This is the science behind how muscle is built - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY FIT

This is the science behind how muscle is built

Pectoralis major (chest), gastrocnemius (calf), and the rectus abdominis (abs) are just a few of the popular areas that both men and women work to strengthen and tone. But how do we get them to grow without overdoing it and hurting ourselves in the gym?

The Answer? Science.


There are approximately 600 muscles found in the human body. This dense, complex fibrous tissue makes up between one-third and one-half of our total body weight. Even if your goal isn’t to win a bodybuilding competition, working out determines whether your body will grow or wither.

 

This is the science behind how muscle is built
A short list of the muscles in the human body.

(Baldaivirtuves.info)

So, how can science help us grow muscle? Well, you need to learn how a muscle works before you can push it to its limit.

Let’s say you want to lift a small amount of weight that your body can efficiently manage. First, your brain sends a signal to the motor neurons in your arm. Once the neurons receive the message, they fire up, contracting and relaxing your muscles. The muscles pull on the bones in your arm to create the movement needed to lift the weight.

It’s pretty simple, right?

Now, if the load we need to carry is on the heavier side, that signal from your brain gets magnified, enabling you to generate the required force.

This is the science behind how muscle is built
Inside of a human muscle fiber.

In lifting this heavy object, you’ve exposed your muscle to stress and, as a result, you’ve completed a controlled tear in the muscle fibers. Nice work! In response to the damage, your body releases inflammatory cells called “cytokines.” These cells activate your immune system, repairing the controlled injury and making the muscle fibers stronger.

And we like that.

Since our bodies are great at adapting, continuing with the same routine, day-in and day-out, will cause your body to plateau — meaning you won’t build any additional muscle. By introducing different types of resistance to your body, you can avoid this plateau. Instead, your body will enter into a state called “hypertrophy.”

This is the science behind how muscle is built
Weight lifting is great, but adding in another type of exercise will keep your body guessing.

(Photo by Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Christian J. Robertson)

 

Now, lifting the heavy weights isn’t the only critical aspect to getting your body ready for beach season. Your tissue won’t be able to repair damaged muscle fibers without the help of proper nutrition, rest, and, of course, the right amount of hormones. Science has proven that gender and age affect the healing process, which is why young men with high testosterone levels find it easiest to bulk up.

Check out Ted-Ed‘s animated video below to get an entertaining and educational look at how humans get buffed out using science as their weapon.

MIGHTY FIT

High Intensity Tactical Training (HITT) vs High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

I led multiple combat conditioning programs in the Marine Corps, and I did my Martial Arts Instructor Certification at the MACE in Quantico with the creators of MCMAP. Yet, I had no idea what HITT was. I thought it was just a cheap rip-off of HIIT that the Marine Corps wanted to get their proprietary mitts on.

I was a little salty at certain points in my career.

The short of it is: HIIT is a type of workout and HITT is a comprehensive program that encompasses all aspects of fitness.


This is the science behind how muscle is built

A few seconds of this, a few seconds of that…

What HIIT is

High-Intensity interval training (HIIT) really got popular when the Tabata method got some good press. The Tabata method is a type of HIIT workout where you perform a movement for 20 seconds and then rest for 10 seconds. You repeat this sequence for as many rounds as you are adapted to.

Other styles of HIIT follow the same basic layout. You perform a movement for a certain period of time, and then you rest for about half the time you did the movement for.

If you are really particular, you would measure your heart rate and rest until your heart rate gets to about 60% of your estimated maximum heart rate.

[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/BjzcNion5Qq/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link expand=1]Michael Gregory on Instagram: “Here’s how to do a HIIT workout properly. . A lot of people do “HIIT” but they don’t understand the purpose. It’s to to boost your output…”

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It might sound like math class, and it basically is. There are plenty of apps and timers out there for HIIT workouts, but most people just wing it.

In fact, most people completely miss the point of HIIT.

At its base, HIIT is a fat burning workout that takes advantage of the anaerobic fuel systems of the body. If you don’t allow your heart rate to get down low enough between sets, you are preventing your body from truly resting. Without enough rest, you cannot perform at 90-100%+ effort, and therefore miss out on burning a maximum amount of fat.

I can and will go more in-depth on this topic in the future. Take a look at the above Instagram post for details on how to properly use HIIT to help you lose that adorable baby fat on your tummy.

This is the science behind how muscle is built

Run fast and lift heavy. Sounds pretty good to me.

(Photo by Capt. Colleen McFadden)

What HITT is

High-Intensity Tactical Training, on the other hand, is a program designed by the Marine Corps to prepare Marines for combat. You can read the whole methodology behind it here.

It has 3 basic principles:

  1. Prevent potential for injury
  2. Increase performance levels that support combat specific tasks
  3. Build strength, optimize mobility, and increase speed

Subtle how they squeezed five principles into three, but I’ll roll with it.

High Intensity Tactical Training (HITT) Promo Video- USMC

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I’d argue that these components should be the base of every single human being’s training plan, not just military personnel. I would just switch the wording around in number two to read “increase performance levels to support career specific tasks” for the normies.

Reading through the methodology, linked above, I could nitpick some of the specifics of the program. Ultimately though, I’m a fan.

Unlike HIIT, HITT has nothing to do with burning fat whatsoever. Actually, it would probably be in a Marine’s favor to keep a modest amount of body fat on their frame in case things go south and they are without food for multiple days.

This is the science behind how muscle is built

The next step is to do the workout with a full combat load. That’s HITT.

(Photo by Capt. Colleen McFadden)

Execution is everything

HIIT and HITT couldn’t be more different. HIIT is for people who are primarily concerned with how they look while HITT is for Marines who want to f*ck sh*t up.

Both of these can be very beneficial to you depending on what you are trying to achieve.

Military personnel don’t have the luxury of knowing exactly what they are getting themselves into with a deployment until they get there. A well-rounded plan, like HITT, that increases all aspects of fitness is ideal if you have the time.

