5 ways to save money by constructing a home gym - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY FIT

5 ways to save money by constructing a home gym

Frequently working out is one of the primary activities active duty service members do throughout their work week. The military provides some well-financed fitness centers to keep the troops in shape both mentally and physically. The memberships are technically free of charge since you signed your name on that dotted line before you swore in.

After we get our DD-214s, we’re technically not allowed to show up on base and work out in this those military gyms anymore. After losing that benefit, veterans are forced to do one of three things: stop working out, pay a hefty monthly subscription to a local facility, or build their own gym.

Now, we know what you’re thinking, you don’t have the cash in your pocket (or the experience) to build a home gym. Well, we’re here to tell you that it’s easier than it seems. In fact, countless veterans across the nation have started doing just that same thing in their garages, backyards, and spare bedrooms.

It can be done quite effectively if you do your homework. But you’re in luck if you’re reading this article because we’ve done the homework for you. Since gym memberships can cost between nine dollars all the way up to $150+ a month, over time, you can save some serious coin by building what you actually need in your home versus all the crap your paying for in the gym that you don’t use.

So, remember all this valuable information we’ve about to shed light on when building your first home gym.

Also Read: 5 workout machines you should skip while at the gym

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Figure out your fitness goals

Do you want to run a triathlon next year, compete in the next physique contest, or just look good naked? We think these are fair questions and the paths to these individual goals are different for obvious reasons. Depending on what your fitness goals are, you’ll want to research what type of equipment you’re willing to purchase for your home gym.

Those who enjoy running will probably buy a higher-end treadmill versus a large variety of dumbbells they’re probably never going to lift. So, pick a goal and figure out what equipment can deliver the results you’re looking for.

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Take measurements

One thing most service members all have in common is that they probably all lived in the barracks at one time or another. That means we all know have to make the best out of a very confined space. You can actually squeeze a decent home gym into your garage, a spare bedroom, or a back patio. This means, after identifying your fitness goal, you’re going to have to measure and find out exactly how much space you’ll have available to for assorted gym equipment.

Planning is key to setting up a budget.

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Establish a budget

Most of us may be rich at heart, but our bank accounts don’t reflect our good nature. That being said, you don’t have to break the bank on building your home gym. You can buy each piece of equipment individually if you want or everything at once. But it’s important to make sure you can pay your mortgage next month, so make that budget and stick to it.

We don’t want anyone to go broke.

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Research for proper condensed equipment

Unlike decades ago, fitness manufactures have developed multi-weight equipment that can be easily stored in your home gym without taking up too much space. These condensed pieces of equipment can consist of multi-angle workout benches to multi-weight dumbbells.

You can build dozens of routines by purchasing these modernized condensed pieces of workout equipment for your home gym. These space savers will also keep you from spending all your cash on workout crap you don’t need.

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Look for equipment at second hand locations

Workout gear can be super expensive. Walk into any retail sports store and check out the prices for all the equipment you’re looking to purchase. Then, write all those prices down, then go to a second-hand fitness equipment store or even Craigslist (be careful because that can be a hit-and-miss) to search for the gear you want to purchase.

The beauty of workout equipment is since the gear isn’t electronic, you don’t really have to worry about any of the stuff burning out.

MIGHTY FIT

4 things you can do to take your mind off the pain of ‘planking’

Working out your core is one of the toughest and most painful parts of any exercise routine. Putting strain on your torso and getting that unique, deep burn isn’t a very appealing prospect to most people — they’d rather be making gains in their arms or chest.


Planking primarily targets your core muscles, like the hip abductors, pelvic floor, lower back, and lower chest. During a plank, all of these structures must work in concert to hold up the body’s weight, strengthening the entire group with a single exercise. Although most people only hold the position for between 30 and 60 seconds, this brief moment can feel like a freakin’ eternity.

To help all you hopefuls looking to strengthen your core, we’ve come up with a few proven remedies to get your mind off the anguish. Use these tips to hold a plank for long periods of time, build core strength, and, most importantly, get those abs to pop out.

Also Read: 5 workout machines you should skip while at the gym

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Control your breathing

As you hold a plank, your body will tire out. Your torso will let your brain know it’s getting sore via pain receptors. Although it’s wise to listen to your body, at times like these, it’s better to distract yourself from every little message sent to the brain. A great way to do this is by focusing on your breathing.

Breathing deeply relaxes your body and blocks out distracting thoughts like, “when the hell will this exercise be over?” The next time you decide to shoot for a 45-to-60-second plank, inhale in on a 4-count and exhale for just as long. After just fifteen inhales and exhales, you’ll be at the 1-minute mark.

Easy, right?

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Watch a motivational YouTube clip

Working out is meant to break you down physically. It takes mental strength to push through discomfort. That’s exactly why so many people hire trainers — for outside motivation that pushes them through those last, crucial minutes of intense training.

If you don’t want to shell out cash for a trainer, there are other ways to find the motivation to get into tip-top shape. Many people watch cool motivational YouTube clips to distract the mind and block out the physical pain. Via that smartphone you keep in your pocket at all times, you can quickly view a “moto” clip (like the one below) to get you through those final seconds of your plank.

