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.
If you struggle with exercises like pull-ups or the deadlift, chances are your legs and back aren’t to blame. It’s your weak-ass grip.
Have you ever used wrist straps while deadlifting or doing a back exercise?
If you have, then you know it’s usually much easier to go as heavy as possible. Why?
Your limiting factor isn’t that your back or legs are weak, it’s your grip.
For pull-ups, it’s more of the same story. You’ve probably noticed that doing exercises like rows and pulldowns for 10 to 15 isn’t too bad, even when the weight is more than your bodyweight. But doing the same for full range pull-ups is out of the question.
Again, it’s not your back that needs work but instead your grip strength.
If your weak grip is an issue and you want to learn some tricks for fixing it, check these suggestions out.
Thumb-over grip is better for mobility on pull-ups but harder on your grip strength.
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Jacob Wilson
Bodyweight and weighted dead hangs
If you want a strong grip, try hanging on a bar for as long as possible. While it seems basic, chances are you can’t hang for more than a minute, at least at first.
Try jumping onto a pull-up bar with a pronated grip, where your hands are facing away from you. Allow your arms to fully extend overhead and hang unassisted for as long as possible. Then, repeat.
Once a minute is easy, start adding multiple sets.
When that gets too easy, add some extra weight with a dumbbell between your feet or thighs and repeat the process.
If you have access to one of these pinch grip bars give it a shot. You’ll be amazed at how much less weight you can handle than with a traditional barbell.
U.S. Air Force photo by Roland Balik
The best part about building grip strength is that the techniques to do so are simple. Just like with dead hangs, a great way to develop massive grip strength is to hold on to some heavy ass weight for as long as possible.
Similar to dead hangs, set up a barbell in a squat rack with the safety pins just above your knees. Then, work up to a weight that you would come close to maxing out on the deadlift for three reps. Hold the weight for as long as you can and work your way up to 60 seconds per set.
The only thing here is that for maximum benefit, you can’t use an alternate grip if you usually do while deadlifting. You do that because it’s easier to hold on, right?
Instead, use a pronated or double overhand grip while doing dead holds. It will be humbling at first, but over time, your grip will become unstoppable.
Obviously, grip strength is huge if you expect to max out the deadlift on the ACFT.
U.S. Army Courtesy Photo
If you’ve got a weak grip, you also need to train the muscles in your hands that allow your fingers to stay firmly wrapped around the bar. One of the easiest ways to develop finger strength is the plate hold.
Depending on your grip strength, you want to start with a 10 to 45 pound weightlifting plate, like the ones you used to deadlift. Turn the plate vertical and grip the edge with your four fingers on one side and your thumb on the other.
Pick the plate up and hold for as long as possible. If you want an extra challenge, see how far your walk while holding the heaviest plate possible with your fingers.
No, seriously, using a towel to train is a lesser-known grip training tactic.
If you think doing a pull-up on a bar is challenging, try wrapping a towel around that bar and doing pull-ups while holding the towel instead.
The best thing here is that this tactic can be used with other equipment as well.
You can wrap the towel around the handle of a dumbbell or kettlebell and do curls or farmer’s walks. You can even use a towel for machines like lat pulldowns too.
Believe it or not, even repeatedly ringing out a thick towel is an effective way to build wrist and grip strength.
Just keep in mind, not all towels are created equal.
If you’re going to try and use this method for an exercise like pull-ups, place a crash pad underneath you, have a spotter or use a pull-up assist machine just in case the towel breaks.
Don’t be a looky-loo. Go try some of this stuff and get better.
(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Spc. Jason Archer)
If you have a solid training program that holistically trains your entire body, then grip strength probably isn’t a concern of yours. If you’re like most people and lack that training plan then sign up for The Mighty Fit Plan… it’s free and the perfect thing to help get your grip strength up to snuff.
Don’t forget to check out the Mighty Fit FB group for more Military and Veteran training greatness.
Looking for a ridiculous fitness challenge to keep you on track this winter? Or maybe you’re just tired of the same old boring lift routine and need something new. Well, friends, let us introduce you to one of the most insane things to come out of CrossFit ever – the Burpee Mile Challenge.
You read that right – burpees for an entire mile.
The challenge isn’t so much about competing for a specific time, as it is one of those things you can say you’ve done and cross off your list. Like running the Red Bull 400 or completing a Ragnar, doing the Spartan Death Race, marathon rucking, or ultramarathoning.
So let’s talk about this challenge – what it is, the benefits of it, and how you can safely train to complete it.
