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.
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.
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.”
(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.
Paleo, Ketogenic, and the South Beach diet are a few of the famous plans that countless people from around the nation use to shed those unwanted pounds. Since most troops can’t be nearly as selective with their food choices as civilians can, finding a healthy way to lose body fat before the physical assessment can be rough.
After all, the MREs we scarf down during deployment aren’t exactly low-carb meals.
Today, intermittent fasting has become one of the most popular trends to hit the fitness world. The idea, in brief, is to eat all your meals within a structured time frame and then go several hours without eating a single calorie. IF has been proven to manage two vital chemicals in our body: growth hormones and insulin.
Growth hormones help the body produce lean muscle, burn fat, and reduce the effects of aging. Elevated insulin levels block the benefits of growth hormones and cause weight gain. Yet many people who are on this structured plan may want to see quicker results that will positively benefit the body – that’s the whole point of IF, after all.
So here’s out you can get the most from your structured fasting plan.
Extend the length of your fasting window
Many people will fast for 16 hours a day and only eat their meals within an eight-hour window. However, consider extending the window to 18 to 20 hours if your body will allow it. Many people have a hard time going that long without eating. To combat the hunger, people who intermittent fast regularly drink large amounts of water to fill their stomachs up. This is just a temporary fix. Keep in mind it can sometimes take the body time to adapt to this type of meal plan structure.
The longer our insulin levels remain low, the more our bodies feed off stored energy.
Intense workouts mean we’re burning some serious calories. While you’re already fasting, working out during that window adds to your body’s caloric deficit — which means you’re going to lose even more weight.
However, listen to your body — many people will feel too weak at the gym when they first start using this meal plan.
Lift heavy at the gym
Although fasting will use up the glycogen stored in our muscles on its own, by lifting heavy at the gym, the body turns to other sources of fat storage to restore that glycogen into your muscles.
Eating ice cream will elevate your insulin, but rubbing it on your face is fine.
Avoid foods that spike your insulin
Once your fasting window has closed, and you’ve finally eaten something after several hours of going without food, to keep your insulin levels as low as possible, its recommended you avoid intaking in meals that contain a high amount of carbohydrates and sugar.
Eating clean proteins and healthy fats will raise your insulin levels, but not at the high rate as carbohydrates and sugars do.
According to the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale, the average U.S. resident’s IQ falls between 80 to 119. Those men and women who make up the “gifted” demographic average the IQ between 130 to 145. The Intelligence Quotient is measured by taking someone’s mental age (the age at which they operate) and divide it by their chronological age (the age that they actually are).
Then, multiply that number by 100. So, let’s do some math as an example. If your mental age is 14, but your chronological age is 10, divide 10/14. This equals 1.4. Now, multiply 1.4 by 100. You should get 140. If not, then you need to go back to fourth grade.
So, what the hell does that have to do with this article? Well, since not many of us call ourselves “gifted,” we can boost our brain functions by increasing this type of exercise we do in our daily lifestyles.
We can boost our brain’s function by including aerobic exercises in our workout.
New York University Neuroscientist Dr. Wendy Suzuki recommends implementing aerobic exercise at least three or four times a week to boost brain function.
With this newfound information, gaining this important increase depends on your starting point. If you’re a couch potato, you need to up your activity to at least three or four times a week to achieve positive effects. If you’re quite active already, you might have to increase your activity more to maximize the brain function boost.
Dr. Suzuki also recommends exercise in the early morning hours because all the brain’s neurotransmitters are firing. This comes at a perfect time as most American start work or school later in the morning — so their performance will be increased in time for their day.
In contrast, many Americans work out in the evening to relieve stress after a long day’s work. By switching a few of their work-outs to morning aerobic sessions, they can start to make an immediate change in their brainpower.
In the mountains of Crested Butte Colorado, the Adaptive Sports Center is working to help people with disabilities enjoy physically rigorous activities both in indoor facilities and in the beautiful mountains of the area. They not only welcome disabled veterans and others who live an adaptive lifestyle, but they give lessons to those people and close family and friends to help them enjoy the sports safely. And a new building is helping them do even more.
Crested Butte is an inspiring place for an adaptive sports center as it is home to a lake, a reservoir, plenty of great rock climbing areas, mountain trails, and awesome slopes for skiing, snowboarding, and more.
