Besides water, coffee is the most popular drink in the entire world. Countless people from around the globe wake up every morning to a beautiful cup of the brewed beverage and drink it to get that critical morning boost.
Now, when a service member is chilling out in the field and they rip open an MRE, there’s a little pouch of coffee just begging for some hot water. Since that pouch doesn’t look as appealing as that fruit-punch drink, we tend to chuck it back into the opened MRE bag, never to meet its hot-beverage destiny.
However, we’re here to tell you why that’s not the best option.
Coffee lowers your chances of developing four major medical issues
According to Dr. Michael Roizen, drinking coffee lowers your chances of developing Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, along with liver and ovarian cancer.
The board-certified anesthesiologist explains that those medical benefits come from the caffeine within the drink and polyphenols, a micronutrient found in the coffee plant that’s packed with antioxidants.
Staying on your toes
When we first wake up, our brains typically aren’t functioning as well as they do later in the day. Caffeine, the world’s most popular psychoactive drug, tends to take over the adenosine receptors in the brain, which are responsible for making you feel tired.
Now, when you’re feeling tired on post, drink that MRE coffee and block those sleepy receptors. The health benefit here comes with not falling asleep getting killed while you’re on watch.
Filter that instant coffee
Now, we know what you’re thinking, why would I filter instant coffee? Sounds stupid, right? Coffee contains over 1,000 compounds and some of those can elevate your cholesterol.
To help get the benefits without any of the drawbacks, pour instant coffee through a paper filter or a clean t-shirt. This will separate those cholesterol-raising compounds from the good stuff.
Drinking coffee can also reduce your chances of developing type 2 diabetes. That’s also f*cking huge.
It boosts your metabolism
Since caffeine is a stimulant, it raises all sorts of levels in your body, like blood pressure and heart rate. Because of that, your metabolism jumps and burns more calories to meet your body’s rising energy needs. Now, don’t think that drinking a lot of coffee will solve your love-handle problem — it won’t — but it will give you some extra energy while you’re in the gym.
Half of readers get tested on their endurance capability. The other half is worried about surviving the zombie apocalypse. Lucky for you, in the Venn diagram of fitness, those two overlap quite nicely.
This endurance plug-in lays out a very simple and effective plan to get you up to snuff for the PFA or the incoming wave of walking-dead. If you’re worried about your chainsaw-wielding skills or max push-ups, you better be using the Mighty Fit Plan to prepare!
I’ll be talking in terms of running, but this basic template can be applied to swimming, cycling, Pogo-sticking, or any other endurance training modality.
Don’t get me wrong training outdoors can be a mind-blowing experience. If you enjoy it you should do it.
Strength training is the base of any solid training plan. Three days of strength training is the minimum in order to ensure all bases are covered. That still leaves four days a week to train.
Typically, you don’t want to do the same type of training two days in a row. That means your endurance training sessions should alternate days with the strength training days. That covers 5-6 days a week.
Day seven is special: it’s a day of rest. Some people may need two days of recovery, while for others, one is enough. The number of runs you engage in per week depends on your current level of fitness, your proximity to your race or test day, your ultimate goal, and one other factor…:
The level of enjoyment you get from endurance training!
It’s not all sunrises and mountain views though…
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Debra S. Sainer/Released)
If you enjoy running, go out three days a week. If you are doing it for work, run twice and add the third day two months out from your test. If you’re like me, ignore it entirely until you get winded going up a flight of stairs and then start training it to ensure you are more survivable in the zombie apocalypse.
Soreness is the last limiting factor. If you are sore from lifting and sore from running, only run two times a week until you are recovering efficiently enough to be fresh on day six.
You need to learn to trust your body, but also not be mentally weak. If you feel good enough to train, you should; don’t allow soreness to be a convenient excuse to be a lazy POS.
There’s a reason many professional swimmers get fat after retiring. Read the article below and commit it to memory.
I know this needs to be said. It is highly likely that the world has convinced you that cardio is the best type of exercise to achieve fat loss. I’m here to tell you the prior sentence is a horrible generalization and exaggeration. It’s plain wrong.
400-800 meter repeats (for those of you training to improve PT test scores.)
Choose your distance, and always do that distance so that you can gauge improvement. Time yourself, and then rest for 2-3 times that length of time. Sprint as hard as you can every repetition for the entire length. Don’t cheat yourself.
Start workout one with four iterations of your distance and increase 1-2 lengths every two weeks as your recovery permits.
