Working out regularly is always necessary. It’s even more necessary now that we’re all social distancing at home due to coronavirus. Coss Marte, the founder of the prison-style fitness workout Conbody, can help.
A former drug kingpin and three-time felon, Coss knows a thing or two about being cooped up and devised a workout system that helped him stay in shape in a very small, confined space.
“When I was in solitary confinement I had to develop my own routine. I would wake up, eat breakfast, do a workout, read, then write letters,” Marte told Fatherly from his New York City home where he, quarantined like the rest of us, spoke over the phone. “There were times that I ran in the prison yard, but when I was stuck in solitary, it was just the side of my bed. And I had exercises that were pure function.” Those exercises? Sitting down. Getting up. Stepping up from the bed and stepping down. Duck walks. Bunny hops.
Marte now lives at home with a 12-year-old and runs Conbody, which is a gym and streaming workout service that is intense, motivating, and requires little room and less equipment.
“Our workout is in small, constrained spaces because I developed it in a prison cell,” he says. That’s all you need. Here, then, are Coss’s tips for staying in shape when space is (very) minimal.
Keep Your Space Minimal
“If you have a yoga mat, put it down. I personally don’t do anything. I didn’t have anything when I was incarcerated. Sometimes i use a little towel for my wrists, but that’s about it.”
“Do it barefoot. You activate more muscles. You’re feeling the ground. There are other muscles in your feet that really activate coming up your legs. It’s the cheapest workout,” he says.
Don’t Rely on Indoor Workouts
Also, go outside. Take a walk. Try to distance yourself. But get some fresh air.
Let Your Kids on In the Fun
“Bring your kid into a workout routine. If they love to move and see someone live on a video camera,” Coss says. “I’ve done facetime videos with someone who was living in Minnesota and the kids were running around the mat. It was annoying but then she had her kid join.”
Without motivation, you cheat. You don’t push it. You gain (weight). Finding a live class is best because they can see you (technology!) and push you. Try Conbody.com for regular streaming classes at 8, 1, and 530. “We see you and call you out and push you to the other level,” says Marte. If that’s not your style, there are also shorter, more anonymous online on-demand workout classes there, unlimited for / month.
Change It Up
“When I’m working out I don’t mind repetition, but the workouts that we developed are not that competitive,” says Marte. “I include anywhere from 20 to 40 different moves. It’s really changing. High-paced. No breaks. Going from one exercise to the other. Let your body rest and activate.”
You’re Going to Eat More. So Eat Healthy
“I’m eating more. Not really going outside as much,” says Marte, preaching to the proverbial choir. “I think under circumstances try to limit yourself. There’s a lot of temptations. At least try to pick on something healthy. Nuts. fruit, apple. Bananas. Celery sticks. Carrot sticks.”
Typically, when people start working out, they start to notice the results of their hard work within a few short weeks. Muscle and bone density become more apparent and, as a result, personal morale surges.
Fast forward a few months and you’ll notice a dramatic change in your energy and strength levels. This typically motivates exercisers to push through some grueling reps. After all, like they say, “no pain, no gain.”
Fast forward a few more months and you might stop seeing dramatic gains. Improvements aren’t coming in as fast or as noticeably as they once did. Since humans are amazing at adapting, our bodies become accustomed to the hard work and we hit a wall, experiencing what’s known as a “plateau effect.” It’s during these plateaus that most people quit — without results to motivate, it’s easier to stop.
To combat those sh*tty plateaus, trainers introduce new, varied training methods to keep the body unprepared — unable to acclimate — which causes muscles to grow once again. If you’re looking to change up your routine, consider the following methods.
Most gym goers take a break after completing one set — usually to check their social media. Instead, consider introducing a second exercise that focuses on a different muscle group before resting. For example, if you’re doing 12 reps on an EZ-curl bar, knock out 12 triceps extensions prior to your social-media checkup.
Also known as “high-intensity interval training,” this killer method is a popular way of burning fat and increasing physical endurance. The idea is to maintain a high work-to-rest ratio — between 1:1 and 2:1. For example, to achieve a 1:1 ratio, you’ll exercise hard for a short burst and then rest just as long immediately afterward. A 2:1 ratio means that you’re resting half as long as you’re exercising.
Trainers usually put their clients through dozens of rounds of HIIT training before calling it a day.
Despite the name, this has nothing to do with going to the beach — although you’ll probably want to be seen with your shirt off after a few weeks of this training. Surfing the rack simply means walking up to the free weights and repping with the heaviest load you can manage. Then, after you’ve exhausted yourself, step down in weight and continue to get reps in.
Most trainers recommend you reduce the load by about 20 percent per step.
Most people never want to fail — which is a good thing. However, “going to failure” in the gym is an epic way to tear your muscles in a controlled environment. Be careful, though — going until failure is tough on your body and can make you nauseous from time to time.
