Olympian Nick Symmonds' Army Fitness Test Challenge: What you need to know - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY FIT

Olympian Nick Symmonds’ Army Fitness Test Challenge: What you need to know

Two-time Olympian runner Nick Symmonds, now the CEO of his own company, Run Gum, and the host of a popular YouTube channel, recently took on a new challenge: The Army Physical Fitness Test.

In a video posted Aug. 1, Symmonds attempted the test without any special training or practice, and bagged a respectable score, albeit with some not-quite-authorized modifications. Here’s what you need to know about Symmonds’ APFT challenge — and how you can take your own test to see how you would compare.


The Scores

The Army Physical Fitness Test currently involves three elements: maximum push-ups in two minutes, maximum sit-ups in two minutes, and a two-mile run for time.

Let’s start with the run. It’s been three years since Symmonds officially retired as a professional athlete, but he’s still in great shape and impressively fast. He completed two miles on the track in 11 minutes, 54 seconds — just under his personal goal of 12 minutes. Symmonds is 36, so he could have bagged a perfect score with a run time of 13 minutes, 18 seconds, or 6 minutes, 39 seconds per mile. No problem.

One the push-ups, Symmonds unfortunately would have been disqualified partway through (more on that below). But if all his reps had counted, he would have gotten 55 in two minutes. That’s good for a score of 79 out of 100. He would have had to get 75 push-ups to max out the APFT with a perfect 100 score.

For the sit-ups, the middle event on the APFT, Symmonds barely beat his push-up reps count, with 56 sit-ups. Here too, he would have been disqualified mid-event if the test had been administered by the Army. But if his full score counted, he would have gotten a 76 out of 100. To max out in his age ground, he would have needed 76 reps.

Bending the Rules

Here’s the thing: It’s not enough to do the reps on push-ups and sit-ups; you have to do them exactly as prescribed by the Army, and you can’t take unauthorized breaks.

On push-ups, Symmonds repeatedly sat up on his knees to shake out his arms, which would have meant instant disqualification on the real APFT. According to the official Army Physical Fitness Test administration rules, the only rest permitted mid-test is an “altered front leaning rest position,” meaning that soldiers may flex their back up or sag in the middle.

According to 550cord.com, “if you rest on the ground or raise either hand or foot from the ground, your performance will be terminated.”

Otherwise, Symmonds’ push-up form was strong. The Army regulations require the upper arms to be at least parallel to the ground on each repetition; Symmonds went deep enough to touch the ground on each rep.

The sit-ups also would have resulted in disqualification, according to Army rules. For proper sit-up position, a soldier must interlock fingers behind his or her head and come up to a vertical position where “the base of your neck is above the base of your spine.” The feet must be held by another soldier. Reps don’t count “if you fail to reach the vertical position, fail to keep your fingers interlocked behind your head, arch or bow your back and raise your buttocks off the ground to raise your upper body, or let your knees exceed a 90-degree angle.”

In addition, there’s only one authorized rest position: vertical. A soldier cannot rest in the “down” position.

Symmonds completed his reps with his arms crossed over his chest (although occasionally they flailed), used a soccer goal to secure his feet and rested repeatedly in the down position. The test was still tough and no doubt a good workout, but it would have landed Symmonds in trouble with Army supervisors for multiple rules infractions.

New Test Coming

Symmonds says he plans to retake the test as some point in the future and try again for a perfect score. But by the time he gets around to that, soldiers may be taking a different test with new rules and events. The Army is in the process of introducing the five-event Army Combat Fitness Test, which will be the test of record beginning Oct. 1.

The ACFT is considered more difficult to ace than the current APFT, and requires more equipment, too. The events on the new test include a maximum deadlift; standing power throw; hand-release push-up; sprint, drag and carry; leg tuck; and two-mile run.

Also new on the ACFT: all scores are age- and gender-neutral, which means there’s just one score chart for all soldiers. There are different minimum requirements based on job category, however; soldiers with jobs that are highly physically demanding, such as infantry, have to achieve higher scores than those with less physical jobs.

Army PFT Score Charts

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This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY FIT

How to get some sleep if you’re a veteran

We veterans suck at sleeping and relaxing. We got used to going 1000 miles an hour for an indefinite period of time until we were told by our OIC to take some leave and get our shit together before we burnout.

As civilians, that time may never come. For better or worse, you probably don’t have anyone that remotely resembles an OIC in your life anymore.


If we are looking at each day as a mini-deployment cycle, that means after work we should be taking leave, getting psychologically evaluated, spending time with family, and caring for ourselves.

I don’t mean this as a joke either. If we are constantly managing the damage each day inflicts on us, we are more likely to thrive in our post-military lives.

You can talk about computers, chalkboards, sunglasses or life.

(Photo by Helena Lopes on Unsplash)

The elements of chilling out

Connect with others. The purpose of the work day, like deployment, is mission accomplishment, not necessarily forming bonds and finding common ground with others. We do need real connections with other people though. The recent bestseller Lost Connections beautifully lays out how a lack of meaningful connection in our lives is one of the leading causes of depression and anxiety.

Bond with your kids, join a book club, talk to your high school best friend, volunteer at the soup kitchen. It doesn’t much matter, as long as the conversations you’re having get past talking about work and the weather. Enter the conversation with the intention of learning something new about your fellow human.

Who am I?… Typical Derek Zoolander reflection questions.

(Photo by Laurenz Kleinheider on Unsplash)

Reflect on the day. Run an after-action report on your day. You can write it down or just think about it. Ask yourself these questions:

  • What went well?
  • What could have gone better?
  • How can I carry my wins today into tomorrow?
  • How can I learn from my losses today to make tomorrow better?

Once you’ve reflected, write down your learning points and forget it for the rest of the night. You can apply lessons learned tomorrow.

It doesn’t have to be complicated and you don’t have to be “good” at it.

