(Photo by Joan Vasey)

Serving in the infantry comes with its fair share of hardships, both mental and physical. Rigorous schedules, deployment cycles, and long training hours can be taxing on anyone. Such a demanding lifestyle requires that you be physically fit. After all, your strength and endurance may be the reasons you survive that next, intense firefight.


Now, having served time in the infantry, it's easy for us to look back and see the things we wish we had known before loading that heavy pack on our backs and going on patrol. Invariably, veterans will tell you that they wish they had pushed themselves harder during those long PT sessions.

Sure, some exercises felt like a waste of time, but there were a select few that many of us wish we had mastered before hitting the front lines.

1. Side-straddle hops

If this exercise looks familiar to you, that's good — they're also called "Jumping Jacks." The act of jumping up and down while moving your arms and legs in a fanning motion isn't what makes this exercise important. The fact is, the side-straddle hop is intended to promote uniformity within a squad. Everyone is supposed to hit their physical marks at the same time.

Although this movement does help with cardiovascular endurance, its primary purpose is to get troops working together and on the same rep count. If the rep count is 20 and a troop decides to wrongly start number 21 while everyone else stands at attention, they'll be punished.

You don't want to be that guy.

2. 8-count bodybuilders

The military takes pride in achieving uniformity — there's a reason why everyone's got a matching uniform. The importance of consistency extends into our daily workouts. One of the best exercises we'll perform in a group is eight-count bodybuilders.

This exercise involves moving through a series of eight positions. Start in the standing position and lean forward, touching your palms to the floor — this is position number one.

Follow the video below for a complete breakdown of the positions you'll sequence through.

3. 4-count push ups

The military is known for pushing the human body to and beyond its limits. The average fitness fanatic usually counts each push-up with a single digit. That's not how it works in the armed forces. We score each movement and for every two push-ups we complete, we only get credit for one.

Watch the video below to see why.

4. Low-crawling

How many times throughout military history has a troop had to crawl, either to save one of their brothers or to flank the enemy? The answer: countless. People don't realize just how exhausting it is to crawl for extended periods of time. Give it a shot and see how quickly you get winded.

That's why it made our list of infantry exercises.

5. Squats

Having strong legs is one of the most important aspects of fitness for the infantryman. We typically patrol on foot and haul heavy gear — both of which are made easier by keeping our legs fit. Most troops fall out of hikes because of malnutrition and sore legs. Proper squats will help you develop those essential muscles.

6. Angel of Death

This sounds like a rough exercise, right? Well, it can be brutal if you've never done it. It's called "Angel of Death" because the action is, essentially, the opposite of making snow angels. First, lay flat on your tummy. Next, elevate your arms and legs and proceed with making those snow angels.

This motion works out your lower back, which is essential to grunts. After a long, tactical movement, you'll be happy you prepared your lower back — trust me.