When working out, many people select a manageable weight, complete 8-to-12 reps, re-rack the weight, and take a break. This is a solid way to build muscle, sure, but it’ll also set you on your way to that progress plateau we talked about earlier.
In a drop set, a person selects a manageable weight, and does reps until failure. Next, they opt for a lower weight and continue on. It’s very similar to surfing the rack, minus the rack itself.
Now, get out there and keep those muscles guessing.
So here’s the story. I normally run a few times a week, strength train and figure skate as often as I possibly can. (What can I say? I love knife shoes.) I’ve since gone through several quarantine phases. It started with, “I’m going to use this time to be in the best shape of my life!”…aka denial. It was then followed by stress baking, boredom snacking and finally my current stage: Trying my best to find balance.
Instead of stressing myself out with rigid fitness goals, I’m listening to my body and choosing workouts I actually feel like doing. For motivation, I’m trying a new fitness challenge each day to appreciate everything my body can do. (Even when I’ve eaten more onion and garlic pretzel chips than medically recommended.) These are a few of the exercises I’ve tried so far…can you do them all?
Stand Up From the Floor…No Hands Allowed!
Okay, this one sounds deceptively easy. Lay down on your stomach and try to get up without using your hands for help. Roll over, sit up, bend your knees, lean forward and try to rise to your feet. It doesn’t require exceptional strength, but you do need to have decent flexibility throughout your hips and hamstrings.
Balance on One Leg for 60 Seconds
Another exercise that sounds crazy easy, except that you have to do this balanced on the *ball* of your foot. You don’t have to raise all the way up to your toes, but your heel must be lifted off the ground for it to count. Start out with one hand on a chair or countertop for balance. First, lift your free leg up, keeping your foot pressed lightly against your standing leg for stability. Then, lift up onto the ball of your foot and start the timer.
This is a test not only of balance but of the strength of all the stabilizing muscles from your calves to your core. Thirty seconds and up is considered good, and 60 seconds is excellent. Pro-tip: Try focusing on keeping a tight core and flexing your glutes to hold the position longer!
Hold a Plank for 2 Minutes
The humble plank is a great, full-body exercise, and it’s pretty tough. Just hold the “up” part of a pushup as long as you can, making sure your back isn’t arched and your butt isn’t sticking up in the air — save that for yoga class! While you only need to hold planks for around 30 seconds to benefit from them, it’s fun to see how long you can hold them! (Not to brag, but I did it for 3.)
This is the toughest one on the list, hands down. To do a pistol squat, you extend one leg straight out in front of you and squat down to a minimum of 90 degrees- some people can go all the way to the floor! It’s super tough, and you need more than just strength. You need a ton of flexibility to keep your free leg from hitting the floor. A cheat as you work your way up to a full pistol squat is to hold onto a railing to lessen the resistance. I managed 5 before I couldn’t make it back up and fell on my butt.
Which exercise was the toughest for you? Hopefully, you surprised yourself!
The struggle is real brothers and sisters. You’ve been indoctrinated, but are now in the civilian world trying to figure out how to apply all of your skills, experiences, and structure to a seemingly impossibly chaotic world.
I wasn’t the best Marine, and I’ll be the first to admit that. I had long hair, I traveled on my own often, and I ignored most liberty restrictions. I told my E-dogs to stop saluting me, and I was constantly planning my next move after the Corps.
As far as I was concerned, I drank the least Kool-aid of anyone I knew.
I’m in there somewhere plotting my next move.
(Courtesy of one of the citizens of MOUT town)
After nearly five years of service, I was out and grateful. Grateful for everything I learned in the military, but also grateful that I could finally become the person I thought I was meant to be. There was one problem, though…
I was paralyzed by fear. Fear of failure, fear of making the wrong choice, fear of wasting time, fear of being an imposter veteran/adult/man. Fear that all of a sudden, my safety net was gone, and I was actually on my own. I had been on the government’s teat for a decade–I signed my first paperwork when I was 17 and was given the opportunity to go to college before active duty started.
I had bought into the culture of the military more than I ever realized. I feared for my future, because I knew it would never resemble my past.
Not me, but the point stands. The older you get, the more your body makes you pay for a night like this.
My first move involved scheduling every waking moment of my day.
Mind you, I was living in Bali at this point with a nice nest egg saved, so the expectation was that I would chill and decompress.
That was not f*cking happening though. I was stressed and lost. So I scheduled when I would wake up, work out, surf–I even scheduled naps. I needed structure. I wound myself up tighter than I had ever been while on active duty.
I was stressed, with no “daddy” to tell me what to do.
Eventually, I came undone and decided to relive my early 20’s, the years I had “missed.” It turns out I cannot handle alcohol or late nights partying like I could when I was 18 (err, I mean 21).