But of course, many of those activities are challenging for veterans and others who have disabilities. So the ASC has always provided the special equipment necessary to make the slopes, trails, and more accessible. They also have trainers that can help disabled people learn how to use the equipment properly, and the trainers even help friends and family members learn unfamiliar sports and activities so that wounded veterans and others can bond as a group in the outdoors.
And while the ASC supports plenty of individuals and families with no military affiliation, they also make a point of helping veteran and military families like the Dryers, an Air Force family. Mitchell Dryer, a former Air National Guard firefighter, was injured in a fire and his daughter, Emeri, lost control of her legs to an infection as a baby.
Emeri learned to ski at the ASC. A skilled skier took her on the slopes after she had learned to give them the commands for “faster” and “slower.” Now, she carves the slopes with the rest of her family.
There are also participants like Jose, a veteran combat medic who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder but uses adaptive cycling and cooking to center and challenge himself.
The facilities and personnel at ASC are essential to making many of these transitions possible, but the folks at the center are celebrating the recent opening of a whole new facility that expands their care possibilities.
The Kelsey Wright Building was built in 2018-2019 and is now open. One of its prime offerings is that it allows participants to ski into and out of the building during winter programs, which is great because it houses lots of support activities for the ASC’s mission.
It has a space where personnel can assess the capabilities of participants, an area to modify, repair, and properly fit equipment, and an industrial kitchen. But it also has a lot of great space that isn’t directly tied to outdoor services. It has a classroom, a library, a housing area, and an adaptive climbing wall.
The ASC does ask participants to pay what they can for all the activities they use at the center, but everything is done at reduced cost, and they offer scholarships for those who need financial assistance. If your family or the family of someone you know would benefit from their services, you can find more information here.
If you’re interested in donating to the non-profit center to help it with its missions, you can do that here. The Adaptive Sports Center is a 501 (C) 3 non-profit organization and donations are tax-deductible.
Dramatic and quick weight loss is never a great idea. The long game dietary intervention alternative is always a better option. That being said, service members have a height and weight requirement that they must meet yearly.
If you find yourself in a situation where you need to lose those last few pounds quickly, here’s how to do it in a safe way. This method has nothing to do with those fat burners that have zero efficacy and that usually just induce fever-like symptoms in order to “burn” fat.
WARNING: This protocol, although safer than other methods, is still risky. Only attempt this if you have an actual reason to and with someone closely monitoring your progress. *This is not medical advice. I take no responsibility for any potential adverse effects.* In fact, I recommend you don’t do this. This article is just to show a safer method of cutting weight than individuals typically conduct.
For that dietary intervention alternative, check out The Ultimate Composure Nutrition Guide in my Free Resources Vault, where I lay out the process in a step by step easy to follow protocol.
The name of the game is water manipulation.
(Photo by Cpl. Anthony Leite)
What you’ll be manipulating
Water intake: You’re over half water. By reducing the amount of water you drink, you are inherently reducing your weight. The other two factors that you’ll be manipulating are simply ways for you to reduce your water retention. More on why you should be drinking water here.
Carbohydrate intake: Every gram of stored carbohydrate stores an additional 3-4 grams of water. This is why the word hydrate is included in the word carbohydrate. When you eat a higher carb diet, you may feel that you look softer, it’s because you’re holding on to more water. The extra water retention makes you look less cut in general.
Sodium intake: Electrolytes transport electrical signals throughout our body, it’s how we work. When you manipulate your intake of electrolytes, especially sodium, you can trick your body into excreting more of them than usual, which will, in turn, expel more water and help reduce your weight.
The process starts 8 days before your weigh-in.
(U.S. Navy Photo by Burrell Parmer, Navy Recruiting District San Antonio Public Affairs/Released)
Double water intake- This teaches your body to pee more. You’re training your body to excrete more and retain less
Increase sodium intake- Eat as much sodium as you can with your food and even in your water. This will teach your body to excrete more sodium than usual and in turn, more water even when you start to cut sodium intake.
6 days prior:
Cut water intake back to normal- At this point, you’ll still be peeing more than usual and will start to excrete more than you’re taking in.
Lower carb intake to 50-100 grams per day- Fewer carbs in your diet will create a deficit and get rid of some of those water storage spots in your body.
Decrease sodium intake (get rid of all extra salt in your diet)- You’ll continue to excrete more electrolytes than you’re taking in.
5 days prior
Cut water intake in half- Even less water, this continues your deficit.
Keep carb intake low
Keep sodium intake low
3 days prior
Cut water intake in half again- Now you’re getting very low on fluid intake. Don’t push yourself physically. Your primary physical stress is coming from this fluid deficit.