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Conduct an intra-modification

As with any other exercise, there are many variations of planks, each designed to focus on the various muscles that make up your core. You can use this information to your abdominal advantage. If you start out in a four-point plank and fatigue sets in, modify the exercise and move into a side plank.

The idea is to build up your strength gradually — go until you can’t.

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Recite a music verse in your head

Everyone likes music. There’s no doubt that you’ve memorized a few verses during all those hours you’ve logged listening to the radio. So, as you set out to challenge your body via planking, start reciting a 45-to-60-second song verse in your head — not out loud — to get you through the tough, physical static hold.

Your abs will thank you later.

MIGHTY FIT

March virtually with fellow vets and soldiers in Iraq this Saturday

Looking for a way to get in a great workout? Want to get in a great PT session with your fellow vets and service members? Need to get out of the house while still practicing social distancing?

Dawn your patriotic swag, grab your pack and head to your favorite hiking spot.


This Saturday, March 28, 2020, 23rd Veteran is hosting a Virtual Ruck March that you can participate in from anywhere in the world.

5 ways to save money by constructing a home gym

The event was originally supposed to be held in Los Angeles and Minnesota as a fundraiser for 23rd Veteran. However, as we all know, the coronavirus outbreak forced mass gatherings to be canceled or postponed. Yes, even marching one arm’s distance from each other would not be a good thing.

So Mike Waldron, Marine veteran and founder and executive director of 23rd Veteran came up with a great way to still have the event and get people moving, while still keeping smart about social distancing.

“We have lost a lot as a country these past few weeks,” Waldon told We Are The Mighty. “We had to cancel all our fundraising events to help our troops, but we don’t want to give up on them. Join this free virtual event to walk side-by-side with those defending our freedom on the front line.”

The original event had participants in Iraq that included both US and Allied service members so this is also a way to march with them in solidarity. The forward deployed troops will still be participating and will be able to be seen via the event’s Facebook page.

This also brings attention to an amazing nonprofit that helps veterans overcome a lot of the mental and emotional obstacles that we face when we transition out of military service.

23rd Veteran is a program that encourages veterans to overcome their challenges by engaging in rigorous exercise, group outings and therapy in a structured, 14-week program. This program originated from Mike’s own experience as a Marine grunt. He served in the 1st Marine Division with 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines from 2000 to 2004. He was in the initial push into Iraq and upon EASing out of the Marines went to college and majored in business. He found a career managing federal buildings when he went through what a lot of us go through years after getting out. He started having panic attacks, anxiety and nightmares which were impeding his life. He initially refused to attribute it to his service in Iraq because, well, it was five years after the fact. Wouldn’t he have had issues before that?

When he got help, he learned, as many of us do, that PTS might not surface until years later. As he got help, he decided to look deeper as to why that delay occurs.

5 ways to save money by constructing a home gym

What he found was that your brain changes when experiencing a traumatic event. It makes itself remember the event and files it away. Your brain recognizes that there was a threat and you survived the threat. But the problem that many service members face is that you go from a high threat atmosphere to one that isn’t. However, your brain remembers; it’s called Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor, which is a protein that affects long term memory.

When your brain sees a threat (even if it isn’t there), it remembers the traumatic event so you can remember it as a survival skill.

Why Post-Traumatic Stress is Supposed to Happen

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Using this knowledge, Waldron created a 14-week program to help veterans who are dealing with mental health issues.

The program starts with a one week excursion out of their town (the program is currently in four cities and growing) and puts them in nature, with just themselves as company. The point is to team build and put them in activities that will engage their bodies and brains.

After that one-week indoc, they go back home and three times a week, work out together in high intensity training. This gets the blood flowing and body moving but also engages the BDNF in your brain. Immediately afterward, the group will go and have some type of outing that will put them in a public spot and force them to face their triggers.

Starting out small and with just the group, the outing eventually moves to more public spots with civilians joining. This process of having vets engage after a high intensity workout allows them to retrain their brain to be accepting of situations instead of triggering a fight or flight reaction that comes with PTS. Vets are then given assignments for each week which help them overcome their triggers and face their PTS head on.

There are only four rules:

  • No drinking
  • No bitching
  • No news (local news but not to take in negative)
  • No war stories

Using advice from personal trainers, positive psychologists and military personnel, Waldron created the 23V Recon playbook which is the backbone for the program. The result has been a resounding success and has led Waldron and his team to seek to expand their program to other cities. Based out of Minnesota, 23V is looking to expand into Los Angeles, which one of the canceled ruck marches was supposed to raise money for.

This is where you come in.

If you want to get out of the house, raise awareness for a great cause and help 23V grow, sign up and march on Saturday. Get outside, put on your pack and take to a trail and show your support. Let others know too, but make sure if you do it together you stay a safe distance apart. Get to stepping!