Hungover, happy, sad, or crying: I’m in there when it’s on the schedule.
(My phone and tripod)
That period didn’t last long. It was like a flash flood: it swept in, destroyed a lot, and was gone before I could ever move to higher ground.
Maybe that sounds familiar too?
Through the whole figuring-it-out phase, I had one practice that kept me sane and somewhat grounded: my training.
I never stopped training. I didn’t know what I was training for, I just knew I had to keep training.
Nothing better to teach the lessons of the world than a heavy barbell.
It turns out I was training for the day-to-day enemy. I just didn’t know it.
While on active duty, I spent a fair amount of time in the Philippines “training” with the Filipino military. They have terrorists in their backyard literally, so it was interesting to watch how they operate with the fight so close to home.
One day they were sitting in a briefing with me talking theory and best practices. The next day they were two-ish islands away in the jungle, their backyard, engaged in a firefight with terrorists. They had to be at the ready at a moment’s notice.
This is not something that U.S. military personnel can relate to easily. We have big, grand deployments with all the bells and whistles, halfway around the world in countries we would never otherwise visit. The enemy is far removed from the homeland. There are no terrorists in Pennsylvania; we are not used to an enemy constantly at the gates, like our Filipino counterparts are.
They have to be ready every single day, at any time, for the very real threats that are so close to home.
U.S. and Filipino forces training together in the Philippines. One of these guys is training, one is prepping for next week.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Courtney G. White)
Learning a daily cycle
So who are the enemies for us veterans?
With my military issued umbrella gone, I was opened up to a deluge of enemies in my own backyard. Even on a tropical paradise, I had to confront fears that never left my side. They come with me everywhere.
It takes an approach like that of the Filipino military to keep close-at-hand fears and inadequacies from crushing us into a debilitating depression.
The real world doesn’t give us a pre-deployment plan to prepare and train us to combat feelings of inadequacy. There is no doctrine written with step-by-step directions on how to troubleshoot imposter syndrome.
We are now like the gladiators of ancient Rome. We have to train for all possible contingencies and hope that our daily practices will allow us to walk out of the Colosseum of the day.
I keep my blade sharp, my rifle clean, and my mind clear through my daily practices. My training area is the gym. These tools have helped me find balance.
When we think about all the elements of fitness, it is not difficult to realize that strength training is a critical component to all candidates, students, and active members in any tactical profession. But how is Tactical Strength different from other strength-training programs for athletics?
Special Ops, military, police, firefighters, and first responder and emergency service personnel are the tactical professionals I deal with on a daily basis. The common denominator of these professionals who do their job at the highest level is STRENGTH. Tactical strength allows the athlete to potentially prevent injury, increase power, speed, and agility. But strength is also the initial phase of building muscle stamina. For instance, to get your first pullup requires strength. The strength exercise to get your 20th pullup requires a muscle stamina / endurance exercise, with strength as a starting point. Taking your strength foundation and evolving it into a muscle stamina and work capacity is the main difference between typical one-rep maximum (1RM) strength used in athletic training and tactical strength.
A tactical strength program should be geared to increasing work capacity, durability, and protect against injury, but not create world record lifts. You can have an advanced level of strength and still be good at running, swimming, rucking, or whatever cardio vascular endurance event your job requires.
Tactical Strength is the element of fitness that allows the tactical athlete to grab, carry, push, pull, or lift heavy pieces of equipment or people when needed. There are more elements of fitness required for the tactical athlete, such as endurance, muscle stamina, speed, agility, mobility, flexibility, and power.
However, unlike an athlete that specializes in a particular sport, the tactical athlete has to be good at ALL OF THE ABOVE elements of fitness. For the regular athlete, depending on your sport and the level of competition, you have to only be great in one to two elements of fitness.
Tactical strength is very similar to athletic strength. As with athletics, there are several types of strength that are required of the tactical athlete. A foundation in strength training means you have strong muscles, bones, and connective tissues of the core and extremities, as well as grip strength. Being strong and having a foundation of strength is critical to ALL of your other abilities. This does not mean you have to bench press or dead lift a truck, but being strong will assist in your ability to make power when you need it most. The most basic way to measure strength is to record the amount of weight lifted in one repetition. However, this program will focus more on the three to five repetition range for strength. While 1RM weight lifts are fun, the goal of this program is not to build competitive powerlifters, but strong tactical athletes.
Cardio vascular endurance can compete with maximum strength in many athletics, but the tactical athlete must remember that this is not a specific sport. There is never a need to ONLY specialize in a single element of fitness like strength, endurance, or speed/agility. You have to diversify to get good at all the elements of fitness (as discussed in previous article on fitness weaknesses), which may mean you do not beat your previous 1RM of a 400 pound bench or a 600 pound dead lift that you did in college. THIS ISN’T COLLEGE OR A SPORT! It is your job, and it could be your life or a team mate’s life if you lack any of the fitness elements. Neglecting too many of the elements by specializing in just one or two can be detrimental to your abilities to do your job at a high level.