This is the science behind how muscle is built

Don’t let this image fool you. This man’s primary form of exercise is not HIIT. He lifts.

(Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash)

HITT is for someone who is looking for long-term nonspecific training that will focus on all aspects of fitness. It doesn’t need to be just for those getting ready for a deployment.

HIIT is for someone who is looking to burn fat while maintaining lean muscle. That’s it for HIIT. It won’t make you stronger, it probably won’t make you much faster. It is exclusively for people who want to lose fat.

The bottom line of this showdown between fitness modalities is that the Marine Corps needs to get better at naming their programs. Otherwise, most people will just write off their highly researched program as a shameless government knock-off of something that already exists.

This is the science behind how muscle is built
MIGHTY FIT

Fantasy Football After Action Report: Week 1

Welcome to the fantasy football after-action report, where we’re going to break down the winners and losers of fantasy football each and every week, as well as provide you with some intel about your waiver wire (not to mention, show you the most badass hit of the week). So, without further ado—the first after-action report of the 2019-2020 NFL season.


With Melvin Gordon away, Austin Ekeler is having himself a game: 113 scrimmage yards and 2 TDspic.twitter.com/CDWVsxHijv

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Blue chip medal

Lamar Jackson, QB, Ravens: We buy the hype. Jackson led the Baltimore Ravens to a team record 59 points with 384 yards passing, five touchdowns, and a perfect 158.3 passer rating. Jackson did all of this without posting his typically absurd rushing numbers. Is he the 2019-2020 Mahomes? Time will tell, but, like Jackson joked in the post-game press conference, “Not bad for a running back.”

Austin Ekeler, RB, Chargers: Anybody who followed the NFL last year would be able to recognize how eerily similar this situation is to the James Conner/Le’veon Bell saga in Pittsburgh last year. Ekeler, playing the role of Conner, stepped into a vacant starting position, and absolutely shined. McCaffery put up an insane 42 fantasy points this week, but Ekeler came out of the woodwork to give his fantasy owners 39 points. Now that’s a blue-chip.

Sammy Watkins, WR, Chiefs: There’s no telling if Watkins productivity can last, but as of week 1, he is the #1 blue chip fantasy receiver. He posted nine catches for 198 yards and three touchdowns. Of course, this was all with Tyreek Hill out of the game, so let’s see how he fares battling for touches against Oakland’s banged-up secondary next week.

Harrison Butker, K, Chiefs: Let’s give the kicker some love, eh?! Butker was four for four on field goals, and a perfect four for four on PATs, giving him 17 fantasy points. That’s more than all of our Loss of Rank players combined.

STATEMENT REGARDING ANTONIO BROWN: https://heitnerlegal.com/wp-content/uploads/Statement-Regarding-Antonio-Brown.pdf …pic.twitter.com/0K9G8vJeG1

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Loss of rank

These players did not perform up to expectations. We know it’s only Week 1, we don’t wanna induce panic, but proceed with caution if you have any of these guys on your roster.

Joe Mixon, RB, Bengals: After posting a top 10 rushing season last year, Mixon turned in a lackluster performance (10 yards on a meager six carries) before getting injured and leaving in the 3rd quarter. Cincinnati has been quiet about the extent of Mixon’s injury which is concerning. If you drafted him high, it may be worth it to try and unload him while you can.

Corey Davis, WR, Titans: Davis was only targeted three times. Meanwhile, rookie AJ Brown stole the show with a 100-yard performance, and Delanie Walker looks like he has returned to prime form. The Titans are nothing special this year, there are better receivers out there.

Antonio Brown, WR, Pats (for now): Antonio Brown may be the only man to get frostbite in a California summer. Then he had the helmet debacle. He followed that with the infamous fight with GM Mike Mayock. Finally, he posted a private Gruden conversation on Instagram and forced his way out of Oakland. After signing with New England, Brown enjoyed 2-3 days without controversy, and is back in the headlines with some very serious rape and false imprisonment allegations that may see him miss a lot of time. Steer clear of him.

Deebo Samuel, WR, 49ers: This loss of rank is iffy. Deebo led WRs with 60 snaps in week 1, which would typically be used in an argument defending a player’s upside. However, here’s the thing—Deebo produced diddly squat even with his crazy high usage. He’s competing for touches alongside better weapons like Kittle or Pettis and, perhaps most importantly of all, Jimmy G looks like he spent more time with Brazzers stars in the offseason than he did throwing balls.


Lamar Jackson and Marquise Brown connect on the 83-YARD TOUCHDOWN! #BALvsMIA @lj_era8 @primetime_jet : CBS : NFL app // Yahoo Sports app Watch on mobile: http://on.nfl.com/1J8Rxm pic.twitter.com/APB2UDrGXf

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Promotion watch

Here are some of the top dudes on promotion watch for your waiver wire:

Marquise “Hollywood” Brown, WR, Ravens: Sure he’s a rookie. Sure he had a good game against a (really really) terrible Miami Dolphins team. Sure he only had 12 snaps. But he was targeted in half of the snaps he was on the field, and he took two of those six catches to the house on plays of 45 yards or more. He could be the boom or bust pickup you need.

Malcom Brown, RB, Rams: With Todd Gurley’s health in question, everyone seemed to rally around Darrell Henderson, the 3rd round pick out of Memphis, to be the handcuff to the former fantasy stalwart. However, Malcolm Brown carried the rock five times in the red zone, and out-snapped Henderson by a wide margin. Huge upside here.

Darren Waller, TE, Raiders: This guy could easily be a repeat of 2019 Jared Cook, a top five tight end. However, his ceiling is even higher than that. He racked up seven catches for 70 yards from a white-hot Derek Carr. Oakland even lined him outside at WR for a couple snaps and threw him a back-shoulder fade route. Waller is a receiver converted to tight end and is a must-add in all leagues.