(Photo by Scott Broome on Unsplash)

Wind down your body. Maybe you haven’t had the chance to train yet today, if so… get your ass training. If you have already, it’s time to cool down physically, as this will help you to cool down mentally as well. I prefer a static stretch while I watch old episodes of the Office or YouTube videos on the upcoming Marvel Cinematic Universe movie. It doesn’t have to be something complicated.

Whatever you decide should include the intention of releasing stress and tension from your body. Dedicated breathing, a bubble bath, or a glass of whiskey while staring at the stars can all work if the intention is correct.

Stare into the stars and calm things down.

(Photo by Greg Rakozy on Unsplash)

Wind down your mind. Sometimes this happens in tandem with cooling down the body, sometimes we need more. Yeah, meditating is f*cking great for this, but it isn’t a requirement.

Just like above, choose an activity that you intend to serve the purpose of letting go of the day’s stresses. Reading, listening to Miles Davis, or calmly venting to your spouse can all serve this purpose.

A full day for you to rest and repair so you can tear shit up again next week.

(Photo by Drew Coffman on Unsplash)

Take a day off.

Having a daily rest and relaxation plan is the first line of defense, but sometimes life gets messy. It’s rare that the work day actually ends at 1700 or that you don’t have other obligations in the evenings. This is precisely why the Sabbath was created–even God needs to rest.

Taking a rest day doesn’t have to have anything to do with religion if you don’t want it to. What it is, is a day where you schedule things that are restorative and relaxing.

Physically your body needs time to recover. When stress hormones are high, your immune system and internal recovery procedures are compromised. Any type of stress can and will impede your ability to recover, even if it’s the kind of stress you may enjoy.

When we weight train we are literally causing damage to our muscles. They can only fully be repaired with proper nutrition and dedicated rest.

I dare you to sit on the beach and do nothing except watch the waves. It’s harder than you think.

(Photo by Auskteez Tran on Unsplash)

Type-A personalities AKA most of you

Many veterans are some degree of a type-A person. If you:

  • Like stress
  • Are hyper-alert
  • Have little patience
  • Are a workaholic
  • Love schedules

You probably fall into this category.

Type-A people like to do things that get them going and dislike the idea of unwinding. They like to work out at super-high intensities. If they aren’t sweating gallons, they feel like they haven’t done anything.

Telling one of you guys to chill and unplug for a day probably feels like I want you to take a vow of silence and live in a monastery. Take heed, the research shows that you are not necessarily anymore immune to stress than the rest of us without mitigating practices like above. In fact, as a type-A personality, you may even be more at risk for health issues or low performance than others.

Here is the evening routine I use with many of my clients to help them wind down. Keep in mind, it is not doctrine, it’s guidance.

Also please, take 2 minutes on this survey and help Michael and the other Mighty FIT writers create the content that you want to read. Thank you!

popular

Apple cider vinegar should be in your diet right now

Every so often, a new health trend emerges and takes the fitness industry by storm. Once the right celebrity endorses it, suddenly, everyone swears it works wonders and people flood the stores to buy it. However, the best advertising around is still word of mouth. That’s how many people are discovering the health benefits of ingesting small amounts of apple cider vinegar daily.


Apple cider vinegar
A well-stocked grocery store shelf filled with apple cider vinegar.

(Mike Mozart)

Although the organic fluid isn’t very appetizing, it contains a powerful compound called “acetic acid.” Acetic acid is a carboxylic compound with both anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties. This unique acid lowers insulin levels (a hormone that causes weight gain), improves insulin resistance, and decreases blood sugar.

Since apple cider vinegar isn’t known for its excellent taste, consumers typically dilute a tablespoon of the insulin-resistant fluid into tall glass of water spiked with the juice from half a lemon. Many people intake the mixture twice a day — once in the morning and again at night.

If you do decide to try out this weight-loss strategy, be sure to purchase organic vinegar to guarantee its purity. There are several imitators out there and, if you want the acetic acid to work its magic properly, you must go organic.

Now, there is one drawback to the weight-loss tactic. Since the main ingredient is an acid, drinking too much can erode your tooth enamel, which isn’t pretty.

Tooth damage caused by drinking vinegar.

(motivational doc)

However, this drawback typically only happens when you drink the vinegar straight, without diluting it. And trust us, you don’t want to do that. It may be an effective, natural weight-loss solution, but it is not a tasty beverage. Now, for all of our E-3 and below personnel, this inexpensive weight-loss idea could be the perfect alternative too all the pricey fat-burning pills available on the market or volunteering for a deployment. 

Articles

Here’s how to beat fatigue in your next PT test

Private First Class Shawndel Hunter, Delta Company, 1st Recruit Training Battalion, does a pushup at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego. | US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Tyler Viglione


When taking a physical fitness test (PFT), you may recall giving all you have to max out the pushups, only to stop half-way up, shaking violently. No matter how hard you try in the next few seconds of the test, you are not going to get another pushup. That is muscle fatigue.

Also read: A retired Navy SEAL commander breaks down his morning fitness routine that starts at 4:30

Here is a question about how to avoid muscle fatigue during fitness tests.

Stew – it does not matter on what exercise I am on, I can never keep going until the entire two minutes of the PFT is complete. On a good day, I might manage 1:30 of pushups or situps. I usually just shake and drop to my knees uncontrollably. Don’t even ask how my bad days look. I would really like to score better on the PT test. I am a runner so the 1.5 mile run in 7 min mile pace is no problem. Jake

Jake – There are a few things that could be contributing to your fatigue or lack of muscle endurance (aka stamina) during the pushups and sit-up test.