Army Spc. David Helton, Company A, 2nd Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, puts more weight on the barbell at Combat Outpost Apache in Wardak province, Afghanistan. | DoD photo by Fred W. Baker III
How to build strength
Building strength is similar for the athlete and those in tactical professions, in that the progresses are typically linear with relatively lower repetition sets and longer rest periods. Adding mass (muscle) is one of the benefits, but there are many ways to progress each week with added strength. Take any lift (bench press, dead lifts, power clean, squats, weighted pullups, etc.) and try some classic and favorite GO-TO strength building plans, such as the following:
Drop sets: To do drop sets, change it up between sets by either decreasing reps while increasing weight, or decreasing weight with increasing reps. For strength, I like to do a 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 or a 10, 8, 6, 4, 2 with increasing weight for each of the five reps shown. You can also build up close to your one rep max and then, quickly and with little rest, drop the weight in regular 10 to 25 pound intervals after maximum effort at each weight. Do this until only the bar remains. However, this is more of a strength / muscle stamina lifting drill that is great for building work capacity.
Other Drop Sets / Double Drop Sets: Doing each weight twice before increasing the weight / decreasing the reps is another way to push max strength to new limits. The 4, 4, 3, 3, 2, 2, 1, 1 is such a set / rep scheme that works great as you push nearer to you 1RM effort.
5 x 5: You cannot go wrong with this classic strength set / rep routine. Choose a weight that is about 75 to 80 percent of your 1RM effort lift. Do 5 repetitions of that lift. Rest a few minutes and repeat for 5 sets.
Two-Pops: Another favorite is multiple sets of 2 repetitions. Increase the weight each set, starting with a light warmup set. Start to add weight, but only doing 2 reps per set. Increase weight each set and keep doing 2 reps until you can no longer achieve 2 reps. That 1 rep that you last recorded can be a 1RM for you if you take your time and rest for a few minutes in between lifting in the 2 reps sets.
Typically, these strength cycles can last 4 to 8 weeks and can go up to 12 weeks. Some like to only do lifts for a particular body part once a week. I prefer doing upper body lifts 2 to 3 times a week and full body / leg movements done 2 to 3 times a week. This type of frequency goes well with building work capacity needed for the tactical profession.
Do not forget that even though you are back in muscle-head mode, you cannot forget other elements. Yes, that means cardio as well. For our group, we arrange our strength training during a no run / non-impact cardio cycle, and it works nicely for proper gains in all lifts. However, we keep our cardio up with swimming, rucking, and other non-impact machines like rowers, bikes, and elliptical machines, mainly using speed intervals for the workouts.
In Tactical Fitness, you have to not only focus on a few components of fitness, but have a diverse program so you can remain good at all elements that may be important to your profession. Components like endurance, muscle stamina, flexibility / mobility, and even agility should not be neglected when the focus is purely on strength and power.
What are some of your GO-TO strength-building routines (set / rep schemes)?
Ashley Keller was frustrated. Why was every prenatal workout she found on YouTube too slow or beyond extreme and not safe for her baby?
The triathlete Army officer was no stranger to fitness. Upon her graduation from West Point, she was offered the opportunity to train for the Olympics, but turned it down to pursue serving her country in a traditional way.
“My husband Luke got his mid-tour leave from a year long deployment and a government paid ticket to anywhere in the world,” Keller explained. “He sacrificed that ticket on a flight to West Point, New York to support my graduation from the Academy. We got married two days later, honeymooned to Costa Rica and he flew back to Iraq and I headed to Fort Leonardwood for Engineer Officer Basic Training. The Army then gave me a choice: go be a platoon leader like I had spent the last four years at West Point preparing to do or be sponsored by the Army to train at the World Class Athlete Center in Colorado for the next triathlon Olympics. [Training in Colorado] would mean not serving our country as I hoped to do, and it would post me across the country from Fort Bragg, where my new husband was stationed. I also knew one injury in triathlon [training] could foil all Olympic prospects and didn’t want to sacrifice my marriage for it.”
Keller had forfeited her Olympic dreams in favor of service, but never sacrificed her love of sport, representing the U.S. Army in NBC’s Spartan: Ultimate Team Challenge and competing in the notoriously grueling Ironman races. When she became pregnant with her first baby, Keller longed for workouts that were challenging, yet effective.
“So I got certified and nerded out on scholarly articles about training,” Keller says. “I’d rush home over lunch breaks, change out of my Army uniform, and record ten to fifteen minute prenatal workouts with a cheap camera propped up on index cards on my countertop. I thought there might be some women out there who also wanted more challenging prenatal workouts.”