MIGHTY FIT

100 bodyweight squats vs 10 barbell squats

Why are you working out? That’s always the first question you should be asking yourself. I’ve been asked on multiple occasions about the benefit of doing bodyweight exercises as a replacement for barbell training. Usually, they go something like this:

“Are bodyweight squats better than barbell back squatting?”

To which my response is usually something like:

“Better, how?”

If your goal for working out is to get better at bodyweight squats …then sure, they’re better.

If however, your goal is to increase muscle mass, (which it is 90% of the time, whether you realize it or not,) well then, probably not. The reasoning relies on a theory called “effective reps.” But first!


5 ways to save money by constructing a home gym

Real easy to get distracted.

Your time and attention

If you’re doing 100 repetitions of bodyweight squats, it’s going to take a while, minutes at the very least. That’s assuming you’re going as fast as possible, which will lead to your form breaking down.

If you’re slow and controlled and performing each rep perfectly, you’ll be spending much longer on 1 set.

No matter which way you decide to tackle this beast, one thing is going to take a hit:

  • Your time
  • Your form
  • Your attention

That right there is reason enough for me not to go this route.

On the other hand, if you’re doing sets of 10 reps on the barbell back squat, that’s something you can accomplish in under a minute with a relatively high level of concentration on form.

5 ways to save money by constructing a home gym

​Quarter squats increase anterior knee pain. Just one of the many form failures that usually occur during body weight squats.

When form breaks down

How we move becomes etched in our brains as a motor pattern. If your form is bad on an exercise like the bodyweight squat, it will transfer to how you move in real life.

Eventually, that crappy form will lead to an injury. Maybe it will be when you try to pick up something heavy like a weighted barbell or an overweight baby. Maybe it will be from doing something you love like playing adult softball, hunting, or picking up overweight babies.

What usually happens when people get injured is that they demonize the activity they were doing when the injury occurred and completely ignore the other 99 things they did that actually contributed to the event that caused the injury.

It wasn’t that activity, that activity was just the straw that broke your CamelBak…(see what I did there).

So, if you’re half-assing 87 out of 100 bodyweight squats three times a week, and in turn, moving throughout your life with crappy/lazy movement, then it’s only a matter of time before you hurt yourself doing something that would have otherwise been enjoyable.

5 ways to save money by constructing a home gym

Those are for sure effective reps.

Effective reps

The idea is that the closer a rep is to failure, the more effective it will be in recruiting the most amount of muscle mass and in turn be the best at building muscle.

Assuming you can only do 100 bodyweight squats and the last rep is quite close to failure, then 1 out of 100 is an effective rep…and it took you minutes to get there, and 87 or those reps sucked.

Assuming you’re in relatively good shape, you can actually do many more than 100 bodyweight squats so even rep 100 isn’t anywhere close to failure. That means you are getting ZERO effective reps. You basically just wasted minutes doing a bunch of crappy half-assed squats that did nothing except make you waste your precious time.

I should note that by “failure” I mean you couldn’t do one more rep no matter what, all of your leg muscles are on fire, and they feel like they are going to pop from the excess blood flowing into them. I do not mean that you’re bored or “kind of” tired from something and just want to stop. Register the actual difference.

On the contrary, weighted squats offer you the opportunity to feel like you’re approaching failure, usually around rep 6 or 7 out of a set of 10 if you choose an appropriate weight.

If you do 3-4 sets of back squats that’s nearly 16 effective reps, that’s a great session.

To top it off you don’t need to do 95 reps prior to getting there.

5 ways to save money by constructing a home gym

People with long limbs tend to have a difficult time doing body weight squats in general. Their long torsos pull them onto their toes.

Conclusion

Bodyweight squats are great if you have no other option, if you just want to make a workout brutally annoying and also mildly difficult, or if you hate yourself. Otherwise, they are just a recipe for wasted time, establishing poor motor patterns, and not getting many effective reps.

If your goal is to build muscle, get stronger, burn fat, or workout smartly throw some weight on your back.

5 ways to save money by constructing a home gym

Valgus knee collapsing imminent on the first Marine from the right.

References

Here’s a few links if your interest on effective reps has been peaked.

5 ways to save money by constructing a home gym
MIGHTY FIT

Here’s what happens to a troop when they go without sleep

Most service members deal with pretty crappy working hours while on deployment. We wake up for patrol when we’re supposed to and attempt to rack out when we don’t have anything else going on for the day. Sure, you’ll hear some hard-asses out there say that “sleeping is a crutch” as they man the front lines, trying to stay up as long as they possibly can — just in case.

Since a firefight can break out at any moment, many of us to have to go days without even taking a nap. We know that going without sleep can make us cranky, but, biologically, that’s the least of your worries.


Various studies have shown that a lack of sleep will prevent our brains from making new memories.

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Prohibiting our bodies from getting proper rest increases the production of beta-amyloid, a protein associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Unfortunately, when we don’t give ourselves time to achieve deep sleep, our brains are unable to wash away the unwanted proteins from our noodles. The more this protein builds up, the higher your chances of developing dementia later in life.

In fact, because of all the risks associated with this protein, the World Health Organization has even labeled nighttime work as a possible occupational carcinogen.

