How to train your plank without planking - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY FIT

How to train your plank without planking

As an exercise, the plank has some crazy lore surrounding it. If you were an alien from another planet and came to earth to study human society, you would think that planks have replaced the, now extinct, fire-breathing dragon as enemy #1 to Homo sapien survival.

The plank isn’t going to kill you. In fact, it may be unrivaled in its ability to engage a large number of muscle groups in an isometric contraction. So much so that you actually become harder to kill when the plank is trained properly.


That being said, you can’t plank all day and all night. so I’m going to give you four alternative exercises to add to your training program in lieu or in addition to planks.

If you just want to learn more about planking, check this out.

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1. Seated Straight Leg Lifts

The straight leg lift has gotten more attention thanks to gymnastics strength training picking up popularity in the last few years.

It’s pretty simple you sit up straight, with your legs out straight in front of you, and alternate raising each leg for a set number of reps or seconds. It seems simple, but it lights up your quads (especially the rectus femoris) like no other.

If you find your hips sagging quickly when planking or you know that your quads are a weak point of yours in general, I strongly recommend adding two sets of straight leg lifts to your leg day.

This exercise will help with your plank, the ACFT’s leg tucks, as well as building strength for sprinting and running distances under a mile where you’re pushing for speed.

If you want more quad stimulation, you better be doing this exercise…

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2. Quadruped Hand Walk-outs

This is the poor man’s ab wheel exercise. Don’t let that fool you though, at first glance, it may seem easier than a roll-out, but when you focus on the right muscles, you’ll find that it brings a whole new level of muscle recruitment to your core.

Start on all-fours, with your knees under your hips and your wrists under your shoulders. Alternate walking each hand out about a ½ a hands length away from your body. Try to open your hips and your shoulders simultaneously as you walk out. The tendency is to allow the hands to walk away from under your shoulders faster than having the hips move past their starting position, directly above the knees.

Here’s the hard part. Step your hands slowly, and DON’T allow your hips, core, or shoulders to shift from side-to-side as you walk. Instead, keep your core so tightly contracted that it allows you to hold in a balanced position even when you only have one hand supporting you on the ground, while the other is in the air changing position. Walk your hands out as far as you can and then simply walk back.

When doing this exercise, go for time instead of reps. For whatever reason, when people go for reps, they tend to cheat a lot more. Just set your timer for 30 seconds and perform 30 seconds worth of perfect and deliberate movement.

For more on not wasting your time in the gym and practicing deliberate movement, read this thought-provoking article.

To make it even harder, lift your knees slightly off the ground, like the video demonstrates above.

When you’re able to walk all the way out to arms fully extended overhead, holding a plank will feel like child’s play.

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3. The Ab Wheel

The ab wheel is basically moving you from a position that’s easier than holding a plank to a position that’s harder than holding a plank. When performing this one, really focus on that position in the middle of the movement that most closely mimics the plank.

The ab wheel has the ability to work every core muscle fully, if you do it correctly. The common cue I give is to “Stay out of your lower back!” meaning that you shouldn’t allow your low back to hyperextend. Instead, I’d rather see you hold a constant position of mild flexion, that doesn’t change throughout the entire movement. When you hyperextend in your low back, you’re basically losing all core tightness and relying on your vertebrae to stop you from arching any further. If that sentence seemed painful to read…imagine how your back feels.

Similar to the previous exercise, I prefer to do the ab wheel for time instead of reps. It prevents cheating and allows you to focus on perfect form rather than trying to hit some arbitrary number of reps that will undoubtedly cause you to throw form out the metaphoric window.

Don’t waste your time in the gym, you can probably do everything you need to in 3 hours a week…

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4. Hollow Body Hold

I like to think of the hollow body hold as pull-up junior. The engagement of muscles that a properly performed hollow body hold can achieve is exactly the same as a pull-up minus the lat engagement of pulling yourself to the bar. If that sounds crazy to you, I’m willing to bet you rarely perform beautiful pull-ups.

Yes, your core is the primary muscle of the hollow body hold, but it’s not the same “core” as the one that gets worked during crunches or other dated ab exercises. The hollow body hold allows you to isometrically contract your quads, pelvic floor, transverse abdominis, rectus abdominis, obliques, lats, seratus, erector spinae (if you’re really good), neck muscles, pecs, psoas, and calves. Basically, every muscle of the front of the body and then some.

I highly encourage you to actively mentally walk through every muscle group I just mentioned the next time you attempt the hollow body hold. If you do, you’ll see exactly what I’m talking about. A few sets of a solidly executed hollow body hold, and you’ll be begging to just do planks instead.

How to train your plank without planking

Work smarter, not harder…even when you’re trying to work hard do it smart.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Andy O. Martinez)

Go train your core. Before you go though…

Join the Mighty Fit FB group and get in on the conversation. Join the Mighty Fit FB group and get in on the conversation. Everyone there is trying to achieve something new and bigger than they ever have before. If that’s the type of person you want to be surrounded by, I suggest you get in there ASAP.

The New Might Fit Plan is coming soon. Sign up for it here and become one of the few to put the “We” in We Are The Mighty.

Send me a message at michael@composurefitness.com if you hate these core exercises or want to know if you’re doing them right. I get a kick out of hearing gripes from those of you bold enough to message me directly, rather than just screaming into the void that is Facebook comments… or you know, just tell me how you’re training is going and what your goals are. Bringing others in on your challenges and goals is a sure-fire way to ensure you actually overcome and accomplish them.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is the story of the Civil War’s only double-barrel cannon

It always struck me as odd when I read history books as a kid: cannons are pretty much giant shotguns — why didn’t they ever make double-barreled cannon pieces? Well, I wasn’t the only genius with the idea.