As it turns out, there were quite a few women. Keller quickly built a community of online followers and her passion for fitness and educating women online grew. After five and a half years of active duty service and a deployment to Afghanistan, she separated from the Army to pursue fitness full time and GlowBodyPT was born.
Today, Keller has an online following of more than 40,000 on social media and offers free workout videos on her Youtube channel, as well as customized plans through her website, featuring specialized workouts for prenatal and post-pregnancy.
“A couple of months ago I launched my newest and favorite plan to date: The 10 Minute Plan,” Keller said. “It was a year in the making while my husband was deployed, raising a newborn and running GlowBodyPT.”
When asked why specifically targeting the mom community is so important, Keller smiled knowingly.
“Fitness does more than just make your body look good, it transforms how you feel about yourself,” she said. “Fitness empowers you to have patience, more energy and more drive, to pour into your marriage and your kids. Staged workout videos in white studios don’t resonate with me. When you follow my workout videos it’s like working out with a friend in your living room who says it how it is, teaches you how to train and makes the best use of every single minute of your time, because I know you don’t have time to waste.”
5 MIGHTY QUESTIONS
What piece of advice would you give to fellow military spouses?
Put yourself out there to make a couple of good friends every time you move. I tell my friends, “You are my people!” Give them your number and let them know, sincerely, you are here for them day or night no matter what they need. Follow through. Having your tribe and fueling those relationships is what makes the military community what it is.
What is your life motto?
God, use me for your purpose.
What inspires you about the military community?
Only military families know the sacrifices we make as service members and spouses. How it feels to wonder if your spouse got back safe from a mission. Wondering if everybody is okay when there is a communications blackout. Missed holidays and birthdays. Lonely nights. Phone calls as you try to make conversation without talking about sensitive information related to your spouse’s everyday life. Consoling crying children who miss Daddy. I love the military community because there is a shared sense of respect, reverence, family and sacrifice.
What has been your toughest professional challenge?
I got my front teeth knocked out, elbow broken, wrist casted, stitches across my lips, chin and both palms during a Half Ironman bike crash a couple of years ago. The top four athletes racing all got rushed to the ER. The injuries lasted for months and I didn’t get permanent teeth for over a year. My husband was away at a military school when the crash happened and I came home the next day to two kids, one of which I was potty training and the other who put on my socks for me the next morning because it hurt to move my hands.
What’s your superpower?
I actually care about every single woman who does my plans, and her progress. Bigger companies just don’t have the capacity to pour into others at this level.
Getting better at pull-ups is a subject of concern for many people. As with the “Pushup-Push Workout,” this idea makes little sense physiologically, but it works. You never want to have an extended period of repeating the same exercises day after day, but you can do this workout for ten days, rest for three or four days with no pull-ups, then test on day 14 or 15. Then you will find your increase to be as high as 50-100% from your previous max pull-ups.
Here is a question from a Marine Reservist wanting to max his PFT of 20 pullups:
“Where can I find your pull-up routines outlined? I am stuck at about 7 pull-ups and would like to get to 10-12.”
After the unbelievable success from the “Push-up Push Workout,” in which people doubled their pushups in two weeks, I performed the same test on pull-ups with (young and old) students with similar success. This workout works best on folks who can do 3-10 pull-ups. Many increased their pull-ups to 10-20 in two weeks.
Here is what you need to try for a two-week period:
– Do your regular workout program, but for 10 straight days do an additional 25-50 pullups.
– If you are only able to do less than 5 pull-ups: do 25 pull-ups for your daily plan below:
– If you can do more than 5 pull-ups: do 50 pull-ups for your daily plan below:
Odd Days (Supersets OR Pyramids):
Supersets (repeat 10 times):
– Pullups – max
– Pushups – 20
– Dips – 5-10
– Abs of choice – 30
Pyramids (see PT Pyramid article above)
– Pullups – 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,6,5,4,3,2,1 rest with
– Pushups – 2,4,6,8,10,12,14….2
– Abs of choice – 5,10,15,20,25,30,35….5
– Alternate with NO rest from one exercise to the next
25-50 pullups anyway you can throughout the day or in a single workout. Do small repetition sets until you reach 25- 50 pull-ups.
Rotate for the next ten days from odd day workout options and even day pull-up supplement, then take three-four days off from doing ANY pull-ups. Test on day 14 or 15 and let me know your results.
Good luck with the Pullup-Push Workout. Push yourself and you can quickly perform better on your pull-up test. You can fit this type of program into your present workout plan by just adding 25-50 pullups on your rest days so you do a ten-day routine of pull-ups.
It’s easier to gain weight during the two-month period between Halloween and New Year’s Day than any other time of the year.
From colder weather to football season, holiday parties, having snacks all over the house and office, and huge feasting holidays, it is no wonder why everyone is ready to start a “resolution” by the time the new year comes.