1. Lack of Training

You need to up your training volume. I highly recommend doing pushups, sit-ups, pullups, and other core exercise (planks, etc.) three days a week. For example, if you have never done 100 pushups or sit-ups in an entire workout, you will never get 100 reps in two minutes. Try to build up over time to 2-3 times your goal maximum score during a workout. For instance, if your goal pushups max is 50 in 2 minutes, shoot for 100-150 during a normal workout. (See workout ideas for every OTHER day: PT Pyramid, PT SuperSet, Max Rep Sets). Also, stretch out your sets to 1-2 minutes in length on Max Rep Set Days.

2. Pace Yourself

Too many times people start out way too fast on these exercises only to burn out in the first minute. Pacing your running makes sense to you, right? You do not start the run in a sprint of your first lap (1/4 mile) — you have a set pace. The same holds true for exercises like sit-ups. Too many people start off in the first 30 seconds getting 30-35 sit-ups and fail to match that in the next 1:30. If you are stuck at 60 due to this, you can increase your score near overnight by dropping your pace to 20 reps in the first 30 seconds and push closer to 80 reps in 2 minutes. For pushups — that is a different animal, as you have gravity slowly eating away at your reps the slower you go. I recommend you let gravity take you down and exert fast on the up movement. Don’t waste energy going down when gravity will do that for free. Keep working your pace in the workouts and you will find that you have the stamina to go the full 2 minutes after a few weeks.

3. Fuel and Fatigue

Half of fatigue is in your mind, as your brain will tell you that you are finished before you really are. The other half of fatigue is in your fuel. Did you eat well the day before or the morning of the fitness test? Are you hydrated? Having your body well fueled will help you with PT tests — that means nutritious foods. However, when you start to shake at the end of your pushup timed set, you are going to waste a lot of energy fast, as that is a central nervous system breakdown (or the beginning of it). It is actually best to call it quits and not try to get that last pushup in, versus staying there and shaking for 10-15 seconds. You have to remember that you still have to do the 1.5 mile run next, and you will need that energy your body just dumped failing at pushups.

Practice taking the fitness test once every week or two just so you can also mentally say to yourself, “this is just another workout.” Getting rid of some of the PFT Anxiety might help you perform a little better as well. Eat well and workout regularly, so that 1-2 minute sets become easy instead of an impossibility. Check out the PFT Bible if you are interested in a program that is specifically designed for the most common PFT in the world.

Stew Smith works as a presenter and editorial board member with the Tactical Strength and Conditioning program of the National Strength and Conditioning Association and is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS). He has also written hundreds of articles onMilitary.com’s Fitness Center that focus on a variety of fitness, nutritional, and tactical issues military members face throughout their career.

MIGHTY FIT

4 tips to help you get the most out of your intermittent fasting

Paleo, Ketogenic, and the South Beach diet are a few of the famous plans that countless people from around the nation use to shed those unwanted pounds. Since most troops can’t be nearly as selective with their food choices as civilians can, finding a healthy way to lose body fat before the physical assessment can be rough.

After all, the MREs we scarf down during deployment aren’t exactly low-carb meals.

Today, intermittent fasting has become one of the most popular trends to hit the fitness world. The idea, in brief, is to eat all your meals within a structured time frame and then go several hours without eating a single calorie. IF has been proven to manage two vital chemicals in our body: growth hormones and insulin.

Growth hormones help the body produce lean muscle, burn fat, and reduce the effects of aging. Elevated insulin levels block the benefits of growth hormones and cause weight gain. Yet many people who are on this structured plan may want to see quicker results that will positively benefit the body – that’s the whole point of IF, after all.

So here’s out you can get the most from your structured fasting plan.


Extend the length of your fasting window

Many people will fast for 16 hours a day and only eat their meals within an eight-hour window. However, consider extending the window to 18 to 20 hours if your body will allow it. Many people have a hard time going that long without eating. To combat the hunger, people who intermittent fast regularly drink large amounts of water to fill their stomachs up. This is just a temporary fix. Keep in mind it can sometimes take the body time to adapt to this type of meal plan structure.

The longer our insulin levels remain low, the more our bodies feed off stored energy.

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Perfect form!

Hit the gym while fasting

Intense workouts mean we’re burning some serious calories. While you’re already fasting, working out during that window adds to your body’s caloric deficit — which means you’re going to lose even more weight.

However, listen to your body — many people will feel too weak at the gym when they first start using this meal plan.

Lift heavy at the gym

Although fasting will use up the glycogen stored in our muscles on its own, by lifting heavy at the gym, the body turns to other sources of fat storage to restore that glycogen into your muscles.

Lose fat while gaining muscle.

It’s totally a win-win.

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Eating ice cream will elevate your insulin, but rubbing it on your face is fine.

Avoid foods that spike your insulin

Once your fasting window has closed, and you’ve finally eaten something after several hours of going without food, to keep your insulin levels as low as possible, its recommended you avoid intaking in meals that contain a high amount of carbohydrates and sugar.

Eating clean proteins and healthy fats will raise your insulin levels, but not at the high rate as carbohydrates and sugars do.

MIGHTY FIT

4 reasons why veterans make the best fitness trainers

Walking into the gym for the first time can be an intimidating experience. Everywhere you look, there are people lifting massive weights with muscles so defined it seems like they were born doing bicep curls. It can be overwhelming to see all the huge variety of gym equipment spread throughout the fitness center — and you’ve got no idea which machine is for which body part.

To make these first moments easier, gym-going hopefuls hire physical trainers to quickly learn the ropes. However, if you’re looking to take this route, you shouldn’t just hire the first trainer you see. Trainers are varied — each has a unique background, education, and specialty. One trainer might focus on yoga while another specializes in bodybuilding.

So, meet with few a potential trainers. Learn about their background — because if they don’t have military in their history, you might not be getting the most bang for your buck. Here’s why:


Also Read: 6 arm exercises that will get you ready for the beach

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They know how to yell at you — respectfully.

