Look, most of us were trained with videos or guides from the 70s, so I was seriously surprised when I discovered the U.S. Army’s Combat Fitness Test page.
The page is modern, informative, and actually very helpful. Plus, the graphic designer was on point. (Kudos: Army Public Affairs Digital Media Division.)
I’m not in the Army but I find myself wanting to go do some deadlifts.
The Army Combat Fitness Test is comprised of the deadlift, standing power throw, hand release push-up, sprint-drag-carry, leg tuck, and 2-mile run. When designing the test, they looked at the Marine Corps’ Physical Fitness Test and Combat Fitness Test, the Air Force TAC-P Operators Test, and physical performance assessments from 10-15 other sports programs and military/government tests.
All soldiers must be capable to deploy and fight. From the Army Vision: “The Army Mission – our purpose – remains constant: To deploy, fight, and win our nation’s wars by providing ready, prompt, and sustain land dominance by Army forces.” To accomplish that mission, the Army will “build readiness for high intensity conflict” with training that “will be tough, realistic, iterative and battled-focused.” The battlefields of today and tomorrow are increasingly complex, fluid, and uncertain; they demand that all Soldiers are physically fit and ready for full-spectrum operations. —U.S. Army Combat Fitness Test website
To help prepare soldiers, the Army really went above and beyond with educational materials about the test. From videos of the exercises to training techniques and safety tips to highlighting the muscles engaged, the page is an incredible resource.
If I sound surprised, it’s because I am.
The military does not have a good reputation of taking care of service members’ bodies. There’s an underlying “suck it up” mentality that tends to prevent troops from treating injuries in a timely manner. When they do finally seek medical care, it’s often too late and they’re added to the end of a too-long list of patients needing treatment.
U.S. troops deploy to combat zones and respond to missions that require physical strength, flexibility, and capability, so it’s important that they train hard — but it’s also critical that they learn how to prevent and treat injuries efficiently.
A minor training nuisance like a strained muscle or a shin splint can become a career-ending injury when ignored; instead it should be treated like a loose part on a weapon and it prioritized as such.
The effort the Army put into their website might seem like a small thing, but it actually communicates the importance of soldiers’ bodies — training them, honing them, and caring for them.
The mission of the Sports Medicine Injury Prevention (SMIP) Program is to reduce attrition and lost work-days associated with musculoskeletal injuries (MSKI) in order to increase operational readiness of individual Marine, Sailors, and their units. —U.S. Marine Corps SMIP website
I wish I had this kind of stuff when I was active duty.
The Army, on the other hand:
The government knows that injuries are a detriment to the military, but the Army has currently has a lead in educating its troops about how to train. Physical health should be prioritized as part of the military culture, not just physical strength. Troops can’t be strong if they’re not healthy.
Check out the website here — and then get your ass to the gym!
If you struggle with exercises like pull-ups or the deadlift, chances are your legs and back aren’t to blame. It’s your weak-ass grip.
Have you ever used wrist straps while deadlifting or doing a back exercise?
If you have, then you know it’s usually much easier to go as heavy as possible. Why?
Your limiting factor isn’t that your back or legs are weak, it’s your grip.
For pull-ups, it’s more of the same story. You’ve probably noticed that doing exercises like rows and pulldowns for 10 to 15 isn’t too bad, even when the weight is more than your bodyweight. But doing the same for full range pull-ups is out of the question.
Again, it’s not your back that needs work but instead your grip strength.
If your weak grip is an issue and you want to learn some tricks for fixing it, check these suggestions out.
Thumb-over grip is better for mobility on pull-ups but harder on your grip strength.
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Jacob Wilson
Bodyweight and weighted dead hangs
If you want a strong grip, try hanging on a bar for as long as possible. While it seems basic, chances are you can’t hang for more than a minute, at least at first.
Try jumping onto a pull-up bar with a pronated grip, where your hands are facing away from you. Allow your arms to fully extend overhead and hang unassisted for as long as possible. Then, repeat.
Once a minute is easy, start adding multiple sets.
When that gets too easy, add some extra weight with a dumbbell between your feet or thighs and repeat the process.
If you have access to one of these pinch grip bars give it a shot. You’ll be amazed at how much less weight you can handle than with a traditional barbell.
U.S. Air Force photo by Roland Balik
The best part about building grip strength is that the techniques to do so are simple. Just like with dead hangs, a great way to develop massive grip strength is to hold on to some heavy ass weight for as long as possible.
Similar to dead hangs, set up a barbell in a squat rack with the safety pins just above your knees. Then, work up to a weight that you would come close to maxing out on the deadlift for three reps. Hold the weight for as long as you can and work your way up to 60 seconds per set.
The only thing here is that for maximum benefit, you can’t use an alternate grip if you usually do while deadlifting. You do that because it’s easier to hold on, right?
Instead, use a pronated or double overhand grip while doing dead holds. It will be humbling at first, but over time, your grip will become unstoppable.
Obviously, grip strength is huge if you expect to max out the deadlift on the ACFT.
U.S. Army Courtesy Photo
If you’ve got a weak grip, you also need to train the muscles in your hands that allow your fingers to stay firmly wrapped around the bar. One of the easiest ways to develop finger strength is the plate hold.
Depending on your grip strength, you want to start with a 10 to 45 pound weightlifting plate, like the ones you used to deadlift. Turn the plate vertical and grip the edge with your four fingers on one side and your thumb on the other.
Pick the plate up and hold for as long as possible. If you want an extra challenge, see how far your walk while holding the heaviest plate possible with your fingers.
No, seriously, using a towel to train is a lesser-known grip training tactic.
If you think doing a pull-up on a bar is challenging, try wrapping a towel around that bar and doing pull-ups while holding the towel instead.
The best thing here is that this tactic can be used with other equipment as well.
You can wrap the towel around the handle of a dumbbell or kettlebell and do curls or farmer’s walks. You can even use a towel for machines like lat pulldowns too.