Week 1: 4×400 meters
1: 75 second sprint/ 150 second rest
2: 80 second sprint/ 160 second rest
3: 86 second sprint/ 172 second rest
4: 91 second sprint/ 182 second rest
Week 2: 4×400 meters
1: 72 second sprint/ 144 second rest
2: 79 second sprint/ 158 second rest
3: 83 second sprint/ 166 second rest
4: 85 second sprint/ 170 second rest
Week 3: 6×400 meters
1: 72 second sprint/ 144 second rest
2: 79 second sprint/ 158 second rest
3: 83 second sprint/ 166 second rest
4: 85 second sprint/ 170 second rest
5: 90 second sprint/ 180 second rest
6: 97 second sprint/ 194 second rest
I love people that look the part. I’d be the guy running a marathon in cargo shorts, eating tater-tots for a mid-race glucose boost.
Nobody wants to be the weakest troop in their unit. Some people are naturally gifted with the ability to put on layers on muscle quickly, while others spend hours in the gym to grow a single fiber.
However, natural ability aside, many newbies who go to the gym don’t know how to properly lift a weight or how many reps they should be doing in each set.
In general, certain muscle groups are easier to bulk up than others. One common problem area is the shoulders. Considered a weak joint, properly developing definition in the shoulder is best done by emphasizing form over heft.
There are a lot of advanced exercises in the workout vault, but beginners can get away with doing a few of these basic weighted movements to get those healthy-looking shoulders.
The exercise allows you to use all three of your shoulder muscles at once. As an added bonus, this compound movement also works out your triceps. Sit down, grab some weights you’re comfy with and settle into a position with the weights lifted to about your ears, elbows bent at a 90-degree angle. Then, push up.
Make sure that you don’t lock your elbows out at the top of the rep. That’s bad for your joints and we want to avoid injury. So, always keep a slight bend in your elbow. After the rep, don’t use gravity to lower the weights. Instead, use your shoulder muscles to slowly lower the weight back to the original position.
Cool? Now go and do eight to twelve more, followed up by two to three more sets.
This one doesn’t requires a barbell, just a weighted plate heavy enough to challenge you. All you need to do is grab onto a weighted plate, usually gripping around 9 and 3 o’clock, and hold it close to your chest. Then, extend your arms out parallel to the deck and slowly bring it back in.
Cool? Now go and do eight to twelve more and follow it up with two to three additional sets.
For a lateral raise, you’re not going to need a lot of weight, so don’t use this movement to impress any girls or guys at the gym. Begin by sitting or standing up straight whiling holding a workable weight in each hand down by your sides (near your hips). Once you’re ready to start the rep, raise your hands up and away from your body to each side until your arms are parallel and lower slowly.
You’ll want to do two to three sets of eight to twelve.
Now it’s time to bend over and work the rear shoulder muscles, also known as your posterior deltoids. While using those same manageable weights, start in a static position, kick the weight back by rotating your thumbs downward like you’re pouring Patron into a shot glass, then slowly return to the starting position.
Got it? Good. Now go and do eight to twelve more, followed up by another two-to-three sets.
Remember, control and form are everything while trying to build muscle.
I’m about to tell you how to manage your hunger pangs. These tactics are useless unless you understand one fact about life and your body.
A hunger pang will not kill you and isn’t actually negative at all.
By chiseling this fact on your stomach you can start to reframe the feeling of being hungry. Historically, hunger signals have been a sign to start looking for food or starvation was coming.
Today we have the opposite problem of our prehistoric ancestors. There is too much food! ⅓ of all food is actually lost or wasted!
This is why it’s so easy to get fat! This being the case, we need to reorient our relationship with hunger cues by recognizing that they are leftover from a time when food was scarce.
Chances are higher that you die from eating too much rather than too little.
That being the case let’s get into 3 things that can help you control your relationship with hunger. After all, if we just give in to every urge, our bodies have we are no better than those sex-crazed bonobos.
Nothing wrong with meat. It’s the sauces and glazes that cause people to overeat.
These are foods that actually make you feel full. A great rule of thumb is to stick to foods on the outside edge of the grocery store like veggies, fruits, meat, and less processed dairy products. The closer you get to the middle of the store, the more processed things tend to get.
The more processed something is the less it tends to make us feel full. You can think of processing as the same as pre-digesting in many cases. These foods are designed to make you want to keep eating more of them by not spending a lot of time in your digestive tract.
High-satiety foods like potatoes, lean meats, and whole fruits and veggies tend to make themselves at home in your tummy for much longer. This means that 250 calories of steak or baked potato feel like more food to your body than 250 calories of a hostess product or chips shaped like triangles.
Rule of thumb: Eat mostly high-protein (lean meat) and high-fiber (whole fruits and veggies) foods. Limit intake of high-sugar, fat, salt (the stuff in packages in the middle of the store).
Only buy single serving sizes and keep them out of the house.
You can’t control the world around you, but you can control your space. In order to make full use of this keep foods that trigger you to eat a lot out of the house plain and simple. Don’t buy them with the intention of bringing them home.