The list below includes ways to stay ahead of the weight gain curve by considering a few minor tweaks to your day:
1. Don’t quit.
The most important thing is to keep the habit of working out or physical activity on your schedule. Stick to your workout even when extra travel, late work hours and excessive social events interfere with the best intentions. You may have to be flexible and do something for a shorter time before or after work, even if it is only walking or a quick PT pyramid. The best way to avoid holiday weight gain is not to get out of the exercise habit.
2. Walk it off.
Keep walking or add walking throughout the day in multiple sessions. Walk before every meal, even if only for 10 minutes. Walk longer in parking lots (be safe) when at work or shopping. Take regular breaks every hour at work to walk to the bathroom. A good way to remember to do that is to drink water throughout the day so you have to get up regularly. Otherwise, set a timer for 60 to 90 minutes and remind yourself to walk for three to four minutes around the office, up and down stairs, or to your car and back to get some fresh air. You will find this quick getaway helpful with productivity as well.
3. Like football? Keep moving.
Football season gets many Americans to sit still for hours several days a week. Try to get up during commercials, walk during halftime or actually bring the treadmill or stationary bike into the TV room. If you walk during commercials, you will accumulate about 20 minutes of activity per hour of watching television.
4. Avoid game-time snacking & drinking
This is a tough one and requires discipline. It is easy not to move for hours during a game and add in another 500 to 1,000 calories of soda, beer, chips and other game-time foods. Keep moving, as detailed above, and you will limit your ability to put food and drinks into your mouth. After a game, you can break even or have a 500- calorie surplus or deficit — it just depends on how you control snacking and being sedentary.
5. Twenty-minute challenge
When time is tight, try to get at least a daily minimum standard of activity, even if it is just 20 minutes. See how much you can do in 20 minutes. How far can you walk in that time (or total accumulated walks)? How far can you bike or swim in 20 minutes? How high can you move through the PT Pyramid in that time? Can you get into the gym and do a 20-minute gym circuit of as many machines as possible?
Any of these ideas will help you burn off steam and make you feel like you did something. Fit this 20 minutes into your lunch, before work or after dinner if you have to. You will find that you will sleep better as well.
In the end, it comes down to discipline. You need discipline not to break old training habits while creating new bad habits of binge-eating and binge-watching television (without activity). I know it is easier said than done, but this season will not last forever, and you will wish you had not forsaken your health and fitness once the weather turns nicer.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
“The military community just gets me. It’s like no other. Military spouses have a special bond. You don’t get it unless you’re a part of it.” I’m sure we’ve all heard these statements before, and some of us may have even said them. Yes, the military community is special, but there are other communities out there who do understand us, who do get us, who do have a similar sister/brotherhood.
One of those communities is CrossFit. Yes, please keep reading, I promise this is not all about the workout of the day and how much we can lift. CrossFit has a community; it’s one of the things people like most about it. The CrossFit community and the military community have so much in common that you find a lot of the same people in both. Here are some of the ways they’re the same.
When you show up to a new duty station as a military spouse, you start making friends before the boxes are unpacked. Within the first week, you have a hairdresser, a babysitter, at least one invitation for Thanksgiving, and some emergency contacts. When you walk into a CrossFit gym, you receive a similar welcome. You’ll meet new people immediately, they’ll start asking you questions, figure out what else you have in common, what mutual friends you have and you’ll be part of the group before the workout starts.
2. They show up for each other.
In the military community, we show up for each other day in and day out. Your neighbor will snag your kids off the bus if you’re not home or show up with dinner that night you are going to lose it. CrossFit friends are the same. One CrossFit friend, who works as a labor and delivery nurse, showed up to deliver her fellow athlete’s baby because of the bond they created at the gym. Sounds a lot like that military spouse who drove you to the hospital and held the camera so your spouse could watch the delivery downrange, right?
3. They cheer you on, even when they’re suffering.
There is nothing as heartwarming as watching a military spouse who just sent their spouse off on deployment excitedly holding the hand of their friend who is welcoming their spouse home. Being happy for our friends is what makes friendships rock-solid. In CrossFit, we can do the same. We cheer on new personal bests while we beat ourselves up for not going harder. We celebrate wins as a team, always.
Everyone needs that friend who tells you when you have spinach dip in your teeth, and you’ll find that friend in a CrossFit gym and the military spouse community. The one who texts you at 4:45 a.m. and says they’re picking you up on the way to the gym. It may even be the same one who comes over and sits you down on the couch with your six-month-old while they fold your laundry, so you finally rest. They know what you need, and they make sure you do it.
5. They are truly a family.
From coffee groups to impromptu backyard barbeques, military spouses cling to each other when they live far from family. They put up with the good, the bad, and the screaming toddler while you’re trying to finish book club. CrossFit friends do the same thing. They hold your toddler so you can finish the workout, they tell you when to take a break and rest, they support you in every part of your life. Family comes first, and if you are a military spouse who CrossFits, you have two awesome families.
