In the fitness world, there are too many people who regularly skip one of the most essential workout sessions of the week: leg day. There are plenty of gym patrons that show up to the weight room looking a little too top-heavy.
It might not sound like a big deal at first but, over time, you’ll begin to look quite misshapen.
Training your legs at least once a week burns a ton of calories, increases testosterone levels, and has been known to boost your libido.
So, that’s cool.
Although many of us dread having weakened, sore legs at the end of a brutal lower-limb workout, it’s best to just suck it up for a little bit and do what needs to be done. Before you start any leg workout, properly warm up with at least five to ten minutes of lower-impact cardio to get the blood pumping. Also, always remember to wear a lift-belt to properly protect your lower back when needed.
With a manageable weight loaded on a straight bar, position your feet about shoulder-length apart and lift upward, nearly locking out your knees. Once your body is erected, slowly lower the weight back down towards the floor while keeping your legs straight.
Make sure you squeeze your glutes and leg muscles at the peak of the lift.
First, position your legs in a narrow stance with your toes pointed slightly outward. Hold a properly weighted dumbbell in your hands at chest level, keeping your elbows to your sides. Then, begin the rep by lowering your hips in a squatting motion.
Once your thighs dip below your knees, slowly rise back up, remembering to squeeze your glutes and leg muscles throughout to achieve maximum burn.
Rest a straight bar atop your chest and keep your feet spread roughly shoulder-width apart. Next, lower your hips in a squatting motion while keeping your back straight. Once your upper leg is parallel with the deck, slowly rise back up to the starting position.
As always, remember to squeeze your glutes and leg muscles when you reach the lowest point of the movement.
After loading a manageable weight, sit into the recommendation position, unlock the machine, and allow the weights to press down toward your body. Once your knees get close to your chest, push the weight back up to its original position by extending your legs.
After choosing a manageable weight, sit into the recommendation position, contract your hamstrings, and curl the weight downward. Squeeze your glutes and leg muscles as you successfully curl the weight downward and then return to the original position.
“You’re getting the body prepared for a number of motions,” Saladino told Men’s Journal. “These are more expansive than your typical lifting movements.”
He allows for flexibility in his workout routine.
Saladino noted that, while he and Reynolds tried to stick to a weekly strength plan that included two days off, it was constantly adjusted to fit the needs of his body and schedule.
“The biggest mistake that people make when making an exercise plan is not to listen to their body every day,” Saladino told Men’s Journal. “Ryan was a recent father and traveling a lot [when “Deadpool” was being filmed], so if he had been up all night with the baby, or just gotten off a plane from Singapore, you can best believe we were changing up the program.”
He took it upon himself to work out in his downtime.
“Don [Saladino] gave me a plan so I could train whenever I needed to,” Reynolds told Men’s Health in 2016. “It made things more manageable. And if I wanted to spend a little extra time with my daughter in the morning, I could do that.”
Reynolds has said that he has a “functional” approach to training rather than a “fashionable” one, so he usually prefers to work out alone and on his own time.
Saladino admitted that he is never concerned about Reynolds’ commitment to the workout regimen.
“Ryan’s such a hard worker,” Saladino told Men’s Health. “If anything, I had to scale him down. One day he came up to see me having been working out on his own and I was like, ‘Holy sh-t!’ He looked like a different person.”
“I like using these traditional movements with little twists,” Saladino explained. “This move, in particular, is not only maintaining the strength that he built up to play Deadpool but also encourages stabilization and balance. We have done exercises similar to this over the course of the past few years, but sometimes with a kettlebell and without the vest during our warm-ups.”
However, the father of two did admit that he can battle this aversion with outdoor exercises and activities.
“I love being outdoors,” he said. “There are forests all around [where I live] and I get to hike, mountain bike … just move. I’ll even bring the baby with me, put her in a little baby carrier thing and off we go. In a weird way, it’s a great workout because you’re adding 20 pounds to your bodyweight.”
It’s certainly admirable that Reynolds juggles his responsibilities as an action star with his growing family of four— but his DIY style when it comes to fitness can work for just about anyone.
When we think about all the elements of fitness, it is not difficult to realize that strength training is a critical component to all candidates, students, and active members in any tactical profession. But how is Tactical Strength different from other strength-training programs for athletics?
Special Ops, military, police, firefighters, and first responder and emergency service personnel are the tactical professionals I deal with on a daily basis. The common denominator of these professionals who do their job at the highest level is STRENGTH. Tactical strength allows the athlete to potentially prevent injury, increase power, speed, and agility. But strength is also the initial phase of building muscle stamina. For instance, to get your first pullup requires strength. The strength exercise to get your 20th pullup requires a muscle stamina / endurance exercise, with strength as a starting point. Taking your strength foundation and evolving it into a muscle stamina and work capacity is the main difference between typical one-rep maximum (1RM) strength used in athletic training and tactical strength.
A tactical strength program should be geared to increasing work capacity, durability, and protect against injury, but not create world record lifts. You can have an advanced level of strength and still be good at running, swimming, rucking, or whatever cardio vascular endurance event your job requires.
Tactical Strength is the element of fitness that allows the tactical athlete to grab, carry, push, pull, or lift heavy pieces of equipment or people when needed. There are more elements of fitness required for the tactical athlete, such as endurance, muscle stamina, speed, agility, mobility, flexibility, and power.