Believe it or not, even repeatedly ringing out a thick towel is an effective way to build wrist and grip strength.
Just keep in mind, not all towels are created equal.
If you’re going to try and use this method for an exercise like pull-ups, place a crash pad underneath you, have a spotter or use a pull-up assist machine just in case the towel breaks.
Don’t be a looky-loo. Go try some of this stuff and get better.
(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Spc. Jason Archer)
If you have a solid training program that holistically trains your entire body, then grip strength probably isn’t a concern of yours. If you’re like most people and lack that training plan then sign up for The Mighty Fit Plan… it’s free and the perfect thing to help get your grip strength up to snuff.
Don’t forget to check out the Mighty Fit FB group for more Military and Veteran training greatness.
Your mind is a muscle. Your patience is a muscle. Your creativity is a muscle. Your muscles are muscles. Just like muscles all these other skills and organs can be trained to become better at what they do. Let’s have a look at exactly how this works for your brain and how you can train it with meditation to become more resilient, just like your biceps get from all those curls you finish every workout with.
Trying to get enlightened real fast!
(Photo by Sgt. Elizabeth White)
This is how your brain works
When you are born, your brain is like the untainted wilderness. As you grow and learn things paths are developed in your brain to those facts and actions just like footpaths are in the woods. Over time those paths become entrenched so that they are unconscious.
When was the last time you gave your full attention to tying your shoes? It’s probably been a long time, that’s because simple actions like lacing up your boots get moved into your unconscious memory. You don’t need to think about doing it. This is a way that our brains work to save space and processing power.
This is great for things like getting dressed or signing your signature, but it becomes a problem when your habits are less desirable, like smoking or not thinking before you speak when your OIC is around.
US Army Veteran, Sean Villa, on Transcendental Meditation
Being able to break these bad habits and actively control what we remember is one of the benefits of meditation known as neuroplasticity.
That phrase: “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” comes from old people being stuck in their ways, refusing to change, obviously. That’s the opposite of neuroplasticity. Meditation teaches your brain to stay young and flexible.
Literally, the same thing that happens to your body when you train happens to your brain when you meditate. It makes you more resilient to change and adversity. Whether that adversity is an alligator that needs a beat down- physical training #happygilmore, or a newly updated browser that makes it impossible to figure out how to delete your less than desirable search history #firstworldproblems- meditation.
Don’t forget the gym just because you are training your brain like these guys.
Of the pilot studies on military members with PTSD, they all have been able to show significant results from meditation. In one study over 83% of the participants had a positive effect after just one month, some of which were even able to get off the medication they were taking to help manage their symptoms.
The practices these groups were doing did more than just manage symptoms. It allowed the service members to come to terms with what they experienced. This takes neuroplasticity to the next level.
Meditation Improves Performance at Military University
What happens many times in those with PTSD is that their mind gets stuck on loop reliving a terrible or gruesome experience. The brain digs a path so deep that it’s like you’re stuck in the Grand Canyon of your mind with no climbing tools to get up the wall and out of that undesirable place.
The meditation practices in these studies gave the participants the tools they needed to start climbing up and making their way out to forge a new less traumatic path.
Again, this is exactly the same as if you were actually stuck at the bottom of The Grand Canyon. You need the physical strength to start making your way up, if you’ve never done a pull-up that climb is going to be impossible. You need to train and acquire the physical tools to accomplish such a feat.
You don’t need to be sitting crossed legged to be doing it “right”.
Learn to be in silence: Most of us are constantly surrounded by ear clutter. And even when we finally get a chance for some silence, like in the shower, we decide to crank the Spotify Throwback Workout playlist. Many people can’t even fall asleep without some noise in the background. Start slow on your path to meditation by just picking some dedicated time where you will intentionally listen to nothing and no one. Put some earplugs in if you’re in the barracks and just learn to embrace the silence.
Use an app: What happens when you go to the gym completely unprepared with no idea what to do? Chances are you end up doing a few sets of biceps curls and waste 30 minutes on a treadmill. The equivalent can happen when meditating. Start slowly with an app like headspace or Sam Harris’ new app Waking Up. They will take you through a beginners course on meditating and help you start building that neuroplasticity toolbox.
There are tons of fitness brands in the health-and-wellness section of the PX that’ll promise to help you build lean muscle — in exchange for a little cash. These nutrition companies plaster pictures of famous athletes that have next-to-zero body fat in order to promote their products and make wild claims just to capture your attention.
We know from scientific research that drinking protein after a workout spikes insulin production within the body. By drinking protein, we help our bodies make a full recovery and, of course, build muscle. The jugs of protein that are sold in the stores can cost anywhere from ten bucks all the way up to 70 smackaroos.
That’s a lot of cash for a bi-product of milk.
To all you service members living in the barracks, doing your best while “ballin’ on a budget,” don’t worry: There’s one inexpensive post-workout supplement that anyone can afford.
That’s right, chocolate milk. No, we’re not playing a cruel joke on you.
Drinking chocolate milk has been proven by scientists to be the best post-workout drink out there. Broken down, what the body needs to make a full recovery is a combination of protein, carbohydrates, fats, and electrolytes.
The majority of all sports drinks contain electrolytes, which helps restore energy. Unfortunately, they’re lacking the protein that human tissue needs.
But, guess what?
Low-fat chocolate milk provides everything your body needs to repair itself after a tough, resistance-based workout, including protein, calcium, potassium, phosphorous, riboflavin, niacin, and vitamins A, B12, and D.
Good luck finding all those ingredients from any of those overpriced jugs of protein you’ll find at your local base exchange.
It’s easy to exhibit mental toughness when you know exactly where the fire is coming from, for example, hostile territory or the far side of the range. It’s a lot harder when you’re not sure if your coworkers, a rival company, or the customer standing across from you is your enemy or your ally.