The Burpee Mile challenge isn’t one of Crossfit’s better known WODS (Workout of the day) – it doesn’t classify as a Hero WOD that pays tribute to military and first responders, and it’s not one of the Girl WODs, but it’s definitely a benchmark. Doing burpees for an entire mile will test not just your physical ability to do over 800 burpees but also your mental toughness as well. First, the official rules: You must cover one-mile using burpees only. You can jump forward as far as you want for each burpee, but you’re not allowed to walk forward. So that’s on track to be a complete, full mile of burpees. Gross.
But the sneaky trick here is that you can jump forward as far as you want (or can). That means all your movement doesn’t have to come from burpees alone. That’s key if you’re really considering this challenge.
The best part is you don’t need any special equipment – just a stretch of distance to measure your progress. Gloves are a good idea if you’re doing this on anything other than soft ground since your hands are likely to get destroyed. A good goal time should be around 2 to 3 hours for beginners (that’s anyone who’s new to the painful love of burpees), 1.5-2.5 hours for intermediate burpee lovers, and for folks who knock out 100 burpees a day just for fun, your time should be less than two hours.
Keep in mind if you’ve never done a burpee in your life, this might not be a good challenge for you to try.
(U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Joel Mease)
So what are the benefits and what’s the point?
Well, the benefits are scant, to be honest. Sure, you’ll get a really good cardio because, of course, that’s going to happen when you perform so many burpees and broad jumps. But you’ll also fatigue your entire body, since burpees are a full-body movement. The combination of great cardio and improved muscle endurance will definitely put you one step closer to becoming stronger, leaner, and faster.
Benefits aside, the point is that the Burpee Mile is a workout that you’re going to want to quit … over and over and over again. It’s mentally challenging, just like running a marathon or doing a Spartan Race, and that’s the whole point. Challenging your mental stamina is all about perseverance and the Burpee Mile will definitely help with that.
Things to consider
A track is best for all these burpees because you’ll be safer than on the road, and it’s easier to measure distance. Make sure you have water and snacks like fast-acting carbs set up at various points along the route. You’re definitely going to need to refuel at least once during this challenge because it takes so much out of you.
As for clothing – long pants are best since you’re dropping to the ground. Knee sleeves can be a good idea, too, if you have those. No matter what, though, make sure you have a pair of gloves on – otherwise, your hands are going to get destroyed.
Don’t start off too fast. Just like with any other endurance race, save your go-go juice for when you really need it. Keep your jumps measured. Don’t try to jump too far. That just wastes energy and you’ll fry your legs.
Of course, the most common mistake is failing to train properly for this weird challenge. Don’t expect to walk onto a track and perform two hours’ worth of burpees right out of the gate. Work toward this goal by adding in several sets of burpee broad jumps to your existing routine. You know you’re ready to try the challenge when you can do 45 minutes of burpees without dying.
When service members go to basic, all the people who weren’t fitness addicts or athletes are excited about how fit they can get in just a couple of months of training. But, it’s not like the training cadre had magic wands. They made the recruits work for those muscles.
Some veterans forget these lessons and a lot of civilians buy into the fitness industry’s hype about gym memberships, diet shakes, and magic pills. But vets, think back to basic and to active duty. Did you platoon sergeant bring you smoothies in the morning? No, they just instilled these 7 lessons in you:
1. Set goals and increase them as you get stronger
The military loves the cliche of “crawl, walk, run.” While literally crawling may be a bit of a slow start to a workout program, it is good to start low and build up. Veterans who have let their standards slide shouldn’t jump straight into the hard stuff.
Try making two lists. The first is aspirational, everything you want to be able to do or do again one day. Run five miles without walking, do 100 pushups in two minutes, whatever. Then list everything you’re pretty sure you could do right now. Jog 0.5 miles, 5 pushups, whatever. Finally, start setting weekly goals to get from the second list to the first list. You can adjust these later if need be.
The second list, what you can do right now, is “crawling,” the in-between goals are “walking,” and “running” is when you tear up the aspirational list and make a whole new set of milestones to go after.
2. Anything is a weight
Soldiers and Marines conduct ruck marches with packs weighed down by actual gear. They practice buddy carries by carrying their actual buddy. And, they often use sand bags or water jugs for resistance during squats and lunges.
Similarly, you shouldn’t feel limited at home by a lack of special equipment or gym membership. Load a backpack with dense objects for a more strenuous run. Do curls with a toolkit or light luggage. Complete squats or lunges with a gallon of water or another object in each hand.
3. Make a course
During PT runs, the instructor may designate specific points the formation has to sprint to or a distance they have to lunge across instead of run. While it’s easiest to do this at an athletic field where yard markers or bases can be used as reference points, it’s easily done anywhere.