However, unlike an athlete that specializes in a particular sport, the tactical athlete has to be good at ALL OF THE ABOVE elements of fitness. For the regular athlete, depending on your sport and the level of competition, you have to only be great in one to two elements of fitness.
Tactical strength is very similar to athletic strength. As with athletics, there are several types of strength that are required of the tactical athlete. A foundation in strength training means you have strong muscles, bones, and connective tissues of the core and extremities, as well as grip strength. Being strong and having a foundation of strength is critical to ALL of your other abilities. This does not mean you have to bench press or dead lift a truck, but being strong will assist in your ability to make power when you need it most. The most basic way to measure strength is to record the amount of weight lifted in one repetition. However, this program will focus more on the three to five repetition range for strength. While 1RM weight lifts are fun, the goal of this program is not to build competitive powerlifters, but strong tactical athletes.
Cardio vascular endurance can compete with maximum strength in many athletics, but the tactical athlete must remember that this is not a specific sport. There is never a need to ONLY specialize in a single element of fitness like strength, endurance, or speed/agility. You have to diversify to get good at all the elements of fitness (as discussed in previous article on fitness weaknesses), which may mean you do not beat your previous 1RM of a 400 pound bench or a 600 pound dead lift that you did in college. THIS ISN’T COLLEGE OR A SPORT! It is your job, and it could be your life or a team mate’s life if you lack any of the fitness elements. Neglecting too many of the elements by specializing in just one or two can be detrimental to your abilities to do your job at a high level.
Army Spc. David Helton, Company A, 2nd Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, puts more weight on the barbell at Combat Outpost Apache in Wardak province, Afghanistan. | DoD photo by Fred W. Baker III
How to build strength
Building strength is similar for the athlete and those in tactical professions, in that the progresses are typically linear with relatively lower repetition sets and longer rest periods. Adding mass (muscle) is one of the benefits, but there are many ways to progress each week with added strength. Take any lift (bench press, dead lifts, power clean, squats, weighted pullups, etc.) and try some classic and favorite GO-TO strength building plans, such as the following:
Drop sets: To do drop sets, change it up between sets by either decreasing reps while increasing weight, or decreasing weight with increasing reps. For strength, I like to do a 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 or a 10, 8, 6, 4, 2 with increasing weight for each of the five reps shown. You can also build up close to your one rep max and then, quickly and with little rest, drop the weight in regular 10 to 25 pound intervals after maximum effort at each weight. Do this until only the bar remains. However, this is more of a strength / muscle stamina lifting drill that is great for building work capacity.
Other Drop Sets / Double Drop Sets: Doing each weight twice before increasing the weight / decreasing the reps is another way to push max strength to new limits. The 4, 4, 3, 3, 2, 2, 1, 1 is such a set / rep scheme that works great as you push nearer to you 1RM effort.
5 x 5: You cannot go wrong with this classic strength set / rep routine. Choose a weight that is about 75 to 80 percent of your 1RM effort lift. Do 5 repetitions of that lift. Rest a few minutes and repeat for 5 sets.
Two-Pops: Another favorite is multiple sets of 2 repetitions. Increase the weight each set, starting with a light warmup set. Start to add weight, but only doing 2 reps per set. Increase weight each set and keep doing 2 reps until you can no longer achieve 2 reps. That 1 rep that you last recorded can be a 1RM for you if you take your time and rest for a few minutes in between lifting in the 2 reps sets.
Typically, these strength cycles can last 4 to 8 weeks and can go up to 12 weeks. Some like to only do lifts for a particular body part once a week. I prefer doing upper body lifts 2 to 3 times a week and full body / leg movements done 2 to 3 times a week. This type of frequency goes well with building work capacity needed for the tactical profession.
Do not forget that even though you are back in muscle-head mode, you cannot forget other elements. Yes, that means cardio as well. For our group, we arrange our strength training during a no run / non-impact cardio cycle, and it works nicely for proper gains in all lifts. However, we keep our cardio up with swimming, rucking, and other non-impact machines like rowers, bikes, and elliptical machines, mainly using speed intervals for the workouts.
In Tactical Fitness, you have to not only focus on a few components of fitness, but have a diverse program so you can remain good at all elements that may be important to your profession. Components like endurance, muscle stamina, flexibility / mobility, and even agility should not be neglected when the focus is purely on strength and power.
What are some of your GO-TO strength-building routines (set / rep schemes)?
Following the debut of the documentary “The Game Changers” on Netflix, which aims to debunk the myth that vegan athletes struggle to get enough fuel and protein, athletes and recreational exercisers have contemplated trying out a plant-based diet.
Fitness influencer brothers Hudson and Brandon White, known for their YouTube Channel “Buff Dudes”with over 2 million subscribers, tried the vegan diet for 30 days and recounted their experience in a video watched more than 600,000 times.
The pair has tried other month-long challenges like keto and intermittent fasting. As first-time vegans, they take viewers step-by-step through their journey into plant-based eating, including shopping for veggies, meal prepping, and hitting the gym.
The Buff Dudes focus on incorporating simple, whole-food options like broccoli, spinach, and asparagus, as well as complex carbs like sweet potatoes and oatmeal. They also eat plenty of healthy plant-based fats like nuts and seeds, along with protein sources like quinoa and beans.
Although the brothers find it surprisingly easy to stick to a vegan diet, especially with the help of meal prepping, they find it has a unfortunate downside — gastrointestinal distress.