A Southerner from Athens, Ga. named Pvt. John Gilleland forged one in 1862. Gilleland’s idea was to connect the two three-inch barrels by firing chain shot connected by two six-pound balls. When fired, the designer’s idea was for the balls to be shot at different angles to allow the ten-foot chain to fully extend.

If you’re not sure what chain shot does to walking bags of meat (soldiers), the guys at MythBusters demonstrated this on a pig carcass – warning: it doesn’t end well for the pig carcass.

So imagine a ten-foot nunchuck weighing in at roughly 50 pounds flying into a massed formation of people at more than a thousand feet per second. That was Pvt. Gilleland’s great idea. Except it didn’t go quite as he would have liked.

How to train your plank without planking
This ends well for no one.

His tests showed erratic and often dangerous results. Though the gun was designed for both barrels to be fired simultaneously, they often didn’t, meaning an intense veering in an unintended direction. When they did fire, the chain would sometimes break apart, with two end of chain led by a ball, each veering three degrees away from each other at more than a thousand feet per second.

Gilleland still declared it a success and sent it to be tested with the Confederate Army. The Confederates found the cannon “not usable due to unpredictable rates of powder burn and barrel friction which led to unpredictable performance.”

No kidding.

So the Confederate government sent the cannon back to Gilleland in Athens. The weapons was still used in combat in just one battle. As Union raiders approached Athens on July 27, 1863, the double-barrel cannon was used as a signal gun to rouse the population to arms.

Some 9,000 Union cavalry approached Athens as part of General William T. Sherman’s “March to the Sea.” Athens would be put to the torch, but not if the Georgia Home Guard Artillery could repel them.

At Barber’s Creek, just south of Athens, the cavalry hopped across the Confederate earthwork defenses. But before they could break the home guard completely, the city’s cannon and howitzers stole the initiative and fired a volley into the oncoming traffic. The yankees broke off the attack and Athens was spared.

Today the cannon is parked on Hancock and College Avenues in Athens.

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Pointed North, of course.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The Queen of England has a champion who fights for her

It sounds like a big job description: “Queen’s Champion and Standard Bearer of England.” Although these days, the title seems more ceremonial than functional, it still sounds like a big deal. Since the Norman Conquest of England in 1066, whomever holds the Manor of Scrivelsby in Lincolnshire, England, also has to fight for the monarch at their coronation, should a challenger arise in the middle of it.


How to train your plank without planking

Francis John Fane Marmion Dymoke is the current champion, but this is his father, the previous champion. A World War II veteran, he died in 2015.

The Dymokes have been the standard bearers for the reigning English monarch since the mid-14th Century, and would ride into Westminster Abbey in full shining armor, on a horse, in full plumage and regalia. To repeat, they ride a horse into Westminster in the middle of a coronation. They then throw a gauntlet – they literally throw a gauntlet – on the ground and announce that whomever dares challenge the King or Queen’s right to the throne must face him in combat. When no one does, the new monarch then drinks wine from a golden cup to honor his or her Champion.

The King or Queen could not fight in such combat unless it were someone their equal who would challenge them, and that usually meant a war.

How to train your plank without planking

Dope.

The tradition has taken a few different forms over the last few monarch coronations, and was left out of Queen Victoria’s coronation entirely.

And sadly, at Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation, the Champion did not get to throw the gauntlet or threaten the crowd, but he did his duty to carry the Royal Standard in the procession. When Prince Charles (or at this rate, William) takes the throne, this is a tradition we in America would like to see revived to its full former glory.

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6 military love stories that are better than movies

Dear John is great movie, but how many times can you watch it? Instead, soak up some real-life military love stories. From the Revolutionary War to a WWII couple that reunited in 2016, these stories will give you a little hope that love is alive and well.

The stories of the GI Brides

During World War II, many of the American soldiers, or GIs, who were stationed overseas didn’t return alone. Many of them fell in love with young European women who followed them back to the States to live an entirely new life.

These women, known as the GI Brides, were walking into unknown territory, saying goodbye to their homeland and culture for love. Their marriages weren’t all perfect, but their stories go to show just how far people will go for their partners.

One book, “GI Brides: The Wartime Girls Who Crossed the Atlantic for Love”, explores the stories of four GI Brides to share how love and war shaped their lives. 

2. The Civil War soldier who would have died without his wife.

Frank and Arabella Barlow were married on April 20th, 1861. Frank enlisted in the Union Army the very same day. He quickly became an accomplished soldier while Arabella became a nurse. She visited him when she could, but danger often kept them apart. Then came the Battle of Gettysburg. During the conflict, Frank was shot multiple times in the back and side. 

A Confederate general, General John Brown Gordon, found him barely alive on the field and took pity on him, offering him some water. Frank told Gordon that his wife, a nurse, was volunteering nearby, and asked if he would pass along a message to her. Despite fighting on opposite sides of the war, Gordon found Arabella and escorted her past enemy lines to her dying husband. She, however, had no intentions of allowing him to die. 

She was able to treat his wounds and nurse him back to health, and they remained happily married until she herself succumbed to typhus just a few months later. Tragic as it was, there’s a silver lining. Frank Barlow and John Gordon reunited years later and struck up an unexpected friendship, which lasted until Barlow passed away in 1896. It just goes to show that respect and kindness can cross surprising divides.  

3. A vet from America’s first war had the world’s longest marriage 

One of the oldest ever vets fought in the Revolutionary War and lived all the way through the conclusion of the Civil War- he lived a remarkable 109 years! His name was Daniel Bakeman, and his marriage is one of the oldest marriages on record. He and his wife Susan married when they were essentially children, around the ages of 12 and 14. 