Try sprinting past a set number of telephone poles before jogging past twice as many, then repeat the process 9 more times. Or alternate between lunging and jogging, changing exercises every time you pass a mailbox.
4. Change up your movements
The Army has about 9 different versions of crawling (low crawl, high crawl, bear crawl, gator crawl, etc.), a dozen variations on walking (range walk, crab walk, ruck marching, etc.) and a few unique ways to run. Each of these changes works different muscles in different ways and the novelty helps break up the monotony.
Try the same thing with your workouts. Don’t just go for a jog every day. Do a five-mile run one day, sprints another, and alternate between lunges and jogging on another. Change gator crawls in for pushups some days or try calisthenics on your normal core workout day.
5. Workout with a buddy
Troops may go on a run or hit the gym every once in a while on their own, but they’re usually there with others dudes from the squad or platoon. And every morning they work out as a unit, running in formation or doing muscle failure exercises and calisthenics as a group.
So pick a buddy with similar goals and get to work with them. It’ll help you stay accountable (more on that later) and will make it something to look forward to, not just a dreaded task.
6. Do actual, physical work (or fake it, if there’s no work to do)
Service members spend at least 30 percent of their time just packing and unpacking connexes or inventorying gear. While many soldiers think this is a horrible waste of time, it’s actually a secret program to make troops super strong.
Moving furniture yourself, working in the yard, or even taking the stairs can help you incorporate exercise during the day. If you don’t have any work to do or stairs to climb, you can incorporate a little “fake” work. Dig holes and fill them back in, chop wood, or just re-organize your room or bookshelves.
7. Use accountability and consequences, not just discipline
Look, no one who isn’t a fitness addict wants to spend all their time in the gym and be super diligent about dieting. Even in the military, a lot of people would love pizza, beer, and sleeping-in as opposed to hard work and dieting. But the military has NCOs who will destroy people who skip formation because even disciplined people can give in when other priorities create conflicts.
The trap bar deadlift isn’t a true deadlift. It’s somewhere between a squat and a deadlift. As a hip hinge stickler. it’s hard to watch just about every video I’ve seen of soldiers conducting this movement. There’s too much knee flexion most of the time.
The trap bar deadlift DOES use more knee flexion than a traditional deadlift. BUT it doesn’t need all the hip flexion you guys are giving it.
The reason there’s more knee flexion is because the handles on the trap bar are closer to your center of gravity than the bar is during a conventional deadlift. This means you don’t need to hip hinge as far forward with a trap bar.
But you still need to hinge.
You should only be bending at your knees, and hips for that matter, as far as you have to in order to reach the ground. If any part of your body is moving, but the bar isn’t, you’re wrong.
It’s a little bit like a squat and a little bit like a deadlift.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Neysa Canfield)
It’s not a true squat
This may seem like a weird statement. It’s called a deadlift, not a squat so obviously, the trap bar deadlift isn’t a true squat. Hear me out though.
Lower body movements are generally broken into two main groups:
Knee dominant movements
Hip dominant movements
The king hip dominant movement is the deadlift. The king knee dominant movement is the squat. The trap bar deadlift isn’t wholly a hip hinge like the conventional deadlift, and it isn’t wholly knee dominant like the back squat.
It’s somewhere in between the two.
Which if we’re being honest is how you should ideally pick something up. The trap bar deadlift assumes that you’re getting the weight as close to your center of gravity as possible, and you’re recruiting the most amount of muscle as possible (quads, hamstrings, and glutes).
Your hips should be lower and your knee angle should be smaller.
SO…It’s a hybrid
This is actually good. It means you can get more quad involved in the movement than a conventional deadlift. It also means you can get more hamstring involved than a traditional squat. This means you can be stronger in the trap bar deadlift…if you train for it properly with correct form.
The handcuff hinge is the go-to movement to teach a hip hinge. We are taught by people who don’t know what they’re talking about to fear lifting with our hips, often because lifting with the hips is confused with lifting with the back.
Your hips AKA your hamstrings and glutes can be the strongest muscles in your body if you train them using hip hinge movements like the deadlift or good mornings.
Use the handcuff hinge to help you commit the hip hinge pattern to your neural matrix. Check out the video above for specifics on how to perform it.
This is a really basic way to prep for this test.
(I made this.)
How to train: 3 MONTH PLAN
Because the trap bar deadlift is a hybrid between the squat and the deadlift, it’s super easy to train for. You should simply break up your strength days into three main lower-body movements. It can look something like this:
Monday: Conventional or Sumo Deadlift 3 sets of 3-10 reps at RPE 8
Wednesday: Back Squat 3 sets of 3-10 reps at RPE 8
Friday: Trap bar Deadlift 3 sets of 3-10
Your rep scheme should change every 4-6 weeks. Let’s say your ACFT is Jan. 1, I would break up your rep scheme to something like this leading up to the event.