Switching to a plant-based diet can cause more flatulence a
It’s true that going vegan might lead to an initial gassy phase. That’s because plant-based foods are high in fiber, a type of carbohydrate that the body can’t digest, according to the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health.
While fiber is linked to health benefits like lower cancer risk, stable blood sugar, satiety, and weight loss, it can also make you gassy because bacteria in your gut produce gas as a byproduct of processing fiber.
Certain types of veggies and grains can exacerbate the situation. Broccoli, for instance, is high in complex sugars, which take longer to break down in the digestive tract and produce more gas along the way.
However, research suggests that a plant-based diet can actual change the gut microbiome, promoting the growth of different beneficial bacteria that thrive on a high-fiber, plant-rich diet. This means that the body can adapt over time, eventually helping you get past the gassy phase.
Meantime, drinking plenty of water, especially with meals, can help ease symptoms, according to the T. Colin Campbell School of Nutrition Studies. Eating more slowly can also help. And, particularly for people transitioning from a diet high in processed foods, taking probiotics can also speed the growth of a healthy microbiome for better digestive health.
Finally, transitioning to a plant-based plan, rather than making an abrupt change, can be gentler on your digestive tract. “It’s really important to pay attention to your body, what it needs, and how you’re feeling” when making any major diet change, Robin Foroutan, a registered dietitian nutritionist and representative for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, previously told Insider.
Plant-based meals can keep you full and energized
The upside of all that fiber, and all those complex carbohydrates, is that they can help keep you feeling full and energized while eating meat-free meals.
“I’m pretty happy so far,” Hudson said on the video. “I think having a little bit of additional carbs has really helped me. I feel fuller, very pumped … I feel bigger after every workout, and my strength levels really haven’t decreased, which is great.”
Both the Buff Dudes found a vegan diet helped them felt good, including during their workouts, and was able to meet their nutritional needs, especially with a little bit of planning. Although neither of them decided to stick to the diet, opting to add in eggs, yogurt, and other animal products back in, they recommend giving it a try.
“No matter what kind of lifestyle you choose, you’re going to have something available to you to make sure you’re happy, content, satiated and buff,” Brandon said.
This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.
It’s in a dark and wet corner of the gym. Half the gym-goers ignore it altogether. The other half use it to torture their spine as if it owes them money.
The back extension machine can be a valuable tool for your training progression. It could also be the reason you’re spending more time at the physical therapist than making gains. This article is going to set you on the path to a strong, resilient, and pain-free posterior chain.
When you look at a back extension machine, is your first thought to lay face down/ass up, or face up/ass down? If you’re ass up, you’re working ass, and if you’re abs up, you’re working abs.
Using the back extension machine to work abs
Though the machine is intended for the back extension exercise (abs down), it is much more commonly used to train abs, and often unsafely and ineffectively.
Here’s the proper way to train your abs on the machine.
The key is to not over-extend the back when doing your “sit-ups” on the back extension machine. This probably runs counter to every single person you’ve ever seen doing this exercise, including many of the athletes at the Crossfit Games. The below video is a great example of proper form.
When used as intended, lying belly down, the back extension machine trains your hamstrings, glutes, and low back. Back extensions are a great supplemental exercise to the squat and the deadlift for developing your posterior chain. The key to all exercises on the back extension machine is to keep a straight (neutral) spine.
Your spinal erectors–those muscles on either side of your lower spine–are designed to work mainly isometrically in these movements. That’s when a muscle contracts to maintain position, rather than to move a part of the body–think planks, not crunches.
In all of the movements that are possible on the back extension machine, the primary purpose is not to actually put the back into extension. If taken literally, the machine is poorly named.
It should be called the hip extension machine, because that’s what you are primarily doing: extending your hips.
The muscles of the back extension.
The back extension works your spinal erectors in the same way that the squat or deadlift does. You are using the spinal erectors to maintain your spinal integrity.
The way to target different levels of your posterior chain is conquered in the setup. Set yourself up for success by properly setting the machine to target the muscles you want. This is where the pad should hit your legs to properly train different muscle groups.
Hamstring focused: low balance point (around mid-thigh)
Glutes focused: middle balance point (just below hip-flexors)
Low back focused: high balance point (hip-flexors on the pad) (not recommended)
In truth, the back extension is not the exercise you actually want to be doing to target your hamstrings specifically. To use the back extension machine for glutes, you want to be doing the glute ham raise. It’s a leg curl using your entire body as the counterweight rather than a machine. It has the benefit of including your glutes and back in the movement as well, which is completely neglected when doing the same movement in a leg-curl machine.
To focus your back extension on the glutes, start by finding the sweet spot on the back extension machine where:
Your hips aren’t too high above the pad.
Your hips aren’t covered by the pad (too low). This forces rounding in the back and takes the glutes out of the equation.
Your feet are splayed out at 45 degrees or further and separated as wide as possible (think the same stance as Parade Rest in drill).
Bret Contreras is the global authority on all things glutes. The guy literally has a Ph.D. in butts (see, kids, you really can be whatever you want to be when you grow up…even an assman.) Below, he takes you through the optimal setup and cadence for the glutes-focused back extension.
As previously mentioned, the back extension machine’s name is a misnomer. You do not want to actually target your low back through repeated flexion and extension of the lumbar (low) spine.
Think of your back like a paper clip. When it is in a neutral position, it’s strong and can easily hold together the first draft of your romance mystery novel. But if you bend it back and forth repeatedly, eventually the stress will cause the paperclip to snap, and your novel will scatter to the winds.
