selling personal trainers at Gold’s Gym. Over the past 13 years, Captain Smash was a member of the US Armed Forces, in the constant personal pursuit of optimal human performance. As a personal coach, his focus is on resistance training, running, sprinting, dragging and pushing heavy objects, cycling, hiking and all those other crazy activities that most people regard as insane.

Hostyle Conditioning - With the help and support of Curd Hos, Owner and Operator of the best training facility in Orleans, Ontario—Curd is helping CPT Smash take the youth strength coaching platform by storm, as well as developing ongoing programs for older adults to help increase the awesomeness within Ottawa, CA. The youth program engages kids as young as 9–13 years old in our bootcamp style training, that will help them move better, get stronger and enhance their overall level of conditioning far beyond what the other kids are able to achieve nowadays. The upper level athletes  (15–20+) are slotted into semi-​​private training sessions to really focus on certain performance goals for their sports in order to make them super tough athletes that are unstoppable on the field, ice or track!

ElijahSacra​.com - A 360 ° APPROACH TO HOLISTIC HEALTH AND WELLNESS TRAINING & EDUCATION.
Holistic Nutrition & Health Coach | Functional Movement Systems Professional | Personal Trainer |  Yoga Teacher Executive & Corporate Wellness Coach | Tactical Strength & Conditioning Facilitator | Personal Defense Instructor
Elijah is a United States Marine Corps Veteran, a career health and wellness practitioner, trainer, and educator.  He has worked extensively with private clients, teams, military and law enforcement, executives, and in corporate wellness.  His services are targeted to the beginner all the way to the elite athlete, in addition to special populations. These include amputees, the blind, cancer patients, and those who suffer from chronic illness and injuries.  Elijah’s philosophy and methodology is grounded in Postural Alignment, Breath Connection, Mindful Functional Movement, and Holistic Nutrition. Utilizing his knowledge of human performance, wellness, holistic nutrition, and health coaching as a blueprint, he guides his clients to achieve optimal wellness and become their own guru.

Extreme SEAL Experience - Former SEAL Don Shipley puts on a great training program complete with shooting, survival, mission planning training in the Chesapeake VA area.  See his youtube channel for great footage of the training they put on for civilians and wanna-be’s.

The Health Colonel – Bob Weinstein, LtColonel, USAR, (ret.) can be found on the beaches of Fort Lauderdale, FL conducting early morning workouts with his students. Training many out of shape and overweight people per year, he also prepares young men and women for the physical demands of the military. If you are looking for a motivational/​health speaker, The Health Colonel is your man. He motivated me by telling me that “the United States has enemy soldiers within its borders — they kill more than 3,000 people a day, their names are cancer, heart disease, and stroke.” I immediately responded, “yeah and over 20 million people are being held hostage by diabetes in America.”

MMA in Bowie MD — head coach Charles Cherry - Coach Cherry is an Army veteran who wrestled on the All-​​Army team and is a current special agent w/​ DHS. Bowie MMA offers Cardio Kickboxing, Muay Thai, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Judo and boxing instruction in Bowie, Maryland. Veteran discounts are available.  

NavySEALs​.com, SEALFIT​.com, UnbeatableMind - Mark Divine has evolved into a fitness /​ mental toughness powerhouse.  His programs /​ store enable any fitness enthusiast, SpecWar candidate pick and choose what he needs to make himself better — mentally, physically, and more.  For gear, books, ebooks, training, hellweek simulation, etc.  

Owen Richardson — NeoLife:  Owen is an active Navy Reserve IS1 and promotes the neolife club products for two reasons: “When I was deployed to Iraq in 09–10, I saw you guys (SPECOPS) everyday with tons of energy. Last year I was talking with Chris (SEAL Team 8) and he told me this was the same vitamins they took day after day. I started on it without promoting for 3 months, once I saw the benefits personally, I started telling everyone about it.”  NeoLife has different products for different lifestyles, and at a reasonable price. A months supply of vitamins or weight loss shakes will run about $40

Platoon Fitness​.com – The folks at Platoon Fitness located in Philadelphia PA and throughout Pennsylvania and New York City was founded by Todd Scott, a Navy veteran.  They have been in business for over 10 years and have indoor and outdoor training facilities with over twenty fully certified trainers who train everyone from working men and women, stay at home Moms, and kids too.  They also offer franchising opportunities and training for instructors.