Oct 7- Nov. 2: Sets of 10 reps
Nov. 3-30: Sets of 6 reps
Dec. 1-28; Sets of 3 reps
You’re busy; don’t waste your time doing Alternate Staggered Squat Jumps or Forward Lunges. They lack the ability to load heavy enough and are unilateral movements that require a balance component that’s completely irrelevant to the trap bar deadlift. If you have a plan that uses these movements, throw it in the garbage.
Being strong doesn’t necessarily mean you’re cool.
This article is intended to give you some basic information on the trap bar deadlift. It 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 the trap bar deadlift.
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.
We’ve all seen them before. The cans, small shots, and uniquely packaged energy drinks that promise to give you an energy boost during the most important parts of your day. At first glance, it seems like a great idea: chug it down and get reinvigorated for the day. But, if you go beyond wanting to simply stay alert and begin to overindulge, you could wind up doing some serious harm to your body.
Energy drinks became the beverage of choice for many service members during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The Walter Reed Army Institute of Research analyzed data collected during Operation Enduring Freedom in 2010 and found nearly 45 percent of deployed service members consumed at least one energy drink daily. Nearly 14 percent reported drinking three or more per day.
Many of the most popular energy drinks are heavily marketed to young people, including military members. The marketing is sexy, the packaging is slick, the flavors are sweet like fruit drinks children crave, and the beverages are readily available on military bases and down range.
But, there are real reasons to avoid overusing energy drinks.
Energy drinks can cause drastic side effects
Energy drinks are loaded with caffeine, and too much of it isn’t good for you. Dr. Patricia Deuster, professor and director of the Consortium for Health and Military Performance at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, warns service members to avoid consuming more than 200 mg of caffeine every four hours. That means service members should add up the caffeine in their energy drinks, plus any other caffeinated beverages they may drink, like coffee and soft drinks.
“If it’s got more than 200 mg of caffeine, don’t use it,” cautions Deuster.
Deuster also warns female service members to be cautious about using energy drinks, noting the amount of caffeine you ingest relative to body weight is an issue for women. “Women get a higher concentration [of caffeine] since they tend to be smaller,” she said.
“Doctors don’t know what the effects of [energy drink] ingredients are in larger doses,” Deuster noted. “I don’t think anybody has an answer to the long term effects question.”
High amounts of caffeine can lead to increased blood pressure, panic attacks, heart palpitations, anxiety, dehydration, insomnia, and even bowel irritability when energy drinks are mixed with alcohol.
What is clear is consumers need to be more aware about what they’re putting in their bodies when it comes to energy drinks.
Energy drinks can activate your sweet tooth
Energy drinks are loaded with sugar. Some cans pack a punch of 27 grams of sugar — two thirds of the recommended daily maximum for men, and 2 grams more than the maximum doctors recommend for women. Some service members can double or even triple that if they drink more than one energy drink per day.
All of that extra sugar can cause your blood sugar to increase. Even the sugar-free versions of energy drinks can lead to weight gain, as research suggests artificial sweeteners may raise blood sugar, too.
Your body can also begin storing fat, especially if you’re unable to increase physical activity.
Energy drinks + alcohol = a dangerous cocktail
Energy drinks have become popular mixers for alcohol, raising concerns for health experts.
“A lot of the young people mix energy drinks with alcoholic beverages, then you’ve got a wide awake drunk,” says Deuster.
The CDC warns that when alcoholic beverages are mixed with energy drinks, the caffeine stimulant can mask the effects of the alcohol, which is a depressant. Often, the person drinking doesn’t even realize that they’re actually drunk. According to the CDC, that means people who mix alcohol with energy drinks are three times more likely to binge drink than those who don’t mix alcohol with energy drinks. Experts warn motor skills can be affected and some people engage in riskier behaviors while under the influence of alcohol and energy drinks. Additionally, both caffeine and alcohol are diuretics, which can cause dehydration if you’re not careful.
Some companies sell pre-mixed alcoholic energy drinks which have the same sweet or tart flavors as standard energy drinks. As the Army notes, the alcohol content in these beverages can be significantly higher than what’s found in beer.
These energy drinks with alcohol may appeal to underage drinkers because they’re cheaper than hard liquor and they’re marketed with a message that the drinker can last all day or all night long. The sugary nature of the beverages also makes drinkers feel they can imbibe longer than if they were having harder alcohol.