Andy Dalton, QB, Bengals: As it stands right now, Andy Dalton is the NFL’s leading passer with 418 yards. He put up that stellar performance against a brutal Seahawks defense, and without his favorite target A.J. Green. He’s only rostered in 4.2% of ESPN leagues. If you need a reliable QB2, or even a mid to late level QB1, Dalton could be your answer.


Ingram attempts to spin inside but gets crushed by Quenton Nelson. The sort of hit that slows down a rush has a lasting impact #bodyblowpic.twitter.com/Jzm3jtxS4H

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Badass hit of the week medal

Finally, the “Badass Hit of the Week” medal goes to Colts guard Quenton Nelson. When you think “badass hit,” visions of safeties taking the heads off a receiver over the middle come to mind. Well, the fellas down in the trenches are knockin’ skulls every play—so when one stands out you know it’s good. And plus, linemen need love, too.

MIGHTY FIT

This is the difference between running on a treadmill versus outside

Running is, hands down, one of the best aerobic exercises you can perform to burn fat, get in shape, and maintain an overall healthier lifestyle. So it makes sense that, on any given day, countless Americans either walk into the gym and jump on a treadmill or take to the great outdoors and break a sweat on the street — but what difference does it make?

Is it just a matter of personal preference or are those running on treadmills getting a different workout from those getting some fresh air? For all those who’ve wondered what scientists have to say on the matter, we’ve got you covered.


Also Read: This is the 7-minute exercise routine you should do every day

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If Homer can find time to run, so can you.

According to a study performed by Exeter University, running outdoors exerts more energy than doing the same indoors. However, putting a treadmill at just one percent incline makes it is nearly equal to running on uneven city streets.

In terms of speed, researchers have concluded that treadmills actually slow down gym-goers on average. While on the machine, your pace is set to a constant. As it turns out, most runner actually underestimate their speed and set their treadmill to a more relaxed pace. This results in individuals not challenging themselves enough — which makes for fewer calories burned.

By contrast, those who ran outside ran faster and went on for longer. Some theorize that people go further and faster when outdoors because of the relative difficultly in measuring time, speed, and distance. Sure, you can track your progress while on the street, but watching the seconds tick upward allows you to accurately track (and stop at) the half-hour mark.

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Remember, there is no fatigue.

When outdoors, instead of constantly watching the clock, we let our minds wander. Instead, we spend our attention on examining the sidewalk for cracks, people watching, and admiring the outdoors. This outside focus puts fatigue to the wayside, allowing us to push ourselves further.

Mind over matter.

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Based on these studies, it seems pretty obvious that running outside provides the most benefit, health-wise — but it doesn’t come without some minor risks. On a scenic jog, you’re more likely to encounter uneven or unstable surfaces, which means you’re more likely to fall and, potentially, injure yourself. Additionally, you’re exposed to the elements when you run outside — which could contribute to overheating on a sunny day.

Wherever you decide to get your aerobic exercise, just remember it’s important to change up how long, how far, and how hard you run throughout the week — keep your body guessing.

MIGHTY FIT

Are your combat boots jacking up your feet?

What do you think of the combat boots currently worn by the Service? I think they’re pretty BA. Great for kicking in doors, and stomping throats.

Turns out that may be the wrong way to look at our boots though…

When you compare the number of Spartan push-kicks and axe-stomps the average service member conducts during their career to the number of standard steps they take to get from the barracks to work it’s astounding.

It’s like one forcible entry for every 1 billion steps…..


This is the science behind how muscle is built

Axe stomp, push kick, round kick… you know the drill

A Marine with Korps Marinir, 2nd Marines, 6th Brigade, Tentara National Indonesia, performs a kick during martial arts training with U.S. Marines with Landing Force Company May 27

I was astonished by these numbers as well. I remember having a lot more boots pressing into my jugular while on active duty than that. Numbers don’t lie though.

The above being true, shouldn’t our boots be designed to promote the best foot function while walking, hiking, and running?

According to one paper making its rounds through the Marine Corps, modern footwear is locking our feet into a poor position that is causing structural issues in humans of all ages from the feet all the way up the kinetic chain.

What exactly is the issue with our current boots, and footwear in general, then? How can they be fixed to prevent 20-year-old veterans from feeling like someone who fell out of the disability tree and hit every branch with their feet on the way down?

Apparently, there are four parts of standard shoes and boots that make us suck at using our feet.

This is the science behind how muscle is built

The anatomy of a boot.

1. Toe Spring

It’s that bent up portion at the front of your boot.

Toe spring stretches out the various muscles of the sole of the foot and shortens the extensor muscles running along the top robbing toes of range of motion.

Over time, toe spring makes you weaker at being able to articulate your toes. Which means you’ll be getting weaker in your feet even when you are training hard.

This is the science behind how muscle is built

This ad did not age well…

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2. Supportive Insole

You remember those commercials… Are you gellin’? (Did I just date myself?)

Supportive insoles disable the intrinsic muscles of the foot and create a dependence on support. They are the footwear equivalent of taking supplements when the rest of your eating habits are weak and unsupported by a solid foundation.

Support is great for short term bursts of concentrated effort. Like a lifting belt, it’s great if you wear it for a one-rep max deadlift. But if you use it every rep of every session, you will become reliant and weak in the muscles of your core.

This is the science behind how muscle is built

Marines with Company E, Battalion Landing Team 2/4, 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit

Toe prison… See what I did there?

3. Toe Box

It’s where your toes hang out. It’s way more restrictive than it should be. You want your toes to be able to spread out and grab the ground. Currently, it should be called a toe prison.

Constricting toe boxes basically make the middle of your foot stronger than it should be and the flanks of your feet AKA your big and little toes much weaker than they should be. This often manifests as painful and disgusting bunions, which are not typically an authorized reason to report to medical.

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4. Elevated Heel

This is probably the most egregious offender of foot deformities in the long run.