Despite enduring 10 years of war, multiple house fires, and many moves, they raised eight happy children together and remained married until Susan died at 105. Lasting through two major wars and 91 years, their love lasted longer than most lives! 

4. This couple who were reunited after being separated by war for 11 years.

An American man named Woodford McClellan met his future wife, Irina, in Russia in 1972. He was just a tourist and was planning on returning back to the states right after his vacation, but he was instantly taken with her. He was able to acquire a visa, and by 1975 the couple was married. Sadly, his visa was only temporary. A few months after they said their vows, he was forced to return to the US.

One would think that a legal marriage would make it simple for the couple to reconnect, but Russia’s harsh policies during the Cold War made it impossible. He wasn’t permitted to visit her in Russia, and she wasn’t allowed to move to America. Plenty of people would have given up and moved on, but they waited it out. After 11 years, she was finally given permission to emigrate and resume her life with her long lost love. She even wrote a book about it after.

Irina’s book is now out of print, but you can still find used copies if you’re dying to read it.

5. Possibly the most surprising military love story, one couple reconnected after 70 years because of a Google search. 

During World War II, an American soldier named Norwood Thomas was stationed in London. He fell in love with a local named Joyce, and they proceeded to send love letters to each other for the rest of the war. Still, they were young and war proved to be chaotic. Norwood joined the 101st Airborne when they parachuted into Normandy on D-Day, and after that, he went home. 

Meanwhile, Joyce moved to Australia. The two didn’t speak for years and moved on with their lives. They each married someone else, but they never forgot each other. Eventually, Norwood lost his wife and Joyce separated from her husband. Out of curiosity, she looked up her old flame and found him on the internet. They began chatting over Skype and soon realized they still had feelings after 70 long years. They launched a GoFundMe to help them raise the money to meet in person. The campaign was a success, and Norwood flew to meet Joyce in Australia on Valentine’s Day. 

6. Last but not least, a different kind of military love story; that of a man and his dog. 

How to train your plank without planking
The story was made into a book by Damien Lewis in 2015, available on Amazon.

Not all kinds of love stories are romantic. Some are about brotherhood. After an Airman named Robert Bozdech was shot down, he came across a tiny, orphaned German Shepherd puppy. He escaped with the pup and named him Ant. Over the course of WWII, the pair became inseparable. They saved each other’s lives countless times, and Ant was eventually awarded the Dickin Medal for his remarkable loyalty. 

The moral of this story? Love conquers all, even war. But if you’re single on Valentine’s Day, don’t sweat it. Just adopt a dog.


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These are the punishments for convicted War Criminals

The Hague and international community have little remorse for convicted war criminals. Generally, there are only two sentences: death and prison. This has been the case since 1919, when the Treaty of Versailles was established. The Treaty distinguishes war crimes (acts committed under the guise of military necessity) from crimes against humanity (acts committed against the civilian population) and manages the overlap between the two.


Let’s take a look at how the international community punishes war criminals for their transgressions against humanity:

House Arrest

The most lenient of the punishments is never issued by The Hague, but is enforced by the country of the criminal to prevent the issue from going higher. The guilty are confined to their home instead of a traditional prison. If they are allowed outside communication or travel, it’s strictly monitored.

Notable Criminal: Pol Pot (1997 until death in 1998)

Although he was accused or directly responsible for the deaths of between 1 and 3 million people in Cambodia (which only had a population of 8 million people), Saloth Sar, later known as Pol Pot, was only ever tried for the execution of his right-hand man, Son Sen. Around 10 months into his sentence, he died of a lethal combination of Valium and chloroquine. It’s unknown if it was intentional suicide, accidental, or even murder.

 

How to train your plank without planking

Lengthy prison sentences

For most war criminals, lengthy prison sentences are the norm. Unless you’re found to be only an accessory to war crimes, sentences are typically twenty years and more. With such long imprisonments, life after release is still hell.

Notable Criminal: Charles Taylor (sentenced to 50 years in 2012)

Taylor was the deposed President of Liberia and one of the most prominent warlords in Africa. He rose to power during the First Liberian Civil War and was heavily involved in the Sierra Leone Civil War along with the Second Liberian Civil War. The presiding judge at The Hague, Richard Lussick, said at his sentencing, “The accused has been found responsible for aiding and abetting as well as planning some of the most heinous and brutal crimes recorded in human history.”

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To contextualize his actions, he (standing) was the inspiration for Andre Baptiste Sr. in the 2005 film Lord of War (Image via UN)

Life in prison

For the top echelon of war criminals — those too vile even for the sweet release of death — a life sentence is the punishment of choice.

Notable Criminal: Philippe Pétain (1945 until death in 1951)

Pétain was once a beloved General, the Lion of Verdun, hero of France — that was until the fall of France in 1940. He was immediately appointed Prime Minister of France and turned the Third French Republic into Vichy France, the puppet state of Nazi Germany. He willingly sided with Hitler’s agenda (including antisemitism, censorship, and the “felony of opinion”) while squashing the French Resistance.

After the fall of the Axis Powers, Pétain was was tried for treason and aiding the Nazi Regime. He was convicted of all charges and sentenced to death. Charles De Gaulle, the new President of France, commuted his sentence to life in prison because of his age and military service during WWI. He was stripped of all military ranks and honors except for the distinction of Marshal of France.

How to train your plank without planking
You can also blame him for all of the coward jokes against the actually bad-ass French military. (Image via Wikicommons)

Execution

Surprisingly enough, the highest possible punishment for war crimes is also the most issued. A large percentage of those tried at the Nuremberg Trials received the death penalty — more specifically, death by hanging. The added benefit effect of death by hangings as opposed to use of firing squad is that it took an agonizing 12 to 28 minutes for war criminals to die.