Energy drinks can ruin your good night’s sleep
Deuster raises concerns about a problem in the military with energy drinks and sleep. And, the data back up those concerns. While service members may initially use energy drinks to make up for a lack of sleep, overuse can lead to a harmful cycle. Excess consumption of energy drinks can cause sleep problems and hamper performance.
Dr. Nancy J. Wesensten, from the Center for Military Psychiatry and Neurosciences Research, tells Army Medicine that research on caffeine shows that it can be effective if used properly. However, Wesensten notes “because caffeine impairs sleep, individuals should stop all caffeine consumption at least 6 hours prior to scheduled sleep. Otherwise, sleep could be impaired without the person even being aware of it.”
As caffeine is the major ingredient in energy drinks, the CDC reports service members who drink three or more of the drinks per day were significantly more likely to report sleeping fewer than four hours per night. They were also more likely to report disrupted sleep and other illnesses. Lack of sleep can impact memory and a service member’s ability to pay attention when it matters most. Research indicates service members who drank three or more energy drinks each day also had difficulty staying awake during briefings or on guard duty.
The Army’s Performance Triad offer tips on how to get a better night’s sleep, including controlling light and temperature, as well as leaders ensuring service members have time for quality sleep.
You really don’t know what’s in them
These drinks are not regulated as dietary supplements. While the cans have nutrition labels, many do not list supplement information.
One area that’s concerning to Deuster is the ingredient taurine. The chemical compound is an amino acid found in animal tissue. Many manufacturers purport the ingredient will enhance mental and physical performance. Researchers with the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center report little is actually is known about taurine’s neuroendocrine effects.
So, what should service members use instead of energy drinks?
Deuster keeps it simple: “Good old water.” Appealing to service members’ frugality, she adds,
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Gym-goers the world over have proclaimed that Mondays are International Chest Days. This is because the chest is considered one of the most important parts of the male physique. Why? It’s simple. Having a well-trained chest tends to draw wandering eyes while you’re at the beach, and who doesn’t want that positive attention?
Now, waking up and doing a few push-ups is a start, but it isn’t going to give you that fully defined look that most males want to achieve before getting their feet sandy. It takes solid form, controlled repetition, and the continual introduction of new exercises to get the results you want.
Since our bodies are amazing at adapting, switching up how we workout is essential to continued growth. You can do a variety of movements to get a good pump, but remember, it’s “time under tension” that will get those muscles to reach their full potential.
So, warm up for a few minutes with some cardio or by lightly working those chest muscles using resistance bands and let’s go!
First, find a manageable set of dumb bells. Not too light, but not too heavy. Then, lay flat on a workout bench and bring the weights up toward your chest and hold them in position. Once you’re ready to begin, press the weight up over your chest and then slowly bring them back to their original position.
Each rep should take around three seconds. One second to get the weight up, another second as you squeeze your pectorals, and finally a full second to bring the weight down.
Now, do two to three more sets of 10 to 15 reps each.
Take a seat on an incline bench and pick up the D-handles attached a cable weight system. Next, move the handles up and far in front of your chest until you touch the two handles together. Make sure you squeeze your chest muscles for a second or two before lowering the handles back to their starting position.
After picking a manageable weight, lay on a flat bench and bring the dumb bells up together, over your chest. Make sure the weights remain touching as you bring them down toward the center of your chest.
Some trainers encourage their clients to flare their elbows out as they bring the load down, while others suggest keeping those puppies pointing inward. We recommend you follow whatever feels better and doesn’t add too much tension to your elbows. Remember, we’re focusing on your chest, not your elbows.
This is one of our favorites. Once you hop up on the dip rack, lean your body forward to put maximum tension on your chest muscles. Next, slowly lower your body down and raise it back up. We recommend taking about four to six seconds for each rep. Two to three seconds down and two to three seconds up.
Sit down on the machine and grab onto the handles. Check to see if your arms are parallel to the deck. If not, adjust your seat so that your arms are as close to parallel with the floor as possible.
Start the rep by bringing your hands toward your body’s centerline and, as always, squeeze your chest when you reach the peak of the movement. Then, slowly return the handles to their original position and enjoy that extra stretch.
First, get on your knees as if you were preparing to do a regular push-up, then place your two thumbs and two index fingers together, creating a diamond-shaped hole between. Prop your body up on your newly formed diamond and start pushing out those reps.
You want to do these until you just can’t go on. That’s what we in the biz call, “going until failure.”
Now, go out there and make at least one day of every week chest day. ‘Merica!
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)?
In the mountains of Crested Butte Colorado, the Adaptive Sports Center is working to help people with disabilities enjoy physically rigorous activities both in indoor facilities and in the beautiful mountains of the area. They not only welcome disabled veterans and others who live an adaptive lifestyle, but they give lessons to those people and close family and friends to help them enjoy the sports safely. And a new building is helping them do even more.