Many people get the munchies late at night when most stores are closed, or they are already in their pajamas. Chances of you going out at this time for some shitty junk food is slim. You’ll have to make do with what’s in the house.
This means you can binge on healthy high-satiety foods, like mentioned above. Or you can forego the binge all together.
A tall glass of water is actually all it usually takes to quell the hunger rumbles sometimes. Next time you think you’re hungry simply have some water and wait 20 minutes. If you’re still hungry go for the food. If not, go on with your life and stop thinking about food.
Best practices: Make your living space one that cultivates good habits, only keep foods, snacks, and drinks that reflect the person you want to be.
Our brains play a very active role in how we perceive hunger. You might not be hungry at all but all of a sudden you walk by that great smelling burger joint or see that add for a fresh donut. Boom! Your mouth is watering, and your stomach feels like it’s trying to crawl out of your body like that scene in Alien.
Simple solution: Change your route so that you don’t pass that establishment or ad. There’s always another way home even if it’s further, do what you need to in order to win.
You can control the plane but not the weather. Accept it and move on.
When service members hit the gym, they burn calories, build muscle, and slim down. Pair that exercise with a healthy diet and we quickly shed unwanted pounds.
After a while, our bodies begin to adapt to these workouts and, suddenly, those pounds of fat aren’t disappearing as quickly as they once were — but why?
The answer is pretty interesting. Our bodies are well-engineered pieces of equipment, designed to protect us — even from ourselves. Service members are known for running mile after mile in a tight formation a few times per week. Running is a great, high-impact exercise that burns a sh*t-ton of calories, but, after a while, our bodies adjust.
We reach what many call a “physical plateau.” Those incredible results you saw in the first few months of working out slowly start to taper off. This is because your metabolism automatically adjusts itself to protect the body from losing mass.
It’s a fantastic defense mechanism, but it’s also a pain in the ass.
When it comes to dropping weight, many runners out there are making yet another mistake: failing to intake enough calories. When your body is running low on energy, its defenses will kick in yet again, slowing metabolism to maintain weight.
So, in short, to stop your metabolism from lowering, it’s important to listen to your body and eat enough. It may sound strange, but you need to take in calories to burn them. If you’re into intermittent fasting, make sure to take in all the necessary calories within the structured six-to-eight hour eating window.
If you’re doing mostly cardio to lose weight, it’s also highly recommended that you introduce a bit of weight training. Maintain a dynamic exercise routine and keep your body guessing — you’ll plateau much less often and see results more constantly.
Two-time Olympian runner Nick Symmonds, now the CEO of his own company, Run Gum, and the host of a popular YouTube channel, recently took on a new challenge: The Army Physical Fitness Test.
In a video posted Aug. 1, Symmonds attempted the test without any special training or practice, and bagged a respectable score, albeit with some not-quite-authorized modifications. Here’s what you need to know about Symmonds’ APFT challenge — and how you can take your own test to see how you would compare.
The Army Physical Fitness Test currently involves three elements: maximum push-ups in two minutes, maximum sit-ups in two minutes, and a two-mile run for time.
Let’s start with the run. It’s been three years since Symmonds officially retired as a professional athlete, but he’s still in great shape and impressively fast. He completed two miles on the track in 11 minutes, 54 seconds — just under his personal goal of 12 minutes. Symmonds is 36, so he could have bagged a perfect score with a run time of 13 minutes, 18 seconds, or 6 minutes, 39 seconds per mile. No problem.
One the push-ups, Symmonds unfortunately would have been disqualified partway through (more on that below). But if all his reps had counted, he would have gotten 55 in two minutes. That’s good for a score of 79 out of 100. He would have had to get 75 push-ups to max out the APFT with a perfect 100 score.
For the sit-ups, the middle event on the APFT, Symmonds barely beat his push-up reps count, with 56 sit-ups. Here too, he would have been disqualified mid-event if the test had been administered by the Army. But if his full score counted, he would have gotten a 76 out of 100. To max out in his age ground, he would have needed 76 reps.
Bending the Rules
Here’s the thing: It’s not enough to do the reps on push-ups and sit-ups; you have to do them exactly as prescribed by the Army, and you can’t take unauthorized breaks.
On push-ups, Symmonds repeatedly sat up on his knees to shake out his arms, which would have meant instant disqualification on the real APFT. According to the official Army Physical Fitness Test administration rules, the only rest permitted mid-test is an “altered front leaning rest position,” meaning that soldiers may flex their back up or sag in the middle.
According to 550cord.com, “if you rest on the ground or raise either hand or foot from the ground, your performance will be terminated.”
Otherwise, Symmonds’ push-up form was strong. The Army regulations require the upper arms to be at least parallel to the ground on each repetition; Symmonds went deep enough to touch the ground on each rep.