Notable Criminals: Saddam Hussein (Dec. 30, 2006)

Numerous genocides, ethnic cleansings, invasions of foreign states, countless human rights abuses, and the responsibility for the deaths of up to 182,000 civilians, Saddam Hussein was, at one point, the world’s foremost war criminal. Captured by U.S.-led forces near Tikrit, Iraq in 2003, he was later handed to the Iraqi people for a lengthy trial process before he was eventually executed.

How to train your plank without planking
Capture of Saddam Hussein (Image via Wikicommons)

MIGHTY TRENDING

Combat veteran addresses homelessness with tiny homes

When former Army Cpl. Chris Stout saw his fellow veterans struggling with homelessness, he set out to solve the problem by going small — really small. Tiny, even.

On Veterans Day, 2015, Stout and three other combat vets started the Veterans Community Project (VCP), a non-profit that builds communities of tiny homes, providing a host of services for veterans.

During a 2005 combat tour in Afghanistan Stout was wounded and transitioned back to Kansas City, Missouri. Like many wounded warriors, he struggled with physical and mental injuries. He knew that he felt better when in the company of other veterans and, for a short time, worked as a veteran counselor connecting vets to services they needed. But it wasn’t enough.


“I often would use my own money to put up vets in a hotel room,” Stout said. “I felt like there must be better way to get vets the services they needed, as well as housing.”

With its focus first on the great Kansas City, Missouri area, VCP wants to use the region as the blueprint for achieving similar successes in cities across the United States. Long term, they aspire to eliminate veteran homelessness nationwide.

Veteran’s Community Project

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“We are the place that says ‘yes’ first and figures everything else out later,” Stout said. “We serve anybody who’s ever raised their hand to defend our Constitution.”

Homelessness is one of the major contributors to the high suicide rate of veterans, he said. According to the latest 2016 Department of Veterans Affairs study, that rate is 22 per day among younger veterans aged 18 to 34.

In the VCP program, veterans get more than just a home; they get a community of like-minded veterans supporting each other.

“It’s very much like the barracks lifestyle, except that each veteran has their own home,” Stout said. “They’re taking care of each other. We also have a community center for them to gather and share camaraderie.”

The founders of VCP say on their website they are a team of “connectors, feelers, and doers on a mission to help our kin, our kind. We move with swift, bold action, and will always serve with compassion.”

Stout and his partners use their military logistics prowess to ensure that their housing communities are located along convenient bus lines and provide every veteran a free bus pass to allow easy transportation.

“We like to have them say, ‘What do you provide?’ That way we can ask them, ‘What do you need?’ And then we can start being the connectors,” Stout said. “At least 60 percent of the people that we serve, we’re serving them because of a poor transition from the military.”

And it’s thanks, in part, to his work with that community that he’s accumulated a wealth of good advice on how to survive the transition from the military into the civilian world.

How to train your plank without planking

Chris Stout, Army veteran and Founder of the Veterans Community Project.

Chris Stout’s top 5 transition tips

  1. Connect with other veterans in your community. They will have learned lessons and have guidance more valuable than a brochure.
  2. Ask for assistance before it’s too late. When Plan A doesn’t pan out, be prepared to execute a Plan B and ask for help pulling yourself out of the hole.
  3. You’re not alone. You’re not the first to struggle with the VA, and you’re not the first to struggle with home life. Know that there are people who understand and can help sort it out. Often, when veterans transition, they view it as if they are the only ones traveling this road or the first blazing the trail. That’s not the case
  4. If you’re a veteran, act like one. That means accepting responsibility, be on time, hold yourself accountable, have integrity and do not act entitled.
  5. Work as hard as you did while you were in the service each and every day. It doesn’t matter what you decide to do when you get out; if you keep the drive, you will be OK.

Master your military transition

Looking for more transition tips? Military.com has you covered. Sign up for a free Military.com membership to have military news, updates, and job resources delivered directly to your inbox.

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

MIGHTY MOVIES

Why ‘Mission: Impossible — Fallout’ is the best installment in the series

Mission: Impossible — Fallout is not the best action movie of all time, but it comes damn close. Paradoxically, the reason why people think it’s the greatest action movie of all time is that it has some of the best action scenes in any action movie ever. Just because a film has the best action scenes, doesn’t mean those scenes add up to the best film in the genre. So, thankfully, the newest Mission: Impossible film really does meet the hype (even if some reviewers have gotten a bit hyperbolic suggesting it’s the best action movie ever made) it’s not the greatest thing ever, despite being pretty great. here’s why.

It’s rare for a franchise to reach its high-point six movies in but, against all odds, Fallout proves that Mission: Impossible is as fresh as it’s ever been, raising the stakes both for the franchise and the action genre as a whole. It has been 22 years since Ethan Hunt first burst into theaters with his trademark blend of high stakes espionage and heart-stopping action. And while most series would have grown stale long ago and been forgotten, Mission: Impossible is arguably bigger than it’s ever been. Riding a wave of critical acclaim and audience excitement, Fallout is in a perfect position become one of the biggest and most beloved films of the year.


Most summer blockbusters ignore things like story and character in favor of big stunts but Mission: Impossible continues to deliver movies that are enjoyable on every conceivable level. The plot, revolving around Hunt and his motley crew tracking down some nuclear weapons that have ended up in the wrong hands, is fun and features just the right amount of twists and turns without becoming too confusing. The cast continues to get better, anchored by living legend Tom Cruise, who remains as charming as ever, even while he is jumping out of an airplane or getting hit by a car while riding a motorcycle.