Keep carb intake low
Keep sodium intake low
Hit the sauna for 15-20 minutes- Start sweating out anything extra that isn’t leaving you naturally
2 days prior
Cut water intake in half again- Pay close attention to how you feel and don’t do anything dramatic.
Keep carbs low
Keep sodium low
Hit the sauna 2x for 15-20 minutes- Have someone with you. You don’t want to pass out in the sauna
Day of weigh-in prior to weigh-in
Carb intake stays low
Sodium intake stays low
Eat 1-2 very small meals prior to weigh-in
Use sauna if necessary
Day of weigh-in and post weigh-in
Start drinking water immediately (no more than 50 oz per hour with meals)
Continue until your body weight is back to normal
A shiny trophy may be a great reason to cut weight. Make sure you don’t cut so hard that you can’t perform though.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Timothy Hamlin, 2d Cavalry Regiment)
This is a protocol very similar to what professional fighters and other weight-class athletes use to cut weight prior to a fight. Those individuals have coaches and medical professionals at their disposal to help monitor and implement the protocol. This is not the type of thing that should be undertaken flippantly.
If you want to lose fat, this is not how to do it. This protocol simply rids the body of water weight. All the weight you cut will be put back on in a matter of days, if not hours.
If you think that self-quarantine orders mean nothing but boring workouts in the corner of your room, think again. Well, in a sense, your options are limited..by your imagination. It’s time to dust off that creativity muscle.
Most of us are sick of the order to stay home and since exercising outdoors is still considered essential you might as well make the most out of it.That is, as long as you stay far enough away from everyone.
So, if you’re having trouble figuring out a way to train that doesn’t just include bodyweight squats and planking, fear not.
I’ve got you covered with a few outdoor challenges that are sure to keep you interested and in shape.
Run! When you get caught fight. Escape and run until your veins pump battery acid.
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Gabrielle Sanders
Heading out for a run is the most obvious answer to your craving for exercise outdoors. But running the same route at the same pace each day can get repetitive. Instead, try to mix things up by adding other exercises.
To do this workout, decide on a total distance that you want to run, like 2-4 miles.
But keep in mind, this can’t be a leisurely jog if you want a challenge. Instead, run at a pace where even a half-mile is tricky. If you can go further, you’re not running hard enough. For fun and extra motivation imagine a zombie, mugger, cougar is chasing you.
Now, once you hit that plateau where you need a break, the fun starts.
Take 10-20 seconds to catch your breath (or don’t cougars don’t need to catch their breath) and immediately jump into a three-exercise circuit. To make things simple, try to hit your upper body, core, and lower body with these three exercises. Good examples include crucifix push-ups, punching planks, and mule kicks.
Your circuit, depending on your fitness level, should look like this:
The thing is, if you’ve ever worked a punching bag for even just a minute straight, you know it takes incredible endurance. And that’s only one minute!
Instead, I like to use a round-based workout to simulate some of the demands you might encounter during a fight. While you won’t get to connect any punches (unless you have a heavy bag), the movements involved will still challenge your cardio endurance like nothing before.
Here’s an example:
3 Rounds @ 90% Intensity for 60 seconds each
Vertical knee strikes
Once you finish, take a two-minute rest. And when I say take a rest, I mean it.
More rest will mean you can train harder once the next round starts. If you can start another round without taking two minutes, you need to go harder.
Now, of course, this workout can be done inside. If you can manage to get out, try replacing exercises like skipping rope and high knees with others, like a few sprints or a 60-second run.
If you’re one of those that watch MMA and think that you can do it no problem, do five of these five minute rounds, imagine how much harder it would be with someone punching you in the face, and reassess.
Start off smiling…Finish smiling…It’s those 1500 lunges in the middle to be worried about.
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jordan Ripley
The one-mile lunge
You read that right: Lunge for one mile.
Don’t be fooled by the simplicity, though. If you’ve never performed more than 20 consecutive lunges in a row, you’re in for a rude awakening.
Lunges are an excellent exercise since they tax your quads and hamstrings, depending on your stride length. Plus, if you’re moving at a fast pace, consecutive lunges will test both your muscle and cardiovascular endurance.
Not to mention, for most of you, this is going to take well over an hour to complete. To finish, you’re going to have to stay mentally hard, or else, you’ll quit.
