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, so exercise isn’t optional.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
If you think that self-quarantine orders mean nothing but boring workouts in the corner of your room, think again. Well, in a sense, your options are limited..by your imagination. It’s time to dust off that creativity muscle.
Most of us are sick of the order to stay home and since exercising outdoors is still considered essential you might as well make the most out of it.That is, as long as you stay far enough away from everyone.
So, if you’re having trouble figuring out a way to train that doesn’t just include bodyweight squats and planking, fear not.
I’ve got you covered with a few outdoor challenges that are sure to keep you interested and in shape.
Run! When you get caught fight. Escape and run until your veins pump battery acid.
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Gabrielle Sanders
Heading out for a run is the most obvious answer to your craving for exercise outdoors. But running the same route at the same pace each day can get repetitive. Instead, try to mix things up by adding other exercises.
To do this workout, decide on a total distance that you want to run, like 2-4 miles.
But keep in mind, this can’t be a leisurely jog if you want a challenge. Instead, run at a pace where even a half-mile is tricky. If you can go further, you’re not running hard enough. For fun and extra motivation imagine a zombie, mugger, cougar is chasing you.
Now, once you hit that plateau where you need a break, the fun starts.
Take 10-20 seconds to catch your breath (or don’t cougars don’t need to catch their breath) and immediately jump into a three-exercise circuit. To make things simple, try to hit your upper body, core, and lower body with these three exercises. Good examples include crucifix push-ups, punching planks, and mule kicks.
Your circuit, depending on your fitness level, should look like this:
The thing is, if you’ve ever worked a punching bag for even just a minute straight, you know it takes incredible endurance. And that’s only one minute!
Instead, I like to use a round-based workout to simulate some of the demands you might encounter during a fight. While you won’t get to connect any punches (unless you have a heavy bag), the movements involved will still challenge your cardio endurance like nothing before.
Here’s an example:
3 Rounds @ 90% Intensity for 60 seconds each
Vertical knee strikes
Once you finish, take a two-minute rest. And when I say take a rest, I mean it.
More rest will mean you can train harder once the next round starts. If you can start another round without taking two minutes, you need to go harder.
Now, of course, this workout can be done inside. If you can manage to get out, try replacing exercises like skipping rope and high knees with others, like a few sprints or a 60-second run.
If you’re one of those that watch MMA and think that you can do it no problem, do five of these five minute rounds, imagine how much harder it would be with someone punching you in the face, and reassess.
Start off smiling…Finish smiling…It’s those 1500 lunges in the middle to be worried about.
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jordan Ripley
The one-mile lunge
You read that right: Lunge for one mile.
Don’t be fooled by the simplicity, though. If you’ve never performed more than 20 consecutive lunges in a row, you’re in for a rude awakening.
Lunges are an excellent exercise since they tax your quads and hamstrings, depending on your stride length. Plus, if you’re moving at a fast pace, consecutive lunges will test both your muscle and cardiovascular endurance.
Not to mention, for most of you, this is going to take well over an hour to complete. To finish, you’re going to have to stay mentally hard, or else, you’ll quit.
Some tips to get through this challenge:
Know your limits. If you need to start with a quarter-mile or a half-mile instead, do it. The actual length doesn’t matter as long as it’s challenging.
Don’t cheat. The only way you get to brag about this feat is if you actually finish it. If you take a step that isn’t a lunge, step back and finish it. If you cheat, what’s the point?
Listen to your body. This challenge is going to suck, and there’s a good chance your legs will cramp. If they do, stretch out and continue. If it gets bad, suck it up, call it a day, and try again when you’re muscles are healed and ready.
There’s nothing boring about the combat or goal you’re training for. If your workout is boring are you really training?
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Margaret Gale
Just use your head
When I was just a youngin’ we would go on fun-runs on Fridays down by the creek (pronounced “crick”). It involved 5 miles of jumping over logs, wading through the water, swinging from trees limbs, and avoiding hobo camps. It was fun.
When we “become” adults we fool ourselves into thinking that things are supposed to feel like work. Shake off your imagination and let your workout get fun again.
Or for the masochists out there just lunge a mile and sleep happy,
Those suffering from injuries will do and try just about anything to relieve pain. With musculoskeletal injuries being a top health problem for the U.S. Armed Forces, it’s time to prioritize better treatments and solutions.
A recent report by Walter Reed and the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences found that 3/4 of medically non-deployable service members are sidelined due to musculoskeletal injuries, and 68,000 service members fall into that category each year. Studies suggest that non-combat musculoskeletal injuries could account for nearly 60% of soldiers’ limited duty days and 65% of soldiers who cannot deploy for medical reasons.
Throughout my five years working with the military, currently with units from every branch, including Special Operations Command and the Reserve Component, the most common musculoskeletal injuries I see our service members suffer from are lower back pain and lower leg issues, with the former being at the top of the list for the warfighter. Lower leg issues are a close second, with those injuries ranging from shin splints and stress reactions to stress fractures.
These two injuries are the most common across the force, but each branch exhibits certain types more than others. For example, the Air Force tends to suffer from lower back injuries because Airmen are sitting in cramped areas for an extended period. Additionally, they are at an increased risk for spinal injuries, neck, and back. The neck becomes an issue because jets are faster and helmets have more tech, making them heavier. Confined spaces, faster jets, and heavier helmets make a great recipe for spinal injuries.