Crested Butte is an inspiring place for an adaptive sports center as it is home to a lake, a reservoir, plenty of great rock climbing areas, mountain trails, and awesome slopes for skiing, snowboarding, and more.
But of course, many of those activities are challenging for veterans and others who have disabilities. So the ASC has always provided the special equipment necessary to make the slopes, trails, and more accessible. They also have trainers that can help disabled people learn how to use the equipment properly, and the trainers even help friends and family members learn unfamiliar sports and activities so that wounded veterans and others can bond as a group in the outdoors.
And while the ASC supports plenty of individuals and families with no military affiliation, they also make a point of helping veteran and military families like the Dryers, an Air Force family. Mitchell Dryer, a former Air National Guard firefighter, was injured in a fire and his daughter, Emeri, lost control of her legs to an infection as a baby.
Emeri learned to ski at the ASC. A skilled skier took her on the slopes after she had learned to give them the commands for “faster” and “slower.” Now, she carves the slopes with the rest of her family.
There are also participants like Jose, a veteran combat medic who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder but uses adaptive cycling and cooking to center and challenge himself.
The facilities and personnel at ASC are essential to making many of these transitions possible, but the folks at the center are celebrating the recent opening of a whole new facility that expands their care possibilities.
The Kelsey Wright Building was built in 2018-2019 and is now open. One of its prime offerings is that it allows participants to ski into and out of the building during winter programs, which is great because it houses lots of support activities for the ASC’s mission.
It has a space where personnel can assess the capabilities of participants, an area to modify, repair, and properly fit equipment, and an industrial kitchen. But it also has a lot of great space that isn’t directly tied to outdoor services. It has a classroom, a library, a housing area, and an adaptive climbing wall.
The ASC does ask participants to pay what they can for all the activities they use at the center, but everything is done at reduced cost, and they offer scholarships for those who need financial assistance. If your family or the family of someone you know would benefit from their services, you can find more information here.
If you’re interested in donating to the non-profit center to help it with its missions, you can do that here. The Adaptive Sports Center is a 501 (C) 3 non-profit organization and donations are tax-deductible.
I took the top 50 products for sale on bodybuilding.com, broke them down into their parent categories, and am now telling you which you should buy and which you shouldn’t even take if it’s free. In part 1, I covered Protein powder, pre-workout, and creatine. You can read that one here.
Now it’s time for the most controversial of all sports supplements, BCAAs, and a potentially novel look at multivitamins. Plus, the final word on fat burners.
I’m going to be 100% blunt here. BCAAs are 100% useless and redundant if you are eating an adequate amount of dietary protein and/or supplementing with protein powder.
They do little more than supply you with enough amino acids to have a muscle protein synthesis response.
They don’t give you energy. That’s typically the caffeine added to many BCAAs.
They don’t burn fat. That also is typically caffeine or another stimulant that raises your metabolism/body temperature in a small way. That being said, whatever the “fat burner” is in your BCAA blend, it is not a true fat burner. There is no such thing as a supplement or substance on the market that directly targets body fat and only body fat. That’s not how the human body works.
If you like to train, ‘fasted’ BCAAs may have some efficacy. Recognize though that BCAAs DO break your fast, and you are no longer technically in a fasted state. Anyone that tells you otherwise probably endorses fasted training somewhat exclusively and sells BCAAs.
I’m happy to address any issue you have with my opinion on BCAAs in a future article. Send me an email at email@example.com, and I will include a direct response to you.
There is no evidence that I’m aware of that suggests that there is any post-workout supplement that is better at replenishing the body than a regular meal of whole foods that includes an adequate portion of protein (see the protein powder section above), vegetables, carbohydrates, fats, and salt.
That’s all I’ll say about post-workout supplements. They are solidly the biggest lie that supplement companies are trying to sell currently. Just have a meal instead. Check out the above video to understand how the anabolic window is more like a barn door.
The majority of fat burners that have any form of measurable effect like Yohimbine have much more noticeable side effects that, in my opinion, completely negate any benefit.
If you actually are ready to lose fat, then consult the Ultimate Composure Nutrition Guide. I give a very simple step-by-step process for you to start losing your unwanted fat for good. Oh yeah, and it’s much cheaper than any fat burner…IT’S FREE. Get it in my Free Resources Vault here.
If you’re a skeleton you should probably be taking a multi.
(U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Staff Sgt. Alexandre Montes)
I prefer to adopt the stance that Examine.com has taken on the multivitamin. Basically, you should only consider taking a multivitamin if:
You’re at risk for a nutritional deficiency and can’t adjust your diet.