A recruit that enters boot camp is yelled at from day one until the day they graduate. Then, when they transfer to their first unit or squadron, the yelling continues. In the military, yelling is used as a harsh tool to discipline and motivate troops. It helps them push beyond their limits and succeed at levels they never expected.

If you’re really looking to get into shape, veterans can motivate you. They’ll use the stern discipline they learned by being pushed beyond their own limits once upon a time. They won’t often cross the line but, if they do, it’s undoubtedly to try and push you harder.

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They’ve been put through a lot worse

Most veterans have been tested, both physically and mentally, throughout their military careers. So, keep this in mind when you’re searching for a trainer. Whatever hardcore exercise program they want to put you through, rest assured that they’ve been pushed through a lot worse in order to survive.

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They’ll have a crazy work ethic

It’s a well-known fact that the military instills in its troops an insane work ethic. It’s rare for a veteran to quit on anyone. Sure, they might give up on themselves from time-to-time, but never on their team. A veteran trainer will do everything in their power to help you reach your physique and health goals, as long the client puts in 100 percent effort.

They usually have crazy, cool stories

Most veterans have been around the world and seen a thing or two. Their remarkable stories will help distract you from the intense physical stress of those last few reps. Their tales will inspire you to get through that list minute or two of cardio.

We’re not suggesting that civilian trainers don’t have cool stories, too, but we doubt that they can top a first-hand account of a real-world combat scenario.

MIGHTY FIT

Fighter pilots do it. Why don’t you?

Breathe and brace, lift, exhale.

That’s it, pretty freakin’ simple. Why then do so many people literally forget how to breathe when lifting? It’s involuntary. You would die without sweet, sweet oxygen pouring into your face holes constantly.

When you are about to squat 2x your body weight, or even just your body weight, the number one risk to injury is structural damage, be that muscular or skeletal. The most efficient way to prevent injury from occurring is to brace and contract all non-moving body parts. It’s called the Valsalva maneuver.

But first…

How NOT to breathe

www.youtube.com

Other approaches to breathing

Common other breathing methods such as exhaling on the concentric and inhale on the eccentric are problematic for lifting heavy weights.

In order to inhale or exhale, we need to engage the diaphragm and other breathing muscles to draw in air or release it. This means that the body needs to do two separate things while lifting; breath and lift.

This is problematic for a few reasons.

There is no room for wiggle with 584+ lbs on your back. The breathe and brace is the only option here.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Sarah N. Petrock)

  1. Most people aren’t coordinated enough to successfully do this for every rep of every set at the proper cadence.
  2. With two different processes going on, you aren’t able to actually recruit the maximum amount of muscle possible.
  3. If certain muscles of the core aren’t fully contracted, they are at higher risk for injury during the movement. This is a bit of a domino effect, especially if you tend to breathe into your shoulders or belly. Some of those muscles that should be used for the lift may end up sitting the rep out from confusion as to what they should be doing exactly.
  4. If something in your form goes awry, a muscle that isn’t “paying attention” to the lift may jump in at the wrong moment and get pulled. This happens with muscles between the ribs often.
HOW to Deadlift & Squat Correctly: Breathing, Abdominal Bracing & Total Tension (Ft. Cody Lefever)

www.youtube.com

How to breathe

Think back to the last time you picked up or pushed something heavy. What did you naturally do?

You breathed and braced.

This technique, called the Valsalva maneuver, has been used by fighter pilots, SCUBA divers, lifters, and doctors for hundreds of years with little to no complications.

It doesn’t matter if you’re picking up a torpedo, a mortar plate, a tire, or your overweight nephew. They all elicit the same involuntary response… the breathe and brace Valsalva maneuver.

Here’s how you do it:

Breathing and Bracing…You’re Doing it Wrong

youtu.be

1. Inhale

A deep inhale fills your core and increases pressure like in an unopened carbonated beverage rather than a plastic water bottle that is ¾ empty.

Fully filled lungs are step one towards the ideal apparatus for transferring power from your legs and ass to the barbell you’re attempting to move in all heavy lifts.

Deadlift Pillar #3 | Breathing & Bracing | JTSstrength.com

youtu.be

2. Flex your abs

In the squat, for instance, this means isometrically contracting all of your core muscles to support the spine and those muscles themselves.

By staying tight, you are putting yourself “on the rails” there is literally no wiggle room for your form to get jacked up.

Once ALL of your core muscles are contracted, you can take total advantage of maximum abdominal pressure.

With the core muscles contracted, there is no longer space in the abdomen that needs to be occupied. We have now removed all possibility of unwanted movement in the spine and core.

Back Squat Step 4

youtu.be

3. Execute the rep

Perform the rep in its entirety until you are back to the starting position. Check out these other articles for specifics on perfect form for the main lifts.

  • The complete bench press checklist
  • 5 steps to back squat perfection
  • 5 steps to deadlift perfection

Don’t exhale until the weight is safely on the ground when deadlifting. That’s your rest position, not the top.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Roland John)

4. Exhale and repeat

Lift using the Valsalva maneuver to protect your spine and allow for the maximal transfer of force in whatever movement you are doing.

When you are doing lighter exercises or the big exercises at lighter weight the Valsalva isn’t necessary. You can, in these cases use the other method described above. The Valsalva is the big gun that you bring out when you make it to the final boss level. Generally, it’s only needed for your main lifts for each workout like squats, deadlifts, and the bench press.

Proper Breathing Technique for Weightlifting | Valsalva Maneuver

www.youtube.com

What about blood pressure?

Yes, your blood pressure does increase when you perform the Valsalva. No there is not no risk to the technique (that’s a double negative).

Listen to the above video for why and how you don’t need to worry as long as you are otherwise healthy.

In addition, here is a very in-depth source on the intricacies of blood pressure and the Valsalva maneuver.

If you aren’t otherwise healthy, you shouldn’t be training at all without your doctor’s approval. This discussion is no exception.