I recently had the opportunity to talk to U.S. Navy Vet Dr. Seth Hickerson, the CEO of A Boost Above. They specialize in Leadership and Mental Toughness Training. It’s a little different than you may have experienced in the military though…
We talked about mental toughness, education, loneliness, breathing, domestic terrorism, and a whole bunch of other stuff. So hold onto your butts as you jump into this all too familiar rabbit hole.
How is Boost’s mission to defend the nation against domestic terrorism?
Me and my team are Vets…and we signed an oath to support and defend the United States against ALL enemies foreign AND DOMESTIC. And we believe there are domestic institutions that do not have the best interest of our citizens in mind. Rather they are focused on controlling, manipulating, conditioning people to perpetuate hyper-capitalism and elite ideologies…so we wanted to create a company that provides awareness, education, and more importantly, training to help our citizens live their best lives.
We want people to be healthy, happy, and whole…
In our world out there today, it’s all about psychological warfare, and sadly most of our citizens are completely unarmed…so they are in a losing battle. We want to equip them.
The root cause is simple. We are still utilizing antiquated systems and institutions that were designed during the industrial revolution to produce workers instead of thinkers. The world and society has changed exponentially, but we still push people through “systems,” control media, Perpetuate the illusion of “the American dream” all in an attempt to control the masses while also extracting as much money from them as possible before they die…right before they can cash out their 401ks.
Some of the U.S. Army’s Boost trained Medics.
(Dr. Seth Hickerson)
How can Boost help address the loneliness problem that’s running rampant lately?
First by educating and raising awareness as to why we have a loneliness epidemic. Technology is the main culprit…the devices we are using to “connect” us are actually isolating us. We are devolving as a species….Humans are meant to be tribal, communal, social.
We need to interact…face to face…not online.
Also, technology provides people an opportunity to constantly compare themselves to others. But what they are comparing themselves to are illusions. Not reality.
News media perpetuates this by utilizing fear-based sensationalism…they use stimulus content that makes people fearful, racist, divided, and not want to leave their house.
Social media uses fantasy-based sensationalism….the content on there is FANTASY, but people believe it is real. “Why can’t I have the nice car, vacation, job, family,” Why can’t I look like that, cook like that etc. So it makes them feel less than, feel inadequate.
These are just a few things that perpetuate loneliness.
It takes TRAINING to overcome this stuff…and that’s where we come in.
The civilian world may look cuter and nicer than the military but there’s just as much suck that needs to be embraced.
(Dr. Seth Hickerson)
How specifically can Boost be used to help service members transition out of the military more effectively?
The biggest challenge Vets face when transitioning to civilian life is the loss of identity.
Only Less than 1% of our population serves in the military. It is a tight, highly trained fraternity, brotherhood. We think, act, and behave differently.
It is difficult to transition from the warrior mindset to the civilian one.
In my opinion, the ball gets dropped because we don’t do a good job of educating and prepping Vets before this transition happens. Then when they struggle, get depressed, lose confidence etc…we stick them in the “mental illness model” and expect them to sit on couches, treat them like they are broken, and have them “talk about things” with some egg-head who has never served.
Vets need training….we are mission-oriented…always will be…we need tasks and something to work towards…we don’t need talking…we need training.
Boost is training…not therapy.
Dr. H and cohorts spreading techniques that help vets transition out of the military more successfully.
(Dr. Seth Hickerson)
Can you give a quick rundown of BAMO, why it works, and why everyone should be using the breath to help regulate themselves?
Since we are Vets…we LOVE acronyms. BAMO is one of the first techniques we teach people. It stands for Breathe And Move On. The two most powerful things in a person’s lives are their thoughts and their breath…and most people have NO idea how to control either.
BAMO is a breathing technique we teach that basically shows you how to “flip the switch” from sympathetic nervous system to parasympathetic “aka the parachute”….it is what calms you down.
When someone gets scared due to a stimulus that they have perceived as a threat it activates the sympathetic nervous systems and engages the flight, flight or freeze…rapid heart rate, blood restricts only to essential organs, fear/worry mindset, sweating, trembling, breathing rapidly…it’s very hard to perform when this is happening…so you need a quick way to flip the switch to the parasympathetic nervous system…to calm your ass down..even if it’s just for a few seconds so you can execute the task at hand.
We use the 4×4 breathing technique…a simple breathing technique that you have to PRACTICE…four seconds in through the nose, breathing into the belly, then four second exhale through the mouth…..COUNTING to four in your head on the inhale and exhale (hard to think/worry about anything else) when you are counting in your head. The trick is to practice this breathing technique often throughout the day when you AREN’T SCARED or WORRIED…so that your body can adjust to it and then automate it once any negative stimulus comes your way…that’s when you are on the next level.
Dr. H and Boost sponsor all kinds of events that help make their community stronger in their free time.
(Dr. Seth Hickerson)
At Boost we are very aware of the alarming suicide problem as it pertains to our military Veterans, and we understand they need access to more tools.
We have served on many deployments and multiple combat operations at all levels…from grunts to upper echelon (SEALs and Rangers). We are also PhD’s in Human Performance, Psychology, and Educational Leadership.
Most importantly, we are Vets that want to help Vets.
Vets need to see what they are doing as training…not therapy. The current model promotes and perpetuates a sense of brokenness. And it’s usually led by someone that has “not been there.”
Vets are warriors. They need to be treated accordingly and given the tools in a way that makes sense to them and makes them proud to be doing the training.
So that’s our approach and philosophy.
We believe that by providing a modern and fun, measurable, accessible training systems utilizing technology is imperative. Our unique methodology (mindfulness training, emotional intelligence training, cognitive fitness training, and spec ops training) can give each and every veteran the tools they need to thrive. No insurance, no appointments, no coaches, no BS…and deployable anywhere anytime.
In the military, we wake up at the butt-crack of dawn, join our units to stretch before undergoing an intense training session, and then conduct some cool-down exercises to cap it all off. This is a routine that many troops have performed for decades and will continue long after their service ends. However, after years of performing the same morning ritual, many educated physical trainers are saying we’ve been doing things wrong.