Some tips to get through this challenge:
Know your limits. If you need to start with a quarter-mile or a half-mile instead, do it. The actual length doesn’t matter as long as it’s challenging.
Don’t cheat. The only way you get to brag about this feat is if you actually finish it. If you take a step that isn’t a lunge, step back and finish it. If you cheat, what’s the point?
Listen to your body. This challenge is going to suck, and there’s a good chance your legs will cramp. If they do, stretch out and continue. If it gets bad, suck it up, call it a day, and try again when you’re muscles are healed and ready.
There’s nothing boring about the combat or goal you’re training for. If your workout is boring are you really training?
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Margaret Gale
Just use your head
When I was just a youngin’ we would go on fun-runs on Fridays down by the creek (pronounced “crick”). It involved 5 miles of jumping over logs, wading through the water, swinging from trees limbs, and avoiding hobo camps. It was fun.
When we “become” adults we fool ourselves into thinking that things are supposed to feel like work. Shake off your imagination and let your workout get fun again.
Or for the masochists out there just lunge a mile and sleep happy,
In a recent, article discussing the Three Phases of Tactical Fitness, many recruits find themselves stuck in phase 1 of tactical fitness (Testing Phase) for far too long. To achieve exceptional PT scores, it may take a recruit 6-12 months or more depending upon your athletic background and training history. Typically, if you join the military unprepared for this test, this period of time has the added pressure of Spec Ops Mentors and Recruiters with the time crunch of the Delayed Entry Program (DEP).
Here are two scenarios the recruit can choose to be a part of:
1. Turned 18 – time to enlist
If your goal is to turn 18 and enlist, great! Thanks for considering military service for a future career – we need more Americans like you. However, are you “really ready” to go from high school kid to special ops recruit / candidate? If you have not taken the physical screen test (PST) yet (on your own) and are crushing the events, then NO you are not ready to start this process. If you continue on this journey you will likely either not ever pass the PST prior to your ship date or just barely pass the competitive standards, get selected for Special Ops (SO rating in the Navy), and soon ship to boot camp. Great right? Well, you prepared well enough to get TO BUD/S but have you prepared at all to get THROUGH BUD/S? Have you turned 1.5 mile runs into fast 4 mile timed runs? Have you turned 500yd swims without fins into 2 mile swims with fins? Have you continued your PT but added strength workouts to prepare for log PT, boat carries,rucking, and other load bearing events? If you have not spent a significant amount of your time in this THROUGH cycle (Phase 2 Tactical Fitness), then you will likely successfully make it into BUD/S for about two weeks on average. Quitting and injury typically follow – statistically speaking.
2. Crushed PST many times — ready to enlist
If you have taken the PST countless amount of times, have worked on a strategy for optimal performance and are hitting the advanced competitive scores, it is time. Take the PST and crush it the first time. Now you have a standard of above average passing standard that you can maintain while you focus more on getting THROUGH BUD/S with faster / longer runs, longer swims, rucking, strength training for the load bearing activities at BUDS. You may even have time to practice some land navigation, knot tying, water confidence, or even take a SCUBA course. The goal of the time you have in DEP now is to focus on your weaknesses and turn them into strengths. And when you start to enjoy your prior weaknesses, you are ready. You will still have to ace the PST regularly so make your warmups be calisthenics / testing focused and the added longer runs / swims / rucks and lifts to follow. See Tactical Fitness or Tactical Strength for ideas.
To ALL recruits: exercise patience
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by George Melendez)
If a recruit would take 6-12 months before talking to a recruiter and joining the DEP, the recruit could be fully prepared to crush the PST on day one. Because if you do not get competitive PST scores to be put into the system, you will be in test taking mode until you pass. When you pass the first time, you can start preparing for phase 2 of tactical fitness (getting THROUGH the training). However, making sure you can crush the PST even on a bad day is a requirement as you will be taking the test at both boot camp and Pre-BUD/S, and BUD/S Orientation. If you fail the PST at Boot camp, Pre-BUDS, or BUD/S Orientation, you go home.
Tactical Fitness Phase 2 requires you to focus on the specifics of your future spec ops selection. This is what you need to be spending most of your time prior to boot camp doing. Longer runs, rucks, longer swims with fins, and high rep PT, weight training to prepare for the load bearing of boat carries and log PT and grinder PT.
When you think about tactical fitness you cannot confuse the three phases of the journey (To, Through, and Active Duty Operator).