The sit-ups also would have resulted in disqualification, according to Army rules. For proper sit-up position, a soldier must interlock fingers behind his or her head and come up to a vertical position where “the base of your neck is above the base of your spine.” The feet must be held by another soldier. Reps don’t count “if you fail to reach the vertical position, fail to keep your fingers interlocked behind your head, arch or bow your back and raise your buttocks off the ground to raise your upper body, or let your knees exceed a 90-degree angle.”
In addition, there’s only one authorized rest position: vertical. A soldier cannot rest in the “down” position.
Symmonds completed his reps with his arms crossed over his chest (although occasionally they flailed), used a soccer goal to secure his feet and rested repeatedly in the down position. The test was still tough and no doubt a good workout, but it would have landed Symmonds in trouble with Army supervisors for multiple rules infractions.
New Test Coming
Symmonds says he plans to retake the test as some point in the future and try again for a perfect score. But by the time he gets around to that, soldiers may be taking a different test with new rules and events. The Army is in the process of introducing the five-event Army Combat Fitness Test, which will be the test of record beginning Oct. 1.
The ACFT is considered more difficult to ace than the current APFT, and requires more equipment, too. The events on the new test include a maximum deadlift; standing power throw; hand-release push-up; sprint, drag and carry; leg tuck; and two-mile run.
Also new on the ACFT: all scores are age- and gender-neutral, which means there’s just one score chart for all soldiers. There are different minimum requirements based on job category, however; soldiers with jobs that are highly physically demanding, such as infantry, have to achieve higher scores than those with less physical jobs.
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With the heralding in of the new ACFT, it only makes sense that there should be an app to go along with it. Enter Grunt Fit, a subsidiary of the veteran-run apparel company, Grunt Style. It’s not even on the market yet, and already Grunt Fit is making lots of ways. That’s because of two reasons.
First, Grunt Fit was created based on the real-life successes of personal trainers. That means that the eating plans and workout programs are designed by people who know that they’re going to work. There’s no guessing whether or not an eating plan will help you reach your goals or how many reps you should be doing to gain mass. The people behind Grunt Fit have already helped countless people answer those questions and more.
Secondly, the level of customization that’s available on the app is second to none. It’s so much better than other fitness apps on the market because of how personalized you can make your plans.
Grunt Fit’s mission is to help users achieve their fitness goals by offering customizable fitness and nutrition plans. This free program has a very easy to understand user interface, making it incredibly personalized, and is based on the science of personal trainers.
The app was designed by veterans, but it can be used by people of all fitness levels. After downloading the app, the user is prompted to answer several questions that help determine their current fitness level and long-term goals. Then, the app creates a customized workout and nutrition plan based on those responses.
Did we mention this is a free app?
Not only does it differ in that regard, but it also separates itself from the herd because it eliminates the guesswork of trying to understand what eating style will help you reach your goals. It tells users precisely what foods to eat, what exercises to include to help achieve optimal performance levels.
The other central standout of Grunt Fit is that because it’s so direct and easy to follow, there’s less chance that you’re going to make a mistake following one of the plans. In a statement to Military.com, Tiffany Allen-Hampton, Army veteran and Grunt Fit president, said that the app is designed to help people prepare for the rest of their lives. The app was designed with accountability in mind, much like how military units are structured.
The app will tell a user what they need to do to be successful, but it’s up to the user to make that happen. To encourage participation and follow-through, the app offers users opportunities to earn badges and share success stories on social media. They can even earn discounts on apparel from Grunt Style.
The Army recently released an app designed to help users personalize workouts and calculate potential scores on the new Army Combat Fitness Test. The Physical Readiness Training app is free, offers a selection of exercises, and creates customized PT programs for users. The app guides users through videos led by drill sergeants and might just cut down on the risk of injuries of users performing new exercises. The app also allows service members to create workouts based on having access to minimal equipment. One neat feature of the Army’s app is that it will enable a user to create workouts based on deficiencies. Since the new ACFT is full of exercises that many soldiers might not perform on a daily basis, this is a great feature. Specific programs are available to help soldiers work toward top scores in each of the ACFT’s events.
But the Army’s app doesn’t offer any nutritional advice or meal prep options, so it falls short of creating a holistic approach to functional fitness. Of course, the Army’s app doesn’t offer chances to earn badges or get discounts on apparel, but maybe one day.
Eliminate the guesswork of both your workouts and your fitness when you use Grunt Fitness. Expected to be out sometime this fall, Grunt Fit might just be what helps keep you motivated through the winter to keep on pushing hard through your workouts.
So here’s the story. I normally run a few times a week, strength train and figure skate as often as I possibly can. (What can I say? I love knife shoes.) I’ve since gone through several quarantine phases. It started with, “I’m going to use this time to be in the best shape of my life!”…aka denial. It was then followed by stress baking, boredom snacking and finally my current stage: Trying my best to find balance.