Breathe smartly my friends.

MIGHTY FIT

Why it’s so hard to keep the weight off, part 1

Why is it so difficult to keep the weight off?


That’s the real weight problem we presently have in our military and in our country. We can lose weight, but in the world, only less than 1% of those people are able to successfully keep the weight from coming back. It’s a problem because we’re confused as to why everything we have tried in the past and everything that is currently available as tools to help us lose weight isn’t working.

Think about it. No one goes on a diet just so they can gain the weight back. When you start a diet, you imagine how you’ll feel once you reach your goal. But then what? What about life after the diet? That question is what we’ll answer in this two-part article.

What You Do Know: Fitness & Weight Loss Basics

When embarking on true transformation – not just relying on more motivation or ingesting more information – it’s important to revisit the basics and separate the facts from opinions.

Whether you’re new at working out or dieting or not, there are some fitness basics that are easy to understand and apply. And fortunately for you, if you’re a member of the Armed Forces, then exercise and good nutrition are standard issue. Unfortunately, the standard is growing too large and getting stretched to the point where there are legitimate health concerns, such as high blood pressure, chronic stress, eating disorders, and post-traumatic stress even in those who haven’t been in traditional combat.

We’ve seen warning signs for years, and as hard as the military tries to help improve the quality of life and opportunities to increase our chances of living as well-balanced a life as possible as a military member, the results aren’t sticking. In the Army, for example, we see that “[the] bad news is that the typical lifestyle of Soldiers puts them at a higher risk for hypertension and heart disease. Too often, Soldiers cope with the stress of Army life by smoking, drinking and eating unhealthy,” according to an article from Army.mil in 2011. “The good news is though, with lifestyle changes and/or medication, you can reduce your risk.”

Weight Loss is Easy

Weight loss is just being in a caloric deficit for a long enough period of time to change the shape and weight of your body. The reason why losing weight is so desirable for so many is because, honestly, you feel better in addition to looking better. You’re more fit, slimmer, in less joint pain, and have an easier time walking or going up and down the rungs on a shipboard ladder, which is typically only six feet of steps at a time, less than you’d find in a standard house.

The human body is complex but also simple. It likes to be at a normal weight where there is just enough fat, like Goldilocks’s bowl of porridge – the body likes feeling “just right.” If you carry more fat than your body prefers, then it will let you know by sending you signals like joint discomfort, maybe heat rashes, low back pain, tightness in your muscles, etc. Have you noticed how these symptoms either decrease or completely go away when you start losing weight?

You don’t just feel better because of the food or supplements you’re now taking – your body naturally feels better when it doesn’t have to spend so much effort and energy at maintaining as much weight as it was. You got yourself closer to feeling “right.”

Conversely, the human body doesn’t like being too low in weight. It will let you know with fatigue, hormones not performing optimally, and slowing down your physical movements in order to preserve energy.

The human body was designed to move and to eat, but we are living at the extremes of too much movement or too much food, or not enough movement or not enough food. We’re using as many externals things as we can to help us feel “normal.” But the more we rely on the latest fad diet, the latest supplements, the latest technology (clamping our stomachs down), the less normal and more disconnected we feel from our natural weight and state of being.

Losing weight is easy because there are so many ways to lose weight. Interestingly, all diets share the same secret but in their own different flavors: you lose weight because they put you in a caloric deficit. That’s how weight loss works in any diet.

CALORIC DEFICIT PER DIET

Ketogenic: removed an entire food group (carbs).

Paleo: removed an entire food group (processed food).

Whole30: removed processed foods and more, including grains, legumes, sugar, dairy, and junk food (basically the same as Paleo but a little more restrictive).

Weight Watchers: created smaller portions, which is a caloric deficit.

Mediterranean Diet: low on red meats and processed food (steak and donuts pack more calories per volume than fish and grains do).

Low Carb: lowered processed carbs. You still eat tons of carbs on this diet, but those carbs come in the form of spinach, carrots, apples, etc (all vegetables and fruits are carbs).

The reasons these diets don’t work is because:

1.) You can still gain weight or stall your weight loss if you eat too much of the food within that diet, and,

2.) When the diet is over, if you go back to eating the way you were before, then you start getting back your former body.

Here’s the thing…

It’s not the food or the diet that is the reason for the weight regain. In Part 2, the actual reason will become crystal clear.

MIGHTY FIT

Those ‘core’ exercises in military PT tests don’t actually prove anything about your fitness

Preparing for the abs portion of your PT test might trick you into thinking you have a six pack, but those workouts are potentially getting you into worse shape. Stop taking ab selfies in the gym mirror and listen up.


“Core exercises” are a part of every service’s PT test, whether it’s crunches, sit-ups, or what the Navy inexplicably calls, “curls-ups.”

This is a curl-up… right?

If you’ve carefully read the procedural guidelines for your service’s PT test, you already know how easy it is to cheat on these ab exercises. Or maybe you’re just really bad at counting…

…8, 9, 10, 17, 18, 36, 74… Teamwork at its finest.

Even if you’re not a cheater, the abdominal portion of the PT test is still only testing your ability to do that one hyper-specific movement, not your overall core strength. Strength is specific to how you train, and how you train should be specific to what you do (you know, like your job). What job in the military are any of these exercises specific to? Those crunches will make you able to sh*t really fast and keep your breaks short and your NCO happy, but it won’t make you stronger.

The Navy PRT guidelines state that, “the curl-up, when performed properly, can help develop abdominal strength and endurance, which are important factors in preventing low-back injuries.”

Nice view, okay smell…

While ab strength definitely protects the spine, the curl-up is far from targeting the actual core muscles needed for that job. The abdominals have many functions, and only one of them is flexion of the spine.

Flexion: that’s the one where you flex your abs, and your spine makes the same shape as Gollum’s.