You can find a multivitamin that will address the previously mentioned deficiency.
And buying the multivitamin is smarter financially/ logistically than buying individual micronutrients.
I like to add one more caveat to the above criteria though.
You’ve talked to your doctor/medical professional about what you may be deficient in and, if appropriate, have been tested to see if you are in fact deficient.
That may seem like a lot. I know, but it’s a far cry better than blindly taking a multivitamin to solve some unknown issues that may not even be a concern in the first place. You’re basically just throwing money away if you’re taking one and don’t know why, you’re also missing out on an opportunity to get to know your body a little bit better.
What’s more, is that many multivitamins are so “multi” that they don’t contain enough of any one vitamin or mineral to be effective at combating a real deficiency.
With access to Google and most doctors wanting to constantly prove how smart they are, it’s pure laziness on your part to not look a little deeper into your actual mineral and vitamin needs. Here’s a great place to start.
In part 3 I’ll finish off with Intra-workout supplements, Testosterone boosters, Omega 3 Fatty Acids, Pump Stimulators, and Mass Gainers. I’ll then finish off with some overall guidance on how to look at supplementation in general.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 are you most disappointed by.
The gym is full of people of every age, race, and religion, all of whom have their own reasons for being there. It’s a place where people can build themselves up, both mentally and physically, in a positive environment. Unfortunately, there’s a select few who show up with other things on their minds.
These “gym skunks” usually show up to hit the weights, but then quickly decide to do and say stupid sh*t, leaving people asking themselves, “why even show up?”
Avoid these 6 things to save yourself from being one of those skunks.
Circuit training outside of circuit training sessions
Circuit training is a workout method in which you conduct a series of exercises, back-to-back, in a specific and dedicated area. One biggest pains in the ass is when you’re about to use a machine or bench and somebody rushes over from the other side of the gym to let you know they’re using that machine.
Unless the gym is specifically dedicated to circuit training, this kind of behavior boils down to hogging machines that you aren’t even currently using.
Some of the most beautifully fit people show up to the gym to get their daily workouts in. Sure, some people like to turn heads — they’ve worked hard on their bodies and the ego boost is nice. So, by all means, we give you the blessing to look their way and (politely) admire.
However, it’s important to respect that some gals or guys go to specific lengths to not attract your pervy eyes. For example, if someone’s wearing a baseball cap down low to avoid eye contact, do them a favor and leave them alone.
“You should really think about modifying your technique.”
We’ve seen this happen countless times: Someone giving workout tips to a person who isn’t seeking advice. It’s even funnier when the person handing out tips is out of shape.
A visit to the gym shouldn’t turn into a photo shoot. Those who attend the gym on a daily basis and see amateur models snapping selfies in the mirror make this face:
Being an equipment vulture
We understand that there are people who want to workout and get out of the gym in a timely manner. This means finding those open machines and bench areas to push out those reps. Unfortunately, those areas might not be available when you want them, so you’ll have to wait for an extra minute or two.
Instead of giving your fellow gym patron time to finish their exercise, some hang around like a freakin’ vulture, waiting to swoop in the moment you’re done.
We get that you want to work on your posing routine in front of the mirror. Honestly, we can respect it, even more so when you have a competition coming up.
However, there’s no need to do it in the middle of the gym where everyone can see you. Most gyms have rooms where they teach classes and in those areas, they have mirrors where you can work on your posing. Going shirtless and posing in front of people who may have issues with their bodies is a f*cked up way to drive them away from their fitness goals.
Think back to your poncho liner (or woobie, if that’s what you called it). For many of us, it was our most valuable piece of gear. Why? It kept us warm when it was cold and cool when it was hot. Many a veteran still has their poncho liner or bought one after they got out because they know it’s the best blanket out there — it did the best job under the worst conditions.
When we, the members of the military community, buy stuff, we fall back on if we used that item (or something similar) back in service and base a lot of our purchasing decisions on that.
When you buy work boots, you think of what worked best on all the forced marches, boots and utes runs, and standing around all day. When you buy a utility knife, you think of what worked best when you had to improvise fixing something outside the wire and all you had was the knife on your flack. Anytime you get a watch, belt, cold-weather jacket, backpack, workout gear — the list goes on — a lot of us think of similar items we used in Iraq, Afghanistan, on ship, during a training exercise, or when we were out in the field.
BRAVO SIERRA uses the principle of “agile product development” when it comes to designing their products. This company is founded by leading experts and operators across the consumer products and technology industries — a team of veterans and civilians — and they are using software to build a fast-response, product development platform.