The Sergeants Program – Patrick Avon opened one of the first military group training businesses in the U.S. Patrick is a former Navy enlisted man who has created a military fitness empire in the DC/​Virginia area, catering mostly to overweight executives — he also gets several students per year who seek a career in the military. He has over 45 instructors in 35 locations, all certified with a nationally recognized program. He also has his own outdoor boot-​​camp certification program. Check out his site for his annual Jolly Fat Man’s run/​party.

The SEAL PT Course  – Jack Walston — former Navy SEAL in Houston TX and Central Park Manhattan NYC — has been doing SEAL PT for over a decade. He has weekly workout plans for locals as well as a SEAL Training/​Special Forces mini-​​camp that will test you to your limits. This program actually mimics many of the events experienced in Hell Week at SEAL Training, including a 24 hour non-​​stop period of training.

CrossFit Santa Monica was founded by Navy SEALs Kaj Larsen and Carter Gaffney, long time CrossFitters who know what it takes to succeed at the highest levels of physical and mental performance. All aspects of the CrossFit Santa Monica program were designed specifically to help our members achieve their health and fitness goals regardless of their level of experience. Whether you are a seasoned athlete that is looking to take your physical performance to the next level or if you are taking your first CrossFit class, there is a home for you at CrossFit Santa Monica.
CrossFit Xiphos (www​.crossfitxiphos​.com) is owned and operated by Darrin Ingram CW4 USA retired. CrossFit Xiphos is an out of the box minded crossfit affiliate and Spartan Group X training facility located in Huntsville, AL training everyone from school teachers, first responders, military to extreme endurance athletes. Darrin trains athletes locally at his facility and abroad through wilderness fitness camps and distant personal training.

SEALGrinderPT​.com - Brad McLeod, born in Thomasville, GA, grew up in Tallahassee, FL. He is a former Navy SEAL and graduated from SEAL training in BUD/​S class  132 against all odds.  Despite having no athletic background and having life long asthma Brad climbed his personal Mount Everest and made it through BUD/​S the second time and went through Hell Week  twice.
Training Philosophy for Spec Ops: Our philosophy on workouts is to try to keep as many functional movements as possible that have carry over to your day to day sport or occupation. SEAL grinder PT is dedicated to working out and improving your mind and body to unleash the inner warrior in you.   The grinder PT is a mixture of the same exercises that SEAL recruits perform on a daily basis at the BUD/​S training camp  in Coronado, California.  We are also throwing in a few CrossFit style drills, some exercises from SEALFit, Mountain Athlete, Gym Jones and a few others you may not have seen before.

SWAT Personal Training – Ron Holland (former USAF) out of Tucson AZ, created an outdoor and indoor fitness business in 1991 after a career in the military and police department. He has a one week in-​​residence boot camp where they create a military indoctrination environment (0500am wakeup!) He has recruits run, PT, eat a well balanced and nutritious chow, and hike 2 –12 miles in the Tucson area desert. Also water skills, aerobics, yoga, stretching, and other anti-​​aging programs are taught in a teamwork/​military style program. It is very informative and positive feedback and teamwork is highly encouraged.    

SEAL Team PT – Former Navy SEAL John McGuire has translated his experience into a one-​​of-​​a-​​kind, non-​​military fitness program, offering the dual benefit of world-​​class fitness and team-​​building to people of all ages and walks of life. Offered in the Richmond, Virginia area since 1998, SEAL Team PT has legions of satisfied, fit, and fulfilled graduates of all ages. To date, SEAL Team PT has graduated over 175 basic fitness classes, conducted more than 50 custom-​​tailored corporate team-​​building programs, and led more than 40 SEAL Teen and SEAL Pup classes for youth and children.