Now, we’re not saying that you’ve been doing those eight-count bodybuilders incorrectly, we’re merely suggesting that there’s a problem with your warm-up routine.
In recent years, fitness experts have discovered that there’s no need to stretch out specific muscles before every workout.
Traditionally, troops will stand in either a school circle or in a structured formation as they move through a series of synchronized stretching exercises. These exercises focus on loosening up specific muscle groups before they’re put through strain. This might not be the best way to do things.
Stretching out a cold muscle is like pulling apart a frozen rubber band. A muscle that hasn’t been warmed up isn’t very pliable. By stretching that cold muscle, you’re not gaining a whole lot. In fact, you’re risking unneeded pain and injury.
Instead of conducting acute stretches, which focus on specific muscle groups, consider performing dynamic ones, based on the type of workout you’re about to put your body through. Dynamic stretching consists of warming up several muscle groups at once — these include things like side-straddle hops and jumping rope.
Many trainers suggest that you conduct the muscle-specific stretches after your workout, when tendons are most flexible and muscles are pliable, to further tear your muscles in a controlled manner. This kind of stretching will prevent injury down the line and help you build up muscles stronger.
In a recent, article discussing the Three Phases of Tactical Fitness, many recruits find themselves stuck in phase 1 of tactical fitness (Testing Phase) for far too long. To achieve exceptional PT scores, it may take a recruit 6-12 months or more depending upon your athletic background and training history. Typically, if you join the military unprepared for this test, this period of time has the added pressure of Spec Ops Mentors and Recruiters with the time crunch of the Delayed Entry Program (DEP).
Here are two scenarios the recruit can choose to be a part of:
1. Turned 18 – time to enlist
If your goal is to turn 18 and enlist, great! Thanks for considering military service for a future career – we need more Americans like you. However, are you “really ready” to go from high school kid to special ops recruit / candidate? If you have not taken the physical screen test (PST) yet (on your own) and are crushing the events, then NO you are not ready to start this process. If you continue on this journey you will likely either not ever pass the PST prior to your ship date or just barely pass the competitive standards, get selected for Special Ops (SO rating in the Navy), and soon ship to boot camp. Great right? Well, you prepared well enough to get TO BUD/S but have you prepared at all to get THROUGH BUD/S? Have you turned 1.5 mile runs into fast 4 mile timed runs? Have you turned 500yd swims without fins into 2 mile swims with fins? Have you continued your PT but added strength workouts to prepare for log PT, boat carries,rucking, and other load bearing events? If you have not spent a significant amount of your time in this THROUGH cycle (Phase 2 Tactical Fitness), then you will likely successfully make it into BUD/S for about two weeks on average. Quitting and injury typically follow – statistically speaking.
2. Crushed PST many times — ready to enlist
If you have taken the PST countless amount of times, have worked on a strategy for optimal performance and are hitting the advanced competitive scores, it is time. Take the PST and crush it the first time. Now you have a standard of above average passing standard that you can maintain while you focus more on getting THROUGH BUD/S with faster / longer runs, longer swims, rucking, strength training for the load bearing activities at BUDS. You may even have time to practice some land navigation, knot tying, water confidence, or even take a SCUBA course. The goal of the time you have in DEP now is to focus on your weaknesses and turn them into strengths. And when you start to enjoy your prior weaknesses, you are ready. You will still have to ace the PST regularly so make your warmups be calisthenics / testing focused and the added longer runs / swims / rucks and lifts to follow. See Tactical Fitness or Tactical Strength for ideas.
To ALL recruits: exercise patience
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by George Melendez)
If a recruit would take 6-12 months before talking to a recruiter and joining the DEP, the recruit could be fully prepared to crush the PST on day one. Because if you do not get competitive PST scores to be put into the system, you will be in test taking mode until you pass. When you pass the first time, you can start preparing for phase 2 of tactical fitness (getting THROUGH the training). However, making sure you can crush the PST even on a bad day is a requirement as you will be taking the test at both boot camp and Pre-BUD/S, and BUD/S Orientation. If you fail the PST at Boot camp, Pre-BUDS, or BUD/S Orientation, you go home.
Tactical Fitness Phase 2 requires you to focus on the specifics of your future spec ops selection. This is what you need to be spending most of your time prior to boot camp doing. Longer runs, rucks, longer swims with fins, and high rep PT, weight training to prepare for the load bearing of boat carries and log PT and grinder PT.
When you think about tactical fitness you cannot confuse the three phases of the journey (To, Through, and Active Duty Operator).
Phase 1: recruit
Focus your training on testing to get into the training program you seek but also worked on any weaknesses you may have (strength, endurance, stamina, run, swim, ruck, etc…). This may take 6-12 months at least, make sure you place this phase in front of your recruiter visit.Tactical Fitness Phase 2 requires you to focus on the specifics of your future spec ops selection. This is what you need to be spending most of your time prior to boot camp doing. Longer runs, rucks, longer swims with fins, and high rep PT, weight training to prepare for the load bearing of boat carries and log PT and grinder PT.
When you think about tactical fitness you cannot confuse the three phases of the journey (To, Through, and Active Duty Operator).
Phase 2: student
Preparing to become a student in a challenging selection, Boot Camp, academy type program requires specific training for those challenges. Focus on weaknesses as a week within your selection training will expose them.
Phase 3: operator
You will not even get here if you are not adequately prepared for Phases 1 and 2. Do not rush it – get ready first THEN charge forward fully prepared.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.
Sports, in large part, were halted when the U.S. military became involved in World War II. The Indy 500 was canceled to save gasoline, and the U.S. Open golf tournament was scrapped favoring resources in rubber, which typically made golf equipment. Several professional athletes, managers, owners, and even rules officials across many leagues enlisted, commissioned, or were drafted.
These sports icons sacrificed the prime of their careers for a cause bigger than themselves. On the anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge, we celebrate the lives of some of sports’ greatest stars who served during this time.