Instead of stressing myself out with rigid fitness goals, I’m listening to my body and choosing workouts I actually feel like doing. For motivation, I’m trying a new fitness challenge each day to appreciate everything my body can do. (Even when I’ve eaten more onion and garlic pretzel chips than medically recommended.) These are a few of the exercises I’ve tried so far…can you do them all?
Stand Up From the Floor…No Hands Allowed!
Okay, this one sounds deceptively easy. Lay down on your stomach and try to get up without using your hands for help. Roll over, sit up, bend your knees, lean forward and try to rise to your feet. It doesn’t require exceptional strength, but you do need to have decent flexibility throughout your hips and hamstrings.
Balance on One Leg for 60 Seconds
Another exercise that sounds crazy easy, except that you have to do this balanced on the *ball* of your foot. You don’t have to raise all the way up to your toes, but your heel must be lifted off the ground for it to count. Start out with one hand on a chair or countertop for balance. First, lift your free leg up, keeping your foot pressed lightly against your standing leg for stability. Then, lift up onto the ball of your foot and start the timer.
This is a test not only of balance but of the strength of all the stabilizing muscles from your calves to your core. Thirty seconds and up is considered good, and 60 seconds is excellent. Pro-tip: Try focusing on keeping a tight core and flexing your glutes to hold the position longer!
Hold a Plank for 2 Minutes
The humble plank is a great, full-body exercise, and it’s pretty tough. Just hold the “up” part of a pushup as long as you can, making sure your back isn’t arched and your butt isn’t sticking up in the air — save that for yoga class! While you only need to hold planks for around 30 seconds to benefit from them, it’s fun to see how long you can hold them! (Not to brag, but I did it for 3.)
This is the toughest one on the list, hands down. To do a pistol squat, you extend one leg straight out in front of you and squat down to a minimum of 90 degrees- some people can go all the way to the floor! It’s super tough, and you need more than just strength. You need a ton of flexibility to keep your free leg from hitting the floor. A cheat as you work your way up to a full pistol squat is to hold onto a railing to lessen the resistance. I managed 5 before I couldn’t make it back up and fell on my butt.
Which exercise was the toughest for you? Hopefully, you surprised yourself!
Sylvester Stallone has been a role model for generations of men. He taught men how to box, how to fire a bow and most importantly, how to train abs. For me, the scene I still dream about to this day comes from that film where Sly single-handedly ended the Cold War, avenged his best friend’s death, and got a sick pump in the Russian countryside…Rocky IV.
The first time I can recall seeing Rocky IV was a dark and cold winter night a few days after the first time my dad let me and my brother stay up late and watch HBO fight night with him and my grandfather.
Something happened in the fight that spurred one of the elders to say something about Rocky defeating communism once and for all. At that moment, it was brought to my dad’s attention that my brother and I had no idea who Rocky was, let alone what soviet-style communism was. He planted the seed of patriotism in my soul that day…
Actually, watching Rocky IV a few nights later, I started to develop my idea of what it means to be a man and a patriot… you need to fight communism and have abs (pretty simple). Everything you need to know is in the epic seven-minute-long training sequence allow me to sum it up for you in a few bullet points:
Hero trains in a barn using everyday stuff to train for the fight of his life.
Villain trains in a lab with cutting edge technology and daily steroidal cocktails.
Hero runs through snow in boots with a beard… the working-class hero.
Villain runs on an indoor track in a spandex suit while pervy scientists take notes.
Hero chops wood, saws wood, carries wood, does pull-ups over burning wood.
Villain gets strapped into every type of metallic fitness machine you can think of.
Hero chops down a tree that is clearly much bigger than him.
Villain KOs sparring opponents that are clearly much smaller than him.
Hero climbs a mountain and hops up-and-down in some victory type dance.
Villain sprints on a steep incline treadmill and hangs his head in “defeat” when finally finished… foreshadowing?
The one clip from that montage that has been seared into my brain ever since my first viewing. Rocky does an ab exercise known as the Dragon Flag. The only thing Drago seared into my brain was his spandex suit crotch bulge (that’s a whole other article though…).
The dragon flag is the ultimate ab exercise. Let’s get into the specifics of the dragon flag next: what it does, how to do it, and how to train with it so that you’re ready when your country calls on you to end the current Cold War.
Bruce Lee is also famously known for crushing this exercise.
(Bruce Lee Foundation)
What it does
This is a great opportunity to discuss contraction types. There are three types that you should be concerned with: concentric, eccentric, and isometric. In a nutshell:
Concentric contractions shorten the muscle.
Isometric contractions don’t change the length of the muscle.
Eccentric contractions allow the muscle to lengthen while contracting.