First off the heel makes us balance on the balls of our toes. This breaks the equal line of thrust of the arch from the heel and the ball and drives it all to the ball creating a collapse. This causes us to lose strength in the arch of our foot, which is supposed to naturally absorb shock when we walk or run.

Imagine what would happen to an arch bridge if you took away one of the supports on either end. The bridge would turn into the newest architectural addition to Atlantis when it crumbles and sinks to the bottom of the ocean.

That’s why insoles have become a “must buy” at boot camp and the other indoc courses. They give artificial arch support when the feet fail to provide the natural support that they should.

Second, the walking pattern is changed from a natural walking pattern to a “heel strike.” We aren’t supposed to walk heel first, try it in your bare feet, you’ll immediately realize it’s quite painful. The heel and cushioning of the boot take away that immediate pain response that you get when you walk barefoot, that leads to ever more forceful heel strikes that send a shock all the way up the body to the spine. Just another example of modern conveniences making us more comfortable but ultimately worse off.

This is the science behind how muscle is built

The barefoot rickshaw driver circa 1951

From the Ronald H. Welsh Collection (COLL/5677) at the Archives Branch, Marine Corps History Division

Your feet are in a prison

So it turns out that just about every aspect of current footwear is flat-out wrong for the human foot.

The interesting thing is that this isn’t a new revelation.

Dr. Schulman of the U.S. Army had very similar observations back in 1949, during WWII. This guy was a high achiever, he’s in the middle of the largest war to ever consume planet Earth, and he decided to conduct a study on the human foot…wild.

Dr. Schulman compared those who wore restrictive footwear to those who didn’t in the native populations of China and India.

His most stark observation is that barefoot rickshaw drivers had none of the same foot deformities as those that wear shoes all day.

Rickshaw drivers spend all day running on concrete, or hard-packed roads, everyday for decades, and Dr. Schulman observed that their feet were strong and healthy.

Compare that to your feet crammed into those freshly brushed feet prisons you currently have on.

His conclusion? “…restrictive footgear, particularly ill-fitting footgear, cause most of the ailments of the human foot.”

This is the science behind how muscle is built
Silent Drill Platoon performs during Cherry Blossom Festival

On their way to Dermo for new boots…

The movement for a new boot

There’s now a movement developing in the Marine Corps to change the culture of the service to promote health and longevity in the feet of today’s Marines rather than slowly break them down.

Are you in support of this movement? Do you think that a closer look at foot health and boot structure would make our services stronger and more capable? Would they do more or less to make the Force more resilient than the upcoming Plank addition to the PFT?

This is the science behind how muscle is built
MIGHTY FIT

49ers star gives Super Bowl tickets to Gold Star family

San Francisco 49ers super star tight end George Kittle announced on Twitter that he gave two tickets to attend Super Bowl LIV to the family of fallen Army Sergeant Martin “Mick” LaMar.


This is the science behind how muscle is built

https://twitter.com/gkittle46/status/1220397761352200192?s=21

According to the Associated Press, LaMar joined the Marines and served for four years after graduating high school in 1986. Following a decade of working as an electrician and with an armored truck company, LaMar joined the Army in 2007 despite relatives’ efforts to talk him out of the decision. His brother-in-law Gilbert Alvarado told the Sacramento (Calif.) Bee that LaMar “wanted to go back.”

“He wanted to fight for his country,” Alvarado said.

According to Military Times, LaMar was assigned to 1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas and died Jan. 15, 2011 in Mosul of wounds sustained when an Iraqi soldier from the unit with which he was training shot him with small-arms fire. Also killed was Sgt. Michael P. Bartley.

LaMar was a “great guy with a big heart” who loved his family, according to his brother-in-law, LaMar died on his wedding anniversary. His next leave was set to start Jan. 30, 2011, and he would have seen his three-month-old daughter for the first time then.

Kittle donated the two tickets to LaMar’s wife, Josephine, who will be bringing her and Mick’s son to the game against the Kansas City Chiefs on Feb. 2 in Miami.

“The work I do with the USAA and the TAPS organization is something I really have kind of fallen in love with,” Kittle said (via the Sacramento Bee). “I have a lot of family in the military, so it’s something that I just respect, and the sacrifice that they give is the ultimate sacrifice. So if I can ever give back and make a family’s day or just make them smile a little bit, then I’ve just done a little part in their lives.”

The Salute to Service’s mission is to be a year-round effort to Honor, Empower and Connect our nation’s service members, veterans and their families. It is grounded in deep partnerships with nonprofits and organizations that support the military community in the United States and across the world. In partnership with USAA, the NFL expands Salute to Service off the field to honor and recognize our military by bringing players and team personnel to military bases, hosting thousands of service members at NFL games and events, and enlisting NFL fans to show military appreciation. Learn more about the Salute to Service and their NFL experience at Super Bowl LIV, here.

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Top military doc is open to changing obesity standards

The Army is likely catching a lot of grief lately, after a news story reported that Pentagon data showed Joes are fatter than their brethren in other services.


But are they really?

According to the head of the new Defense Health Agency, the way the military measures obesity using the so-called Body Mass Index might be a bit behind the times.

This is the science behind how muscle is built
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Matthew Senna, assigned to Joint Multinational Training Command, performs push-ups during the Army Physical Fitness Test at U.S. Army Europe’s Best Warrior Competition in Grafenwoehr, Germany, July 30, 2012. (Photo from U.S. Army)

“I know that Navy has looked at this in terms of modifying what they say is a healthy weight and a healthy body mass and I think that’s appropriate,” said Vice Adm. Raquel Bono, Director of the Defense Health Agency told WATM during a breakfast meeting with reporters Oct. 20.

“Do I have any indication that [obesity] is hurting readiness? No,” Bono added. “But I would actually say that is one of the hallmarks of being in the military is that we’re always ready.”

According to the services, a Body Mass Index of 25 or over is considered unsat (the BMI is determined by a simple calculation of height and weight). The National Institutes of Health define obesity as a BMI of 30 or over.