Likewise, repeated unnecessary extension and flexion of the spine can cause similar damage.
Before you claim fear mongering think of it like this…
Sure, we have muscles that can flex and extend the spine, but we also have complex joints like the hips, knees, and ankles that have the strongest and largest muscles of the body attached to them, that provide better range of motion and function than a bent spine ever could.
Why would you want to train a muscle group to do something it is designed to do as a fail safe (extend and flex the spine) when you could instead train the spine to isometrically hold strong while huge and powerful muscles like the glutes and hamstrings allow you to pull a truck, lift a pool table, or deadlift 400 lbs with ease.
Some hucksters will have you believe that in order for you to get the best results from your training you need to be taking some combination of pills and powders daily.
That’s not true. There are very few supplements that are worth the plastic tubs that they’re stored in. I’m here to tell you which supplements are worth it and which aren’t.
In order to keep things relatively uncomplicated, the supplements that I talk about here are only those that you don’t require to survive. The vitamins and minerals that we require for life are just that, necessary to survive. Obviously, if you are deficient in one of those, you should be supplementing or changing your diet around.
What I’m talking about are those supplements that are completely unnecessary for human life that you’re potentially spending greater than 10% of your monthly income on… I’m talking to you Cpl Jones.
I went to bodybuilding.com and searched their top 50 most selling supplements. I’m sure this list is very similar to the sales in your closest Exchange on base, so I’ll just use it as a proxy. Out of those top 50 selling supplements, all fall into the following categories:
I don’t fully accept that protein powder is a supplement…because it’s a macronutrient. You need protein. If you aren’t getting enough in your diet from foods, It’s perfectly acceptable to buy and use some form of protein powder.
When should you have it? Literally whenever. There is no significantly important anabolic window. If you are eating somewhere in the ballpark of .8-1.3 grams of protein per lb of body weight per day, then you’re fine. For more on nutrition timing, check this out.
NOW, not all protein powders are created the same. There are generally three factors that you should keep in perspective when you go to buy some protein powder. Here they are in order of importance:
Leucine Content: If a protein powder has less than 11% leucine or if it doesn’t list the exact proportions of amino acids, it’s sh!t protein with useless fillers. You don’t get an adequate muscle protein synthesis response with any dose of protein that has less than 2.5 grams of leucine in it. 11% leucine puts you at just over 2.5g of leucine for a typical serving scoop of powder of 25 grams of protein. This may seem more complicated than it actually is… read more on it here or shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I’ll gladly explain it to you in detail.
Ingredients: If you’re supplementing with additional protein, then supplement with protein, not a ‘proprietary blend.’ If there are other ingredients in your preferred brand, the chances are that they are simply trying to distract you from the fact that there’s an inadequate amount of leucine per serving.
Sourcing: This one is simply based on your preferences. If you’re vegan or dairy doesn’t sit well in your stomach, then you’ll want to avoid proteins like whey and casein. Typically worthwhile vegan proteins will be a blend in order to get you the required amount of leucine. That being said if it doesn’t tell you what the blend is or again how much leucine there is per serving then it’s bullshit hippie nonsense made by someone just trying to take advantage of you or that’s too stupid to understand how protein supplementation works; either way, they don’t deserve your money.
How I make my own Pre-Workout to be both more effective and save $$$$$
This category is pretty large, mostly I’m talking about those dumb supplements with names like Gnar Pump, NitraFlex, Pre-Kaged, NeuroCore, and Pump Mode. Chances are that if it has a dumb name, it’s a waste of your money.
You’ll see, though, my umbrella recommendation is pretty consistent. If the supplement you’re considering contains any trademarked or patented blend/mix of supplements instead of individually listing the supplements, don’t buy it.
There are plenty of pre-workout supplements that have been shown to help increase performance. Recommendations are varied depending on what type of training session you are walking into and what the rest of your diet looks like.
Caffeine taken with theanine are pretty much always a safe idea to supplement with 30 minutes prior to training. That is my blanket recommendation for pre-workout. I failed to find any pre-workouts on the top 50 purchased supplements on bodybuilding.com that contained solely caffeine and theanine. They pretty much all have nonsense and bullsh!t in them.
If you’re a constant experiment, which you are, and you want to find out what actually impacts your performance, which you do, how can you figure that out if you’re taking a supplement that has 60 ingredients? There’s no way to know what’s working, what’s fluff, and what’s contributing to the tingling side-effect.
If you’ve already Pavlov’s-dogged yourself into needing that tingling sensation in order to get a good workout have no fear, it’s not something dangerous.
It’s probably beta-alanine that your favorite blend uses to achieve that feeling, which isn’t harmful and can actually aid in physical efforts over a minute.
In part 2 I’ll cover BCAAs, Post Workout Supplements, Intra Workout Supplements, and Multivitamins. That’s when things get interesting.
As I mentioned multiple times throughout this article, if you have any questions or alternative opinions on my take on these types of supplements, do not hesitate to email me at email@example.com.
As always, when it comes to nutrition, your number one solution to any dietary need or hack should be to alter your diet of real foods to get adequate quantities and proportions of macro and micronutrients. Only after you have that dialed-in like I very explicitly outline in The Ultimate Composure Nutrition Guide should you bother walking down the supplement aisle.
If you made it this far in the article, you clearly care about your health and fitness. Why then have you not joined the Mighty Fit FB group? If you are in the group post in there which category of sports supplements that I covered in this article that you are the most disappointed by.