(Courtesy of World Golf Hall of Fame)
“I don’t suppose that any of the pro and amateur golfers who were combat soldiers, Marines, or sailors will soon be able to think of a three-putt green as of the really bad troubles in life,” Mangrum said when he returned from World War II. Mangrum was both a veteran of Normandy and the Battle of the Bulge. Before he left for war to fight with General Patton’s Third Army, he made a pact with his friend, Sergeant Robert Green. Each ripped a id=”listicle-2641582160″ bill in half, vowing to each return it when the war ended. Green was killed in action, thus the pair never rekindled their promise.
Mangrum and his brother spent their childhood in the backyard where his thirst for competition began. “A small creek ran behind our house,” he told the NY Times. “My brother, Ray, and I built a crude green on the opposite bank and had [sic] pitching contests with a rustyblade old mashie somebody had discarded.” Soon he was a caddie learning how to approach the game through judgment. He took first place in the first US Open (1946) golf tournament since its hiatus during World War II. He became known as “Mr. Icicle” for his calmness on the links, which he credits how nothing on the golf course could rattle him like the battlefield.
Ralph Houk is not a name that is first mentioned when thinking of a New York Yankee, but he should be. His commanding officer, Caesar Flore, spoke of his battlefield fearlessness when he sent Houk out in a jeep to do reconnaissance on enemy scouting positions. He didn’t return until two nights later, and Flore listed him as ‘missing in action.’ “When he had returned, he had a three day growth of beard and hand grenades hanging all over him,” Flore said. “He was back of the enemy lines the entire time. I know he must’ve enjoyed himself. He had a hole in one side of his helmet, and a hole in the other where the bullet left. When I told him about his helmet he said, ‘I could have [sic] swore I heard a ricochet.'”
Houk rose from Private to Major in four years and earned a Silver Star, a Bronze Star with oak leaf cluster, and a Purple Heart for when he was wounded in the calf during the Battle of the Bulge. After the war, he secured the back-up catcher’s position behind Yogi Berra and became a manager where players referred to him as “The Major” for his wartime discipline.
(Courtesy of the New York Times.)
Gino Marchetti was known primarily for two things: being a Hall of Fame defensive end for the Baltimore Colts and an entrepreneur who co-owned a restaurant called Gino’s with teammate Alan Ameche. Their influence was so great that members of the community, including New England Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick, often muttered their slogan “Gino’s, oh yeah!” while they visited players at their favorite hamburger joint.
What most don’t know is that Gino Marchetti served as a machine gunner with Company I, 273rd Regiment of the 69th Infantry Division during the Battle of the Bulge. “You don’t realize that you are going to see some of your friends go down,” Marchetti told ESPN. “You don’t realize any of it. For example, the first time I ever saw snow, I slept in it. It’s hell.” Marchetti credits joining the Army as the greatest thing he had ever done because it gave him the discipline and toughness to compete in the NFL.
Nestor Chylak’s career behind home plate almost never came to be. While serving as a Technical Sergeant in the US Army’s 424 Infantry Regiment, Chylak was severely wounded on January 3, 1945, in the Ardennes Forest. While his battalion braced artillery fire in the blistering cold and blanketed snow, an artillery shell exploded a tree, which sent splinters traveling the speed of bullets into his face. He was blind for ten days, but ultimately regained his eyesight. He was awarded both the Silver Star and the Purple Heart.
Chylak would go on to become one of the most legendary MLB Umpires in the history of the game. He was never one to cower to a feisty manager’s tirade, nor did he get flustered from loud boos from fans. He umpired baseball’s bizarre promotion games like the infamous “10-Cent Beer Night” promotion in Cleveland and Bob Veeck’s “Disco Demolition Night” in Detroit. Both promotions ended in similar flair — a forfeiture and a flying chair. Chylak, however, umpired for 25 years in five World Series and was respected for his fairness.
At the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, a bronze plaque in the Umpire Exhibit says in his jest, “This must be the only job in America that everybody knows how to do better than the guy who’s doing it.”
When we train, most of us do exercises that require the use of both arms, like the classic bench press, EZ-curls, and bent-over rows. These are all incredible movements that will allow you to build muscle and burn that stubborn belly fat. After weeks of working out and seeing your body change in positive ways, you’ll notice that your gains are slowing to a halt. Your body is adapting to the resistance.
So, to keep your body from getting complacent and to continue building muscle, switch up your routine. One of the best ways to change your workout is to go from using two arms to just one.
This might sound crazy, but adding a few single-arm workouts to your monthly routine will give you two impressive benefits:
It will surprise your body and help you develop muscle — even though you’re not lifting as heavy.
Single-arm exercises add positive stress, requiring your body to balance itself using core muscles.
So, what are some of these single-arm workouts? We’ve got some for you.
You can thank us later — when you’re completely jacked.
While standing next to the cable machine, position the pulley system as low as possible. Next, grab hold of the detachable handle with your outside arm and bring the handle in front of you. While keeping your free hand on your waist, keep your back straight and contract those abs. Exhale as you use your lateral deltoid muscle to raise the resistance up and out while keeping your elbows slightly bent.
Once your arm is straight out at shoulder level, squeeze your deltoid muscle for a brief moment before slowly lowering your arm back toward the starting position.
This is one of the best back-bulking exercises out there. The split-stance, single-arm row engages several muscle groups at once. Keep your back straight and refrain from flaring your elbows out while you lift a heavy load.
This movement has been known to kill egos at the gym. Almost everyone’s fitness goals include building nice, well-rounded shoulders. To do so, many fitness advocates will do shoulder presses, piling on the weight to try and push out bulkier muscles. This single-handed movement, however, requires balance, as it’s not supported by a stable structure, like a workout bench.
The seemingly unnatural balancing act required by this exercise means gym-goers must reduce the amount of weight. This is one of those exercises that makes you realize just how hard things are without the machine’s help — it puts an athlete’s ego in check.