A 44 year-old male who weights 215 pounds and is 74-inches tall has a BMI of 27.6, for example. That’d be considered “clinically obese” to the DoD.

Some in the services argue measuring weight standards using the BMI is a blunt instrument, putting perfectly fit and healthy servicemembers on notice for not being up to snuff.

And while she’s all in favor of modifying how the level of fitness to serve is calculated, Bono is concerned about the overall trend on obesity, with the Pentagon reporting nearly 10 percent of its troops are overweight. And Bono recommended healthier choices in chow halls, regular exercise (not just for the PFT), and stopping smoking.

“My job is to make sure I’m enabling the department to have the healthiest troops possible,” Bono said. “I struggle with encouraging troops to make healthier choices — even when we activate servicemembers with health data or scary pictures of what smoking can do to you they still persist in those behaviors. I don’t know what the right answer is.”

MIGHTY FIT

From battlefield to dad bod: How to get back in your fighting shape

So you used to be a lean, mean fighting machine and now? Well, now you kind of have a dad bod. The good news is, you’re far from the only one. It’s extremely common for veterans to put on weight after leaving the military, so it’s nothing to feel embarrassed about. Here’s why it’s so common to fall out of shape after resuming civilian life, and how to use the skills you learned in service to get back on track.


This is the science behind how muscle is built

Warriors are athletes

When most people imagine a soldier, they picture broad shoulders and a near-perfect physique. That stereotypical image isn’t so far off, but it’s not just for looks. To undergo missions safely, physical fitness is a must. Strong muscles and low body fat are required to move quickly and keep yourself (and your team) safe. Whether you were in the army or the Marines, you had to be in great shape just to get in- and the training you took on in-service likely took your fitness levels to even greater heights. You became a true athlete, and staying that way was enforced on a daily basis.

In the military, you don’t choose what you eat

It seems obvious, but there is no all you can eat buffet in combat. While soldiers are supposed to get three solid meals per day, with at least one hot meal prepared consistently, there are no guarantees on the battlefield. At times, days may pass before soldiers can get their hands on a hearty meal.

Just as they don’t choose how often (or how much) they eat, a soldier doesn’t get to dictate how often or how hard they work out. Sure, plenty of soldiers opt to lift weights on their own, but in many military disciplines, more focus is placed on endurance and speed. They learn to move quickly and stay on their feet as long as necessary. It’s not easy, but a non-stop routine like that can whip almost anyone into amazing shape. Stay in the military, and it will keep you that way. Once you leave, it’s a totally different story.

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Why athletes put on weight when they retire

Take a look at the average Olympian a couple of years after they call it quits. A quick Google search will turn up plenty of examples; a pudgy gymnast is like tabloid paradise! People loooove to point and stare at once-ripped athletes who are now rocking baggy sweats and a few extra pounds, but let’s get real: ANYONE who is going from an intense training program and rigid eating regimen to an average lifestyle will lose tone and put on weight.

It’s not shameful. It’s science.

Seriously, even if you’ve put on 15 pounds (or 50), there’s nothing to feel bad about. When you get off a strict diet and exercise less, it’s NORMAL to gain weight. Athletes also are accustomed to consuming more calories at once to fuel their intense workouts. When the pace of the workouts slow down, and calorie intake doesn’t, weight gain is the result- and developing new eating habits takes time!

That said, whether you’re uncomfortable with your new shape or just want to feel like the warrior you still are inside, getting back on track is 100% doable, with a small dose of realism.

This is the science behind how muscle is built

Train (and Eat) for your new lifestyle

Before you revamp (or restart) a fitness and nutrition program, reassess your goals. Expecting to hit the gym multiple times per day and return to the level of fitness you hit while on active duty isn’t realistic for most people. Moreover, it’s unnecessary. Unless you need to be able to run tens of miles in a single day and do it again the next on a single hour of sleep, trying to reach your peak level of fitness is probably overkill.

Instead, consider your current lifestyle and choose goals to match. Hitting the gym or track four-six times per week and eating a diet low in refined sugar and unhealthy fats will probably be enough to get you back in your favorite jeans and feeling strong. That said, your personal path to success is unique. Start by setting reasonable goals, and build a fitness and nutrition plan to match.

Already working out with no results? Check for three common mistakes

Eating Empty Calories

When your activity levels are through the roof, worrying about counting every calorie is the last thing on your mind. When you’re adapting to a lifestyle that has room for more than fitness, pay attention to eating habits that pile on unnecessary calories. A daily soft drink, sugary coffee, or even a sports drink can add calories that aren’t doing much for you. Save those indulgences for once-in-awhile treats, not daily snacks.

Overblown Portion Size

Remember, you were a serious athlete when you were on active duty, and serious athletes need serious calories! You can still be an athlete, but if you’re not training as heavily as you were, your portions do not need to be as large. Even if you’re choosing healthy foods, make sure your portion sizes are balanced. Go easy on things like meat, cheese, nuts, avocado, and fruit. They’re super healthy for you, but they’re also high in calories. Keep eating them, by all means! Just not too much.

This is the science behind how muscle is built

Overtraining

Last but not least, don’t overtrain. Veterans are used to pushing themselves to the limits, but it’s better to think of a new training program as a marathon rather than a sprint. Pushing yourself too hard, too fast will lead to burnout, so listen to your body. It’s normal to be sore, but if you’re going down the stairs sideways for weeks, take it easy!

You are still a warrior, but now you’re a warrior who’s repertoire includes doing laundry, taking the kids camping, and being home for a family dinner. The new battlefield to conquer is balance. Find that, and you’ll be on your way to hitting fitness goals you can maintain for life.

MIGHTY FIT

The Back Squat: The full-body exercise king

The back squat is often referred to as the king of all exercises, especially by those who frequently squat — and those who like a nice booty. But does it live up to the hype? And, more importantly, should you be squatting to get you closer to your fitness goals?