Semper Fidelis Health & Wellness (SFHW​.ORG)  is a community based 501© 3 nonprofit organization founded by US Marine Corps Veterans and a Holistic Health & Wellness Counselor in 2009. We provide holistic, and integrative health and wellness training and education to Wounded, Ill, and Injured service members and their caregivers within the active, reserve and veteran components.

StewSmith​.com – My website/​fitness business has evolved since 1998 when I resigned from the Navy. At first I had a fitness business with as many as 40–50 hours of group PT and personal training a week. Now, after writing everything down for years, I created programs that have helped thousands prepare for military, special forces, and law enforcement physical fitness tests. I still do some online training and local group training in the Baltimore/​Annapolis MD area, but my group workouts during the week and weekend are free to those who want to join me on my swims, runs, PT etc. Once on month, we test with a variety of PFTs and we also do quarterly Spec Ops Triathlons — Run, Swim, Ruck. These workouts now give me ideas which to write as I see issues, troubles, and ways around personal obstacles with a variety of students.  I figure if I am going to write about training — I need to train.

VO2MAXUSA​.com — With 24 years of fitness programming experience, Kevin Hite of VO2MAX,LLC is uniquely qualified to serve his community’s preventive health care needs. A former US Navy search and rescue swimmer with a B.S. in Health and Wellness (The Citadel, 1990) and member of The American College of Sports Medicine, Kevin offers health risk appraisals, fitness assessments, personal training and 24/​7 gym membership from his studio in Chapin, SC. 803.422.8584.

Products Invented by Vets — SEALS /​ SF Specifically:

The TRX - Fitness in a Bag! Former SEAL Randy Hetrick has created another device that is easy to carry and so versatile I still cannot name all the exercises you can do with this thing.  My latest count is over 200 exercises.  In an article, I compared his TRX to a Universal Weight Machine and for a 1/​10 of the price it easy outperforms the machine tenfold!  This is great for travelers as the straps are easy to pack and unfold in seconds.  See some of the videos on his site.

The Perfect Pushup and Pullup - My former SEAL buddy Alden Mills has created awesome fitness products that capture the most beloved and most hated exercises we do in the SEAL Teams and at BUD/​S.  The rotational motion of his products challenge the best pull-​​up and pushup performers.  In fact, his products cut my reps in half and after a few years of using the Perfect Pushup, they still work like new and continue to make my pushups tougher. Supplemented with some weights, the Perfect Pushup and Pull-​​up are great additions to a home weight room.

The Fit Deck - Former SEAL Phil Black is probably the real genius of the bunch to take an idea and turn it into a successful business.  When on a deployment or just bored, the SEALs as well as other military groups, do a workout with a deck of cards.  Usually it required some imagination:  face cards = 10 pushups, aces = 25 pushups /​ 25 abs, jokers = 50 reps of anything…BUT what Fit Deck does for you is take out the mystery and when you shuffle the deck and start to flip the cards you get told what you need to do.  Now he has Pull-​​up Decks, Kettlebell Decks, Navy SEAL Decks, Navy SEAL Audio Series on  Acing  BUDS, Combat Sports Decks and so many more — even some for kids.

Refactor Tactical - Army SF veterans create tactical gear that works.  Designed by the operator for the operator.  Check out the gear list and training videos.  Anything from bags, caps, survival bands, medical gear, fun t-​​shirts and more — you can find it on their store and talk with other operators on their blog.

Any of these make great gifts for your fitness guru in the family or those seeking a profession that requires some form of fitness test.

After a brief discussion with the veteran trainers, we all agreed upon a few things. We focus on teaching on a basic level of fitness, habit building, and just adding basic fitness as stretching, walking/​running, light PT, and drinking water to people’s lives. Let them see and feel the progress they are making. Take them as they advance and PT them harder, but you have to give them a plan that works.