But unsurprisingly, the biggest reason Fallout is the best action movie of the year is because of the action. As a genre, action movies have strayed further and further from reality thanks to special effects and CGI, to the point where sometimes entire fight sequences and chase scenes will basically just be motion capture, green screen, and good old fashion Hollywood magic. These movies are undoubtedly impressive but they lack the immediacy that can be found in a film like Fallout, that relies mostly on practical effects to get its biggest sequences onscreen.

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Since the first film hit theaters more than two decades ago, Mission: Impossible has been known for its insane but entirely real action set pieces and fans of the series will be happy to know that Fallout is packed with the best action sequences in the entire franchise. The movie has everything action junkies are clamoring for, including a skydiving scene, an extended epic chase scene around Paris, and a dogfight between two helicopters that has to be seen to be believed.

But the highlight of the action is undoubtedly an epic fight scene that takes place entirely in a bathroom. The choreography is next-level and every punch thrown feels completely real, to the point where you have to remind yourself that these guys are not actually beating the shit out of each other. But despite the raw intensity, it’s also incredibly fun to watch, features a number of big laughs, and serves as a perfect encapsulation of everything great about Mission: Impossible.

None of this is to say that Fallout is a perfect movie. At two hours and 27 minutes, Fallout, like most blockbusters, feels about 30 minutes longer than it needs to be. A few of the action sequences are also a bit over the top, especially during the film’s climax, which drags on just a hair longer than it probably should and briefly walks on the wrong side of believability.

Long story short, it’s a great action film but is unlikely to be remembered as one of the greatest action movies ever made. In fact, many might argue it’s not even the best film in its own franchise, as a strong case could certainly be made for Ghost Protocol. Still, any nitpicks pale in comparison to how much fun you will have watching Fallout, as it is a nonstop spectacle that action fans of all ages will love. And while Fallout is unlikely to replace Die Hard or Raiders of the Lost Ark on the Mount Rushmore of action movies, it’s already clearly established itself as the top action film of 2018.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Here are the best military discounts for troops

It can be a bit disheartening to pop out your military ID and ask “you guys offer a military discount?” only to have the cashier shake their head no and then ask you a couple awkward questions about your service before giving you your Slim Jim and 6 pack. Thankfully, we’ve wrangled up 10 solid military discounts all in one place!


How to train your plank without planking

Avis

Avis better have a deep stock of blacked-out Dodge chargers and unnecessarily lifted Ford F150s on hand–because they offer up to 25% total discounts for all military members and their families. Boots can use that little bit of extra savings and get a model with heated seats for that Tinder date they’re going to propose to in 3 months. Toss in a sunroof too, so the Oakley sunglasses eternally perched on your baseball hat can finally block something from the sun.

How to train your plank without planking

Jiffy Lube

Most military members don’t know this, but Jiffy Lube actually offers a 25% discount off most services. There are a couple of reasons why many troops don’t know this. For one thing, most folks in the military know how to change their own oil. For another—some might think that “Jiffy Lube” is just slang for finding 2 minutes of, ahem, private time in the barracks.

How to train your plank without planking

Kohl’s

As of April 2019, Kohl’s recently instated a 15% military discount. There’s a catch with this one—you can’t use it in addition to a pre-existing discount, or with select brands such as Levi’s, Uggs, Columbia, or Timberland. But it works with gift cards, so you’ll really be able to stretch that unused birthday present your aunt gave you in 2014.

How to train your plank without planking

Home Depot

Ahh Home Depot—home to the mysteriously intoxicating scent of sawdust and mulch. Home Depot gives 10% discounts to all veterans and active duty servicemen. This applies to anything in store, so go ahead and load up on a whole bunch of parts for that project you are (never going to finish) working on.

How to train your plank without planking

Foot Locker

Verify your military service through SheerID (which you should do anyway–tons of savings on there) and Foot Locker will give you 20% off all products in store. Walk around pensively holding a pair of Nike basketball kicks, knowing full well you’re just gonna buy another pair of grey Vans with those savings.

How to train your plank without planking

Sirius XM

Sirius XM offers a very significant 25% off their subscription price for all military vets, reservists, and active duty servicemen. This gives you the opportunity to listen to Howard Stern on the 4-minute drive from the base to the bar.

How to train your plank without planking

Disneyland & Disney World

Disneyland offers a 3-day reservation for only 8 or 4 days for 8 for military members. That’s a pretty solid discount that gives you plenty of savings to spend on the sweetest treat west of the Mississippi— Disneyland churros.

How to train your plank without planking

Microsoft 365

Microsoft offers 30% off its office software for all military members and their families. Use the excel spreadsheets to track how much money you lost playing Spades on deployment this year. Or use the word processor to type up a couple college essays. Or use powerpoint to fall asleep.

How to train your plank without planking

Eastbay

This online sneaker juggernaut offers 20% off via SheerID. They’ve got a pretty slick selection of sneakers, and an even better selection of athletic gear and cleats. So you can finally look like a total badass while losing your co-ed intramural basketball game by 30 points.

How to train your plank without planking

 NFL Shop

NFL Shop offers a cool 15% discount to all military members, veterans, spouses, and immediate family members. The online store is very convenient, as it gives Bills fans a chance to google who their quarterback is on the day they purchase a jersey.

MIGHTY HISTORY

These Australian special operators haunted the enemy in Vietnam

It might surprise the casual student of history to learn that the United States was not alone in supporting South Vietnam during the Vietnam War. America’s traditional list of allies joined us in trying to contain the spread of Communism in South East Asia, including Taiwan, South Korea, and Australia. Each one of them brought the pain to the enemy in their own way.