However, the Army is the best example of lower leg injuries because they tend to cover the most mileage on rugged terrain over long distances.
Although these two branches stand out for certain types of injuries, nearly every service member will suffer from some musculoskeletal injury during their career and seek the best solution for recovery and pain relief.
Whether information is found on the internet or received from a doctor, it is typically seen as the magic cure by the patient seeking help.
While there are certainly good doctors and sound advice online, each injury and individual require specific, personalized treatment. As an expert in using Force Plate Machine Learning™ (FPML™) to identify, prevent and treat musculoskeletal injuries, I encourage military leaders to seek out programs that focus on the individual warfighter’s health and fitness needs. Solutions like FPML™ will allow for early identification of musculoskeletal weakness and help create individualized training programs to prevent future injury.
Practices that utilize evidence-based, individualized solutions are best for preventing injuries and correctly training the body but understanding that this technology is not yet widely used by the Service, I will share some generic at-home remedies for common service member injuries, as well as dispel myths about well-known treatments.
The easiest way to make an injured area feel better is to stimulate or contract the opposite area. For example, if suffering from back pain, a solution can be working your abdominals with exercises like the plank. This is because the human body has antagonistic relaxation – meaning when one muscle group fires, the other is inhibited. Therefore, activating the abdominal muscles will, in turn, relax the back muscles and provide relief.
The quick and easy treatment used by traditional doctors reluctant to adopt more complex solutions is RICE. We’ve all heard it: rest, ice, compression, elevation. Sure, ice is great as an anesthetic (a numbing agent) for short-term pain relief immediately after injury. It will hide the pain and help with performance for about 5-60 minutes post-injury. But after that, ice and RICE will significantly prolong the healing process.
Both RICE and ibuprofen (Advil) actually delay the healing process and can be harmful to the body’s recovery. Many doctors still prescribe the nifty acronym because it’s easy to remember for the physician who is still operating in the 1980s.
RICE exemplifies the power of simplification and reinforces the idea that people will try just about anything – opioids, RICE, or over-the-counter painkillers when in pain.
In reality, movement is the best medicine, with data-driven, individualized movement plans being effective solutions that can help reduce chronic pain and injuries.
Dr. Phil Wagner is a physician, strength & conditioning coach, and expert on using force plates and machine learning to prevent and treat musculoskeletal injuries. He is the founder and CEO of Sparta Science.
Feature image: U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Timothy Moore
Well, it’s about that time again. The Army has plans for another physical fitness test with events other than push-ups, sit-ups, and a two mile run. This time around, the review process seems to have lasted longer than a few weeks so it mightpossibly, maybe, actually happen.
The new Army Combat Readiness Test will more than likely become a thing. There will now be six events instead of the previous three. The idea behind it is that it reflects the real-world obstacles of combat.
All muscle groups will be worked out, as opposed to just the upper-body, core and cardio endurance. Equipment will now be used. Possibly gender neutral but MOS-specific scoring. And some officer who was REALLY into Crossfit is happy.
Event 1: Leg Tuck
Testing your shoulders, core, and leg endurance, the objective is to raise your knees to your elbow as many times as you can until you reach muscle failure. It simulates climbing tasks.
This event isn’t too demanding or challenging in theory. The concern is trying to keep your endurance up to the point where you can complete as many as you can without reaching complete muscle failure — you don’t want to shoot yourself in the foot for the remaining five events.
Event 2: Power Throw
Testing your upper and lower body power, the objective is to toss a 10lb medicine ball behind you as far as you can twice (with both attempts added to the closest centimeter). It simulates lifting, progressive levels of force, and uh, tossing?
Holy crap, dude. If you can’t get someone to help watch where you’re blindly throwing a 10lb ball, just do squats with the ball instead. Shy of the combat application of the ACRT, the second goal is to minimize injuries. Don’t make this event more dangerous than doing a sit-up.
Event 3: Trap Bar Dead-lift
Testing your lower and back strength, the objective is to dead-lift the trap bar three times with a weight you determine. It simulates a soldier’s ability to lift and carry someone on a litter or move equipment.
Remember that “minimize injury” thing from the last event? Learn how to do a proper dead-lift. No way around that. This is supposed to be less dangerous than a push-up. Even if your form is good, it would be beneficial to know your maximum dead-lift weight you can actually perform — three times — so you aren’t wasting your time (and effort) doing two, then have to bump down in weights and try three again. Work smarter not harder.
Event 4: T Push-up
Testing your upper body endurance, the objective is to successfully complete as many T Push-ups as you can before you reach muscle failure. It simulates pushing an opponent away during man-to-man contact.
It’s just like a push-up. But when you’re down, touch your chest on the ground and spread your arms. Do this until you get tired.
No health risk, but I mean, it would be funny watching someone try to skip steps to be fast and face-plant into the ground. Please take photos to laugh at the poor SOB.
Event 5: Shuttle Sprint-Drag-Carry
Testing your muscular strength, anarobic capacity, and ability to exert effort at high intensity for brief moments, the object is to lay prone. On the command “Go!” sprint 25m down and 25 back. Pick up the straps to a 100lb sled and drag it 25m down and back. Sprint the 25m down and back again. Grab two 40lb kettlebells and run the 25m down and back. Then finish the event sprinting again.