Sleep deprivation also affects our reproductive and immune systems, as well as reduces our testosterone levels.

That’s not good.

According to Matthew Walker, a professor of neuroscience and psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, once you’ve been awake for more than 16 hours, mental and physiological deterioration of the body begins. After 20 hours, the human mental capacity becomes impaired — similar to the level of being legally drunk behind the wheel of a car.

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Professor Walker recommends getting eight hours of sleep for ever 16 hours spent awake in order to repair the damage our bodies take from being awake.

Check out the Tech Insider‘s video below to hear, directly from Prof. Walker, how you should be sleeping.

MIGHTY FIT

This fitness app was designed by veterans for the military community

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.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Your workouts are rough. With the right personal care products, your body doesn’t need to be

After I fractured a vertebra in Iraq, I took up swimming instead of running because it was easier on my spine as I grew older. It has become an integral part of my daily routine. I also like having a beard, but as I swam, my facial hair became super dry and ragged. I went from having a nice thick, black beard to a Brillo pad pretty fast.

One day, I was on the phone with a potential client who sold beard care products. I mentioned what the pool did to my beard and that regular shampoo wasn’t helping. He said, “Dude, if all you want is to not have neck dandruff, use shampoo. If you want to have a full, robust beard, use actual beard products”.


Like many of us, I initially balked. From my days of hardcore PT in the Marines, to the lackadaisical faux workouts post EAS, to the insane post-divorce shred sessions, to my current let’s-just-do-something-to-keep-active routine, I didn’t think twice about how my workouts affected my skin, beard, and body — until I had a steel-scouring pad growing from my face. But after trying different products, I have seen a difference. I am now a firm believer. Using the right personal care products is just as important as the workouts you do.

With BRAVO SIERRA, you know you will get quality care regardless of how intense your workout is.

It’s part of their business practice. This personal care company, founded by a team of veterans and some patriotic civilians, uses feedback from men serving in the military to create and finely tune products that really go the extra mile to make you look and feel good.

It’s in their mission statement. “BRAVO SIERRA believes in agile physical product development to ensure consumers get better products, faster. We believe the human body is the most important system, and that democratizing product development will be the future of taking ownership of our health and wellness.”

Here are some of their products and how they are a cut above what you use post-workout.

5 ways to save money by constructing a home gym

Hair & Body Solid Cleanser

Lots of soaps use sulfates and silicone in their composition. They smell good, but don’t clean your pores, skin, or hair as well as they should. Also why do you want to douse yourself in chemicals?

BRAVO SIERRA doesn’t use the traditional harsh cleansing agent that strips your skin. Their hydrating formula and coconut-derived cleansing agent allows you to use this product from hair to toe without drying out your skin, hair, face or scalp.

5 ways to save money by constructing a home gym

Face Moisturizer

Yup, I watched American Psycho back in the day, saw Patrick Bateman’s routine and thought, “Nope! Not me.” And yet here I am telling you that you need to moisturize your face. All that sweat from the gym, the chemicals from the pool, the sun when you run or bike outside… it takes a toll. This non-greasy option uses blue algae and apple fruit extract for all-day hydration. It also has aloe vera so you can use it as an aftershave.

5 ways to save money by constructing a home gym

Shaving Foam

Shaving can get tedious when you have a 9 to 5 but it really sucks when you are in the military and have to shave literally anywhere. I still get irked when I think about being made to shave using old razors and cold water every day when I was out in the middle of the Syrian Desert. Well, BRAVO SIERRA made a shaving cream with that in mind. Its foam-to-cream texture prevents irritation on sensitive skin. It’s engineered with the first environmentally friendly, non-flammable propellant, making it ideal for your travel pack.

5 ways to save money by constructing a home gym

Antibacterial Body Wipes

Can’t shower right away after working out? Given the current situation with the virus, you might be looking to avoid the gym showers altogether! Have to run into the store on the way home after the gym? These wipes are the ultimate on-the-go solution for when you have to clean up when you can’t clean up.

Infused with aloe vera, ginseng and blue algae, these wipes will have you feeling refreshed and smelling like an adult — instead of a baby. They kill 99.99% of bacteria in 60 seconds, are 4x thicker than baby wipes, and are biodegradable.

5 ways to save money by constructing a home gym

Deodorant

You don’t want to be told “you stink” like poor Slider from Top Gun. If you aren’t breaking a sweat, you aren’t working out. And if you are breaking a sweat, then you really should be bringing deodorant with you. BRAVO SIERRA’s deodorant is aluminum- and baking soda-free. It’s long lasting against odors and provides excellent sweat protection. As an added bonus, it’s stain free.

BRAVO SIERRA also lets you combine these products into awesome kits so you can bundle according to your needs. There is a starter set, an active set, a barber set, and a hygiene-ready set or you can just build your own!

Working out is fun. Working out hard is even more fun. But maintaining your health also is important on the outside as well. Skin and hair care go a long way and BRAVO SIERRA has the best products to get you there.