South Koreans were so zealous in their fight against Communism that everyone else actually had to restrain them at times. Aside from the powerful bombing campaigns, America employed precision special operations units, which North Vietnamese called “the men with green faces.” It was the Australians they feared most, however.

At any given moment, everything would be fine and then, suddenly, you’d see all your men killed in the blink of an eye. That’s how they knew the Aussies were in the area.


Even though Aussies had been in Vietnam since 1962, the Australian Special Air Service Regiment first arrived in Vietnam in April 1966 with the mission of conducting long-range reconnaissance patrols in the dense Vietnamese jungles.

They were so effective in the field, the NVA called the Australians the “Ghosts of the Jungle.” They even provided instructors to the United States’ Long-Range Reconnaissance Patrol school. They would operate on 24-hour missions in the areas surrounding friendly bases.

Related: You had to bet your life to graduate from the Vietnam-era ‘Recondo’ school

Small fire teams of four to six men moved much more slowly than any other unit, even other special operations units. But once in contact with the enemy, the Australians unleashed a barrage of fire, designed to make the enemy believe there were more men on the opposing side than there really were.

The slow, quiet movement and hellish raking fire the Australians brought to the NVA and VC made them the most feared enemy unit in the areas of South Vietnam. Even the most quiet VC infiltrators could easily walk into a devastating Aussie ambush.

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An SASR patrol during Operation Coburg, South Vietnam 1968.

(Australian Defense Ministry)

Each Aussie SASR unit operated with an attached New Zealand SAS trooper and each of the three “Sabre” squadrons did, at least, a one-year tour in Vietnam, operating throughout Phuoc Tuy province as well as in Bien Hoa, Long Khanh, and Binh Tuy provinces. They also deployed with American Special Forces and Navy SEALs throughout the country.

The Australian SASR first came in contact with the enemy in May, 1966, when they met a Viet Cong force in the area around Nui Dat. It did not go well for the VC. From there, the Aussies spread their recon patrol range by several kilometers. By the end of their time in Vietnam, the unit performed 1,200 combat patrols with one killed in action, one dead from wounds, three accidentally killed, one missing, and one death from illness. Another 28 men were wounded in action.

Before leaving in 1971, the ANZACs killed 600 enemy troops, the highest kill ratio of the entire war.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This Kazakh independence symbol is a golden suit of armor

For most Americans, Kazakhstan evokes images of Sacha Baron Cohen’s Borat character, driving across America, uttering timeless quotes about his wife, his neighbor Ursultan, or those a**holes in Uzbekistan. Those interested in military history might want to look beyond Borat’s neon green bikini – it was a Kazakh who hoisted the Soviet flag over the Reichstag during World War II after all and until it was absorbed into the Soviet Union, Kazakh tribes remained largely undefeated in military history.


In 1969, a burial mound was discovered near Issyk in what was then the Kazakh SSR of the Soviet Union. The mound contained an ancient skeleton along with warrior’s gear and funeral treasures belonging to a long-dead Scythian soldier, estimated to be buried around the 5th Century BCE. Based on the funerary treasures, the skeleton was considered to be that of a noble, a prince or princess. Among those treasures was what has come to be called the “Golden Man” amongst Kazakhs – a suit of ornate armor made of more than 4,000 pieces of gold.

The suit is so ornate and valuable, the Kazakh government will only show replicas of the Golden Man in museums. The original is said to be housed in the main vault of the National Bank of Kazakhstan in Almaty.

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The Prince is from a tribe of ancient Scythian warriors called the “Saka” who lived in the lands north of what is today Iran. While the ancient historians called all tribes living in the Asian steppe Scythian, the ancient Persians referred to those Scythian tribes at their northern border as the Saka. These nomadic peoples likely fought against Alexander the Great as his forces moved west. They also engaged Cyrus the Great’s Persian forces, killing him in battle around 530 BCE.

The Scythian tribes of this time were not dominated by men, and like their modern-day Soviet Kazakh armies, women would fight alongside their men. It was their Empress Tomyris who led the army that killed Cyrus. Descendants of these same tribes would resist incursions from early Russian, Chinese, and Roman armies.

So while it’s very possible the “Golden Man” wasn’t a man at all, the ancient, cataphract-style armor – armor used by nomadic-style cavalry units – is a beautiful historical work of art. The gold works depict snow leopards, deer, goats, horses, and majestic birds. These are all depicted on the likely ceremonial armor and form a clear basis for the modern style of tribal jewelry-making in the Central Asian country.

As for the bones of the ancient warrior, they were reinterred using the customs of the Scythian warriors of the time. The people of this area are still so very close to their tribal origins that they all know from which of the three tribes of Kazakhstan they descend.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Marilyn Monroe’s first job was building drones for the Army

In 1942, young Norma Jean Dougherty married Jim Dougherty, a Van Nuys, Calif. factory worker. The next year, her husband enlisted in the Merchant Marine and, by 1944, was sent to the Pacific Theater of World War II. Then just 18 years old, Norma Jean moved in with his parents in Van Nuys and began working at the Radioplane Munitions Factory.

That’s where an Army Air Forces photographer captured some photos of her at work, and her life changed forever.


Norma Jean had a rough life up until that point. Her mother was mentally unstable and she was placed in and out of foster homes and orphanages until she was 16. That’s when she married Jim Dougherty in an effort to avoid being sent back to another orphanage. She became a housewife for a brief time until the Second World War forced her husband to join the Merchant Marine and she was sent to work in a factory.

How to train your plank without planking
The newly christened Norma Jean Dougherty’s wedding photo, 1942.