So it’s sprint, sled, sprint, kettlebells, and sprint. No real way to prepare sprinting with 40lb kettlebells without just sprinting with 40lbs kettlebells.
Event 6: 2-Mile Run
Testing your cardio-respiratory endurance, the objective is to run two miles — and just like before, you’re still graded on how fast you finish it. It simulates a soldier’s ability to execute long distance ruck marches and to run two miles?
And the new fitness test still involves the run. Only thing different is the grading. So yeah. Get some.
Though the distinction between training and exercising might seem unimportant — it isn’t. How you label your physical activity says more about you, your mindset, and your probable rate of success than any PFT score ever could.
I first saw this difference at The Basic School in Quantico. Some of my peers were former college athletes, and a few were training in our off-time for an upcoming marathon. These peers had goals and a plan to achieve them. The rest of us were just doing what I now call “exercising,” random workouts on random days, inconsistently.
I’m on the far left, standing and squinting.
(Photo by Michael Gregory)
The Marines who were actually training were the only ones I knew who could keep a solid schedule and maintain their fitness levels during The Basic School. The rest of us got by on an ever-dwindling fitness reservoir that was nearly empty by the time I finally finished the school.
I finally started applying this training mentality to fitness during the Marine Corps Martial Arts Instructor Course. The course itself was a constant physical beat-down, but in the few classroom lectures, we were taught how to set up a MCMAP and combat conditioning plan for our units. It was then that I realized I could design a plan to become progressively more difficult as fitness levels increase, the same way a pre-deployment workup gets more complicated as the deployment date nears.
A classic case of the slay fest.
(Photo by Cpl. Brooke C. Woods USMC Recruit Depot San Diego)
How I loathed unit PT…
I used to think I hated PT just because I disliked being told what to do.
I have come to realize I actually hated unit PT because it is exercise and not training.
Most units plan solid workups to prepare each member of the unit to the max extent possible with all the skills and proficiencies needed for when they are actually ‘in country.’ This is training, a clear plan that progressively increases in difficulty and complexity with an end state in mind.
I have rarely seen physical fitness approached in the same logical way in unit PT.
Most units approach PT in one of two ways: as a slay fest or a joke.
A Slay Fest: (n) from the ancient Greek Slayus Festivus, meaning make as many people puke or stroke out as possible in an effort to assert physical dominance and make less-fit service members feel inadequate.
A Joke: just going through the motions and checking the quarterly unit PT requirement box.
Neither one of these has the intention of making better the members of the unit. In fact, slay fests often lead to injuries which have the opposite effect on unit readiness, while potentially initiating a hazing investigation because a junior NCO decided to play drill instructor.
Is this a training session or exercise? …Seriously though, what is this?
In the Marine Corps, I saw what could be accomplished when a proper training plan is followed to the most minute detail. I also saw what type of chaos or indifference towards fitness can result from no plan and/or unchecked egos.
This is why you should be training. The most successful athletes are those that have a plan in place that works them towards a goal. I’m a firm believer that everyone is an athlete no matter what your job or current station in life.
Marines are constantly reminded that it doesn’t matter what your MOS is, you could find yourself in combat and you better be prepared for it. Even though some roll their eyes at the idea of a finance technician lobbing grenades in a firefight, they still have an underlying feeling of pride that this is a potentiality.
Promotion on Iwo Jima. I swore to not waste anyone’s time with exercise on that day.
(Photo by Jeremy Graves)
I carry that with me to this day. Constantly thinking about what I would do if a fight breaks out — or if ‘patient zero’ of the zombie apocalypse strolls into my part of town — doesn’t keep me awake at night in dread. It keeps me awake at night in giddy anticipation because I’m training for that sh*t every. Damn. Day.
Of course, your reason for training doesn’t need to be so heavy, violent, or world-altering. Simply wanting to be able to throw a perfect spiral with your future son is a perfect reason to be training. If you need a more immediate time frame, choose a challenge: sign up for an adventure race, a marathon, an adult sports league, or a powerlifting meet (I just took second in my first meet and got a free t-shirt #winning #tigerblood). Train for the on-season or the event day.
As a member of the military community, it’s in your blood to conduct work-ups. Now it’s your turn to determine where and when that “deployment” is and how you train for it. Exercise is a word for people who throw out their back trying to get the gallon of Arizona Iced Tea off the bottom shelf and into their grocery cart. They need exercise; you need to be training.
Most people assume that if they jack up the amount of activity they do, they will be able to “burn” the most calories and lose the most weight.
In reality, the largest factor contributing towards our daily calories burned isn’t our activity, no matter how much we run or how many times we visit our local Box in a day–it’s our resting metabolic rate.
Resting metabolic rate is the amount of calories we burn just from existing. It’s about 75% of all calories burned in a day. By figuring out how to manipulate it, we can have the largest impact on total calories burned and melt the most fat off our frames.
The question then is what type of exercise will impact resting metabolic rate the most?
Squats work nearly every muscle in the body… Including the smile muscles.
When we lift weights, we are causing (healthy) damage to our muscles that requires repair. That repair requires a lot of energy that can take up to 48 hours to complete.
In a properly set-up training plan, each session gets progressively harder and causes more damage than the previous session, which causes the body to work harder to repair it, and therefore, to burn more calories in its resting state.