The plan I have here works…it will help people lose up to 25lbs if they just following the simple directions:

1-​​  Stretch Daily! This is very important if beginning a fitness plan. See Stretch article. 
2 — Drink more water — up to a gallon a day
3 — Do something everyday for 45 days straight – even if that is just walk after dinner.
This FREE 45 day plan shows you how.
4 — Repeat above — do not worry about food intake yet, but if no results are seen in 3–4 weeks then focus on a food plan as mentioned in plan above.

Look up one of the above veterans and try a boot camp workout program this year.  If you know of another veteran operated fitness business that is not listed, please send the website address/​contact information and I will place it in an updated article archive so I have close to a comprehensive list. Please email me atStew@​stewsmith.​com with your questions.

Tactical Fitness: The Dirty Dozen Test

military training and ptsd - 5

I was recently asked by an Army veteran if there were other fitness tests out there to challenge/​ test people who want to be “Tactically Fit”. This particular veteran likes to stay as fit as he was while serving more than 10 years ago and still manages an above average Army PFT for age groups 20 years younger.   These are great health and fitness goals to ace a basic PFT, but is it really a Tactical Fitness Test?  No — See the multiple dimensions required in creating a foundation to be “tactically fit” in order to have the ability to perform some of the most dangerous jobs in the world — defending /​ protecting our country and communities.

Tactical Fitness is the new fitness genre and I personally define it as:  The ability to perform military, police, and fire fighter job related skills such as running, rucking, swimming, buddy rescue, equipment carry, requiring upper body and lower body strength and muscle endurance.  I have been wanting to make an all inclusive tactical fitness test for a while now.  The test below has no scientific study behind it, these are simply my opinions what tactical athletes should be able to do.  However, all these events are commonly used testing events used by many military, special ops teams, SWAT Teams, police and fire fighters.

These are the twelve events I call the Tactical Fitness Dirty Dozen that I pulled from various military, police, and fire fighting fitness tests to create an all inclusive fitness challenge for those of you who want to be ready for anything.  There is a grading system that is quite generous in basic pass /​ fail standards as well as a max point system of 100 points.

The events justification:

25# Pullup — Weighted pullups are required as most gear a tactical operator wears will weigh anywhere from 15-​​25lbs minus the back pack.  Minimum is 2 reps /​ maxing is 10 reps.  1 point for each rep for a total of 10 points and minimum of 2 reps.

Body Weight bench press — Upper body strength with combination of moving your body weight for multiple repetitions to test pushing power of the tactical athlete.  Minimum points for 5 reps (2 pts) and maximum (10) points for 15 reps.

Dead Lift (1.5x BW) — Can you lift more than your own body weight.  Practicing this event alone will help a tactical athlete learn proper lifting techniques and build a stronger foundation to move heavy weight when required.  1 rep P/​F but 2 points per rep until 5 reps for more points. Minimum points for 2 reps (1 pt) and maximum (10) points for 5 reps.

Fireman carry — Can you rescue your buddy and carry for 100yds?  Pass /​ Fail criteria (5 pts pass)

400m sprint - Can you run fast (no gear)?  60 seconds max points /​ 80 seconds minimum standard.  Sometimes speed is essential.
Minimum points for 80 seconds (1 pt) and maximum (10) points for 60 seconds.

300yd shuttle run - Can you run back and forth quickly (6 x 50m shuttle)?  60 seconds max /​ 80 seconds minimum standard.
Minimum points for 80 seconds (1 pt) and maximum (10) points for 60 seconds.

agilitytest

Illinois Agility Test — You will have to zig and zag while running at full speed, changing direction often.  Max points of (5) if completed under 15 seconds.  Deduct a point for every second slower than 15 seconds until 19 seconds(1 pt).  Slower than 19 seconds = fail.

Plank pose - Can you hold the plank pose for 1 minute minimum.  Get extra points for every minute after that and max out at 5 minutes.  1 point 1 minute. Add a points for each minute up to 5 minutes.  Max points 5 points.