This article is sponsored by BRAVO SIERRA.

MIGHTY FIT

5 back exercises that can cure ‘ILS’

Go to nearly any gym, and you can spot one or two patrons who are walking around with the terrible physical ailment known as “imaginary lat syndrome.” You know those guys whose arms are fanning out away for the rest of their body because they want you to think that they’re so jacked.

Well, it’s not fooling anybody. In fact, having ILS makes you look like a complete moron while you’re trying to show off something off you don’t have.


Thankfully, there is a proven solution if you’ve tested positive for ILS and it’s composed of targeting the lateral muscles that make up your back.

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Low cable row

First, appropriately adjust the weight, so it’s manageable, but provides a comfortable level of resistance. Using a close-grip bar, sit on the bench, facing the weight, and with a slight bend in your knees pull the resistance backward. Now, keep your straight maintaining a 90-degree angle with your hips and complete it rep when your elbows also bend to a 90-degree angle.

Make sure you squeeze those lateral muscles once you bend your elbows, then slowly release your arms back toward the weight, working on the negative aspect of the set.

Now, complete two to three more sets of 8-12 reps each.

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Straight arm pushdown

In a standing position, slide your feet about shoulder length apart and hold onto the cable rope. Pushdown the individual rope ends until it touches the outside portion of your hips while squeezing those lats before slowly bringing those rope ends back to its original position.

Now, complete two to three more sets of 8-12 reps each.

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Close-grip pull down

In a seated position, grab onto the close-grip bar, pull the bar down toward middle chest while slightly leaning backward, and squeeze those lats before slowly bringing the close-grip bar back up. Remember to keep your elbows as close to your sides as possible.

Now, complete two to three more sets of 8-12 reps each.

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Underhand pulldown

While staying in a seated position, place your hand on the bar, with a reverse grip (palms facing you), and pull the bar toward your middle chest while slightly leaning backward, and squeeze those lats before slowly bringing the bar back up.

Simple, right?

Now, complete two to three more sets of 8-12 reps each.

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Underhand barbell row

With a slight bend in your knees, place your hand on the bar, just outside of your knees and slowly lift up on the manageable weight. Before completing the first rep, make sure your back isn’t arching, and your eyes are looking forward. Now, pull up on the bar toward your navel and slowly bring the bar back toward the starting position.

This exercise can cause lower back pain if your form is off or you’re using to much weight. Make sure you check your ego at the door.

Now, complete two to three more sets of 8-12 reps each.

Articles

This is how the US military finds its ultimate tactical athletes

The Marine Corps is most famous for stripping away one’s individuality at boot camp and spitting recruits out 13 weeks later as Marines, formed into bands of brothers (and sisters).


But those bonds were tested when some of its strongest, toughest competitors battled one other in the second-annual High-Intensity Tactical Training Tactical Athlete Championship. When the dust settled after the fourth day of competition, the top male and female Marines were crowned “Ultimate Tactical Athlete.”

Sgt. Calie Jacobsen chewed up the final obstacle course event and took the top prize among 13 women who competed along 19 men to vie for bragging rights in the Aug. 15-18 service-wide competition at Miramar Marine Corps Air Station in San Diego, California.

5 ways to save money by constructing a home gym
A Marine performs pushups with a pack during the 2nd Annual Tactical Athlete Championship aboard Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, California, Aug. 17. The competition was a part of the Marine Corps’ High Intensity Tactical Training program and tested the strengths and abilities of Marines from different installations around the Corps. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Liah Kitchen/Released)

Jacobsen, 23, a nondestructive inspection technician at Miramar, spent eight weeks preparing for the championship and held the lead going into the final event, the obstacle course. The other women wouldn’t make that easy, but it was her strongest event. “I wasn’t planning on winning. I just wanted to go out there and do good,” she said. “The females definitely were at a higher level than I was expecting to see.”

Jacobsen and the male winner, Cpl. Ethan Mawhinney, each received a championship belt and 53-pound kettle bell.

Mawhinney, a 22-year-old from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, beat 18 other male Marines in his second shot at the service championship. He placed sixth last year in the inaugural contest. “I trained a lot harder for the prelims this year,” said the Marine air-ground task force planner from Camp Allen, Virginia. Winning “was surreal. I had left last year really hoping to take the title.”

HITT is like CrossFit, but for and by Marines. That means using brute strength, endurance and determination to survive tactical battles against fellow Marines on the athletic field, in the water and on the paintball battlefield.

“Competition was tough,” said Lance Cpl. Isaac Namowicz, an admin clerk with Marine Security Guard headquarters and this year’s Quantico Marine Corps Base, Virginia, HITT champ. “There’s a lot of passion.”

Marines traded tips and even encouraged each other during the championship, but each had a mission: Win. “You’re a brother, but at the same time, you are trying to beat everyone,” Mawhinney admitted. That included the male 2015 Ultimate Tactical Athlete, Cpl. Joshua Boozer.

Boozer, ammo tech with 1st Tank Battalion at the Marine Corps Air-Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms, Calif., was champ this year at his home base but met his match at Miramar.