The repair process also ensures that you are bigger, which requires more energy just to sustain your size. It literally increases your resting metabolic rate!
Your body is like the barracks that young E-dogs live in. Lifting is like Libo. When it occurs, things get messed up and need repair.
The repair process in the barracks gets things back to baseline. But depending on how hard they threw down, sometimes things need to get reinforced, like doors. On the next Libo, it’s going to take a much harder drop kick from LCpl Schmuckatelli to knock in that door.
The repair process in your body reinforces your muscles every time you cause muscular damage through weight training, so that you are always getting stronger and burning more calories.
No one in the history of running has ever started running like that.
If you want to be muscular with a low percentage of body fat, lifting is a better choice than cardio. The primary purpose of cardio is to work your cardiovascular system, NOT to burn fat. The amount of calories that cardio burns is limited to just the moments you are actually running. Unlike lifting, where the body continues burning calories during the repair phase for 48 hours after your training session, for cardio, there is no significant after-effect.
When we run, we are working out our hearts. As a result, when we run at a long slow pace, cardio forces the rest of our body to become more efficient at moving by doing things like improving our form and shedding excess body weight indiscriminately, which often means shedding muscle. Cardio prefers to make the muscle it doesn’t shed more efficient and thrifty, rather than larger, stronger, and hungrier for energy.
Essentially, running just makes you a more efficient runner, as the body optimizes its processes so that you actually use as little energy as possible, rather than burning more calories. It’s common for people doing cardio for weight loss to completely plateau after awhile, because their body’s gotten really good at doing cardio. They might spend an hour on the elliptical machine and burn almost no fat at all.
Running makes you more efficient at using the energy you already have.
If you’re a runner, running a mile at your current weight burns fewer calories than it did when you were obese and had terrible running form.
In our barracks analogy, cardio is the new Commanding Officer that takes away Libo. What that CO is really doing is taking away the opportunity for the repair process to make the barracks more resilient against drop kicks.
Over time, not only are you burning fewer calories while running than you used to, but you are burning fewer calories in general because you have less muscle mass.
Worse yet, if you don’t compensate for this change in body weight and total calories burned in your diet, cardio can potentially cause you to actually GAIN FAT.
It takes a lot more than just weightlifting to look like this. Gains like this are made in a lab…
When training, if you aren’t causing damage to your muscles through resistance training, your body is instead trying to figure out how to do that training more efficiently. That efficiency will come with less fat burned over time.
The most effective way to increase the amount of energy you burn in order to facilitate fat loss is by resistance training.
The alternative, cardio, comes with the negative side effect of indiscriminately targeting muscle as well as fat in its purge towards efficiency.
If you want a more in-depth explanation of how these two types of exercise work, check out this article on the topic.
Remember your initial indoc school to the military? I do: It was hot and heavy, and not in a good way, like at a rave or water park. You were asked in a short period of time to learn the entire guiding doctrine of your service of choice, so much so that you could easily fold into the operational forces upon completion of the school.
That is no small task.
How was this accomplished? We weren’t given textbooks and told to read. We weren’t even put into classes and told to take notes. Nope.
I’m just walking bro, no need to yell.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class William Blankenship/Released)
We were taken under the wing of professionals who have already lived and breathed that which we were about to undertake.
I fully understand that that is a rose-colored-glasses approach toward the DI, MTI, RDC, or Drill Sergeant that you still have nightmares about. Hear me out though: an argument can be made that an instructor, who I’ll affectionately refer to as a “coach” from now on, is the one thing standing between you and your personal and professional goals.
He wants you to hate him. It’s his coaching style.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. David Bessey)
The body of literature on the topic of coaching is dense and complicated, but suffice it to say that the question is not if a coach is effective. It’s how can coaches be most effective.
Two of the main factors discussed are attitude and control.
The attitude evoked by the person who is teaching you dictates how well you perform. You and your coach need to be on the same page. In your basic training, your “coach” did this whether you realized it or not. It was most likely in an “us vs. them” approach. Meaning your instructor made you want to prove him or her wrong. The dirty secret is that they wanted you to prove them wrong as well. #reversepsychology.
Control is simple. The person learning needs to have some sense of control over their outcome. In the beginning of your schoolhouse, undoubtedly you had little to no control. Over time, you were given choices and tasks that directly impacted whether or not you chose to be successful.
These are the fundamentals of great coaching in a high volume way.
Civilian life has its pitfalls too. Don’t wait until it feels like its too late.
The assumption of a coach is that you are going to get better, and faster than you would with no one helping. Eventually, you would have figured out the rules of the military well enough to “graduate” to the active forces, but it would not have been as cleanly or efficiently as it was with the guiding force of your instructor.
It’s quite common for former service members to decide they can do everything alone upon separation. That’s a mistake. We assume that we are now the commander of our own lives until we eventually hit a wall. Then we start looking for guidance.
Don’t wait for that moment.
Pro athletes know this truth. They can’t do it alone.
If you want to be an entrepreneur, find someone who has done it and learn from them. They will keep you from falling into all the typical pitfalls.
If you want to stay home and raise a family, read from the best and learn from your friends and family that have the types of children you want.
If you wanna get in killer shape, find someone who makes that happen for people.
Don’t waste your time.
You are always in the basic training of something.
Don’t spend more time on Parris Island getting eaten by sand fleas than necessary. Find and follow the coach that will lead you past your goal.