Phase 1: recruit
Focus your training on testing to get into the training program you seek but also worked on any weaknesses you may have (strength, endurance, stamina, run, swim, ruck, etc…). This may take 6-12 months at least, make sure you place this phase in front of your recruiter visit.Tactical Fitness Phase 2 requires you to focus on the specifics of your future spec ops selection. This is what you need to be spending most of your time prior to boot camp doing. Longer runs, rucks, longer swims with fins, and high rep PT, weight training to prepare for the load bearing of boat carries and log PT and grinder PT.
When you think about tactical fitness you cannot confuse the three phases of the journey (To, Through, and Active Duty Operator).
Phase 2: student
Preparing to become a student in a challenging selection, Boot Camp, academy type program requires specific training for those challenges. Focus on weaknesses as a week within your selection training will expose them.
Phase 3: operator
You will not even get here if you are not adequately prepared for Phases 1 and 2. Do not rush it – get ready first THEN charge forward fully prepared.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.
Most of us know that protein is the building block of muscle. Our bodies break it down into amino acids and then use those amino acids for muscle repairing and rebuilding. But protein does a hell of a lot more than just build muscle. It is essential to just about every function in the human body.
The fattier the fish, the less protein is in it. Salmon comes in around 20g of protein per 100g.
The protein you eat makes compounds that help digest food, known as enzymes. Contrary to popular belief, your stomach acid can’t dissolve everything you eat as if it were a body in a 100-gallon bin of hydrofluoric acid–it needs digestive enzymes for that. Without an adequate supply of protein in your diet, you wouldn’t be able to properly digest the nutrients in things like milk or carbohydrates.
Chicken! It’s finger licking good at about 31g of protein per 100g of boneless skinless breast meat.
Most of us think the only way our body tells us it’s full is when our stomachs literally fill up, which is the stomach stretch response. But there is so much more going on to tell us to be done eating. We have certain hormones that send signals to tell our brains to eat more or less, and these hormones are made out of protein. The hormonal response happens even when you eat foods that have no protein in them, but you need protein in your diet in order for the hormones to work properly.
Eggs are basically a perfect food. About 6g of protein per large egg.
Eating adequate amounts of protein will make you smarter and happier.
Tyrosine, one of the amino acids in protein, prompts the brain to create more neurotransmitters that make us feel good, like norepinephrine and dopamine.
You’ve probably heard of dopamine before. It’s what you secrete when you do something highly enjoyable, like graduate basic training or finally get that DD214 you thought you wanted your entire career.
Norepinephrine is also called noradrenaline; it’s one of those neurotransmitters that increases alertness. Its most notable claim to fame is in the fight or flight response, where it is often talked about with its partner chemical, adrenaline (epinephrine).
In other words, eating protein can help you feel rewarded, charged, and ready to perform physically.
Tofu… It won’t make you grow breasts, contrary to popular belief. About 20g of protein per 100g.
The part of your immune system that actually kills and disposes of foreign invaders like viruses and bacteria are proteins.
Keeping an adequate amount of protein in the diet ensures that your immune system is chock full of troops ready to search and destroy anything that doesn’t belong inside you… including things you inserted on a dare.
Nuts get a lot of love… they shouldn’t. Almonds, at about 21g of protein per 100g, also pack nearly 50g of fat. That’s an extra 450 calories that will almost guarantee a caloric surplus on the day.
Okay, so this list is four things protein does do and one thing it doesn’t do. Eating higher amounts of protein does NOT cause damage to your kidneys. This idea was a hypothesis that has been fully debunked. Studies have been done where very high protein intakes were observed. In one study, a 185 lb person consumed nearly 240 grams of protein per day. In terms of lean steak, that’s over 2 lbs every day. That’s a lot of steak! No adverse effects on otherwise healthy kidneys were shown.
Sashimi is a meal of basically pure protein. Especially when it comes to leaner fish like tuna at about 3g of protein per piece of sashimi.
The recommendation for protein changes based on you. There is no one right answer; that’s just the nature of being human. You will have to do a little math. The best starting place is to eat 1 gram of protein for every pound of lean muscle mass you have.
If you are 200 lbs and 20% body fat, then you are 160 lbs of lean muscle. So 160 grams of protein is how much you should eat each day, spread throughout all of your meals.
In practice, that can look something like the following: assuming you eat 3 meals per day and have at least one protein shake as a snack throughout the day (don’t lose your mind over nutrition timing):
Chickpeas, AKA Garbanzo beans, have 19g of protein per 100g serving, but also come with over 60g of carbs to be aware of.