“It’s not easy competition,” he said, catching his breath after enduring the “500 Yard Power Shuffle” where competitors did nearly a dozen events including tire flips, box jumps, dummy carry, weighted sled pull and push and a variety of weight lifts — on a sweltering athletic field. It was the longest event, time-wise.

The Marine Corps organized its first HITT competition last year, held at Twentynine Palms. Like last year, Marines learned events’ details at the start of the competition, so they didn’t really know what they’d face.

Ryan Massimo, the Corps’ HITT program manager and event coordinator, said the intent is to include some base-specific events – this year’s “Maneuver Under Fire” took place at Miramar’s paintball park – with physical challenges that reflect the strength and conditioning program. Last year, the run up and down the desert base’s hills while lugging heavy items made “sugar cookies” of a weakened competitor.

This year’s championship included a timed water event, the “Amphibious Tactical Challenge.” Competitors in boots and utes swam multiple laps bearing their pack and rubber rifle, and then they traversed the pool, diving and ducking with a pack under markers before cranking out 10 (men) or 5 (women) pushups wearing the pack. “It did definitely throw a curve ball for some people,” Mawhinney said.

Namowicz said he struggled in the pool.

“I was not expecting all that weight. It felt like cinder blocks,” he said. “My upper body was getting tired.”

At times, he’d talk to himself as he pushed weighted sleds or carried 35-pound ammo cans and 120-pound dummies in the sweltering heat. “I just kept saying, ‘Finish this.’ You have people in the stands pushing you, and it just keeps you motivated,” he said. “You just want to be done.”

Jacobsen hadn’t real plans to become competitive until the Miramar HITT Center coordinator encouraged her to the local HITT combine challenge. “I didn’t know how big it was, that it was Marine Corps-wide,” said the Nebraska native. “We just went in unassuming.”

And she finished first among the women, getting the ticket to compete against other installation winners for the championship.

She’s a HITT convert. The isolation workout she previously did for weightlifting “isn’t applicable to everyday life,” she said. Interval training demands endurance and strength and “is a lot more applicable to everyday life. That’s definitely changed my mindset.”

Thin crowds watched this year’s competition, but Jacobsen said she was glad to see her station commander and sergeant major on the sidelines. “It’s an awesome event, and it needs to be more widely broadcast,” she said.

It’s certainly not as well-known as the military’s most famous tactical-physical competition, the “Best Ranger.”

The 60-hour event at Fort Benning, Georgia, pits Army Rangers against each other in two-man teams to test their skills, including land navigation, small-arms firing, obstacles and, in true Ranger style, parachuting.

Not to be outdone, Marines run the less-known but still grueling and gung-ho “Recon Challenge” at Camp Pendleton, California. After a predawn swim in the Pacific, two-man Marine Recon and Marine Raider (and Navy recon corpsmen) teams run in boots-and-utes with rucksack and weapon, enduring a nonstop series of grueling events in the pool, on the range and along Pendleton’s roller-coaster scrubby hills.

A close parallel to the HITT championship may be the Army’s “Best Warrior” competition, a four-day contest where soldiers complete tactical challenges, written exams and fitness events in more battlefield-like environments. The top 10 soldiers and 10 noncommissioned officers who’ve bested their local competitors will vie for the title at this year’s contest, to be held Sept. 26-Oct. 3 at Fort A.P. Hill, Virgina. The Army National Guard held its own contest on June 22 at Joint Base Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Events included a 14-mile ruck march.

The Air Force’s 1st Air Support Operations Group put airmen through grueling individual challenges and 22 events over a week in July for “Cascade Challenge 2016.”

The contest, held at Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska this year included navigating the wild Alaskan forests with body armor and 50-pound rucksack.

The Navy takes a different tack in sailor competition. Its surface fleet of destroyer, cruiser and frigate crews each year showcase their athletic and professional naval skills during “Surface Line Week.” Sailors went toe-to-toe in firefighting drills, valve packing, welding, small-arms shooting, sailing and stretcher-bearer races. Team events include dodgeball and soccer, so fun is the operative word.

East Coast units this year even raced off in a cardboard boat regatta.

MIGHTY FIT

3 tips for executing a proper deadlift at the gym

For years, men and women have stepped into the gym looking to lift to gain some extra muscle — which is awesome. We, the dedicated, alternate between “arm day” and “chest day” in a never-ending quest to keep our bodies guessing, avoiding that awful “plateau effect.”

Despite its importance, however, many of us dread “leg day.” You should never neglect your lower body strength, but it’s harder to find the motivation to work on something that isn’t glamorous. Thankfully, if you want to bulk the entire body up at the same time, there’s one particular exercise that’ll do the trick: the deadlift.

The deadlift gets a bad rap in the gym world. Many amateur lifters perform exercise using lousy form or simply too much damn weight and end up injuring themselves. The fact is, there are many ways to screw this movement up — and only one way to do it right. Use these tips to get the most out of each massive rep.


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Boom!