How would he know where to crawl if it wasn’t for explicit guidance?
(Photo by David Dismukes)
Tips for finding a keeper
For many service members, the whole reason they get out is because they are sick of other people telling them what to do.
Now you have the choice as to what type of person you want to get your guidance from. If you don’t like the volatile gunny with bad breath and a worse temper, you don’t need to work with him anymore. Here are five things to look for in your coach of choice for any endeavor you may have.
This kid knows what’s up. What’s his economy of force coach?
Team Red, White & Blue’s 1776 Challenge is an epic physical series of goals that brings Veterans, supporters, and Team RWB partners together to focus on service, personal growth, and the joy that comes from doing something hard with others.
Take the challenge each day from June 17, 2020, to July 4, 2020. Together, we will perform up to 100 daily repetitions of various exercises such as lunges, squats, push ups, or crunches. Alternative exercises will be provided to ensure participants at all ability levels are able to complete the challenge.
New exercises will be shared through the Team RWB App every day, featuring demonstrative videos hosted by Team RWB’s corporate and nonprofit partners. Demonstrations will include modifications for various fitness levels and mobility. Additional adaptive exercises will be demonstrated by retired Army Sergeant First Class and and Paralympian Centra “Ce-Ce” Mazyck, a recipient of TrueCar’s DrivenToDrive program.
Up for the challenge?
If you’re up for the challenge, join Team RWB as we tackle 1776 reps and break down barriers for Veterans. Click here to sign up for reminders and daily inspiration straight to your inbox. Participants to complete every exercise and check-in through the app will receive a free 1776 Challenge patch.
You must be a member of Team RWB to check in and participate. Membership is free and Veterans get a free Nike shirt!
In 1939, German scientist Adolf Butenandt was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work in documenting how hormones transfer signals between the body’s cells and organs to regulate bodily functions. His discoveries were revolutionary, paving the way for many of today’s medical necessities, including birth control and steroids.
These same scientific revelations lead, eventually, to the creation of anabolic steroids. Today, the business of manufacturing and selling synthetic testosterone is massive — and highly illegal.
Although the military is considered a team environment, if you’re looking for a promotion, it’s ultimately up to you to work extremely hard to stand out among your peers. Some troops who want to gain a physical edge on their fellow brothers-in-arms, however, turn to various types of anabolic steroids to, hopefully, more quickly achieve their goals. Not only is this illegal, it’s also potentially dangerous.
Unfortunately, finding a vial testosterone, especially on a military installation, is pretty easy and young troops don’t mind trying out the fabricated hormone in hopes it’ll make them jacked. The majority of service members who take the mass-building substance, however, usually don’t understand what it does to the body.
Note: This is a basic overview of how anabolic steroids affect the human body. As always, do your own research.
When a soldier trains, their natural testosterone levels drop dramatically as the body releases other hormones, called glucocorticoids, which helps reduce inflammation. However, glucocorticoids have a secondary effect of sending your body into a catabolic state.
Being in a catabolic state means your muscle tissue is breaking down. During that state, steroids affect hormonal imbalance in two different ways. First, they replenish testosterone levels, which hastens muscle repair. Secondly, they’re known to block the glucocorticoids from breaking down muscle fibers.
When we tear a muscle during a workout, it’s the protein you’ve consumed during the day that makes its way to the damaged fiber and restores it, making it bigger and better each time. When someone takes a testosterone supplement, it quickly moves into your cells, activating protein synthesis and enhancing the rebuilding process.
According to Dr. Mehmet Oz, the average man produces between four and seven milligrams of testosterone per day. Compare that to a bottle testosterone enanthate, which can contain up to 300 milligrams per cc. This amount is injected by the average steroid user two to three times per week.
There are more than a few unpleasant side effects to taking anabolic, like acne, gynecomastia, fluid retention, and testicular atrophy. Long-term effects can include high blood pressure, increased cholesterol levels, and liver and heart damage.
Note: WATM doesn’t condone the use of steroids, but if you’re going to do them, you should carefully review the potential risks involved.
It may take up to five years to finalize the standards for the Army Combat Fitness Test as the service struggles to address the performance gap between male and female soldiers on the service’s first-ever gender-neutral fitness assessment.
The Army just completed in late September 2019 a year-long field test of the ACFT, involving about 60 battalions of soldiers. And as of Oct. 1, 2019, soldiers in Basic Combat Training, advanced Individual training and one station unit training began to take the ACFT as a graduation requirement.
So far, the data is showing “about a 100 to a 110-point difference between men and women, on average,” Maj. Gen. Lonnie Hibbard, commander of the Center for Initial Military Training, told Military.com.
North Carolina National Guard Fitness Manager Bobby Wheeler explain the proper lifting technique of the ACFT deadlift event to the students of the Master Fitness Trainers Level II Certification Course, Sept. 25, 2019, at Joint Forces Headquarters in Raleigh, North Carolina.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Alonzo Clark)
Final test-score averages taken from soldiers in the active forces, National Guard and Reserve who participated in the ACFT field test illustrate the performance gap that currently exists between male and female soldiers.
Maximum deadlift: Male soldiers deadlifted an average of 238 pounds; females lifted an average of 160 pounds.
Standing power throw: Male soldiers threw an average of 9 feet; female soldiers three average of 5.5 feet.