That’s 164 grams of protein intake just including lean sources of the nutrient. You will be eating even more with the vegetables and complex carbs you eat with your meals, so much so in fact that you probably don’t even need the shake.
Milk has a modest 8g of protein per 1 cup serving. It is an excellent substitute for water if you are trying to put on weight.
Protein is not just for muscle-bound meat-jerks: it makes your brain, immune system, blood, energy systems and more, all work much more efficiently the way they are intended. It’s just a nice added bonus that it also helps you look much better with your clothes off.
When a customer walks into the health and wellness section of the PX, it’s likely that a salesperson will try to sell them the most expensive brand of supplements on the shelf. You know, that name-brand stuff that’s covered in photos of some ripped fitness celebrity that’s fresh off a set of push-ups and covered in baby oil?
It’s a solid sales tactic. One that typically convinces the customer that, if they take these high-priced supplements, they, too, can get buff in no time.
There’s a long-standing debate over the benefits of drinking your proteins versus consuming enough in your daily meal intake. However, in reality, most service members drink protein shakes because it’s a fast, easy option for getting that much-needed nutrition after a workout when you can’t make it to the chow hall for a meal.
So, what’s so important about the type of protein you ingest post-workout? How does one type of powder compare to other, pricier options? We’re not here to do some product placement, we’re here to tell you that the difference in protein type is more important than selection any single brand.
By drinking a post-workout shake, you’ll cause a spike in insulin production within the body. This is because whey is filled with highly insulinogenic proteins. Insulin helps bring essential nutrients the muscles, making it very important to achieving a productive recovery.
Look for a grass-fed whey protein isolate the next time you’re in the market searching for a new supplement. Since we get whey protein from cow’s milk, going for the grass-fed option means the cattle were given exclusively grain-free food. To add to that, the “isolate” option is highly essential. This means that casein and the lactose portions of the protein were removed, leaving the purest form possible.
For all of our vegan fitness fanatics out there, look for a pea protein option. However, many military installations don’t have a fully stocked nutrition aisle, so plant protein options might be limited.
This article by former Army Ranger and professional fitness athlete Leo Jenkins first appeared in The Havok Journal on 26 March 2014.
How do you define yourself?
This question does a great deal to provide insight to our mental well being. If you are a powerful attorney but you suck at golf you likely don’t identify yourself as a golfer. If you are an animal in the gym but have a job where you are the lower ranking member, taking shit from everyone and their spouse then chances are you define your self by your one-rep dead lift. We all do it, it is one of the things that separates us from other primates, that and the inability to throw feces without the fear of incarceration.
So what happens when we we sustain an injury that alters our ability to maintain our self internalization? It can be devastating to ones psyche. This is applicable beyond the scope of a sports injury. If you are the VP of a big company and get fired, your entire reality just caved in on it’s self. If you are a professional athlete and you are told that you can not train or compete for several weeks or months it is a serious shock to who you are.
So what do you do? Just end it now, bro! It’s not worth living anymore. Okay, that is poor advice. Unless….. no, that’s ALWAYS poor advice, don’t ever do that.
Step 1: Create a multi-dimensional self worth.
Before the injury ever occurs it is important to understand that your role in your community and life in general is not one dimensional. You hold a great deal of value outside of the place where you identify yourself. I know several professional athletes that also own and run their own business. Having the ability to quickly shift your self perception from athlete to boss man business owner immediately following your injury is paramount. It is very easy to fall into a state of despair when we continue to identify ourselves as athletes after an injury. Don’t let that, “well fuck, now that I am broken I am useless” mentality get a chance to creep in.
Step 2: Seek professional diagnosis.
You can not begin correcting the problem until you know what the problem is. As much as your coach at your gym wants to have an answer for you he is not a doctor. If he was he would be coaching in a white lab coat with a stethoscope around his neck. That would be creepy and weird. If your coach does that…. Step 2.1 find a new gym. You can’t create a plan until you know exactly what is wrong.
Step 3: Create a plan
Creating a plan immediately after your injury is really important. I am very guilty of mopping around, drowning my sorrows in chocolate ice cream and Jameson after an injury. That isn’t good, don’t do that. If the Doc says it is going to be 2-3 months plan for some ups and downs in that time. When you start hitting a low point have an activity that takes your mind from the negative to the positive. Look at this time as an opportunity to get better at something that you have been deficient in. If you can’t train 6 hours a day invest that time into becoming a better version of yourself.