We see this in CrossFit affiliates and among the top athletes. Just like we see military spouses rally around the brand-new spouse while simultaneously showing up for the seasoned spouse. In the past few weeks, we’ve seen athletes cross goals off their list while competing against each other on an international level. We’ve seen tears of joy and frustration. We’ve seen pranks and fun head-to-head matchups, even one that took place at the US Army Warrior Fitness Center at Fort Knox.
BLUF: Community is everything. Find your people. Hold on tight.
When gym amateurs think about doing core exercises to get rid of love handles and to gain ripped abs, they probably think they must do tons of sit-ups and leg raises.
The truth is when we refer to “ab exercises,” we’re typically only targeting our transverse abdominis, rectus abdominis, and our internal and external oblique muscles. These are the four muscles that make up our abdominals. Our “core” consists of our abs plus many “stabilizer” structures like the pelvic floor, hip abductors, lower chest, and lower back. These are the areas many athletes target when they put themselves through a tough core workout.
Aside from getting those abs to pop out, having a strong core directly relates to how our bodies are balanced and our agility levels. As a bonus, a strong core helps promote our immunity, which can fend off colds and cases of flu while in season.
Unlike most muscle groups, putting ourselves through an intense core exercise program can be accomplished without using a single weight or having a ton of space. These movements can be done in virtually any location.
Out of the dozens of core exercises out there, we tend to go with these six movements three to four times a week to improve our overall health and wellness… and (we’re not going to lie) to get ripped abs.
The name of this exercise might make it sound simple, but the dead bug is a lot harder to pull off than you think. You start off by positioning yourself like you’re a dead bug turned over on its back. With your legs and arms extended upward, keep all those core muscles we spoke about as tight as possible before lowering one of your legs down to the floor. As you slowly lower your leg, your back will want to arch itself to assist you with the load.
Don’t allow that to happen.
Keep your core tight as you bring your leg back up, and then repeat the whole process with the other leg. Continue onward until you hit failure. This is one of the best core movements in the book, so always keep this in mind when you’re looking to tone up your tummy.
This is an exercise that many veterans want to forget about. We’ve done thousands of these bad boys during our command-led fitness adventures. Although you might not remember enjoying them during all your years of service, scissor kicks are a hell of a way to boost your body’s balance and get those abs ripped.
This supinated exercise is as easy as just moving your feet sideways while contracting your core muscles. However, you can exhaust your core in a matter of moments. After you hit 40 or 50 reps, you can quickly move into conducting a series of flutter kicks while you’re resting from all those scissor kicks you just did. Super setting your exercises burns more calories, which means you’re going to tone up faster.
Although this movement sounds like a delicious vodka drink, it’s actually one of the hardest core exercises to master. Sure the idea of twisting your body so your fingertips can touch your hips sounds easy, but to do this movement correctly, you must balance yourself or risk falling over.
And no one wants to be seen falling on their side at the gym. It just looks bad. So, to master it, slow the motion down until you build up enough core strength to balance yourself perfectly.
We put this exercise here for a good reason. It’s not just an excellent movement but it’s also a great transitional motion after doing some Russian twists for a minute or two. Your core will probably feel like it’s on fire but alternating heel touches can help you catch your breath while still allowing you to tone up. By merely going from the same Russian twist position, start to touch your hands to your heels and an alternative motion.
You’ll feel this movement in your obliques and lower back.
Remember how we talked about gaining balance through these core exercises? V-ups are one of the best movements to train the core to stabilize itself. By starting in a supine position, raise your lower and upper body up from the floor and attempt to touch your fingertips to your shins.
As you continue to get better, the goal is to touch your fingertips to your toe without falling over. Strengthening your body is a gradual process, so alway monitor your pain levels at all time.
Since the majority of the world has either heard of planks or seen someone do them, we want to challenge you by increasing its level of difficulty. After getting into a pushup position, raise up one leg up while lifting up the opposite arm to maintain your personal balance. After both limbs are extended for a second or two, lower them back down and proceed to lift your other limbs to complete the exercise.
We know it sounds super easy, but after a few cycles, you’ll feel your whole body start to shake. Don’t worry — that’s normal, even for advanced plankers.
Fitness is all about making goals and then destroying them once you’ve achieved them. So, set that goal and then break it.
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.
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.
The Air Force’s special operations candidates are encouraged to complete a tailored fitness program before they report for selection.
This 26-week guide is designed to get them physically ready for the challenges of the grueling training pipeline that features 1-3 workouts per day split into cardio, physical training, and swim workouts.
Old military favorites like pushups and planks are included along with creative stuff such as dragon flags, sliding leg curls, and handstand pushups.