Hand release pushups: Male soldiers performed an average of 34 pushups; female soldiers performed an average of 20.
Sprint-drag-carry: Male soldiers completed the SDC in an average of 1 minute, 51 seconds; female soldiers completed the event in an average of 2 minutes, 28 seconds.
Leg tuck: Male soldiers completed 8.3 leg tucks; female soldiers completed 1.9 leg tucks.
Two-mile run: Male soldiers completed the run in an average of 16 minutes, 45 seconds; female soldiers completed it in an average of 18 minutes, 59 seconds.
U.S. Army soldiers participate in a 2.35-mile run.
(U.S. Army photo by Senior Airman Rylan Albright)
All of the test-score averages are high enough to pass the ACFT, data that contrasts dramatically with that shown on a set of leaked slides posted on U.S. Army W.T.F! Moments in late September. Those slides showed an 84% failure rate for some female soldiers participating in the ACFT field test, compared to a 30% failure rate among male soldiers.
CIMT officials said the slides were not official documents. Hibbard said the field test showed that soldiers’ scores improved significantly between the first time they took the ACFT and after they were given time to work on their problem areas.
Currently, female soldiers at the start of Basic Combat Training taking the ACFT average about “a third of a leg tuck,” Hibbard said.
“If you have 144 women in basic training, the average is .3; by the end of it they are doing one leg tuck,” Hibbard said, who added that that is all that is required to pass the ACFT in that event. “So, in 10 weeks, I can get from a soldier not being able to do a leg tuck on average to doing one leg tuck.”
Hibbard said there are critics that say, “it’s too hard; females are never going to do well on it.”
“Well, we have had women max every single category, [but] we haven’t had a female max all six categories at once.”
Hibbard said the Army would be in the same position if it tried to create a gender-neutral standard for the current Army Physical Fitness Test.
U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Danny Gonzalez, Recruiting and Retention Command, New Jersey Army National Guard, carries two 40-pound kettlebells during the Army Combat Fitness Test, Dec. 19, 2018.
(New Jersey National Guard photo by Mark C. Olsen)
“We would still have challenges, because you have to make the low end low enough that 95% of the women can pass,” Hibbard said, adding that the Army will likely have to make small adjustments to the standard over time as soldiers improve their performance in each event.
“It’s going to be three to five years, like we did the current PT test.”
The Army first introduced the APFT in 1980 and made adjustments over time, Hibbard said.
“Once the Army began to train and understand how to do the test, we looked at the scores and we looked at everybody was doing and we rebased-lined,” Hibbard said.
The next key step for implementing the ACFT by Oct. 1, 2020, will be to have active duty soldiers take two diagnostic ACFT tests and National Guard and Reserve soldiers take one to establish to get a better sense of the force’s ability to pass the test.
“I don’t think it is going to be hard for the Army to pass; what have to figure out as an Army is how do we incentivize excellence,” he said. “The goal of this is we change our culture so that we incentivize and motive our soldiers to be in better physical shape.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Mindy N. asks: After a long run my leg muscles are tired, but my heart is not. Why doesn’t the heart need any rest?
An average of around 60 to 100 times every minute of every day of every year of your ultimately meaningless life, your heart beats… until it doesn’t. Not long after it stops, all knowledge of your having existed is rapidly forgotten. Unlike the other muscles in your body, however, your heart steadfastly rages against the dying of the light, refusing to ever get tired. But how does it manage this and why are your other muscles such slackers in comparison?
To begin with, the human body is broadly composed of three types of muscles: skeletal, smooth and cardiac. Skeletal muscles are striated (banded), and are what most of us think of when we envision a muscle — controlling pretty much all voluntary, and some involuntary, body movement.
Like cardiac muscle, skeletal muscle derives energy from ATP (Adenosine triphoweknowyoudontcare), with this being made in a few different ways. To avoid going full textbook, we’ll just briefly give the high level over simplified view here. In a nutshell, the slowest, but most efficient, method of ATP production is via aerobic respiration where mitochondria in your muscle cells draw energy from the Dark Dimension, producing ATP, a small amount of which is stored in your muscles at any given time. This stored amount is a sufficient supply to last for about 3 seconds of vigorous activity, not unlike your high school boyfriend.
Diagram of the human heart.
After this supply is taxed, with the ATP converted to ADP (adenosine diphosophate) in the process, creatine phosphate in the muscles is used to convert it back to ATP. This supply will last about 8-15 seconds.
Next up, it turns out we were totally wrong about that whole Dark Dimension thing as, in fact, your muscles continue to get ATP beyond this via a series of chemical reactions resulting in glucose being used to make the needed ATP to keep going. This glucose comes from a variety of sources, such as glycogen in your muscles, or via blood via fats, protein, stores in the liver, and from your food churning away in your intestines.
There are two high level ways this production of ATP ends up being accomplished. In the first, using large supplies of oxygen. In this case, as much as 38 ATP molecules can be produced for every glucose molecule. In the second case, via anaerobic glycolysis — not requiring oxygen — only 2 molecules of ATP are produced for each molecule of glucose. While an extremely inefficient use of the available supply of glucose, this method at least produces the ATP over two times faster than aerobic respiration and continues working for a time while you’re out of breath.