Foot positioning

Proper foot positioning depends on the individual and how much power they can generate. However, in general, most people want to stand with their feet about shoulder-width apart, if not just a tiny bit wider. Keeping your feet too close together lowers your center of gravity and knocks you off balance.

We don’t want that.

A solid footing will better ensure you lift properly.

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Hand positioning

After putting on a lifting belt, many people wrap their hands around the bar in opposing positions — one palm facing out and one palm facing in. Others take a simpler route and lift with both palms inward. What’s most important here is to maintain a symmetric angle with both arms. Having one arm flared out more than the other can result in an injury — our bodies weren’t meant to carry more weight on one side than the other.

Most people position their hands just outside of their knees to maintain symmetry. However, different types of deadlifts require different hand placements. For starters, keep your hands in the standard position until you get comfortable.

5 ways to save money by constructing a home gym

A rounded back will probably result in a sore back.

Pulling up

Your feet are set, your grip is firm, and you’re ready to do the lift. Give the weight an initial tug upward and straighten out your back. As your rise up into the lock-out position, the weighed bar should just about scrape your shins. If the bar is more than an inch or two away from your front leg, it’s not correctly positioned and you’re risking injury. Remember, the closer the better.

MIGHTY FIT

The Air Force finally ditches the waist measurement test. Why?

In the military, being fit isn’t just for looks. Without meeting certain fitness standards, military personnel may not be able to do their jobs properly, putting themselves and others in danger. What those standards should be, exactly, has been up for debate for decades. Now, the Air Force is rethinking what it means to be fit for duty. In 2021, the universally despised “tape test” will finally be gone. 

Say goodbye to unfair fitness assessments, say hello to a stronger Air Force.

The US Air Force fitness test has historically been composed of three sections measuring cardiorespiratory endurance, strength, and body composition. While the cardio and strength sections are still under review, the body composition portion is getting a makeover. 

In the past, the test has relied on waist or neck measurements to estimate body fat percentages. Unfortunately, it’s not a very accurate assessment. Some airmen with muscular frames had very low body fat, but still failed the waist measurement test. Getting an accurate waist measurement is another challenge; measurements vary depending on the time of day, how much you ate for breakfast, and who is administering the test. 

Because of this, Airmen who didn’t pass were previously forced to reduce their measurements however they could in order to meet the testing standards; even when that meant losing muscle mass in the process. The goal here isn’t to make it easier to get away with lower levels of fitness. On the contrary, the entire point is to give a more accurate assessment of how fit an individual is, regardless of their individual build or body type. 

Upcoming tests, which are expected to resume in January 2021, will still include a 1.5 mile run, and one minute each of pushups and situps. Until new standards are defined, everyone will receive full marks for the waist measurement portion of the test. According to Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown, Jr., more changes are likely to come soon. 

A new, more holistic approach to fitness testing is on the horizon. 

While the pushups and running are still part of the standards for now, that may not always be the case. Ultimately, department leaders are working to redesign tests with a focus on long term fitness outcomes. Why train with dozens of pushups when planks are less damaging and just as effective? Brown is hoping for fewer overuse injuries, fewer ineffective testing measurements, and better health and fitness for future Airmen.

Articles

The SEAL behind the ’40 percent rule’ is a fitness beast

Some Navy SEALs follow a saying that, when you feel that you’re completely wiped out, you’re actually only 40 percent done and have 60 percent in the tank.


It’s an idea popularized by David Goggins, a SEAL who completed 14 races that were each over 100 miles long, and he did it most of it while on active duty with a potentially fatal heart defect that limited him to about 75 percent heart function.

Jesse Itzler, a billionaire who competes in some endurance events, met Goggins during a 100-mile race, one of Goggins’ first. Itzler was running as part of a 6-man relay team. The SEAL was running the same race on his own at 260 pounds.

5 ways to save money by constructing a home gym
Navy SEAL David Goggins runs with a news reporter during a press event. (Photo: U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Michelle Kapica)

According to Itzler, Goggins’ feet and kidneys were shot when they met on the course. But Goggins kept going and, after they finished race, Itzler asked Goggins to come live at his house for a month and teach his family about mental resilience.

Itzler later wrote a book about that month and related stories of how the SEAL pressed him forward. Goggins did things like teaching Itzler to do more pull-ups than he ever thought possible by making him do 100 more after he thought he was already exhausted from doing about 18.

Goggins taught Itzler to leave his comfort zone by telling him about the 40 percent rule, which basically says that the feeling that you’re completely tapped out actually comes when you’re only 40 percent done; you still have 60 percent left in the tank.

5 ways to save money by constructing a home gym
(Photo: U.S. Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Paul Honnick)

And that’s what most of the world knows about Goggins, but his story is actually more amazing than he gets credit for.

He kept running and began competing in triathlons despite a hatred of running. He did it to raise money for the families of fallen special operators, and he raised over $200,000 in three years by running more than 14 races of over 100 miles.

Since beginning to run ultra-marathons in 2005, he has completed more than 50 of them.