BRAVO SIERRA calls their software, “BATTALION,” and it’s likely the future of consumer culture. They use a research, development, testing and manufacturing model that integrates the tester community throughout each step of the process, while engaging them through design and interaction.
Currently, the program and software allows BRAVO SIERRA to ensure the quality, relevance and performance of their products among their core community. The long-term goal is to constantly iterate product development, so the product you get tomorrow will be an upgrade from the one you purchased today. That’s a lot better than getting ‘military-grade’ products that were only tested in a lab, leaving you wondering which military they were graded for.
We looked at some of BRAVO SIERRA’s products and picked out the ones we think you should have when you’re out in the field, deployed, on ship, or outside the wire. We threw in real feedback from military members and veterans so you can see how well BRAVO SIERRA develops their personal care products.
Antibacterial Body Wipes
Body wipes come in handy when you need a quick shower alternative, need to clean your nether regions, wash your face, scrub your hands, or wipe down anything dirty. We’ve all had the wipes that easily fall apart, make you smell more like ass, or simply don’t do a good job. These wipes are on a different level. They are biodegradable, which makes them ideal for the field. They kill 99.99% of bacteria in 60 seconds and are 4x thicker than baby wipes.
Hair and Body Solid Cleanser
We have all done it while deployed: Taking a Navy shower, where you only have 30 seconds (maybe a minute, if you’re lucky) to lather yourself up as much as possible. BRAVO SIERRA’s Hair and Body Solid Cleanser is perfect for washing every part of your body (including that glorious low-reg you have going on). BRAVO SIERRA doesn’t use traditional harsh cleansing agents that strip your skin. The hydrating formula and coconut-derived cleansing agent allows you to use this product from hair to toe without drying skin, hair, face or scalp, even when you only have 30 seconds.
Hair/Body Wash & Shave
When you are out in the elements, the space in your ruck is invaluable. This is the ultimate space saver — soap, shampoo, and shaving cream in one. 2 out of 3 of the ‘three S’s are covered by this awesome product!
Face Sunscreen SPF 30
It’s happened to most of us — even those of us who tan. You have a bunch of layers — a flak, combat load, Kevlar and sunglasses — on while you spend all day outside the wire, in the turret during a long convoy, or walking on a really long patrol. You get back to your outpost or FOB, take off your gear… and you’re sporting a very clear, very pink outline of where your sunglasses once sat. Sunscreen is key when out and about and BRAVO SIERRA makes sunscreen that is geared toward enduring rugged terrain. It’s lightweight, non-greasy, non-shiny, non-sticky and best of all; fragrance-free.
Taking care of your body is important, whether you are in the roughest of environments or working a 9 to 5. Make sure you use the products that have been tested by, tweaked for, and proven to work for the military.
Ketogenic, South Beach, and Atkins are a few of the most well-known diet plans that countless people from around the country try in hopes of shedding unwanted pounds. Since most troops in the military can’t be as selective with their food choices as civilians, finding a healthy way to shed body fat before your next physical assessment can be tough. After all, those MREs aren’t exactly low-carb.
Today, intermittent fasting has become extremely popular within the fitness world. The idea, in brief, is to eat your meals within a structured time frame and then go several hours without taking in a single calorie.
Intermittent fasting has been proven to control two essential chemicals in the body: growth hormones and insulin.
According to Dr. Eric Berg, growth hormones help the body produce lean muscle, burn fat, and reduce the effects of aging. On the contrary, insulin blocks the benefits of growth hormones and causes weight gain.
So, how can troops, specifically, benefit from patterned eating? Well, we’re glad you asked.
We all know the simple formula: If you eat more calories than your body burns, you gain weight. First, people looking to drop pounds start by cutting their calorie intake by lowering the amount of food per meal — which is an excellent start. But every time you eat, even if it’s something healthy, your insulin levels spike. In the presence of too much insulin, you simply cannot lose weight.
The solution is to follow a pattern of intermittent fasting. To do so, Dr. Berg recommends waiting at least four hours before eating your first meal of the day. Follow this meal with another two or three within an 8-hour window. After this window closes, don’t eat anything for the following 16 hours — until breakfast the next morning.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Kemberly Groue)
Troops who undertake morning PT should set their alarm so that they’re awake long enough to begin their eating period immediately after exercises come to a close.
Since the availability of chow in the field is continuous, controlling your fasting isn’t as difficult as it may seem. Food is available for intake within your 8-hour window, just remember to cease fire on the consumtion once that window has closed.
During your fast, make sure to drink plenty of water. You can also add some apple cider vinegar and a squeeze of lemon juice to help fill up your tummy after reveille plays bright and early.
Check out Dr. Eric Berg‘s video below to get the complete breakdown of this exciting health trend.