That factory was making an early flying drone used by the military as aerial targets, the Radioplane OQ-2. It was while working at the Van Nuys airport-based Radioplane plant that Norma Jean was photographed at work by a photographer from the Army Air Forces First Motion Picture Unit, who capturing morale photos for Yank Magazine.

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Norma Jean Dougherty working on a propeller unit at the Radioplane Factory in Van Nuys, Calif., 1944.

(U.S. Army Air Forces)

The photographer, Pvt. David Conover, was sent to the factory by his commander, Capt. Ronald Reagan, who wanted photos of pretty girls hard at work on the homefront for the boys fighting overseas.

I moved down the assembly line, taking shots of the most attractive employees,” Conover later wrote. “None was especially out of the ordinary. I came to a pretty girl putting on propellers and raised the camera to my eye. She had curly ash blond hair and her face was smudged with dirt. I snapped her picture and walked on. Then I stopped, stunned. She was beautiful. Half child, half woman, her eyes held something that touched and intrigued me.
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One of Norma Jean Dougherty’s first modeling photos.

In the end, Conover didn’t use any of Dougherty’s photos for the work he was assigned to do for the Army that day. He would end up taking leave from the Army Air Corps to spend two weeks shooting Norma Jean and teaching her how to pose for the camera. Eventually, she signed on with the Blue Book Modeling Agency in 1945, sometimes using the name Jean Norman.

The photographer was soon sent off to the Philippines and lost contact with Norma Jean. It wasn’t until 1953, when her career was taking off, that he learned his discovery was the bombshell everyone knew as Marilyn Monroe. She credited this to Conover all her life, and the two were reunited briefly on the set of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.

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Marilyn Monroe and Emmeline Snively on the set of ‘No Business Like Show Business.’

Her first modeling gigs were mostly advertisements and men’s magazines, as she had more of a “pin-up” figure than one of a fashion model, according to her agency. It was the Blue Book Modeling Agency’s founder, Miss Emmeline Snively, who introduced Norma Jean to the movie industry.

The rest is history.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Vastly outnumbered, these Irish troops survived a 5-day siege

In 1961, 158 Irish soldiers with no combat experience came under determined attack from 3,000-5,000 African rebels and European mercenaries, surviving five days of airstrikes, mortar barrages, and frontal assaults while on a U.N. peacekeeping mission that went horribly wrong.


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An Irish soldier on duty in the Congo in 1960.

(Irish Defence Forces CC BY 2.0)

The men of Company A were sent to the Republic of the Congo shortly after the country received independence from Belgium in June 1960. A wave of violence had swept the country in the weeks and months following independence, and a local politician and businessman saw serious potential.

See, Congo is rich in natural resources, but a lot of those resources are concentrated in the Katanga region in the country’s southeast. Moise Tshombe thought he could cobble together a coalition of local forces from Katanga and mercenaries supported by European companies, and so he got Katanga to secede from the DRC.

Suddenly, the country’s racial and political unrest was a full-on civil war, and the young United Nations resolved to keep the peace. Troops were dispatched, and Congolese leaders were so happy with the first wave of troops that they asked for more, leading to the Irish deployment.

How to train your plank without planking

Irish soldiers manning a position in the Republic of the Congo in 1960.

(Irish Defence Forces CC BY 2.0)

Company A was comprised of 158 Irish soldiers equipped largely with leftover weapons from World War II like Vickers machine guns, mortars, and a Bren light machine gun. If this doesn’t sound like enough firepower to take on 3,000 men with air support, trust me, the Irish knew that.

The men weren’t expected to take that heavy of contact, but the political situation in Katanga continued to degrade and local opinion was strongly against the Irishmen. The Irish commander, Commandant Pat Quinlan, saw what was coming and ordered his men to dig deep trenches around the Jadotville compound, an otherwise abandoned group of buildings that the men were stationed within.

On September 13, the attack came. A sergeant finishing up his shave that Sunday morning while most of the unit was at mass looked across the grass outside the compound and saw armed Kantangan rebels and their mercenaries coming towards them. He jumped on the gun and started sending rounds downrange, calling the rest of the men to action.

As the Irish got their major weapons systems into operations, they were surprised by an enemy mortar round that shook the buildings. That was when they knew they were outgunned, and it would quickly become apparent that they were outnumbered. There were between 3,000 and 5,000 men attacking the 158 defenders.

How to train your plank without planking

A Fouga jet, the French two-seat jet trainer that Katanga rebels used to fire on Irish troops.

(Philippe DULAC, CC BY-SA 3.0)

Quinlan had ordered his men to stockpile water before the attack, but as the fighting dragged on day after day, it became clear that there wasn’t enough water and ammunition to sustain the defense. And the rebels had taken control of a nearby river crossing, cutting off potential reinforcements or resupply.

One brave helicopter pilot did manage to fly in some water, but it turned out to be contaminated.

So, from Sept. 13-17, the Irish suffered strafing attacks with limited ability to defend themselves, but wreaked havoc on their enemies on the ground, killing 300 of the attackers while suffering zero deaths and only five major injuries.

Yes, outgunned, vastly outnumbered, and under concerted attack, the Irish held their own for five days. But, by Sept. 17, out of water and ammunition, it was clear to Quinlan that the compound was lost. He could order is men to resist with knives as their enemy attacked with machine guns and mortars, or he could surrender.

And so, the Irishmen surrendered and were taken as hostages by the rebels who tried to use them as a bargaining chip with the U.N. in a bid for independence. But the rebels ended up releasing all 158 soldiers just five weeks later.