Everyone other than the likes of the Nabisco executive board agrees that processed foods are bad for you. But why exactly are they pinned as the food version of Lucifer by modern popular health gurus?
Do they cause disease?
Do they have mind control chemicals in them?
Are they simply a misunderstood solution to a problem we no longer have as a society?
Yes MREs are processed… Did I even need to point that out?
(Photo by Airman 1st Class Erick Requadt)
Why are our brains dumb?
We are mentally weak when it comes to unnaturally delicious foods.
Think about it in this context:
In Ye Olde Cave Man Days, food tasted terrible.
Fruit and veggies were fibrous and bitter, and animals were fast and difficult to catch.
Whenever they were caught, they were lean and not that delicious; they were, after all, eating the same fibrous foods as our ancestors.
If a food was delicious, it was a sign that it was calorie-dense, because it was loaded with either lots of fat or sugar. That food was devoured quickly, because it would provide much more energy than the foods on the typical menu.
If you’re gonna eat it, at least get it in your mouth!
Processed food isn’t the devil. Eating too much is.
Some research suggests that processed foods cause obesity, hypertension, high blood pressure, and cancer. But the poison probably isn’t the food itself. It’s the dose.
Too many processed foods lead to the above issues because it’s so easy to overeat them.
For instance: in order to get the same number of calories as a 16 ounce package of Oreos, you would need to eat roughly 250 ounces of broccoli. That’s over 15 pounds of broccoli! I’m pretty sure that’s physically impossible.
We usually only fill our gas tanks to the amount they can hold. What if instead of stopping there, I popped the hood of my car and sprayed gas all over the engine and other vehicular unmentionables? What if I then opened the driver’s side door and shot some gas into the passenger compartment of the car?
She is not going to have a happy tummy after that meal.
Do you think that there may be some negative side effects of over-fueling my vehicle in this way? Might my car develop type 2 car diabetes?
This is exactly what we do to our cells when we over-eat consistently. Our mitochondria (cellular engines) can no longer hold all of the energy inputs from the food we eat, just like the gas tank couldn’t hold any more fuel. Our mitochondria overflow and fuel spills out everywhere.
This is how we get fat and sick. This is also how you cause irreparable damage to the interior of your car.
Certain foods may be more prone to this phenomenon, like ultra-processed hyper-palatable foods. It is, in theory, possible with any food though.
There were no trees growing donuts 15,000 years ago…
What initially started as a way to ensure people never starve like they did during the Great Depression turned out to be profitable. So profitable that the health of the nation became a secondary concern of food companies. They became slaves to the bottom line.
Food companies became so good at convincing our dumb caveman brains to buy their products that we are now experiencing a great depression of a whole different degree. A great Individual depression when we look at our naked bodies in the mirror.
There are a lot of jobs in which some level of sleep deprivation is a requirement, but very few in which getting drunk is authorized– let alone encouraged. The military is one of those careers in which working sleep deprived is just another part of the job. As far as your brain is concerned, being sleep deprived or being drunk are basically the same thing.
You may want to think twice about intentionally skipping an opportunity to catch some z’s after you check out some of these crazy studies that show the similarities between a drunk brain and a tired brain.
Sometimes scientists have all the fun. This first study I want to bring up had two groups; group A got drunk, and group B got sleep deprived.
One of those groups clearly had better luck. Imagine if you volunteered to be a subject in a scientific study and they started pushing drinks on you…That’s way better than getting injected with some mystery substance. Sign me up for that study! On the other hand, being forced to stay up for 20 hours without sleep sounds miserable, especially if you’re just sitting in some lab somewhere.
The study in question compared the drunk people, with a BAC of .08 (the legal driving limit), to the sleepless people who were awake for 19 hours, in a memory test. Both groups performed equally as poorly on the test. End of story. This whole study was put together to prove that being sleep deprived makes you as dumb as getting legally drunk.
Grade “A” napping time…in transit.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Jordan Castelan)
When it comes to driving
In another study, the following four groups were compared in a driving simulator:
8 hours of sleep
4 hours of sleep
8 hours of sleep and legally drunk
4 hours of sleep and legally drunk
The sober group that got only four hours of sleep did as poorly as the group that was legally drunk but well-rested–which makes sense considering the results of the above study.
The crazy part of this study though is that the group that had only 4 hours of sleep and was legally drunk did way worse than predicted. It was expected that this group would have about 12 times as many driving errors as the well-rested group.
They had almost 30 times as many errors. That’s more than twice as bad as predicted.
This soldier deserves an award for being able to sleep with an energy drink flowing through his veins.
(Photo by Tech. Sgt. Joshua Garcia)
Being loaded with alcohol and sleep-deprived is pretty common among both service members and college kids, two groups that I clearly remember being a part of. I had NROTC unit PT on Tuesday mornings at 0630 in my senior year of college, then class pretty much all day until about 1700. I would also try to get in an actual training session, since PT was usually some nonsense. Then from 2200 until at least 0100 would be ‘Dollar Drinks’ at the bar I frequented.
By the end of the night, I would be up for 19 hours with at least 19 bucks worth of dollar drinks in my tummy.
Thankfully, I have grown and haven’t had a day and night like that in a while…
Leave it to service members to fall asleep anywhere but in their racks at the end of the day.
(Photo by Lt. Col. John Hall)
Normal sleep deprivation
But all those nights add up. After just ten days with only seven hours of sleep, the brain is as dysfunctional as if you went 24 hours without sleep.