The majority of your directed ab work probably includes concentric work. Think crunches, leg lifts, and sit-ups. You know, like the old, outdated ab strength PT tests… The muscles of the core do have the responsibility to flex the spine occasionally, but the majority of their job is actually to prevent the spine from moving…that’s isometric and eccentric work.
The Dragon flag is an eccentric and isometric exercise for those of you with some serious core control already. As you hold your legs extended straight out, like a long lever, and hold that position, you’re working isometrically. Then as you slowly and in a controlled fashion let your body lower to the ground you’re working eccentrically.
The dragon flag requires a strong anchor of support to be able to do it correctly. In the movie, Rocky uses a solid piece of wood to hold on to just behind his head. You need the same or a bar that is firmly fastened to the ground. Don’t try to do this on a crappy free bench at the gym; you’ll very quickly crack the flimsy particle board that it’s made out of.
Check out the Fitness FAQs video above for the exact details on how to train this exercise.
Be smart about how often you train this exercise. If you already have weak abs and are spending a lot of time in lower back extension, you are only going to make your pain worse. ONLY TRAIN GOOD REPS. You’re wasting your time if you don’t fully commit to this exercise.
If you guys like this type of article where I highlight a specific exercise, let me know in the Mighty Fit FB group here, so I keep doing more like this.
Don’t forget to sign up for the Mighty Fit plan here. Get in the best shape of your life in a smart and concise way that won’t injure you.
If you have specific questions about your training or how to prep for an upcoming military school send me a message at email@example.com
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.
Grant Broggi has been struggling right alongside many other small business owners due to the worldwide pandemic. But there’s probably one big difference: He’s a Marine.
Broggi opened The Strength Co. in 2017 after receiving his Starting Strength Coach Certification in 2016. He opened his second gym location in southern California in January 2019 and was getting ready to open his third location when COVID-19 hit the United States, forcing business closures due to quarantine mandates. “I always thought if it [a pandemic] came, it would be bad. I also knew I had a responsibility to my coaches and the members…I’ve faced harder things than this, but this is a pretty prolonged hard thing,” he explained.
Going through training within the Marine Corps definitely prepared Broggi for the pandemic. “In Marine Officer School the number one thing said is, ‘Make a decision, lieutenant!’ it might be wrong or right, but you have to make a decision,” he said. When the quarantine mandate came down, he didn’t simply close his doors and wait.
Broggi jumped into action.
“Any hesitation and you lost speed and tempo…I had a bunch of members but only 16 squat racks. I had made squat racks in the Marine Corps, so we started cranking those out and giving them out for free to members.” Broggi’s company also adapted and started offering online strength classes to keep their members engaged. But he wanted to do more and when he couldn’t get the equipment for them, he decided to make it himself.
Broggi’s gym then began manufacturing racks for members.
“I started buying steel and went to a welder. It was always very clear to me that it had to be done. The only way now it seems is to invest more and double down…People asked me why I was manufacturing, I would just say people need to keep lifting. I think it’s important for their survival and is good for them – especially now,” Broggi said. The Strength Co.’s overall mission is to use barbell training to help people get strong for life – mentally and physically.
He credits his team for their strength as well, saying that because everyone truly follows the concept of strength for health and survival – they’ve been able to adapt and keep going in the midst of the pandemic.
“Now more than ever, people are dealing with adversity daily in their own homes and cities. There’s unrest in American cities that just blows my mind,” he shared. With the country beginning to feel the negative mental health effects of continued quarantine and social distancing measures, Broggi sees the negative impact it’s having every day. He continued, “It can’t be underplayed on how people are feeling. They are not prepared for this… When we get deployed, it’s what we signed up for and what we trained for. People aren’t trained for this. I think people just needed leadership, they are scared. A lot of what we do is to try to bring positivity back,” Broggi said. Keeping people connected and engaged is difficult without the ability to open his gyms as the cases of COVID-19 continue to soar in California, but Broggi remains committed to finding ways to be innovative in helping people continue to train and build strength.
Sometimes Marines themselves need a little strength coaching, too. Even with the Marine Corps having one of the toughest and longest basic training around, he said he was still surprised when he took leadership of his first group of Marines in 2012.
“I got my first unit in the Marine Corps…I remember looking at them the first time thinking, ‘Are you kidding me?’ Of course, Marines are scrappy no matter what – so I started coaching them. We had less people going to med or falling out on hikes and we had a more prepared unit by the end of it. That really resonated with me, that this [building strength] is preparing you for life or an uncertain event,” he shared. When he and his unit deployed to Afghanistan, they didn’t stop training either.
They just got creative.
“We had weights on a wooden platform, it was very hodge-podge. We hung a big whiteboard and it had every Marine’s name on it. It’s not just about being competitive, it’s the achievement and hard work that matters,” Broggi said. When he returned stateside and went into the reserves, he knew he wanted to continue teaching and helping people develop their own strength.