A proper one-hand tricep extension requires the exerciser to pay close attention to where the weight is at all times — or risk getting bonked in the head. First, lift a manageable weight up over your head. Next, rest your noodle on your bicep and feel your tricep extend as you lower the weight down behind your dome.
Then, in a very controlled motion, raise the weight back up.
You did it without getting a concussion! Nice work.
You have to be a legend in the fitness world to get an exercise named after you. This single-armed bicep curl is known as the “Arnold curl,” and you know exactly which Arnold we’re talking about.
The Arnold curl requires tons of strength to lift even a light load correctly. While leaning against an incline bench, curl a manageable weight into a supinated bicep curl before lowering the resistance back down.
It might look simple, but just wait until you try it.
The Marine Corps is most famous for stripping away one’s individuality at boot camp and spitting recruits out 13 weeks later as Marines, formed into bands of brothers (and sisters).
But those bonds were tested when some of its strongest, toughest competitors battled one other in the second-annual High-Intensity Tactical Training Tactical Athlete Championship. When the dust settled after the fourth day of competition, the top male and female Marines were crowned “Ultimate Tactical Athlete.”
Sgt. Calie Jacobsen chewed up the final obstacle course event and took the top prize among 13 women who competed along 19 men to vie for bragging rights in the Aug. 15-18 service-wide competition at Miramar Marine Corps Air Station in San Diego, California.
Jacobsen, 23, a nondestructive inspection technician at Miramar, spent eight weeks preparing for the championship and held the lead going into the final event, the obstacle course. The other women wouldn’t make that easy, but it was her strongest event. “I wasn’t planning on winning. I just wanted to go out there and do good,” she said. “The females definitely were at a higher level than I was expecting to see.”
Jacobsen and the male winner, Cpl. Ethan Mawhinney, each received a championship belt and 53-pound kettle bell.
Mawhinney, a 22-year-old from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, beat 18 other male Marines in his second shot at the service championship. He placed sixth last year in the inaugural contest. “I trained a lot harder for the prelims this year,” said the Marine air-ground task force planner from Camp Allen, Virginia. Winning “was surreal. I had left last year really hoping to take the title.”
HITT is like CrossFit, but for and by Marines. That means using brute strength, endurance and determination to survive tactical battles against fellow Marines on the athletic field, in the water and on the paintball battlefield.
“Competition was tough,” said Lance Cpl. Isaac Namowicz, an admin clerk with Marine Security Guard headquarters and this year’s Quantico Marine Corps Base, Virginia, HITT champ. “There’s a lot of passion.”
Marines traded tips and even encouraged each other during the championship, but each had a mission: Win. “You’re a brother, but at the same time, you are trying to beat everyone,” Mawhinney admitted. That included the male 2015 Ultimate Tactical Athlete, Cpl. Joshua Boozer.
Boozer, ammo tech with 1st Tank Battalion at the Marine Corps Air-Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms, Calif., was champ this year at his home base but met his match at Miramar.
“It’s not easy competition,” he said, catching his breath after enduring the “500 Yard Power Shuffle” where competitors did nearly a dozen events including tire flips, box jumps, dummy carry, weighted sled pull and push and a variety of weight lifts — on a sweltering athletic field. It was the longest event, time-wise.
The Marine Corps organized its first HITT competition last year, held at Twentynine Palms. Like last year, Marines learned events’ details at the start of the competition, so they didn’t really know what they’d face.
Ryan Massimo, the Corps’ HITT program manager and event coordinator, said the intent is to include some base-specific events – this year’s “Maneuver Under Fire” took place at Miramar’s paintball park – with physical challenges that reflect the strength and conditioning program. Last year, the run up and down the desert base’s hills while lugging heavy items made “sugar cookies” of a weakened competitor.
This year’s championship included a timed water event, the “Amphibious Tactical Challenge.” Competitors in boots and utes swam multiple laps bearing their pack and rubber rifle, and then they traversed the pool, diving and ducking with a pack under markers before cranking out 10 (men) or 5 (women) pushups wearing the pack. “It did definitely throw a curve ball for some people,” Mawhinney said.
Namowicz said he struggled in the pool.
“I was not expecting all that weight. It felt like cinder blocks,” he said. “My upper body was getting tired.”
At times, he’d talk to himself as he pushed weighted sleds or carried 35-pound ammo cans and 120-pound dummies in the sweltering heat. “I just kept saying, ‘Finish this.’ You have people in the stands pushing you, and it just keeps you motivated,” he said. “You just want to be done.”
Jacobsen hadn’t real plans to become competitive until the Miramar HITT Center coordinator encouraged her to the local HITT combine challenge. “I didn’t know how big it was, that it was Marine Corps-wide,” said the Nebraska native. “We just went in unassuming.”
And she finished first among the women, getting the ticket to compete against other installation winners for the championship.
She’s a HITT convert. The isolation workout she previously did for weightlifting “isn’t applicable to everyday life,” she said. Interval training demands endurance and strength and “is a lot more applicable to everyday life. That’s definitely changed my mindset.”
Thin crowds watched this year’s competition, but Jacobsen said she was glad to see her station commander and sergeant major on the sidelines. “It’s an awesome event, and it needs to be more widely broadcast,” she said.
It’s certainly not as well-known as the military’s most famous tactical-physical competition, the “Best Ranger.”
The 60-hour event at Fort Benning, Georgia, pits Army Rangers against each other in two-man teams to test their skills, including land navigation, small-arms firing, obstacles and, in true Ranger style, parachuting.
Not to be outdone, Marines run the less-known but still grueling and gung-ho “Recon Challenge” at Camp Pendleton, California. After a predawn swim in the Pacific, two-man Marine Recon and Marine Raider (and Navy recon corpsmen) teams run in boots-and-utes with rucksack and weapon, enduring a nonstop series of grueling events in the pool, on the range and along Pendleton’s roller-coaster scrubby hills.