That’s right — stretch it out.

The other functions of the abs include but are not limited to, breathing, coughing, sneezing, stabilizing, and maintaining posture.

You have four main groups of abdominals:

  1. Internal obliques help with breathing, rotation, and side bending.
  2. External obliques help pull the chest downward to increase pressure in your abdomen, which is important for the Valsalva maneuver. Divers, pilots, and people who move heavy weight couldn’t survive without them.
  3. The transverse abdominis is the deep, corset-like muscle that provides stability and postural support for the spine. Without it, you would rupture a spinal disk every time you farted.
  4. The rectus abdominis is the sexy one. The rectus abdominis’ primary function is to flex your trunk. It also happens to be the only one really tested in any PT test.

An exercise program that only tests one function of the abs leaves a huge gap in both knowledge and functionality for both you and your service of choice.

Judging from your PT scores alone, no one can tell if your body is actually structurally sound. So, the next time you go to dig a fighting hole, load a torpedo, or crank a wrench may just be the time that your weak back and tight rectus abdominis conspire against your spine, even if you scored among the best.

In order to have full spinal protection, you need to ensure you are working all the muscles of your core, from front to back. That includes the erector spinae. These are the muscles that are growing weak while you crunch your way to some non-specific lower back pain.

Having a strong rectus abdominis and weak erector spinae creates the kind of postural imbalance that causes back pain and loss of mobility and, as a service member, if you can’t hold up your body, you’re about as useful as a poopy-flavored lollipop.

Tasty…

Since you only have to do curl-ups for your PT test, why bother ensuring your low back muscles are equally as strong as your abs? Having a strong lower back isn’t going to get you promoted faster. But low back pain is the most common type of pain in existence today. 84% of humans have reported that, at one point in their life, they experienced back pain of some kind.

The military is not exempt from this statistic. I’ve known 19-year-old LCpls with “chronic” back pain. This type of highly preventable injury crushes combat readiness.

“Hey, Devildog! Get up! We still have 6 klicks to the objective!”
“I can’t Sergeant, my L3 is throbbing! I have chronic back pain.”
“Didn’t you get a 300 on your PFT? You’re supposed to be in shape!”

So, following the clues, not only does the PT test not prove that you can function adequately to conduct your job, it inadvertently causes you to injure your back by becoming hyper-focused on your front.

This takes REAL core strength.

Try these “core exercises” instead: squats, deadlifts, lunges, and farmers’ carries. These exercises load your core the way it is designed to work: with all core and back muscles engaged equally and totally.

https://www.composurefitness.com/gamp1/

MIGHTY FIT

Reasons to drink a butt-ton of water first thing in the morning

There isn’t a human on planet Earth who would argue that they don’t need water. Yet such a large number of humanity neglects its most essential substance. Think of yourself like a hot air balloon, except instead of hot air, you are filled with up to 60% water. If a hot air balloon has no hot air, it can’t float around aimlessly. If you don’t have water, you can’t human around aimlessly…Yeah, I got your number.

Here are 5 reasons you should be hydrating early and often that you may not have previously considered.


Hipster poncho is not required for your early morning glass of water.

(Photo by Autri Taheri on Unsplash)

You lose a ton of water when you sleep

Respiration and perspiration are two things people do in their sleep. It’s obvious that you become less hydrated whenever you sweat (perspiration), but it’s also true that with every exhale (respiration), water also leaves your body. Eight hours of sleep is probably the longest time you go each day without hydrating, all while breathing and sweating. Tomorrow when you wake up, ask yourself if you’re thirsty.

In the morning routine, I prescribe for my clients, a large bottle of water is the first thing they put in their mouth each morning.

PT and dehydration is a recipe for the silver bullet…If you know what I mean.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Jesula Jeanlouis

You need water to lubricate your joints and muscles

A study on dehydrated men measured muscle soreness and water intake, and found that soreness became worse the more dehydrated the subjects were. This makes sense, as water is what makes your blood flow through your veins. Your blood transports repair cells and new proteins to your muscles to repair them. If you’re dehydrated, of course, it would take longer to repair any pain points in the body.

Many of our joints are buffered by little pillows of fluid that act as shocks for our movement. In a dehydrated state, those bursae are much worse at absorbing the impact on our joints.

If you are going to train first thing in the morning, or do anything that requires you to use your body, it is a great idea to lubricate your joints and muscles before going to battle.

Cranky and confused as to how you got so lost in the middle of some mountain range.

(Photo by Martin Jernberg on Unsplash)

A 1% loss of water will make you cranky

Doesn’t sound terrible, but since mornings are the time of day when people are the most cranky, why add one more element into the mix. Life is hard enough, you can make it a little easier by having a glass of water. It’s that simple.

To clarify the study, if you lose 1% of your body weight in water, you will start to feel adverse effects, including crankiness and fatigue. If you’re a 200-pound male, that’s a 2-pound loss. This is easily possible after a hard workout in a hot gym or in a full combat load. It’s even more common just from neglect and consumption of diuretics (coffee) in the morning.

At 2% dehydration you’d probably be too dumb to figure out how to drink with your gas mask on.

(Photo by Master Sgt. Ralph Kapustka)

A 2% loss of water will make you stupider

Same study as above but worse results.

Let’s just assume you have a job in which you are required to do physically demanding things, then immediately afterwards are expected to make decisions that put your friend’s lives on the line.

*cough* *cough* Am I speaking to the right audience here?

A 2% loss of water will make you measurably worse at those decisions. This takes that CamelBak slogan “hydrate or die” to an uncomfortably realistic level.

If you start your day in a deficit by not hydrating and then do a bunch of training that leaves you in a further deficit, a 2% loss of water is not only possible, but probably a common occurrence.

No more late night home urinalysis sessions if you heed this wise advice…

(Marine Corps Installations West – Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton)

More water early means less waking up to squirt

The most practical reason to drink water early in your day is to practice what I call front-loaded hydration.