3 mile timed run — The three mile timed run.  Can you run 3 miles without stopping?  Then you pass.  If you get 18 minutes you max the test and can pick up a few more points if you can keep it under 23 minutes.  10 points for 18 min /​ 1 point less for each 30 seconds until max point time of 23 minutes.

50 lbs ruck in under 1 hour (4 miles) - This is the minimum standard for Army rucking times.  Can you pace yourself at a perfect 15 min mile with 50lb back pack or weight vest.  No need to go too fast on this event.  It is about finishing on a steady pace.  No extra points for getting under 1 hour.  10 points pass or fail.

Swim - Can you swim?  -  If you cannot swim you are ineffective on 75 % of this planet.   Be an asset not a liability to your team, yourself, and your family.  This is a basic survival skill we all should know how to do.  5 Points for just knowing how to swim.

500m swim — Any stroke.  Swim 500m non-​​stop and you pass.  Get 500m in 6 min or less and max out the swim test.  You can get extra points until the 11th minute.  5 points for maxing the swim /​ 1 point less for every minutes until the 10th minute.

25m Life saving buddy tow  - Can you dive to the bottom of a pool (8-​​9ft) grab a unconscious buddy and tow him 25m to the other end of the pool?  Pass or fail — 5 points.

Here is a chart to make it easier to understand:

Exercise Pass /​ Fail Criteria
4 mile ruck (50lbs) 1 hour maximum time
25# Pullups max reps 2 – 10 reps
Bench press (bodyweight) Pass or fail 1 rep:  5 reps — 15 reps for extra points
Dead Lift (1.5x bodyweight) Pass or fail — 1 rep
(2–5 reps for extra pts)
Fireman Carry (P/​F) 100yds of equal bodyweight
400m sprint 60–80 seconds
Shuttle run 300yds 60–80 seconds
Plank pose (P/​F) 1 minute minimum /​ 5 min max
3 mile run (P/​F) 18 minutes to 23 minutes for extra points
IL Agility Test <15 secs to >19 sec
Swim – can you swim?
(P/​F)
Yes /​ no
Swim 500m timed 6 minutes – 11 minutes
Swim – Buddy Tow Pass/​fail – 25m rescue swim

Max points is 100 points if you ace everything.  You can still pass with as little as 40 points.  You must pass all events to pass the test. Give it a try and see where you stand.  Practice and your weaknesses and think your way through this test as you can arrange to best fit your optimal scoring potential.  The interesting thing about this test is you can arrange the events in any order you wish.  Get creative and develop your own strategy for better performance.  The test can be broken up into two sessions or challenge yourself and go for all events in one long testing session.

“The Dirty Dozen”  Tactical Fitness Test eBook is here.

 

How to Workout Like an Olympic Champion

Bodyweight exercises

How to Workout Like an Olympic Champion - The Full Body Workout You Need to Start Doing NOW

The winter Olympic games are among us and as we see one chiseled athlete after another competing at what they do best it makes me want to reiterate to the fitness community what it really takes to have well defined muscles and slim waistline. I see one fitness blogger after another writing workout plans that tell you do hit the weights and do three sets of legs on one day, and three sets of another body part on another day.  The truth is getting a chiseled body doesn’t come with spending 15 minutes working out one or two body parts a day in the gym. Aside from eating healthy, you need to stimulate all the muscles in your body 3 times a week. A full body workout is especially useful for you 8-​​5ers who sit in an office all day waiting for that time you get to go to the gym to release energy.  Follow my 3 day full body workout routine below to ensure you hit all the right muscle groups in the right sequence.

What Did You Do Today? January 2014

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Each month (or more often if this series is popular enough), I am going to post some fun workouts that I would recommend you trying if you are in the intermediate /​ advanced level fitness zone.  Here, we mix weights and calisthenics with some unconventional exercise options.  One of the new favorite unconventional exercises is the stair crawl — which is just an advanced version of the bear crawl where you crawl down head first a flight of steps and then change directions and crawl back up FEET first (this is the hard part).