A close parallel to the HITT championship may be the Army’s “Best Warrior” competition, a four-day contest where soldiers complete tactical challenges, written exams and fitness events in more battlefield-like environments. The top 10 soldiers and 10 noncommissioned officers who’ve bested their local competitors will vie for the title at this year’s contest, to be held Sept. 26-Oct. 3 at Fort A.P. Hill, Virgina. The Army National Guard held its own contest on June 22 at Joint Base Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Events included a 14-mile ruck march.
The Air Force’s 1st Air Support Operations Group put airmen through grueling individual challenges and 22 events over a week in July for “Cascade Challenge 2016.”
The contest, held at Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska this year included navigating the wild Alaskan forests with body armor and 50-pound rucksack.
The Navy takes a different tack in sailor competition. Its surface fleet of destroyer, cruiser and frigate crews each year showcase their athletic and professional naval skills during “Surface Line Week.” Sailors went toe-to-toe in firefighting drills, valve packing, welding, small-arms shooting, sailing and stretcher-bearer races. Team events include dodgeball and soccer, so fun is the operative word.
Why are you working out? That’s always the first question you should be asking yourself. I’ve been asked on multiple occasions about the benefit of doing bodyweight exercises as a replacement for barbell training. Usually, they go something like this:
“Are bodyweight squats better than barbell back squatting?”
To which my response is usually something like:
If your goal for working out is to get better at bodyweight squats …then sure, they’re better.
If however, your goal is to increase muscle mass, (which it is 90% of the time, whether you realize it or not,) well then, probably not. The reasoning relies on a theory called “effective reps.” But first!
Real easy to get distracted.
Your time and attention
If you’re doing 100 repetitions of bodyweight squats, it’s going to take a while, minutes at the very least. That’s assuming you’re going as fast as possible, which will lead to your form breaking down.
If you’re slow and controlled and performing each rep perfectly, you’ll be spending much longer on 1 set.
No matter which way you decide to tackle this beast, one thing is going to take a hit:
That right there is reason enough for me not to go this route.
On the other hand, if you’re doing sets of 10 reps on the barbell back squat, that’s something you can accomplish in under a minute with a relatively high level of concentration on form.
Quarter squats increase anterior knee pain. Just one of the many form failures that usually occur during body weight squats.
When form breaks down
How we move becomes etched in our brains as a motor pattern. If your form is bad on an exercise like the bodyweight squat, it will transfer to how you move in real life.
Eventually, that crappy form will lead to an injury. Maybe it will be when you try to pick up something heavy like a weighted barbell or an overweight baby. Maybe it will be from doing something you love like playing adult softball, hunting, or picking up overweight babies.
What usually happens when people get injured is that they demonize the activity they were doing when the injury occurred and completely ignore the other 99 things they did that actually contributed to the event that caused the injury.
It wasn’t that activity, that activity was just the straw that broke your CamelBak…(see what I did there).
So, if you’re half-assing 87 out of 100 bodyweight squats three times a week, and in turn, moving throughout your life with crappy/lazy movement, then it’s only a matter of time before you hurt yourself doing something that would have otherwise been enjoyable.
Those are for sure effective reps.
The idea is that the closer a rep is to failure, the more effective it will be in recruiting the most amount of muscle mass and in turn be the best at building muscle.
Assuming you can only do 100 bodyweight squats and the last rep is quite close to failure, then 1 out of 100 is an effective rep…and it took you minutes to get there, and 87 or those reps sucked.
Assuming you’re in relatively good shape, you can actually do many more than 100 bodyweight squats so even rep 100 isn’t anywhere close to failure. That means you are getting ZERO effective reps. You basically just wasted minutes doing a bunch of crappy half-assed squats that did nothing except make you waste your precious time.
I should note that by “failure” I mean you couldn’t do one more rep no matter what, all of your leg muscles are on fire, and they feel like they are going to pop from the excess blood flowing into them. I do not mean that you’re bored or “kind of” tired from something and just want to stop. Register the actual difference.
On the contrary, weighted squats offer you the opportunity to feel like you’re approaching failure, usually around rep 6 or 7 out of a set of 10 if you choose an appropriate weight.
If you do 3-4 sets of back squats that’s nearly 16 effective reps, that’s a great session.
To top it off you don’t need to do 95 reps prior to getting there.
People with long limbs tend to have a difficult time doing body weight squats in general. Their long torsos pull them onto their toes.
Bodyweight squats are great if you have no other option, if you just want to make a workout brutally annoying and also mildly difficult, or if you hate yourself. Otherwise, they are just a recipe for wasted time, establishing poor motor patterns, and not getting many effective reps.
If your goal is to build muscle, get stronger, burn fat, or workout smartly throw some weight on your back.
Valgus knee collapsing imminent on the first Marine from the right.
Here’s a few links if your interest on effective reps has been peaked.
Think back to your poncho liner (or woobie, if that’s what you called it). For many of us, it was our most valuable piece of gear. Why? It kept us warm when it was cold and cool when it was hot. Many a veteran still has their poncho liner or bought one after they got out because they know it’s the best blanket out there — it did the best job under the worst conditions.
When we, the members of the military community, buy stuff, we fall back on if we used that item (or something similar) back in service and base a lot of our purchasing decisions on that.
When you buy work boots, you think of what worked best on all the forced marches, boots and utes runs, and standing around all day. When you buy a utility knife, you think of what worked best when you had to improvise fixing something outside the wire and all you had was the knife on your flack. Anytime you get a watch, belt, cold-weather jacket, backpack, workout gear — the list goes on — a lot of us think of similar items we used in Iraq, Afghanistan, on ship, during a training exercise, or when we were out in the field.
BRAVO SIERRA uses the principle of “agile product development” when it comes to designing their products. This company is founded by leading experts and operators across the consumer products and technology industries — a team of veterans and civilians — and they are using software to build a fast-response, product development platform.
BRAVO SIERRA calls their software, “BATTALION,” and it’s likely the future of consumer culture. They use a research, development, testing and manufacturing model that integrates the tester community throughout each step of the process, while engaging them through design and interaction.