This is the science behind how muscle is built

That’s what I call full-body stimulation. Even the face gets a workout…

(Photo by Senior Airman Alyssa Van Hook)

Muscle recruitment

The squat is touted as that exercise which recruits the most muscle mass with the most weight possible.

You may immediately think of thrusters as an exercise that proves this previous statement false. The problem there is that, strength-wise, the upper body lags behind the lower body. So, a weight that may be difficult for you to press overhead will likely be very easy to squat to depth with.

The back squat, on the other hand, isometrically engages the upper body without impacting the work of the lower body.

The barbell back squat actively works just about every muscle from the ribs down if performed correctly, and it also works the shoulders and upper back isometrically.

If you’re one of my clients, you are familiar with the cue, bend the bar over your back. This cue engages the pulling muscles of your back and arms even more, since you are literally trying to bend the bar over your back with your hands. This cue also has the benefit of locking your core into a tighter contraction, so that you can transfer more force from your legs into the weight.

How To Squat: Low Bar

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This is the same concept as trying to push a button with a noodle vs a rod. If it’s a really light button, you may be able to do it with a noodle, but it’ll be a lot harder because much of the force is being lost. The rod directly transfers all your energy straight into the button efficiently.

There isn’t another exercise that allows you to move as much weight as the back squat with so many muscles. It can be considered a true test of total strength. Not only that, but it can save you time.

If you only have 45 minutes for a workout, you will be able to hit more muscle groups faster by chunking them into compound exercises like the back squat. Five sets of squats will always be faster than 5 sets of leg extension, 5 sets of leg curl, 5 sets of calf raises, and 5 sets of glute bridges.

For the average trainee, this efficiency approach is more than sufficient for satisfying your need for muscular stimulation. If you are a bodybuilder, a different more isolative approach may be required. Remember, everything is dependent on your goals.

This is the science behind how muscle is built

More muscle mass equals more testosterone. The squat is highly effective at building lower-body mass.

(Photo by Sgt. Roger Jackson)

Hormonal response

The typical bro-scientist states that the back squat is superior in raising anabolic hormones, like testosterone and growth hormone, which then act like a systemic steroid that boosts your muscle-gaining ability throughout your whole body. This is true to an extent, specifically when you are training at 90% intensity with heavy weights. The boost lasts for about 15-30 minutes.

A 15-30 minute spike of testosterone is enough to make you feel awesome, boost your mood (it has been shown to positively affect both anxiety and depression), and help you keep on gettin’ after it in the gym. 15-30 minutes isn’t enough to boost whole body muscle growth to any considerable degree though. Don’t worry, though — it still helps.

I’ll let that sink in…

This is the science behind how muscle is built

You don’t need growth hormone to get huge. You do need it to keep those muscles on the bone though.

(Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Joseph Rullo)

Growth hormone, despite its name, doesn’t help grow your muscles at all. Its name is super misleading and will probably continue to confuse people — at least until we start communicating via telepathy and no longer have a use for words.

Growth hormone actually grows connective tissue, like tendons and ligaments. It’s still super important, because without it, your huge muscles would tear right off the bone when you flex.

This is the science behind how muscle is built

350+ lbs on your back will stimulate growth and your desire to be strong.

(Photo by Airman BrieAnna Stillman)

The real benefit

This spike in testosterone that you experience from heavy squats is enough to make you hungry for more weight, more reps, and more gains, which will result in higher motivation to continue getting in the gym.

The more consistent you are with your lifting sessions, the more muscle mass you will put on. That increase in muscle mass directly correlates to an increase in overall testosterone throughout the entire day, not just during your workout. It raises your testosterone baseline. That means you will have more energy, feel stronger in general, and have a higher capacity to burn fat in general.

We discussed the fat burning effects of resistance training here.

Staying consistent with the barbell back squat will have a huge effect on your overall progression towards being a better, stronger, and sexier human.

This is the science behind how muscle is built
MIGHTY FIT

Do you need a Drill Instructor in your civilian life?

Remember your initial indoc school to the military? I do: It was hot and heavy, and not in a good way, like at a rave or water park. You were asked in a short period of time to learn the entire guiding doctrine of your service of choice, so much so that you could easily fold into the operational forces upon completion of the school.

That is no small task.

How was this accomplished? We weren’t given textbooks and told to read. We weren’t even put into classes and told to take notes. Nope.


This is the science behind how muscle is built

I’m just walking bro, no need to yell.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class William Blankenship/Released)

We were taken under the wing of professionals who have already lived and breathed that which we were about to undertake.

I fully understand that that is a rose-colored-glasses approach toward the DI, MTI, RDC, or Drill Sergeant that you still have nightmares about. Hear me out though: an argument can be made that an instructor, who I’ll affectionately refer to as a “coach” from now on, is the one thing standing between you and your personal and professional goals.

This is the science behind how muscle is built

He wants you to hate him. It’s his coaching style.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. David Bessey)

The research

The body of literature on the topic of coaching is dense and complicated, but suffice it to say that the question is not if a coach is effective. It’s how can coaches be most effective.

Two of the main factors discussed are attitude and control.

The attitude evoked by the person who is teaching you dictates how well you perform. You and your coach need to be on the same page. In your basic training, your “coach” did this whether you realized it or not. It was most likely in an “us vs. them” approach. Meaning your instructor made you want to prove him or her wrong. The dirty secret is that they wanted you to prove them wrong as well. #reversepsychology.

Control is simple. The person learning needs to have some sense of control over their outcome. In the beginning of your schoolhouse, undoubtedly you had little to no control. Over time, you were given choices and tasks that directly impacted whether or not you chose to be successful.

These are the fundamentals of great coaching in a high volume way.

This is the science behind how muscle is built

Civilian life has its pitfalls too. Don’t wait until it feels like its too late.