For decades, the men were treated as cowards and embarrassments, but a 2016 movie named The Siege of Jadotville about the battle treated the men as heroes and has helped cast a light on the men’s heroism. Before the premiere of the movie, the Irish government agreed with lobbying by Quinlan’s son to award a unit citation for Company A and individuals were awarded Jadotville medals until 1917.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How a tuba led to the National Guard training allies in Europe

In some ways, the National Guard Bureau’s State Partnership Program — which pairs National Guard elements with partner nations worldwide — started with a tuba.

“The Latvian military band needed a big tuba,” said retired Air Force Maj. Gen. John Conaway, the 22nd chief of the NGB and “father” of the SPP. “And we hauled a tuba over there.”


The trip with the tuba was part of the early planning stages for the program, which turns 25 in 2018.

“We delivered that tuba to the Latvian band and they were amazed to get it,” said Conaway. “That started the program with the first, initial visit.”

That first visit lead the way to a program that now has 74 partnerships with countries throughout the world. But it all started with three: Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.

“We were received in grand fashion in all three places,” said Conaway, referring to that initial trip. Where it would go from there, he added, was then still unknown.

“We didn’t know what was going to happen,” he said. “But, we had the visit. That was the start.”

That first visit was the result of a simple directive from Army Gen. John Shalikashvili, then-supreme allied commander in Europe with NATO, and who would be appointed chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 1993.

“He called me up and said “we’ve got to help these new emerging democracies [in the Baltics],'” said Conaway, adding that after additional planning with Pentagon officials, he formed a small team and they started working with the State Department. That led to meeting with the presidents of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, as well as military officials in those countries.

“It looked like they wanted our help and we started talking about putting liaison officers from the National Guard on orders with them,” said Conaway. “Our role was to help make the transition [to democracy] as smooth as we could.”

The idea of liaison officers grew into tying specific Guard elements with specific countries.

“The [team] and I huddled and thought, “We’ve got tons of Lithuanians and Lithuanian-Americans living in Pennsylvania,'” Conaway said. “It fit. We’ll tie Lithuania to the Pennsylvania National Guard.”

How to train your plank without planking
Sgt. 1st Class Harry R. Martinez, right, with the New Jersey Army National Guard, demonstrates how to load an ammunition drum on a M249 squad automatic weapon to Albanian Officer Candidate Endri Deda while training at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J.
(U.S. Army photo by Master Sgt. Mark C. Olsen)

The idea grew from there.

“There were a lot of Latvian-Americans in Michigan, so we got with the adjutant general [of the Michigan National Guard] and tied them together with Latvia,” said Conaway. “There are Estonian-Americans in Baltimore, and so we tied [Estonia] together with the Maryland National Guard.”

Conaway added there was little precedent to follow while developing the program.

“We were doing this off the back of an envelope back then,” he said. “It was happening so fast.”

By the time Conaway retired in November 1993, the SPP had 13 partnerships, primarily with former Eastern Bloc countries in Europe.

The following years saw new partnerships added from across the globe.

“It’s grown to 74 partnerships and that’s been an incremental growth of about two to three partnerships a year,” said Air Force Col. Donald McGuire, chief of the international affairs branch at the NGB.

As the program has expanded, the process for adding new partnerships has become more refined.

First, the country has to request to be a member of the program, said McGuire, adding that input from the State Department and the combatant command — the U.S. military command element overseeing specific geographic regions — goes along with that request.

“They collectively decide that this is a good country we want to nominate for selection into the program,” said McGuire, adding that from there staff work is done to determine the best course of action with pairing up elements for a partnership.

“It’s very analytical what the staff here does,” said McGuire. “They put a lot of hard work and brain cells against making sure they’re doing a good analysis to give the chief [of the NGB] the best recommendation they can.”

The long-term success of the program has come about, in part, from that intrinsic relationship with both the State Department and the combatant command, said McGuire. The SPP is nested with the command’s theater security cooperation plan and the State Department’s country study plan.

“It’s in tune with the combatant commanders, therefore, it’s in tune or synchronized with the National Defense Strategy,” McGuire said.

Building relationships, said McGuire, is one of the hallmarks of the program.

“This provides, perhaps, the most well-known and established international partnership capability the National Guard is involved with,” he said. “These are relationships that have grown over the course of time and continue to grow.”

Those relationships have not only seen partners in the program train together, but also work together in the wake of natural disasters and large-scale emergencies.

How to train your plank without planking
Soldiers of the Tennessee Army National Guard demonstrate how to properly apply camouflage concealment to the face at Babadag Training Area in eastern Romania

It’s also seen co-deployments to Iraq, Afghanistan and other areas.

“You wouldn’t have these countries and units deploying together, necessarily, if they didn’t already have this relationship.”

McGuire added that’s a significant element.

“That tells you a lot about the program,” he said. “These co-deployments are real-world operations, named contingencies that represent the next level of collaboration and coordination.”

Building collaboration and coordination is also key to building greater regional security, said Army Brig. Gen. Christopher F. Lawson, the NGB’s vice director of strategy, policy, plans and international affairs.

“In order to promote greater peace and stability in the world long into the future, we will need a program like the SPP because it helps nations transition from security consumers to security providers,” he said.

For Conaway, the continued growth of the program is more than he imagined 25 years ago.

“It is beyond my wildest dreams and imagination that it would be this passionate and this popular and the good the National Guard has done,” he said. “Here we are, 25 years after it started and the National Guard is just as enthusiastic as ever.”

The pairing of the West Virginia National Guard with Qatar was announced in April 2018, and McGuire said additional partnerships are in the coordination phase.

“We have a few more partnerships in the queue,” he said, adding he sees continued growth of the program over the next 25 years and beyond.

“It really is the entry point to a lot of good things that happen,” McGuire said.

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @usarmy on Twitter.

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