He competed in the Badwater 135 less than a year after running his first marathon and he placed fifth. He ran the race again a year later and finished third by running 135 miles in 25:49:40. That’s about 11:30 per mile for 135 miles.

5 ways to save money by constructing a home gym
(Photo: U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Dominique Canales)

Oh, and he did most of this while still on active duty as a SEAL. And he did most of it with a potentially fatal heart defect that was surgically corrected in 2009. The defect limited him to approximately 75 percent heart function before he was treated.

Goggins hadn’t known about the defect when he joined the Air Force and became a tactical air controller, or when he completed Army Ranger School, or when he completed Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training (BUD/S).

But he had the defect from birth and just kept pushing himself.

Goggins now completes speaking engagements where he focuses on pushing people out of their comfort zones and convincing them to stay there.

MIGHTY FIT

The complete bench press checklist

Holding a rifle, hiking with a heavy pack, loading a torpedo, pulling up an anchor, moving bulky equipment: these all require upper body strength. Whether you’re pushing, pulling, or maintaining posture, a strong and healthy upper body is a must.

The number of people who can’t raise their arms over their head due to a shoulder injury is unbelievable. Poor bench press form is often the cause of these issues.

Because we need our upper bodies to thrive in this world, it’s mandatory that everyone learn how to press to build a resilient upper body.


[instagram https://instagram.com/p/BtqnE7aBBV-/ expand=1]Eugen Loki on Instagram: “⭕️WHY A FREE BENCH IS ALWAYS BETTER THAN A SMITH MACHINE BENCH⭕️ – I often hear coaches say they like to teach the bench press on the smith…”

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First, bar path

The bench press is the one exception to the rule of the “straight bar path.” In all other lifts, you want to have the straightest, most vertical bar path possible. This keeps the amount of energy that is stolen from the movement to a minimum.

However, in order to prevent a shoulder impingement scenario, the bar path of the bench press has to be modified. The bar starts directly over your shoulders. If you brought it straight down from there, you would over time grind apart the architecture of your shoulders.

Instead, the bar needs to be brought down to a position lower on your chest, so that the angle made by your armpit is roughly 75 degrees, instead of the 90-degree angle that would form if you were constantly impinging your shoulder.

This means the bar path will be diagonal–the bar will travel from directly over your shoulder to somewhere between your sternum and nipples, and back up on the same path.

Now for the checklist…

Bench Press Step 1

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1. Shoulder blades together

Bring your shoulder blades together and pin them into the bench so that they are locked into place.

By having your shoulder blades locked into place, you can press them into the bench at the same time that you are pressing the bar away from your chest. This will cause maximum force. Think “press the bar up and the back down.

Bench Press Step 2

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2. Set your feet

Set your feet deep into the ground.

Your feet are your stability. They should not move at all during the exercise.

Position them flat on the ground slightly further apart than the knees.

Bench Press Step 3

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3. Take your grip

Grip the bar so that it rests in the heel of your palm directly over your wrist.

In order to transfer energy from you to the bar, you want the straightest connection possible.

If the bar sits higher in the palm of your hand, the wrist will bend, and the bar will be off-balance.

Your hands should be wide enough that when you touch your chest with the bar, your forearms are perfectly vertical from the front and from the side.

Bench Press Step 4

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4. Find your balance point

Unrack the bar and find your balance/”rest” point, directly above your shoulders.

It’s difficult to “feel” this position, so just like in marksmanship, you are going to use a sight picture to ensure you always bring the bar back to the proper place.

Choose a spot on the ceiling that you will look at for the entirety of the exercise, and line the bar up with that location.

The completion of every rep is denoted when you get the bar back to this position.

Bench Press Step 5

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5. Find your touch point

Find your bottom position with the help of your spotter.

On your first warm-up set, with an empty barbell, find the point on your chest that the bar touches when your elbows make a 75-degree angle.

For all follow on sets your spotter should take their index finger and tap you on your rib cage in the position where you should bring the bar to touch on each rep.

This proprioceptive technique can eventually be trained so that you don’t need the tapping reminder. In the beginning of learning the movement, it is wise to always have this mental support.

Bench Press Step 6 Execution

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6. Inhale and execute

  • You have your site picture
  • You have your proprioceptive bottom position reminder
  • The bar is stacked directly over your shoulders

Take a large inhale and brace so that there is no chest movement during the rep.

Bring the bar down to your chest as fast as possible while still maintaining enough control to be able to stop at any point along the way.

Touch your chest and explode back up to your starting site picture.

Exhale.

Inhale and repeat.

Keep your lower body and core engaged throughout the entire movement. The tighter your entire body is, the less energy you will bleed off during the movement.

Over time, you can start to perform 2 or 3 reps per breath. In the beginning, stick to 1 breath to perfect the form.

5 ways to save money by constructing a home gym

What’s wrong here? 1. Eyes aren’t on the site picture. 2. The bar is too high in the palm of the hand causing the wrists to bend. 3. The grip is uneven. This is a recipe for the spotter to swoop in and rescue the trainee.

(Photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret)

5 ways to save money by constructing a home gym