So check out this fullbody workout circuit:

Repeat 3 times
Pushups 1 min
Pullups 1 min
Situps or abs of choice 1 min
Walking lunges 25 yards
Stair crawl UP /​ DOWN a flight of steps — NOTE:  If there are no steps to do this or your gym will not let you — simply bear crawl 25m or farmer walk carrying a 25–50 lb. weight.

Tactical Fitness Training /​ Testing Ideas

Respiratory_muscle_training

Training large groups with varied fitness levels is one of the most challenging things to accomplish with success.  Success will be defined by the group’s increased fitness levels as well as not injuring people who maybe ill-​​prepared for new and challenging exercises.  Here is a great question from a new PT coordinator concerned with adding new ways to test the group in exercises /​events not common to the Air Force PFT.

My unit has placed me in charge of the PT program which is a combination of remedial PT failures as well as the top fitness levels on our base.  We are – for the most part – a competitive group and though we do focus on the PFT exercises so we stay on top of the test, I would like to change it up and add new fitness testing exercises to challenge our team. I recall you writing that there were about 10 to 12 exercises that have been deemed as acceptable (validated) for most military and police fitness tests. However, there will certainly be some naysayers who will be less than enthusiastic about fitness programming and evaluation on a department-​​wide basis – even if it is for fun.  I know you have a lot of experience in this area, so I wanted to see what your thoughts were on the best exercises /​ tasks for testing purposes.

The Busy Dad and Busy Mom Workout

Stressed Father Feeding Little Daughter and Using Cell Phone

No matter what technological advances come out to make our lives more efficient and effective, we seem to have less and less free time in our daily lives.  With the daily responsibilities of being a parent, it seems nearly impossible to consistently make time for the gym.  But don’t worry; there are exercises you can fit into your existing day that can be surprisingly effective.  If you want to lose weight and have more defined muscles, fit the below routine into your daily schedule for 4 weeks.

Army Bootcamp: Training before the Training

military training

Training for Army Bootcamp requires mental preparation and physical preparation.

Even though most people don’t think about physical exercise providing any mental benefits…it does. Why? Because exercise allows you be physically prepared for your Army Bootcamp training. And, the more physically prepared you feel, the less mental stress you will experience. The less mental stress, the better you will be able to engage and focus in the “classroom” style learning as well as the “field” adaptations and problem solving you will encounter physically and mentally.

Hell Week Training: 3 Things to Remember!

military nutrition

What’s Hell Week Training?

Five days and nights in maximum overdrive. It’s wet. It’s cold. It’s tough. And for most it’s their first real test of endurance. And, most don’t think they are ready. Or they do, until the boots hit the mud and a part of them just wants to cry to mama. Can you survive? Can you adapt? Can you reach the peak and push back against your minds natural resistance? Will you become a Marine?

The body has a way of adapting to physical stress but only when you give it what it requires to deal with that stress in the most healthy and positive way. You need the right food combinations and nutritional fortification. And that fortification of your body’s vital systems needs to begin long before Hell week. Long before the buzz cut. And long before your first inspection. That fortification, that Hell Week Training Diet needs to start the moment to get the urge to wear the Eagle, Globe and Anchor.

Improve the Move: StairMaster Workouts!

Improve the Move: StairMaster Workouts

Love climbing the stairway to a heavenly butt? Want to go from the couch to Kilimanjaro?

Here’s the deal…The StairMaster is a gym gem. When the resolution gym-​​goers are clogging up the ellipticals and treadmills, don’t fret, you can get a kick booty workout with this instead!! It’s been the toughest machine in the gym for 30 years and now you can try the at-​​home smaller version– the SM3 now! It’s great for getting in a quiet cardio workout (rather than pounding on the treadmill) if you have a sleeping child or neighbors nearby.

Whether you are just trying it for the firsts time, or have used it before, here are some ways to improve the move while doing a stair climbing workout:StairMaster dos and don’ts.