Fast forward to now, owning two gyms during a global pandemic. Broggi continues to think and power forward like he was trained to as a Marine. Not only is the company making squat racks, benches, deadlift mats and all American leather weightlifting belts, but now they are having ‘Made in USA’ cast iron Olympic weights being manufactured in Wisconsin.
“I think we are all cut from the same cloth in terms of the driving factor. That’s why I stayed in the reserves, it made me feel fulfilled even while launching the gyms,” Broggi said. He explained that most members of the Armed Forces seek that deep feeling of purpose and fulfilment. It’s something he hopes to bring to each of his gym members.
One workout at a time.
To learn about the Starting Strength method and The Strength Co., check out their website.
The sprint-drag-carry portion of the ACFT is rough. Especially for those of you over 25 who haven’t moved quickly in years. This event is especially a bummer for those Officers and Staff NCOs that only move fast if they’re getting shot at or trying to leave work for Leave unnoticed.
To excel, you have to be well rounded in strength, endurance and cardio since it’s not only challenging, but also the fourth challenge out of six.
Its placement in this test means you’ll be fatigued before you even start, making performance more difficult.
If this portion of the ACFT worries you, here are a few tips for improving at the sprint-drag-carry.
This is obvious… No? Just think before you waste your precious PT time.
Photo by Spc. Alonzo Clark
Focus on your weak points in training
The sprint-drag-carry test is meant to test your agility and strength endurance, so you’ll need to train for both. But, there’s a good chance that you’re better at one of these variables than the other.
If you know that your strength is better than your endurance, the farmer’s walk and sled drag portions of this test probably won’t be too difficult, but the sprints and side shuffles might be.
If that’s the case, you should continue strength training but make a special effort to perform sprints, and longer distance runs to build up your endurance whenever possible.
Some specific work for highly-fatiguable muscles will to make your life easier on test day.
Photo by Kevin Fleming
Work on your quads and calves
Believe me when I say that the heavy backward sled drag is one of the more challenging movements in the entire ACFT test, and it’s going to burn the hell out of your quads and calves. But that’s not the worst part; you still have to run two miles after doing this test.
To prepare, spend time specifically training both your quads and calves. I’d recommend training with moderate resistance and high rep ranges if possible, like 15-30 reps or more.
Training with this type of rep range is going to work your quads and calves close to how the sled drag will and doing so will help prepare you to endure the pain you’re going to have to push through.
You don’t need to be a farmer you just need to pick up some heavy stuff and walk.
Photo by Pfc. Kelsey Simmons
Practice heavier and longer farmer’s carries
Farmer’s carries are a straightforward exercise but a challenging one. Fortunately, training them is easy, though.
The test requires that you carry two 40lb kettlebells for a total distance of 50 meters. In your training, you should go heavier and for longer distances.
By teaching your body to hold heavier weight for a longer time, that 50-meter carry will feel like you’re bringing in a bag of groceries from the car.
Only training when your fresh is a sure-fire way to ensure you get kicked in the mental toughness organ come test day.
U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Casey Hustin, 17th Field Artillery Brigade
Practice the sprint-drag-carry when you’re fatigued
The sprint-drag-carry portion of the ACFT test is challenging in its own right, but remember that it’s the fourth test, which means you’re going to be fatigued before you even start.
When you practice the sprint-drag-carry in training, you do want to train this test when you’re fresh since doing so will allow you to put forth the maximum effort and, as a result, make maximum improvements.
But, it would be best if you still were prepared to perform at a high level when you’re fatigued. To prepare, perform the sprint-drag-carry training after you’ve done some demanding workouts.
Practicing the sprint-drag-carry after regular training will help you understand how to perform under fatigue and also know which of the five sections of this test will be the most difficult when you’re fatigued.
Knowing these details can help you determine which sections of the test will require the most improvement.
email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Train each section separately
In this test, you’ll need to perform a sprint, sled drag, shuffle, farmer’s walk, and a final sprint. While practicing this routine in its entirety is a smart idea, you can also train each section separately to gain specific improvements.
On training days, try breaking down the test by putting maximum effort into each exercise, but add rest between sets.
This practice will help improve each aspect of the test, specifically.
You don’t need to be a fitness genius to train for this test. You just need to change up your training by doing workouts that are closer to the test. Of course, if you aren’t training at all that will be the first hurdle to overcome. Check out the Mighty Fit Plan to help get yourself in the habit of training. You LITERALLY get paid to train so there’s no excuse.