(Photo by Campaign Creators on Unsplash)

Civilian life

The assumption of a coach is that you are going to get better, and faster than you would with no one helping. Eventually, you would have figured out the rules of the military well enough to “graduate” to the active forces, but it would not have been as cleanly or efficiently as it was with the guiding force of your instructor.

It’s quite common for former service members to decide they can do everything alone upon separation. That’s a mistake. We assume that we are now the commander of our own lives until we eventually hit a wall. Then we start looking for guidance.

Don’t wait for that moment.

This is the science behind how muscle is built

Pro athletes know this truth. They can’t do it alone.

(Photo by Xuan Nguyen on Unsplash)

“No man is an island…” -John Donne

If you want to be an entrepreneur, find someone who has done it and learn from them. They will keep you from falling into all the typical pitfalls.

If you want to stay home and raise a family, read from the best and learn from your friends and family that have the types of children you want.

If you wanna get in killer shape, find someone who makes that happen for people.

Don’t waste your time.

You are always in the basic training of something.

Don’t spend more time on Parris Island getting eaten by sand fleas than necessary. Find and follow the coach that will lead you past your goal.

This is the science behind how muscle is built

How would he know where to crawl if it wasn’t for explicit guidance?

(Photo by David Dismukes)

Tips for finding a keeper

For many service members, the whole reason they get out is because they are sick of other people telling them what to do.

Now you have the choice as to what type of person you want to get your guidance from. If you don’t like the volatile gunny with bad breath and a worse temper, you don’t need to work with him anymore. Here are five things to look for in your coach of choice for any endeavor you may have.

This is the science behind how muscle is built

This kid knows what’s up. What’s his economy of force coach?

(Source: pixabay.com)

  1. Attitude: Find someone who has a similar attitude towards your goal that you have or hope to develop.
  2. Control: Look for someone who allows you to maintain control over your life. Someone that guides instead of mandates.
  3. Save time: The whole purpose is to find someone who gets you where you want to get faster with less time wasted. Don’t spend more time digging a hole than is necessary.
  4. Feel happier: Happiness is subjective. You need not be smiling the entire time. You simply want to feel like you are making progress that you can be proud of.
  5. Find your economy of force: A great coach will show you where to employ the bulk of your effort and show you what tasks and practices you should approach with a minimum effective dose mentality.
This is the science behind how muscle is built
MIGHTY FIT

Engineers develop new strength-based physical readiness program

Company D, 31st Engineer Battalion, at Fort Leonard Wood is one of a small handful of training units piloting a new concept in physical readiness mirrored on characteristics of the new Army Combat Fitness Test.

The Strength Training Program was developed by the Maneuver Center of Excellence Directorate of Training and Doctrine’s Training and Education Development Division at Fort Benning, Georgia, who looked at an assessment of Soldier physical fitness in relation to the Army Physical Fitness Test.

“The APFT does not adequately assess the domains of muscular strength, explosive power, speed, agility, flexibility and balance,” said Capt. Jeffry O’Loughlin, Company D commander. “This new physical training program was developed to better prepare a Soldier’s readiness for the demands of the modern battlefield by focusing on all aspects of combat fitness — similar to the aim of the ACFT.”


According to Maj. Donny Bigham, head strength coach for the Tactical Athlete Performance Center at Fort Benning and developer of the program, the pilot’s purpose is two-fold.

“First, it will increase lethality and survivability through physical dominance,” he said. “Second, it will increase readiness by reducing musculoskeletal injuries in order to improve a unit’s mission capability in the operational force.”

According to O’Loughlin, the program has a balanced design to attain the new physical readiness training goals to develop strength, endurance and mobility. The current fitness model has 47 aerobic sessions, 18 anaerobic sessions, zero strength sessions and zero mobility sessions.

“The Strength Training Program Delta Company implemented consists of 16 aerobic sessions, 16 anaerobic sessions, 19 strength sessions and 19 mobility sessions,” he said. “It deliberately integrates more strength and mobility workouts into the schedule to increase physical readiness in all aspects. The current model only builds muscular endurance — we instead instruct proper form while lifting heavier weight. Correspondingly, trainees are better prepared to complete warrior tasks and battle drills, such as casualty extraction.”

The program allows for strength and endurance development into the performance of basic military skills such as marching, speed running, jumping, vaulting, climbing, crawling and combatives.

This is the science behind how muscle is built

Staff Sgt. Daniel Yeates, a drill sergeant with Company D, 31st Engineer Battalion, demonstrates to trainees the proper technique for a kettlebell bent-over row. The company is piloting a new concept in physical readiness called the Strength Training Program, which is designed to reduce injuries throughout Basic Combat Training.

(U.S. Army photo by Capt. Jeffry OLoughlin)

“The ACFT will utilize six assessments at a minimum to capture all of the essential attributes of a Soldier to ensure nothing is overlooked in training the Soldier as a tactical athlete,” Bigham said. “The combination of fitness components, along with the performance fitness skills provide a better picture of the true functional competence required to physically dominate any mission related tasks. This program ensures exercise order, variation and the specificity necessary to be successful on today’s battlefield.”

As part of the new program, an assessment divides trainees into three ability groups — advanced, trained and untrained — and the results seen so far in Company D over 18 months show an overall increase in APFT scores and decrease in injuries. From 2018 through the most recent training cycle to be completed, Company D went from 26 injuries to 11, eight, seven, and finally just four. At the same time, O’Loughlin saw average physical training scores jump from 212 to 227 (237 to 248 in advanced individual training).

O’Loughlin said he feels much of that success can be equated to this new way of thinking in Army physical training.

“This program is not just about lifting kettlebells,” he said. “We also consider active recovery with mobility sessions with rollers and balls to break up adhesions and scar tissue to speed up the healing process and help prevent over-training.”