Dragon flags are basically leg raises, except you keep raising your legs until all your weight is on your shoulder blades:
Sliding leg curls hit the glutes, hamstrings, and core:
Handstand pushups are exactly what they sound like, and they work the shoulders and triceps:
Those interested in trying out the Air Force’s 26-week fitness program can download the guide as a PDF here. But be advised: It starts tough and gets tougher as it goes on.
Unlike the Marine Corps’ fitness app, the Air Force guide does not include instructions for individual exercises. Take some time to research proper form before attempting any unfamiliar exercises. (And WATM’s Max Your Body series can help.)
I can speak with 90% certainty that in the 1997 classic song tubthumping when Chumbawamba said “I get knocked down, but I get up again.” they were talking about gravity.
This a-hole is literally doing everything in its power all day every day to keep us down. It’s like having a SNCO that wants you to fail just because he doesn’t like your nearly-longer-than-standards-permits haircut.
Today we are talking about how to make gravity your bitch. We might even uncover how to get one step ahead of that E-7 that wants your chevrons.
The concept of straight bar path is about to blow your mind.
[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/BsY5-ThgBWq/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link expand=1]Pulse Physiotherapy on Instagram: “B A R P A T H ↕️ . The shortest distance between 2 points is in a straight line… ? . ✅ Hitting your knees on the way up or down during…”
When lifting weights, you aren’t actually lifting weights. You are overcoming gravity’s effect on the objects you are moving AKA the weights.
Our perception of gravity’s effect on a weight changes based on how inline the weight is with the muscles we are using to move the weight.
When the barbell holding the weights is perfectly inline with our balance point and the muscles we are using, the weight only feels as heavy as it actually is.
When the barbell is not inline with our balance point and muscle mass, the weight feels heavier than it actually is. It feels as if it is being pulled away from us by gravity.
[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/BtvxNkwB2Iy/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link expand=1]Eugen Loki on Instagram: “⭕️CORRECT SQUAT BAR PATH⭕️ – A lot of people have the idea that if you don’t have a perfectly vertical bar path, your squat is inefficient.…”
The further from center mass, the heavier the weight feels.
Moving with a straight bar path is our best attempt to prevent gravity from pulling the weight away from us.
The straighter the path, the less extra resistance we have to overcome.
This is why form is so important in the barbell lifts. Poor form doesn’t only increase the risk of potential injury, it also makes the weight feel heavier than it actually is.
The bench press requires a curved bar path for the benefit of our shoulder health, not because we want to give into gravity’s force.
(@pheasyque via Instagram)
Straight Bar Path and Neuromuscular connection
Nearly all of the strength gains an individual experiences in the first 6-8 weeks of lifting is due to these two things.
You become more efficient at lifting. Your bar path becomes straight in your search for the path of least resistance. Also, the connections between your muscles and your brain become stronger and more efficient to ensure that straight bar path on every rep.
Sometimes straightest bar path is just to shut up and color…
(Air National Guard photo by Airman 1st Class Katie Schultz)
How you can use this to your advantage when dealing with higher ranks
We squat and deadlift to fulfill a higher purpose, to get stronger. We utilize the straightest bar path possible so we can move the most weight possible so that we can become stronger faster.
Likewise, we serve to fulfill a higher purpose. In order to fulfill that purpose, whatever it may be for you, we must work with superiors that make our lives difficult.
There is a straight bar path equivalent here. Dealing with gravity is the easiest when we only push vertically directly against it, not on an angle. Dealing with a stubborn boss is easiest when you find the path of least resistance as well.
Maybe that means getting the hardest part of your job done when they are at lunch.
Life is like the back squat; difficult while forcing growth.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Danny Gonzalez/Released)
Maybe it means only reporting to them when they absolutely need to be informed.
Maybe it simply means always responding in a respectful manner, even if you don’t necessarily feel respect for them.
I know that sounds like some bologna advice. Imagine a scenario in which you get ripped into every time you neglect a salute or to say “Sir/Ma’am.” That ass tearing might take 10-15 minutes out of your day and make you feel butt-hurt for the rest of the day, which in turn will make you worse at your job and perpetuate more sessions of getting chewed out.
That’s inefficiency at its worst.
By finding the “straight bar path” for each person that outranks you, you can fulfill your purpose with the least resistance possible. There will still be resistance, don’t get me wrong, but that’s why we join. To overcome that which we previously thought insurmountable.
We all experience resistance to different degrees. It is always an opportunity to overcome, never a reason to quit.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Kalie Frantz)
A friend of mine recently said something to the effect of:
Life is like a video game, if you’re going in a direction with no bad guys, you’re going the wrong direction. The purpose of the game is to kill bad guys.
The same goes for life. Resistance should exist, whether it be gravity and a barbell or a particularly difficult job. We are here to overcome that resistance with the straightest bar path possible and get stronger as a result.