The older I get, the more often I have to wake up in the middle of the night to piss. I know this is common from looking at the research, talking to my peers, and from checking that my prostate isn’t inflamed.

This is why I recommend front-loading water intake early in the day.

You need to drink to hydrate. Five clear urinations a day is what you should be aiming for to ensure you are getting enough fluids for all of your body processes.

However, there is no law that says that you need to drink an equivalent amount of water at each meal or in each hour of the day. By drinking the majority of your water early in the day, you are lowering your water requirement just before bed. This means fewer late-night runs to the head and more uninterrupted sleep.

You will die from no water faster than you’ll die from no food. BUT, you’ll die from no sleep before you die from dehydration. High quality sleep is the key to a happy and healthy life. Develop some hydration practices to facilitate more restful sleep.
MIGHTY FIT

5 reasons why you should always keep a workout journal

Often times, you’ll be working out at the gym and notice a few people writing in these small books when they finish a set. You might think they are writing some sort of story, but chances are they’re keeping a personal journal of their workout progress.

Similar to a having a diary, many gym-goers like to record various aspects of their workouts like how many reps they managed to complete, the exact weight on the bar, and how the exercise felt afterward.

Using a journal is an excellent tool to track all sorts of personal progress. If you’ve never considered tracing your fitness path, we compiled a few reasons that just might make you reconsider it as a valuable option in your life.


Also Read: 7 of the most common mistakes you’re making in the gym

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Document personal records

Whether you have a goal in mind, like lifting competitively, or just because you enjoy working out, accurately recording your gains is a stable way to track your improvements. Plus, if you’re going to brag about how much you lift, it helps to have it in writing.

Track your workouts

This sounds obvious, right? It may be hard to believe, but sometimes people forget what muscles groups they’ve worked on earlier in the week. Sure they hit triceps on Tuesday, but did they do pull-down or extension movements? Although most people don’t care about this type of record keeping, others find it to be a time-saving practice.

When most patrons enter the gym, they warm up, work out a specific muscle group, record the result, finish up, and then they leave. In the following week, they might check to see how many reps per set they were able to do during a particular exercise.

This week that weight may not feel so heavy. Because of recording that data, they know why: it’s time to add on!

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Record weight loss

Fitness is all about continually setting goals and breaking them. Recording your weekly weight loss is an excellent indication that your workouts and diet plan are being effective. If you don’t see improvements, you may have to look for flaws in your lifestyle and adjust them.

Debrief yourself

You know your body better than anyone else. By using your personal journal to debrief yourself, you can track what exercises you felt were the easiest and which ones you struggled with. This doesn’t mean you halt doing those movements that you thought were too hard.

It’s quite the opposite actually.

You should practice those physical motions you had a tough time with to strengthen your body. Fitness is all about setting goals and breaking right past them.

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Track your calories

One of the biggest fitness mistakes people make is eating too many calories per day. Then, when they go on a diet, they make the critical error of lowering their calories by too much. By tracking your calories, both in-and-out, you’ll be able to manage your calorie intake more efficiently than just by simply guessing.

MIGHTY FIT

4 of the top reasons this diet is a must for Veterans

Veterans tend to fall off the wagon pretty hard when it comes to fitness. That isn’t to say we are universally fat or unfit, it’s actually quite the opposite. Most veterans have a level of fitness and capability from our days of service that doesn’t quickly fade away.

But many veterans do tend to relax from once-stringent standards once we walk away from the uniform. Relaxing on those standards is often a slippery slope that leads us further and further away from our formerly steel-cut, active-duty body and closer to health problems.

If you’re one of the many who have gone from fit to sh*t and you’re looking to rebound quickly, don’t fret! There’s a new kid on the block and he’s showing lots of promise. Below, you’ll find a few of the absolute best reasons you should give the ketogenic diet a try sooner rather than later.


Also Read: 10 top fitness YouTubers who are Veterans

All the food is the same… but different.

But first, what is Keto?

The ketogenic diet, at its core, is a high-fat, low-carb diet. That’s it. The idea is that by restricting the amount of carbohydrates you consume, you force your body to look for other sources of fuel to burn for energy. This scouring results in your body attacking your stored fat, eventually causing you to drop the pounds.

Air Force Master Sgt. Lajuan P. Fuller amidst killing another workout.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Heather Hayward)

4. You’ll get results fast.

Since your body will not have its normal and preferred source of fuel (carbs), you’ll drop a considerable amount of water weight very quickly. It isn’t uncommon for new keto practitioners to drop six to nine pounds in the first week or two.

Even though most of this drop is pure water weight, you can expect to have a generally slimmer look. All the places that hold water will appear less bloated. Now, don’t expect to go from 30 percent body fat to a six pack in a week, but you can definitely expect your clothes to fit better.

Unleash the power within.

3. High-fat diets can actually make you much healthier.

When I was first introduced to the keto diet, my knee-jerk reaction was to question how a high-fat diet could actually lower cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels.

A ketogenic diet encourages the consumption of healthy fats, otherwise known as high-density lipoproteins. HDL transports cholesterol around the body while simultaneously collecting unused cholesterol and delivering it to the liver for disposal.

HDL is, essentially, the neighborhood watch of your bloodstream.

2. Fat adaptation.

There are a couple of terms you will hear tossed around in the world of keto. Those terms are ‘ketosis’ and ‘fat-adapted.’

Being “in ketosis” means your body is breaking down fatty acids and producing acetoacetate. When you use one of the many tools available to check and see if you’re in a ketogenic state, it’s looking for acetoacetate in your urine. Your body is looking for alternative fuel sources and, most times, this is when people experience what some call a “ketogenic flu.”