According to Bigham, seven training units have completed the program so far, and currently all trainees assigned to the 198th Infantry Brigade at Fort Benning are piloting the program as of Oct. 1 of this year. Across the board, he’s seeing injury numbers halve, while APFT failure rates are about a third of what they were previously

“Physical training should be the number one aspect when it comes to improving lethality on the battlefield,” he said. “It must be mandatory to ensure Soldiers have the tools in their kit bag to win the last 100 yards. This strength-based program will be a force multiplier that will increase lethality, combat effectiveness, moral and ethical decision making, overall readiness and survivability on any battlefield that enemies pose a threat to our nation.”

This article originally appeared on Army.mil. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY FIT

4 ways to make ‘planking’ easier

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


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

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

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

www.youtube.com

Control your breathing

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

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

Easy, right?

www.youtube.com

Watch a motivational YouTube clip

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

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

www.youtube.com

Conduct an intra-modification

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

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

www.youtube.com

Recite a music verse in your head

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

Your abs will thank you later.

MIGHTY FIT

The Rucking White Paper

I recently had the pleasure to read through the GoRuck Rucking White Paper. It’s basically 18,000+ words on everything you could ever want to know about moving long distances with weight on your back. A topic I am fond of reminiscing about.

Besides telling you to give it a read, print it out, and post it on your unit’s knowledge board I figured I would pull some of the greatness out of it for you as a nice preview of what to expect.


This is the science behind how muscle is built

Looks way better than going for a “jog”.

(www.goruck.com)

On running in general

“And running sucks anyway, and the worst run is the first run, so there’s that.”

It sucks, but it’s an occupational hazard for many of you. The paper does an eye-opening job of explaining that rucking is actually a lower burden on the body in general when compared to standard running.

Imagine that…

On Progressive Overload

“When I was a kid I thought that if I was going to start something new I needed to conquer Rome in a day…That’s not the approach we’re going for here. Your body needs to get used to the effects of a little extra weight on your back, then you need to back off and see how your body responds.”

Sound logic anyone can get behind.

This is the science behind how muscle is built

Ruck it out.

(www.goruck.com)

On posture

“Move a mile with the same rucksack on, and you’ll notice that the last thing you want to do is collapse onto your front. The rucksack literally pulls your shoulders back.

Which is exactly where they should be.”

The argument can be made that rucking will destroy your back and posture. The white paper very smart responds with:

“Form, bitch.” (“my words, not theirs.”)

Like all things, including staring at your phone screen all day, rucking could cause back issues…IF YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG.

In fact, when all the great gouge in this document is applied a proper diet of rucking and beer (more on that shortly) will make you stronger, more resilient, and more posturally erect.

This is the same argument I use when explaining the benefits of the deadlift or back squat to anyone.

There is a huge difference between doing something and doing it properly.

You can eat spaghetti through your nose, sure, but there’s a better way that’s much less likely to deviate your septum.

On working out solely to “look good”

“The point is not to have a set of pretty abs so you can take mirror selfies. One of our Cadre taught me with a smile on his face a long time ago that only an asshole brings a six-pack to a party.”

Just an example of the types of life advice you can expect from the paper.

This is the science behind how muscle is built

Log PT is always more fun with friends.

(www.goruck.com)

On #slayfest workouts

“Rucking goes counter to the online world of individualized fitness, and counter to the idea of fitness as punishment. Grab your ruck, put some weight in it, and go for a walk. It’s that simple, and it’s more fun with friends and when you’re done, don’t worry about how many calories are in your beer. How’s that for a change of pace?”

One thing is overwhelmingly clear from this paper. You aren’t going to be able to fill up your pack with 100lbs of weight and ruck 6-minute miles for 50 miles on day one. You’ll probably never get to that point.

Who would want to anyway? That sounds miserable even if you are physically capable of it.

The community the folks at GoRuck have garnered is about community, healthy lifestyle, and enjoying a brew. Not necessarily in that order. It’s not about being the hardest hammer in the shed.

There’s a time and place for 150% efforts once in a while. It’s not every day.

On what rucking actually is…

“Ruck Running — don’t do it. That’s one of the only main things I was always told. If you do, all of the risks from running are magnified, and it turns the low injury risk activity of rucking into the high injury risk activity of running…. But, there is a way to move faster than just walking, with a ruck on.”

I have a brief history of rucking. I did not know this.

When first reading through the section on proper form, I just shook my head at how foolish I was.

You live and you learn, I suppose.

Do yourself a favor and learn here before you try to live it.

Rucking is not running. Learn the form, and it will become slightly more enjoyable and a whole lot nicer on your joints.

This is the science behind how muscle is built

Pizza. That is all.

(www.goruck.com)

On experience being a great teacher

“My feet had blisters on the underside, I had wanted to test out our new boots so I thought it would be a good idea to not change my socks the entire time even though it was a monsoon the night prior and they were wet for over nineteen hours. It was a poor choice. My thighs and my calves ached, and all I really wanted to do was sit on the ground and eat my pizza.”

I truly believe that Dominos may be the only thing on planet Earth calorically dense enough to replenish all of the lost nutrients after a 12+ hour effort.

Been there. Don’t regret it.

On the intention behind GORUCK

“What I never wanted the GORUCK Challenge to become was some sort of bootcamp. Been there, done that, don’t need to do that again.”

I was pleasantly surprised to see this. Bootcamp style fitness is only effective in the short run. Since rucking is a long-run activity (pun intended,) they have their heads in long term adherence.

This is the science behind how muscle is built

Rucking, fun for all ages.

(www.goruck.com)

The GORUCK Rucking White Paper

You can check it out here.

It has science, humor, history, military doctrine, and no-nonsense logic.

If your unit has you moving any distance with weight on your back, this should be required reading.

Oh, one last quote…

On post-workout beers

“…I started calling Beer ACRT, for Advanced Cellular Repair Technology. People seemed to get it immediately, especially when we’d be done with a Challenge and then I’d crack open a case of beers and start passing them out.”

Cheers.

This is the science behind how muscle is built
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