When I was in Iraq I tore some of my abdomen. I took a great deal of pride in being one of the stronger guys in my company boasting a 600+ pound dead lift and 480lb squat. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to lift anything over 15lbs for several months. The doctor (see step 2) told me that swimming and easy cycling would be okay. So that is what I did. Everyday. By the time that I was cleared to start lifting again I had become decent at swimming and cycling and since running was a staple of Ranger PT, I decided why not do a triathlon. Before I knew it I had a closet full of spandex and a garage full of bicycles. I hadn’t done a heavy dead lift in years but had a shelf full of trophies from various races. Redefining yourself in the face of adversity is a crucial part of survival. We have to be able to adapt and overcome. Plus, check out how good I look in a speedo….
Step 5: Enjoy the process, it’s all circular.
After several years of racing triathlon I was hit by a car on a training ride, shattering my collar bone and breaking my hip. I wasn’t able to do anything. Three weeks to the day after my surgery, totally against the Doctors orders, I was back on my bike. I was terrified but I rode straight to the place where I had been hit. I had to overcome that hurdle before I could move forward. I did a couple of races after that but through the course of my recovery I began to lift again and remembered how much I enjoyed it. Here it is almost two years since my last race and I spend more time in the gym than any human should.
Just a few hours ago I was told that I have a tear in one of the muscles in my shoulder and that I probably shouldn’t lift anything overhead for a while. Hearing that was great. I have been mopping around for two weeks, defeating myself mentally. (Again, not a good idea) Now that I know exactly what is wrong I can move on. I am about to get really good at running and cycling again. Watch out tri geeks the world over, this new injury may be the start of my comeback!
Moving forward requires looking forward, beyond your injury and beyond your own self defeating attitude. Now if you will excuse me, I have to go inflate my bike tires and find my helmet.
Working out in the military is like breathing oxygen — it keeps you going. Every troop is required to train their bodies to make themselves stronger, both mentally and physically. Not only does exercise toughen you up, it’s a great way to relieve the work-related stress we carry with us throughout the day.
Although the military provides service members with some pretty upscale and modern fitness centers, those who are deployed to the frontlines have to come up with some clever ways to get that daily muscle pump.
Also known as TRX, this specialized suspension system was developed by former U.S. Navy SEAL Randy Hetrick. All you need is a set of TRX straps and a sturdy platform on which to fasten them. The amount of exercises you can do with this contraption is limited only by the operator’s imagination.
You can’t start building a gym until you have a set of TRX straps on deck. (Alex Green YouTube)
2. A dip rack
Engineer stakes and Hesco barriers are readily accessible while stationed on a FOB. So, simply grab two engineer stakes and stab them into the Hesco and, boom, you’ve got yourself a dip rack.
3. The mighty sandbag straight bar
You can either tie a full sandbag to a metal pipe with 550 cord or rip a hole in the bag and slide the pole through. Either way, you now have a weight with which to do a few arm exercises.
The sandbag straight bar. There’s nothing like using what you have to bulk up. (Alex Green YouTube)
Alright, so there’s no construction required here, but wherever you get stationed, if there’s armored vehicle driving around, you can find a tire and start flipping that sucker.
This Marine flips over heavy tires from an armored vehicle to get his daily workout. (Alex Green YouTube)
When armored vehicles break down or get damaged, they get towed out of trouble using heavy metal chains. Guess what? If you tactically acquire a set or two, you can now lift the hell out of them as many times as you want.
6. Pull-up bar
Pull-ups are some of the best strength training exercises for someone looking to build up their upper body — and they’re also the most accessible. All you’ll need to set up a station is a sturdy bar and a structure to mount it on.
For military professionals, lower body strength is a must. For many humans, loss of lower body strength is the cause of the fall in old age that starts the domino effect of poor health ending in death…#Grim.
If you are human, a military professional, both, or soon to be both, having a strong squat will only make your life easier and longer. This is why we squat.
Leg strength is a prerequisite for the job. We hike everywhere.
The purpose of the low-bar back squat is to recruit the most amount of muscle possible in a lift. On average most people need general overall lower body training. The low bar position on the back gets the most muscles involved and is, therefore, a staple exercise in many complete training programs.
Take a deep inhale and brace your abs. The combined muscular flexion from your core and air pressure from your lungs filling will keep your spine stable and strong for the entirety of the movement.