To think that getting just one hour too few of sleep is going to make you dumber is nuts. But that’s what Dr. Matthew Walker has shown in his book Why We Sleep. So it’s pretty obvious that staying up late one night is going to impact your judgment.
You know how if you ask a drunk person if they are okay to drive, they almost always say yes? It’s not totally their fault–their judgment is impacted by the alcohol. They are literally incapable of accurately measuring how impaired they are, because the part of their brain that measures capability is drunk too. Take their keys.
Shhhh he’s restoring some brain function
(1st Lt. Benjamin Haulenbeek)
It’s the same with sleep-deprived people. If you are chronically sleep deprived, the part of your brain that measures capability is also sleep deprived.
So when you’re asked a question like…”Is this the best you could have done?” or “What in the Sam hell were you thinking!?” you may get indignant that your judgment is being questioned. You shouldn’t though; you are actually a lesser version of yourself, even when you miss only a few hours of sleep a couple of days in a row.
The hard part about this whole scenario is that the only way to truly find out what your 100% operating capacity is, is by getting a full 8 hours for at least a week to see how you feel. This is not nearly as simple as telling someone to go sober up.
The struggle is real brothers and sisters. You’ve been indoctrinated, but are now in the civilian world trying to figure out how to apply all of your skills, experiences, and structure to a seemingly impossibly chaotic world.
I wasn’t the best Marine, and I’ll be the first to admit that. I had long hair, I traveled on my own often, and I ignored most liberty restrictions. I told my E-dogs to stop saluting me, and I was constantly planning my next move after the Corps.
As far as I was concerned, I drank the least Kool-aid of anyone I knew.
I’m in there somewhere plotting my next move.
(Courtesy of one of the citizens of MOUT town)
After nearly five years of service, I was out and grateful. Grateful for everything I learned in the military, but also grateful that I could finally become the person I thought I was meant to be. There was one problem, though…
I was paralyzed by fear. Fear of failure, fear of making the wrong choice, fear of wasting time, fear of being an imposter veteran/adult/man. Fear that all of a sudden, my safety net was gone, and I was actually on my own. I had been on the government’s teat for a decade–I signed my first paperwork when I was 17 and was given the opportunity to go to college before active duty started.
I had bought into the culture of the military more than I ever realized. I feared for my future, because I knew it would never resemble my past.
Not me, but the point stands. The older you get, the more your body makes you pay for a night like this.
My first move involved scheduling every waking moment of my day.
Mind you, I was living in Bali at this point with a nice nest egg saved, so the expectation was that I would chill and decompress.
That was not f*cking happening though. I was stressed and lost. So I scheduled when I would wake up, work out, surf–I even scheduled naps. I needed structure. I wound myself up tighter than I had ever been while on active duty.
I was stressed, with no “daddy” to tell me what to do.
Eventually, I came undone and decided to relive my early 20’s, the years I had “missed.” It turns out I cannot handle alcohol or late nights partying like I could when I was 18 (err, I mean 21).
Hungover, happy, sad, or crying: I’m in there when it’s on the schedule.
(My phone and tripod)
That period didn’t last long. It was like a flash flood: it swept in, destroyed a lot, and was gone before I could ever move to higher ground.
Maybe that sounds familiar too?
Through the whole figuring-it-out phase, I had one practice that kept me sane and somewhat grounded: my training.
I never stopped training. I didn’t know what I was training for, I just knew I had to keep training.
Nothing better to teach the lessons of the world than a heavy barbell.
It turns out I was training for the day-to-day enemy. I just didn’t know it.
While on active duty, I spent a fair amount of time in the Philippines “training” with the Filipino military. They have terrorists in their backyard literally, so it was interesting to watch how they operate with the fight so close to home.
One day they were sitting in a briefing with me talking theory and best practices. The next day they were two-ish islands away in the jungle, their backyard, engaged in a firefight with terrorists. They had to be at the ready at a moment’s notice.
This is not something that U.S. military personnel can relate to easily. We have big, grand deployments with all the bells and whistles, halfway around the world in countries we would never otherwise visit. The enemy is far removed from the homeland. There are no terrorists in Pennsylvania; we are not used to an enemy constantly at the gates, like our Filipino counterparts are.
They have to be ready every single day, at any time, for the very real threats that are so close to home.
U.S. and Filipino forces training together in the Philippines. One of these guys is training, one is prepping for next week.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Courtney G. White)
Learning a daily cycle
So who are the enemies for us veterans?
With my military issued umbrella gone, I was opened up to a deluge of enemies in my own backyard. Even on a tropical paradise, I had to confront fears that never left my side. They come with me everywhere.
It takes an approach like that of the Filipino military to keep close-at-hand fears and inadequacies from crushing us into a debilitating depression.
The real world doesn’t give us a pre-deployment plan to prepare and train us to combat feelings of inadequacy. There is no doctrine written with step-by-step directions on how to troubleshoot imposter syndrome.
We are now like the gladiators of ancient Rome. We have to train for all possible contingencies and hope that our daily practices will allow us to walk out of the Colosseum of the day.
I keep my blade sharp, my rifle clean, and my mind clear through my daily practices. My training area is the gym. These tools have helped me find balance.
For those who’ve never been before, the gym can be an intimidating place. The weights are heavy, some of the isolation machines are complicated, and the other people look jacked. While everyone around you goes about their workout, you feel a little lost and you start feeling like you made a mistake just by showing up.