Due to glycolysis resulting in the accumulation of lactic acid in the muscles, ultimately if it accumulates faster than it can be gotten rid of, it will interfere with the anaerobic glycolysis process and your muscles are going to go all jelly and cease to work as well for a little bit. This is in part why, if you get out of breath when exercising and your body is relying more on anaerobic glycolysis, you get fatigued extremely quickly. In this case, you’re simultaneously creating lactic acid at a much more rapid rate and using up your available glucose molecules faster, but producing relatively small amounts of ATP for those molecules used. Do this for more than a minute or two and it will overtax your skeletal muscles’ ability to produce the needed ATP at the rate you’re using it. (Though, again, your mileage will vary based on your current fitness level.)
Back it off and so you’re relying mostly on aerobic respiration and you’re going to get the most bang for your buck, able to keep going all night long if you keep hydrated and well fed. Slow and steady wins the race.
Unsurprisingly from all of this, the more mitochondria there are, the faster ATP can potentially be produced if the needed molecules are present and the more the muscle can keep on keeping on. As for skeletal muscle, about 2%-8% of the volume of such muscle is mitochondria, though this varies somewhat from person to person depending on your level of physical fitness.
Moving on to smooth muscle, as you may have gleaned from the name, this is smooth with no striations. Found in your hollow internal organs (except the heart), smooth muscles work automatically, helping you digest food, dilate your pupils and take a wee-wee. As an example of smooth muscle in action, in digestion, the contractions themselves are really not too dissimilar to how your heart beat works — fluctuation of electrical potential in the smooth muscle cells which causes the muscle to contract in a rhythmic fashion, in this case called the “Basic Electrical Rhythm” or BER. This rhythm is about three times per minute in the stomach, and 12 times per minute in the small intestines. The sound you are hearing when your stomach and intestines make noise is the result of these muscular contractions mixing and moving chyme (the cocktail of digestive juices, food, microbes, etc.) and air along down the tube between your mouth and your waste disposal port.
As for the mitochondrial needs of these muscles, they are typically approximately that of your skeletal muscles, with mitochondria making up about 3-5% of the smooth muscle volume.
This finally brings us to the real hero of your life story — cardiac muscle. Like skeletal muscle, cardiac muscle is striated and like the other muscle in your body is primarily powered by mitochondria. The cardiac muscles, however, have as much as 10 times the density of mitochondria as your other muscles, at about 35% of the volume of your cardiac muscle.
It should also be noted that individual muscle cells in the heart actually do get regular rest thanks to how the heart beat actually works, which we’ll get into in the Bonus Fact in a bit. But the net result is that about 60%-70% of your life a given part of your heart is actually in a resting state.
Combining these micro-rests with the extreme amount of mitochondria and a large amount of oxygen from the heart’s awesome blood supply, this allows your heart all the ATP it needs to not get tired, assuming you’re not in an extreme state of starvation or doing some extreme form of exercise for extended periods well beyond your normal fitness regime.
On that note, the downside to needing so much ATP thanks to no extended downtime is that the heart really needs to rely on aerobic respiration to make sure it doesn’t run out of ATP, and thus it doesn’t take oxygen being cut off for too long from it before you’re going to have a bad time, unlike other muscles you can just stop using to help recover the needed ATP over time.
And, yes, it turns out the human heart can actually get tired and suffer damage if you’re trying to do some extreme form of physical activity outside your norm for lengthy periods, especially if in a low oxygen environment like at high altitude. In these cases, even the healthiest hearts can suffer damage, though given the other effects on your body of such extreme physical activity, typically most people will stop doing whatever before the heart is negatively impacted in a damaging way. In essence, your legs will give out before your heart does (usually), at least when talking energy supply. But that doesn’t mean in certain cases a measurable level of tiredness in the heart can’t be observed.
For example, in 2001, cardiologists studied a few dozen endurance athletes competing in a 400 km race in Scotland, which comprised of all manner of physical activities from paddling, rope climbing, running, biking, climbing, etc. and the whole event taking almost 100 hours. During this span, the athletes typically only slept about 1 hour per 24 hours during the event and otherwise soldiered on.
The results? At the end of the race, the athletes’ hearts were only pumping about 90% of the volume per beat they’d been managing before the race started.
That said, further research on endurance athletes calls into question the notion of “no permanent damage” being done. For example, researchers involved in a 2011 British study looking at British Olympians who competed in distance running and rowing (and specifically competing in at minimum a hundred events), found that as they aged they showed marked signs of heart muscle scarring, something that can lead to irregular heart function and, potentially, heart failure.
Of course, these are extreme examples, and for most people not doing ultra marathons regularly or competing professionally or semi-professionally in endurance events, this is unlikely to be a problem and the holistic health benefits of regular, vigorous exercise are likely to make up for it even then.
Ever wonder how the heart beat works? Well, wonder no more. In a nutshell, the heart is a four chambered pump. The top two chambers are called Atria, the bottom two are called Ventricles. They are separated from top to bottom by valves; the right and left sides are separated by a septum. So what makes the pump squeeze? When the hearts muscle gets “shocked”, it will contract and force the blood down its path, with the valves not allowing blood to flow back through the system, unless they are defective.
The blood’s path through the heart starts in a vein called the Superior Vena Cava. Then it enters the right atrium, flows through the tricuspid valve into the right ventricle. From there it travels through the pulmonic valve into pulmonary arteries, then the lungs. Now back to the heart and into the left atrium, through the mitral valve. The blood is now in the “strongest” chamber of the heart, the left ventricle. From there it gets pumped through the aortic valve and into the aorta and out to the rest of the body!