Depth in the squat is when the top of your thigh just below your hips goes below the top of your knee.
In the squat, we are using the stretch reflex of the hamstrings to help “spring” us up from the bottom of the movement, known as the hole. That stretch reflex response is completely negated if you go to a depth where your hamstrings become passive in the movement. They should always be engaged and never lax.
A common mistake for people that take pride in their squat depth is that they get stuck in the hole because they are trying to re-engage their disengaged hamstrings. Under a heavy load, your hamstring cannot contract again without serious risk of pulling or tearing.
Waste no time in the hole. Hit your depth and explode back up.
You should never have enough time in the hole to smile for the camera… This makes me cringe.
Your knees should be tracking over your toes for this entire movement. Don’t let them cave in. Think “twist the ground apart with your feet and knees.” This will engage all of your glutes and prevent the dreaded valgus knee collapse that is all too common.
The bar should be centered over the middle of your foot, just like the deadlift, for this entire movement.
Think about your tailbone moving straight up as if it’s being pulled by a rope from the ceiling directly above it. This is where all of you power comes from.
DON’T think about moving your butt forward. Think vertical- forward motion will push you forward and off-balance. Move directly against gravity.
DON’T think about straightening your knees- this will push you off-balance as well.
DON’T think about your feet. If they are balanced in 3 points, you should pay them no more mind. Those three points are heel, big toe, and little toe- like a balanced triangle.
Finish the rep by squeezing your glutes and extending the hips into what feels like a posterior pelvic tilt
This will make you stand up straight and completely finish the reps.
Inhale and repeat.
When to train
Scheduling at least 72 hours between squat sessions, in the beginning, is important to ensure adequate recovery so that you can get the most weight on the bar and make the most gains. Over time, depending on your goals and recovery, you can safely squat three or even four times a week at sub-maximal intensities.
We all have that civilian ‘friend’ who says they would have joined the military, but they were too weak had other plans. The more you talk about your achievements and stories, the more they feel the urge to one-up you. So, why don’t you invite that Jodie-looking POS, in the most tactful way, to a light P.T. session and make him wish he was never born show him how the world works.
Once you’ve convinced the wannabe warrior to join you in PT, try employing the these, the most challenging, nausea-inducing exercises, to defend the honor of your branch and country once and for all. This list was made to slay bodies, so stay hydrated.
Burpees are a staff NCO favorite for a reason: they’ll smoke most people within a few sets. You could be waiting in line to do a urinalysis, and First Sergeant will still challenge you to a few just because he’s bored.
Give your victim workout partner the benefit of a brief period of instruction by nonchalantly explaining it’s just push up followed by a jump. Simple enough, right? Well, if service members find these challenging, a civilian won’t last long at all. Give ’em hell.
Busting out the battle ropes — though I’ve heard them called by other names — will give them the false sense of hope that you’re moving onto something easy. Do as many variations as you feel necessary and make it look effortless. Keeping your bearing here will destroy their ego much more profoundly.
The dumbbell bear crawl is self-explanatory: it’s a bear crawl, but with weights. Travel, on all fours, across an area and back while holding a pair of dumbbells. The distance traveled should be proportionate to the length that they ran their mouth about ‘going to college instead.’
It feels even better as a veteran to counter that condescending statement with, “Funny. I did both without student loans thanks to the G.I. Bill.”
Mike Tyson, in his prime, was a force to be reckoned with — in and out of the boxing ring. His training consisted of waking up at 4 am to do a 3-5 mile jog, followed by breakfast, a 10-12 round spar, and calisthenics. Then, he’d eat lunch, do six more rounds of sparring, squeeze in some bag work, slip bag, jump rope, pad work, and speed bag.
It’s not over yet. Then, Tyson would then do more calisthenics, shadow boxing, followed by even more calisthenics, a quick dinner, and some time on the exercise bike as a cool down before studying his upcoming opponents or watching training footage.
So, grab that pencil-necked Melvin you brought to the gym and make him do the following pyramid exercise, inspired by the titan himself.
Tell me again why you could have joined but didn’t?
U.S. National Archives
Run. Run ’til the sun gets tired
Odds are that Mr. Stolen-Valor-Waiting-to-Happen has already quit but if, by some miracle, they’re still alive, take them on a run. Not just any run, but the longest run they’ve ever done. Give them a false sense of hope whenever they ask ‘how much further?’ by saying ‘we’re almost done.’
Little do they realize you’re not running to a place, you’re running until they quit.