We call this, “gymtimidation.”
On the surface, the gym can seem like an unwelcoming place, even if the person at the first desk was so nice to you. And if you’re not in the best shape, standing next to some ripped guy or gal can make you feel insecure.
As with any new environment, it takes a little time to adapt to the gym. Fortunately, we’ve got a few tips that’ll help you feel a little more comfortable as you hit the weights.
Most of the time, finishing an intense workout is all about finding the proper motivation. Having a little support at the gym goes a long way. Nobody is going to motivate you like a good friend that’s also looking for results. Plus, working out with a few friends helps drown out some of the outside distractions that can make you uncomfortable.
Wear comfy clothes
Going to the gym doesn’t need to be a fashion statement, even if some people do dress up in expensive workout clothes for whatever reason. If you want to spend a pretty dime on the clothes you’re going to sweat in, that’s fine by us. Those who buy buy into the pricey trends tend to do so because it makes them feel better when they enter the weight room.
You don’t have to wear the newest Air Jordans or a Lululemon shirt, but if it’s comfortable and makes you feel more confident, then go for it.
It’s safe to say that most people have a general sense of what constitutes a solid workout. Push-ups, pull-ups, and sit-ups are some of the fundamentals and, if those are exercises you know, that’s fine. But the internet is full of free workout plans.
As long as you have a working smartphone, you can connect to the world wide web, even while you’re in the gym, and find tons of step-by-step workout routines.
It’s that freakin’ simple.
Listen to good music
The majority of gym-goers listen to music to help amp themselves up and get through their strenuous workouts. Listening to a good jam is the perfect way to tune out the world around you and focus on lifting all the weights you can. Before you know it, that “gymtimidation” you once felt will filter its way out of your mind.
At any given time, there are likely dozens of people working out in the same gym alongside you. The majority of all gym patrons have the same goal: to become healthier people. As long as you try to get in shape while you’re there, you’re just like everybody else.
Go during slow hours
Being uncomfortable in crowds can limit you in life. When it comes to getting a good workout, however, even those who are extremely comfortable in the gym like to show up during the slow hours.
Who the hell wants to wait on workout equipment anyways? Certainly not us.
You see all those toned people working out on the treadmills and in the weight room? Guess what: Those people decided that they were going to get in shape one day, just like you’re doing now. This might sound cheesy, but everyone starts on day one.
Building and toning muscle takes time, just like confidence. Remember, fitness is a process and a journey.
Working out in the military is like breathing oxygen — it keeps you going. Every troop is required to train their bodies to make themselves stronger, both mentally and physically. Not only does exercise toughen you up, it’s a great way to relieve the work-related stress we carry with us throughout the day.
Although the military provides service members with some pretty upscale and modern fitness centers, those who are deployed to the frontlines have to come up with some clever ways to get that daily muscle pump.
Also known as TRX, this specialized suspension system was developed by former U.S. Navy SEAL Randy Hetrick. All you need is a set of TRX straps and a sturdy platform on which to fasten them. The amount of exercises you can do with this contraption is limited only by the operator’s imagination.
You can’t start building a gym until you have a set of TRX straps on deck. (Alex Green YouTube)
2. A dip rack
Engineer stakes and Hesco barriers are readily accessible while stationed on a FOB. So, simply grab two engineer stakes and stab them into the Hesco and, boom, you’ve got yourself a dip rack.
3. The mighty sandbag straight bar
You can either tie a full sandbag to a metal pipe with 550 cord or rip a hole in the bag and slide the pole through. Either way, you now have a weight with which to do a few arm exercises.
The sandbag straight bar. There’s nothing like using what you have to bulk up. (Alex Green YouTube)
Alright, so there’s no construction required here, but wherever you get stationed, if there’s armored vehicle driving around, you can find a tire and start flipping that sucker.
This Marine flips over heavy tires from an armored vehicle to get his daily workout. (Alex Green YouTube)
When armored vehicles break down or get damaged, they get towed out of trouble using heavy metal chains. Guess what? If you tactically acquire a set or two, you can now lift the hell out of them as many times as you want.
6. Pull-up bar
Pull-ups are some of the best strength training exercises for someone looking to build up their upper body — and they’re also the most accessible. All you’ll need to set up a station is a sturdy bar and a structure to mount it on.
There are two general types of elbow pain; golfer’s elbow and tennis elbow. Two very white collar injuries that have nothing to do with spandex singlets or cage matches. That’s good for us. It means we don’t need to fight a roided out muscle man to relieve our elbow discomfort.
Check out that wrist extension. There’s a reason it’s called tennis elbow.
(U.S.Air Force photo/Bill Evans)
Tennis elbow comes from an issue with your forearm extensors. Those are the muscles on the same side of your forearm as the back of your hand.
Repetitive movements that engage the extensors can start to cause them to become overactive, eventually shorten, and pull away from their connection on the outside of the elbow.
Tennis players generally live in an extended position while swinging the racket, when the ball is hit those muscles loosen dramatically. It’s that rapid contraction and loosening that causes pain.
This same thing happens in the weight room, whether you’re benching or manipulating dumbbells; the forearm extensors end up in a stuck contracted position. This is an overuse injury that is super easy to fix, which we’ll get into shortly.
Just some AF brass doin’ what they do best…
(U.S. Air Force photo by Giancarlo Casem)
Golfer’s elbow is the exact opposite problem of tennis elbow; the issue is in your forearm flexors. Those are the muscles on the same side of your arm as your palm. These muscles become overly contracted, shortened, and eventually pull away from the bone on the inside of the elbow.