Deshaun Watson, QB, Texans- The Patriots unsinkable defense has hit two icebergs this year, in the form of Lamar Jackson and Deshaun Watson. How fitting, then, that these two quarterbacks are representing the new generation of elite NFL quarterbacks. The days of a pocket passer are waning, and Deshaun Watson showed us just why his legs can be such a threat. His banged-up Texans offensive line didn’t hold him back from being #1 fantasy QB, as he scrambled for extra yards to buy time for his cannon (or, uhmm, iceberg-canon?) to go off. Watson and Jackson are #1/2 down the stretch.
Derrick Henry, RB, Titans- One of the biggest knocks on Henry coming out of college was his speed. Who would’ve thought, when he came out of Alabama 3 years ago, that his hallmark NFL attribute would be insanely long runs? He has a gain of 20+ yards in half his games played this year, and he finds paydirt even more often than that. He plays Oakland’s abysmal rush defense next week for a juicy matchup.
Davante Adams, WR, Packers- Adams injury woes seem to be a thing of the past. He looked sharp in and out of cuts, showed breakaway speed, and made athletic sideline catches in the Packers 31-13 route of the Giants. His 21.4 fantasy points seem like a beautiful sign of things to come as fantasy playoffs heat up.
Odell Beckham Jr. has now gone six straight games without 100 receiving yards.
It’s the longest streak of his career. (via @ESPNStatsInfo)pic.twitter.com/qFrKi4Dljl
Odell Beckham Jr, WR, Browns- Odell Beckham Jr. has gone six games in a row without 100 receiving yards. Obviously, Baker Mayfield is part of the problem. The root cause, however, is even bleaker for OBJ’s future in Cleveland. Freddie Kitchens absolute inability to call plays that put the ball in his best playmakers’ hands. There have been no kicking nets harmed this year, but hey, there are still four weeks left.
Drew Brees, QB, Saints- Drew Brees delivered a very lackluster performance against a juicy Atlanta matchup on Thanksgiving. The aging veteran racked up only 11.3 fantasy points, with six of them coming from a pass thrown to, ironically, his backup. Brees has his work cut out for him the next two weeks against stingy San Francisco and Indianapolis secondaries.
Nick Chubb, RB, Browns- Chubb, like OBJ, is suffering from Kitchens play-calling, however, Chubb’s fantasy value has another red flag—the arrival of Kareem Hunt. Hunt vultured one touchdown from Chubb, as well as 12 touches and 79 yards. This looks like a split backfield down the stretch.
Telling my kids this was Ryan Fitzpatrick and Devante Parkerpic.twitter.com/1UNQjZUdTy
Alshon Jeffery, WR, Eagles- Alshon Jeffery’s recent fantasy uptick has been directly related to his volume of late. Just last week, he was targeted sixteen times. He turned that massive volume into nine catches, 137 yards, and a touchdown; a performance which was good for 28 fantasy points. As Wentz continues to air the ball out, and his pass-catching competitor Agholor continues to be a liability, Jeffery is getting low-to-mid WR1 looks.
Devante Parker, WR, Dolphins- Well if you started Devante Parker this week congratulations on both your win and your ability to predict the future. If you’re not a psychic, then chances are you saw that Parker has had four straight weeks of 10+ targets a game, and figured that a Dolphins team that is perpetually playing form behind could make Parker a worthy fantasy starter. Well, you’re right, and it doesn’t take a crystal ball to figure out Fitzmagic is back down the stretch. He’s bordering a must start for the rest of the year.
Derrius Guice, RB, Redskins- Guice certainly has fantasy value down the stretch. He is fresh off a long period of rehab following an injury, and is still showing the consistent ability to make defenders miss. His only knock is that he is splitting carries with aging future hall of famer Adrian Peterson. Still, Guice has the edge with his pass-catching ability, especially considering the Redskins play from behind in nearly every game.
James White, RB, Patriots- White is the greatest beneficiary of a neutered Brady offense. Brady’s arm isn’ what it used to be, and New England has resorted to running an “efficent” West Coast offense. This means a whole lot of outlook and swing passes to White, who racked up 8 receptions for 98 yards and 2 touchdowns. This stat is all the more appealing when coupled with the fact that Sony Michel is being used exclusively as a rushing threat.
I blinked and Kiko Alonso was in the backfieldpic.twitter.com/LhL6HIOwMi
That’s not an intercontinental ballistic missile you see shooting through the B-gap right there. That’s Kiko Alonso, with a full head of steam, showing Devonta Freeman why offensive linemen need to communicate. Freeman couldn’t do anything but lock up and pray.
Quandre Diggs with a monster hit on Irv Smithpic.twitter.com/g6eI2kP0iH
Quandre Diggs made a last-second bid for Badass hit of the week on Monday night, resulting in the first split-champion result of the year. This ain’t no participation medal, though. This was well earned. Just ask Irv Smith (once he regains consciousness and regains full use of language again).