So what causes that infamous electric shock the heart receives approximately 60-100 times a minute? Short answer: Dormammu. Long answer: The exchange of electrolytes across specialized cells within the heart build up a differing electrical potential on either side of the cell. When this electrical potential reaches a certain level, it discharges and sends a shock down another unique set of cells within the heart, causing a shock and thus the contraction.
The specific set of cells that regulates the heart rate (in most people) are called the Sinoatrial node or SA node for short. The SA node (pacemaker of the heart) sits in the upper portion of the R atria near the entrance of the superior vena cava.
When the SA node sends out and electrical shock, it immediately shocks the atria. The pulse then gets “held up” in another set of cells called the Atrioventricular node, or AV node for short. This then transmits the impulse down to the bundle of His and then to two pathways called the right and left bundle branches. Then it’s transmitted to the rest of the Ventricles through what are called Purkinje fibers. All together this “shock” causes the atria to contract, then the ventricles. You’re still alive! (For now.)
So what and how do these electrolytes cause this shock? In an attempt not to give a physiology lecture of ungodly proportion, we will simply say that the main two electrolytes involved are sodium and potassium. Potassium normally sits inside the cell, and sodium outside. Potassium slowly leaks outside of the cell and sodium then goes inside the cell. This creates the differing electrical potential that builds up until the point of discharge. Other electrolytes also help in creating this differential, and they are calcium and magnesium. All together the harmony created by this yin and yang system of electrical and mechanical systems come together to make that wonderfully thumping thing inside your chest!
This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.
Pandemic mania has set in as the country braces together (on their couches) to flatten the curve. While we’re all hoping to drop a few curves (on the international scale), our doomsday snacks are threatening to exponentially expand our waistlines.
Sticking to a militant regiment of working out might look different, but it’s not impossible. Think of it like a fun drinking game…without the drinking and a lot less fun. Here’s your new at home PT list.
Replace your Drill Sergeant with your hangry kids
Eager to replace the salty Sergeant voice still ringing in your head yelling, “Drop and give me 20?” We’ve got a solution for that — kids in quarantine. Every time you hear “I want a snack” that’s your cue to drop and pump out a quick round of push-ups, sit-ups or burpees. Believe us when we say you’ll never be in better shape.
Trips to the fridge require squats
It’s 10:27 am and you’re on your third trip to the icebox. You want to quit the snacks but the snacks are calling you. How do people ignore a perfectly good pint of ice cream all day? They do it by mandating squats for each and every trip to the fridge. Rocky road looks a lot rockier if it means a set of 50.
No ruck, no problems
Working out with a full-fledged army of children running around makes sunrise PT look a lot more attractive right about now. Need to get some miles in with munchkins around? This is what they made child carrier backpacks for. Strap ’em in and ruck on.
How to end news cycle scrolling
Doomsday news is so fascinating, it can lead to an infectious disease we’re calling “mindless scrolling.” But alas, there is a cure for getting off the couch and redirecting your tired eyeballs from the hourly updates. Next time you’re feeling the itch to peek at the latest pandemic news, require yourself to run a solid mile first. Yep, a whole mile. Give a mile, get a minute (or 60) of news coverage. If you’re a habitual news checker, you can thank us later for your new marathon-ready body.
Keep calm and drink on
We’ve said it before — military life has prepared you for this. Watching every civilian lose their s!*t right now over the government disrupting plans and telling them what to do is entertaining to say the least. We as a community know a thing or two about government mandates. For every Facebook post you see fretting over cancelled plans, take a drink…of “water.” Drinking half your bodyweight in water is a challenge no more if you follow this plan. We’re guessing you’ll be up to your mark well before noon.
According to the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale, the average U.S. resident’s IQ falls between 80 to 119. Those men and women who make up the “gifted” demographic average the IQ between 130 to 145. The Intelligence Quotient is measured by taking someone’s mental age (the age at which they operate) and divide it by their chronological age (the age that they actually are).
Then, multiply that number by 100. So, let’s do some math as an example. If your mental age is 14, but your chronological age is 10, divide 10/14. This equals 1.4. Now, multiply 1.4 by 100. You should get 140. If not, then you need to go back to fourth grade.
So, what the hell does that have to do with this article? Well, since not many of us call ourselves “gifted,” we can boost our brain functions by increasing this type of exercise we do in our daily lifestyles.
We can boost our brain’s function by including aerobic exercises in our workout.
New York University Neuroscientist Dr. Wendy Suzuki recommends implementing aerobic exercise at least three or four times a week to boost brain function.
With this newfound information, gaining this important increase depends on your starting point. If you’re a couch potato, you need to up your activity to at least three or four times a week to achieve positive effects. If you’re quite active already, you might have to increase your activity more to maximize the brain function boost.
Dr. Suzuki also recommends exercise in the early morning hours because all the brain’s neurotransmitters are firing. This comes at a perfect time as most American start work or school later in the morning — so their performance will be increased in time for their day.
In contrast, many Americans work out in the evening to relieve stress after a long day’s work. By switching a few of their work-outs to morning aerobic sessions, they can start to make an immediate change in their brainpower.