Golfers tend to live in this position when they hold their club.
In the gym, this pain can occur from cheating on pulling movements. When your back is too weak to finish a movement you may tend to curl the weight in closer with your forearm to get an extra inch or so of movement. If you’re too weak to let the weight back gently, which is probably the case, if you’re cheating on the rep, it’s going to snap back and cause an eccentric pull in your forearm. Over time this leads to chronic pain.
Elbow Pain When Working Out (WHY & HOW TO FIX IT!!)
Just add these to your training sessions three times per week until the pain subsides. Once you’re pain free you can reduce to training your forearms one time a week.
I fully understand that this article is by no means exhaustive. Respond in the comments of this article on Facebook or send me a direct message at firstname.lastname@example.org with your sticking points, comments, or concerns on all things elbow pain.
I’m also making a push to keep the conversation going over at the Mighty Fit Facebook Group. If you haven’t yet joined the group, do so. It’s where I spend the most time answering questions and helping people get the most out of their training.
In a recent, article discussing the Three Phases of Tactical Fitness, many recruits find themselves stuck in phase 1 of tactical fitness (Testing Phase) for far too long. To achieve exceptional PT scores, it may take a recruit 6-12 months or more depending upon your athletic background and training history. Typically, if you join the military unprepared for this test, this period of time has the added pressure of Spec Ops Mentors and Recruiters with the time crunch of the Delayed Entry Program (DEP).
Here are two scenarios the recruit can choose to be a part of:
1. Turned 18 – time to enlist
If your goal is to turn 18 and enlist, great! Thanks for considering military service for a future career – we need more Americans like you. However, are you “really ready” to go from high school kid to special ops recruit / candidate? If you have not taken the physical screen test (PST) yet (on your own) and are crushing the events, then NO you are not ready to start this process. If you continue on this journey you will likely either not ever pass the PST prior to your ship date or just barely pass the competitive standards, get selected for Special Ops (SO rating in the Navy), and soon ship to boot camp. Great right? Well, you prepared well enough to get TO BUD/S but have you prepared at all to get THROUGH BUD/S? Have you turned 1.5 mile runs into fast 4 mile timed runs? Have you turned 500yd swims without fins into 2 mile swims with fins? Have you continued your PT but added strength workouts to prepare for log PT, boat carries,rucking, and other load bearing events? If you have not spent a significant amount of your time in this THROUGH cycle (Phase 2 Tactical Fitness), then you will likely successfully make it into BUD/S for about two weeks on average. Quitting and injury typically follow – statistically speaking.
2. Crushed PST many times — ready to enlist
If you have taken the PST countless amount of times, have worked on a strategy for optimal performance and are hitting the advanced competitive scores, it is time. Take the PST and crush it the first time. Now you have a standard of above average passing standard that you can maintain while you focus more on getting THROUGH BUD/S with faster / longer runs, longer swims, rucking, strength training for the load bearing activities at BUDS. You may even have time to practice some land navigation, knot tying, water confidence, or even take a SCUBA course. The goal of the time you have in DEP now is to focus on your weaknesses and turn them into strengths. And when you start to enjoy your prior weaknesses, you are ready. You will still have to ace the PST regularly so make your warmups be calisthenics / testing focused and the added longer runs / swims / rucks and lifts to follow. See Tactical Fitness or Tactical Strength for ideas.
To ALL recruits: exercise patience
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by George Melendez)
If a recruit would take 6-12 months before talking to a recruiter and joining the DEP, the recruit could be fully prepared to crush the PST on day one. Because if you do not get competitive PST scores to be put into the system, you will be in test taking mode until you pass. When you pass the first time, you can start preparing for phase 2 of tactical fitness (getting THROUGH the training). However, making sure you can crush the PST even on a bad day is a requirement as you will be taking the test at both boot camp and Pre-BUD/S, and BUD/S Orientation. If you fail the PST at Boot camp, Pre-BUDS, or BUD/S Orientation, you go home.
Tactical Fitness Phase 2 requires you to focus on the specifics of your future spec ops selection. This is what you need to be spending most of your time prior to boot camp doing. Longer runs, rucks, longer swims with fins, and high rep PT, weight training to prepare for the load bearing of boat carries and log PT and grinder PT.
When you think about tactical fitness you cannot confuse the three phases of the journey (To, Through, and Active Duty Operator).
Phase 1: recruit
Focus your training on testing to get into the training program you seek but also worked on any weaknesses you may have (strength, endurance, stamina, run, swim, ruck, etc…). This may take 6-12 months at least, make sure you place this phase in front of your recruiter visit.Tactical Fitness Phase 2 requires you to focus on the specifics of your future spec ops selection. This is what you need to be spending most of your time prior to boot camp doing. Longer runs, rucks, longer swims with fins, and high rep PT, weight training to prepare for the load bearing of boat carries and log PT and grinder PT.
When you think about tactical fitness you cannot confuse the three phases of the journey (To, Through, and Active Duty Operator).
Phase 2: student
Preparing to become a student in a challenging selection, Boot Camp, academy type program requires specific training for those challenges. Focus on weaknesses as a week within your selection training will expose them.
Phase 3: operator
You will not even get here if you are not adequately prepared for Phases 1 and 2. Do not rush it – get ready first THEN charge forward fully prepared.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.