Being fat-adapted, on the other hand, means your body has gone without excess carbohydrates long enough to become an efficient machine at using fat as fuel instead of carbs. This is when you no longer feel the adverse affects of a ketogenic diet and your body is ready to use up this new type of fuel. There may times in which you take in enough carbs to exit ketosis (it happens), but it takes more than a single cheat day to undo being fat-adapted.

It sounds similar and, truthfully, it is. The key difference is the efficiency of fat-adaptation over ketosis.

Never too late to get that military body back.

(Photo by Airman 1st Class Jarrod Grammel)

1. Get your best body — and your life — back.

As a veteran, you’ve been through some sh*t. You’ve seen some things and experienced some things that have made you forever different. For many of us, it just takes the right motivation to get you rolling — and once you’re going, nothing will stop you.

This diet could get you back in the health and fitness game — and that alone makes it worth a look!

MIGHTY FIT

3 hardcore workouts to up your outdoor workout game

If you think that self-quarantine orders mean nothing but boring workouts in the corner of your room, think again. Well, in a sense, your options are limited..by your imagination. It’s time to dust off that creativity muscle.

Most of us are sick of the order to stay home and since exercising outdoors is still considered essential you might as well make the most out of it.That is, as long as you stay far enough away from everyone.


So, if you’re having trouble figuring out a way to train that doesn’t just include bodyweight squats and planking, fear not.

I’ve got you covered with a few outdoor challenges that are sure to keep you interested and in shape.

Run! When you get caught fight. Escape and run until your veins pump battery acid.

U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Gabrielle Sanders

Evade-fight-escape

Heading out for a run is the most obvious answer to your craving for exercise outdoors. But running the same route at the same pace each day can get repetitive. Instead, try to mix things up by adding other exercises.

To do this workout, decide on a total distance that you want to run, like 2-4 miles.

But keep in mind, this can’t be a leisurely jog if you want a challenge. Instead, run at a pace where even a half-mile is tricky. If you can go further, you’re not running hard enough. For fun and extra motivation imagine a zombie, mugger, cougar is chasing you.

Now, once you hit that plateau where you need a break, the fun starts.

Take 10-20 seconds to catch your breath (or don’t cougars don’t need to catch their breath) and immediately jump into a three-exercise circuit. To make things simple, try to hit your upper body, core, and lower body with these three exercises. Good examples include crucifix push-ups, punching planks, and mule kicks.

Your circuit, depending on your fitness level, should look like this:

  1. 30-second plank
  2. 10-15 mule kicks
  3. 10-20 crucifix push-ups

Now, that order is smart since, after that half-mile run, you’re going to be winded. A 30-second plank might challenge your core, but it also gives you a chance to catch your breath.

Once you finish the circuit, take a quick breather and get back on the run. Repeat this process every half-mile or whenever you need a break. Whichever comes first is best.

Just remember, if you haven’t been running much before the quarantine, your endurance is going to suck. Take the rest you feel is necessary and do your best to improve whenever you repeat the workout.

You think you’re a fighter already. Go ahead and actually test your endurance.

U.S. Air Force photo/Trang Le

Fight night

Have you ever watched a Rocky fight go the distance and imagined the endurance required to make it into round 12?

The thing is, if you’ve ever worked a punching bag for even just a minute straight, you know it takes incredible endurance. And that’s only one minute!

Instead, I like to use a round-based workout to simulate some of the demands you might encounter during a fight. While you won’t get to connect any punches (unless you have a heavy bag), the movements involved will still challenge your cardio endurance like nothing before.

Here’s an example:

3 Rounds @ 90% Intensity for 60 seconds each

  • Skip rope
  • Cross jabs
  • Vertical knee strikes
  • Sprawling burpees
  • Punching plank

Once you finish, take a two-minute rest. And when I say take a rest, I mean it.

More rest will mean you can train harder once the next round starts. If you can start another round without taking two minutes, you need to go harder.

Now, of course, this workout can be done inside. If you can manage to get out, try replacing exercises like skipping rope and high knees with others, like a few sprints or a 60-second run.

If you’re one of those that watch MMA and think that you can do it no problem, do five of these five minute rounds, imagine how much harder it would be with someone punching you in the face, and reassess.

Start off smiling…Finish smiling…It’s those 1500 lunges in the middle to be worried about.

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jordan Ripley

The one-mile lunge

You read that right: Lunge for one mile.

Don’t be fooled by the simplicity, though. If you’ve never performed more than 20 consecutive lunges in a row, you’re in for a rude awakening.

Lunges are an excellent exercise since they tax your quads and hamstrings, depending on your stride length. Plus, if you’re moving at a fast pace, consecutive lunges will test both your muscle and cardiovascular endurance.

Not to mention, for most of you, this is going to take well over an hour to complete. To finish, you’re going to have to stay mentally hard, or else, you’ll quit.

Some tips to get through this challenge:

  1. Know your limits. If you need to start with a quarter-mile or a half-mile instead, do it. The actual length doesn’t matter as long as it’s challenging.
  2. Don’t cheat. The only way you get to brag about this feat is if you actually finish it. If you take a step that isn’t a lunge, step back and finish it. If you cheat, what’s the point?
  3. Listen to your body. This challenge is going to suck, and there’s a good chance your legs will cramp. If they do, stretch out and continue. If it gets bad, suck it up, call it a day, and try again when you’re muscles are healed and ready.

There’s nothing boring about the combat or goal you’re training for. If your workout is boring are you really training?

U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Margaret Gale

Just use your head

When I was just a youngin’ we would go on fun-runs on Fridays down by the creek (pronounced “crick”). It involved 5 miles of jumping over logs, wading through the water, swinging from trees limbs, and avoiding hobo camps. It was fun.

When we “become” adults we fool ourselves into thinking that things are supposed to feel like work. Shake off your imagination and let your workout get fun again.

Or for the masochists out there just lunge a mile and sleep happy,