Currently, the program and software allows BRAVO SIERRA to ensure the quality, relevance and performance of their products among their core community. The long-term goal is to constantly iterate product development, so the product you get tomorrow will be an upgrade from the one you purchased today. That’s a lot better than getting ‘military-grade’ products that were only tested in a lab, leaving you wondering which military they were graded for.
We looked at some of BRAVO SIERRA’s products and picked out the ones we think you should have when you’re out in the field, deployed, on ship, or outside the wire. We threw in real feedback from military members and veterans so you can see how well BRAVO SIERRA develops their personal care products.
Antibacterial Body Wipes
Body wipes come in handy when you need a quick shower alternative, need to clean your nether regions, wash your face, scrub your hands, or wipe down anything dirty. We’ve all had the wipes that easily fall apart, make you smell more like ass, or simply don’t do a good job. These wipes are on a different level. They are biodegradable, which makes them ideal for the field. They kill 99.99% of bacteria in 60 seconds and are 4x thicker than baby wipes.
Hair and Body Solid Cleanser
We have all done it while deployed: Taking a Navy shower, where you only have 30 seconds (maybe a minute, if you’re lucky) to lather yourself up as much as possible. BRAVO SIERRA’s Hair and Body Solid Cleanser is perfect for washing every part of your body (including that glorious low-reg you have going on). BRAVO SIERRA doesn’t use traditional harsh cleansing agents that strip your skin. The hydrating formula and coconut-derived cleansing agent allows you to use this product from hair to toe without drying skin, hair, face or scalp, even when you only have 30 seconds.
Hair/Body Wash & Shave
When you are out in the elements, the space in your ruck is invaluable. This is the ultimate space saver — soap, shampoo, and shaving cream in one. 2 out of 3 of the ‘three S’s are covered by this awesome product!
Face Sunscreen SPF 30
It’s happened to most of us — even those of us who tan. You have a bunch of layers — a flak, combat load, Kevlar and sunglasses — on while you spend all day outside the wire, in the turret during a long convoy, or walking on a really long patrol. You get back to your outpost or FOB, take off your gear… and you’re sporting a very clear, very pink outline of where your sunglasses once sat. Sunscreen is key when out and about and BRAVO SIERRA makes sunscreen that is geared toward enduring rugged terrain. It’s lightweight, non-greasy, non-shiny, non-sticky and best of all; fragrance-free.
Taking care of your body is important, whether you are in the roughest of environments or working a 9 to 5. Make sure you use the products that have been tested by, tweaked for, and proven to work for the military.
One of the most arduous parts of Marine Corps life and training has to be the long-distance rucks. Covering a lot of miles with a lot of weight on your back may seem like a simple enough proposition, but as time goes by, you start to pick up on a few things that can make an otherwise grueling hike just a bit more pleasant–or at least, a bit less likely to cause you the sort of nuisance injuries that can really make a week in the field feel more like a week in hell.
While the nuts and bolts of a long distance hike are simple enough (bring adequate food, water, and appropriate emergency gear, then just put one foot in front of the other until you’re finished) there are some things you can do before you set out or carry with you on the hike that will pay dividends throughout the hump and after, as your body recovers.
Use dry deodorant to manage chafing
Despite how much I’ve worked out throughout my adult life, I somehow never quite managed to get one of those “thigh gaps” all the girls on Instagram keep talking about, and as such, chafing in my groin and between my thighs has always been a concern on long-distance hikes. The combination of sweat, the seams of my pants, and my rubbing thunder thighs always conspire to leave my undercarriage raw, which quickly becomes a constant source of pain as I log the miles.
Even with spandex undergarments and an industrial supply of baby powder, chafing can rear its head and ruin your day, but you can relieve a lot of that heartache (or, I suppose, crotch-ache) by rubbing your dry stick deodorant all over the affected area. The deodorant creates a water-resistant barrier that protects the raw skin as you keep on trucking. This trick has worked for me in the savannas of Africa, the busy streets of Rome, and even in the relentlessly humid Georgia woods. Remember–it’s got to be dry stick deodorant. Gel stuff just won’t do the trick.
Carry a sharpie to keep tabs on bites
Spider and other insect bites can be a real cause for concern on the trail, and not necessarily for the reasons you think. It’s not all that likely that you’ll get bitten by a spider with the sort of venomous punch to really make you ill, but even an otherwise innocuous spider or insect bite can turn into big problems in a field environment. Bites create a high risk for infection, and not everyone responds to exposure to venoms, bacteria, or stingers in the same way. That’s why it’s imperative that you keep an eye on any questionable bites you accumulate along your hike.
Use a sharpie to draw a circle around the outside perimeter of a bite when you notice it, then note the time and day. As you go about your hike, check on the bite sporadically to see if the swollen, red area is expanding beyond the original perimeter. Add circles with times as you check if the bite continues to grow. If the bite grows quickly beyond that first drawn perimeter, is bright or dark red, and feels warm and firm to the touch, seek medical care for what may be a nasty infection. If you experience any trouble breathing, that’s a strong sign that you may be going into anaphylactic shock due to an allergy, and you need immediate medical care.
Add moleskin to blister prone spots on your feet before blisters form
If you’ve done any hiking, you’re already familiar with moleskin as a go-to blister treatment, but most people don’t realize how handy moleskin can be for blister prevention as well.
If you know that you tend to get blisters on certain spots on your feet during long hikes (the back of the heel and the inside of the ball of the foot are two common hot spots, for instance) don’t wait for a blister to form to use your moleskin. Instead, cut off a piece and apply it to the trouble spots on your feet ahead of time, adding a protective buffer between the friction points of your boot and your feet themselves.
It helps to replace the moleskin about as often as you replace your socks, to prevent it from peeling off and bunching up on you (causing a different hiking annoyance), but when done properly, you can escape even the longest hikes pretty blister free.