Every sports bar across the world right now is packed to the brim as soccer football fans gather to cheer their country on for the FIFA World Cup. Argentina’s Lionel Messi came out of retirement for one last Cup. England’s Harry Kane is shaping up to be the best player of the tournament so far. And Brazil’s Neymar is making hilariously bad flops.
All while barely any Americans bother to check out the score. Admittedly, the U.S. Men’s National Soccer Team didn’t qualify this year but even when they did kick ass in 2014, Americans still don’t care.
There are several unjust reasons why most Americans don’t bother with our soccer teams. The elephant in the room is our own version of football. Historically speaking, America has always favored its own version of football and relegating what (nearly) everyone else in the world calls football to just being called soccer.
The reason for that change in name goes back to when both sports were created. The first to get their rules codified and organized was then called “association football” which was given the shortened nickname by the Brits (the ones who essentially invented the sport) to just “soccer.” The gridiron football played by Americans was just referred to as American football. It’s just redundant to call it American football while in America. Kind of like that scene in Delta Farce with Mexican standoffs in Mexico.
Americans may not really care about soccer…but you know who does take the U.S. soccer teams seriously? Everyone else in the world. The U.S. team is beloved by many soccer fans around the world because they are one of the few teams that actively discourages flopping (when players make an extremely lousy attempt to get a foul for the other team by pretending they’re hurt — seen in this video below. Watch it. It’s brilliant.):
Sure, the stubbornness to give into the unsportsmanlike behavior may put the team at a disadvantage but it’s a point of pride that the U.S. teams avoid doing it. According to The Atlantic, this flagrant attempt to get a free kick is what sours the entire sport for American viewers. But it’s something American fans can at least point out in other teams and say “We are better than that.”
There are many other examples of what the American teams do far better than anyone else that not too many Americans know about. For instance, the third ranked active male international player for goals is actually an American: Clint Dempsey. The other two players ahead of Dempsey are Ronaldo and Messi, who are both considered to modern-day legends in the sport.
Another player that Americans can proudly look up to is Tim Howard. In the 2014 World Cup, Howard made a World Cup record-number of saves against Belgium by stopping 15 attempts. He’s also scored an unbelievable goal from the penalty area (which spans the entire field) in a Premiere League match. Everyone around the world lost their collective minds because of his breathtaking skill.
(Photo by Ray Terrill)
As fantastic as Howard and Dempsey are, their skills are outdone by the pure dominance of the Women’s U.S. soccer team. Ever since the FIFA Women’s World Cup’s inaugural tournament in 1991, the United States has taken home the title three of the seven times. In the other four times, the US Women’s team came in second once and third place three times. That’s a 100 percent franchise championship appearance rate with a 42 percent title win rate. This level of a sport’s dynasty is unheard of in any other sport.
(Photo by Rachael C. King)
But shy of a potential for a London gridiron team, inclusion of a handful Canadian teams in the NBA and MLB, and plenty of American hockey teams in the Canadian NHL, Americans don’t have a real presence in the sporting world outside of the Olympics.
Time and time again, the U.S. soccer teams have proven their worth on the world’s sporting stage and we could prove our power with enough interest. Unlike any other U.S. sport franchise, you can’t trade out players in the FIFA world series. Other athletes could be traded and the rosters of local teams change every season. Soccer players will represent their country for life.
This also bonds all U.S. fans. Regardless if you’re from rural Kansas, urban Los Angeles, or a suburb outside of Boston, the U.S. national soccer teams’ fans are all over. This gives us another great way to show up in the rest of the world.
If all of this doesn’t excite you, the 2026 FIFA World Cup will be hosted by the United States with Canada and Mexico also hosting games. This is an awesome opportunity for many fans to watch the fun as seventeen American cities will host games; three cities from Canada and another three from Mexico will also host.
Over the past year, a selected set of Army units have been piloting the new six-test Army Combat Fitness Test as the first phase of replacing the three-test Army Physical Fitness Test.
Used since 1980, the APFT includes the 2-mile run, push-up test, and sit-up test. The ACFT is an almost hour-long series of the six tests described in Table 1: the dead lift, the standing power throw, the hand-release push up, the sprint-drag-and-carry, the leg tuck hold, and the 2-mile run.
The ACFT is designed to better assess soldiers’ abilities to perform common tasks that reflect combat readiness. “It’s much more rigorous, but a better test,” agreed several members of the units testing the ACFT. Some studies are still underway, but transition to the ACFT is imminent:
The ACFT will be conducted by all soldiers Army-wide starting Oct. 1, 2019. Soldiers will also conduct the APFT as the official test of record during a one-year transition until Oct. 1, 2020. While some aspects of standards, training, and administration are being finalized, procedures and techniques are documented in Field Manual (FM) 7-22, Army Physical Readiness Training (PRT), 2012.
Capt. Jerritt Larson, executive officer, 401st Army Field Support Battalion-Kuwait performs the “maximum deadlift” element of the new US Army Combat Fitness Test.
(Photo by Kevin Fleming, 401st AFSB Public Affairs)
The ACFT and associated training requires soldiers to use several parts of the body not previously addressed by the APFT. This supports a more holistic, balanced approach to Army physical readiness. While ACFT is intended to improve soldiers’ physical performance while reducing injuries long term, as with any new physical activity it comes with new injury risks.
Observations by Army experts suggest certain injuries that may be anticipated. While the Army is sending out ACFT trainers to every unit to help train soldiers, everyone should be aware of potential new problems and how to avoid them.
Why and how were new ACFT tests selected?
Leaders and soldiers alike have long expressed concerns that the APFT doesn’t adequately measure soldiers’ abilities to perform common required tasks important during deployment.
Not all aspects of the APFT are bad, however. Studies have demonstrated that the 2-mile run is an excellent way to test soldiers’ cardiorespiratory endurance, also known as aerobic fitness. Aerobic capacity is linked to performance of more military tasks than any other aspect of fitness.
“Aerobic capacity is the most important measure of a soldier’s fitness,” says Dr. Bruce Jones, a retired Army colonel and medical doctor with the U.S. Army Public Health Center. “And weight-bearing physical activities such as running or marching are inescapable routine military aerobic activities.” Jones also explains that “Poor run times are not only associated with poor performance, they are associated with higher risk of injury.” So the 2-mile run time is a reliable way to monitor both aerobic fitness and injury risk.
U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Danny Gonzalez, Recruiting and Retention Command, New Jersey Army National Guard, carries two 40-pound kettlebells during the Army Combat Fitness Test.
(New Jersey National Guard photo by Mark C. Olsen)
The push-up test is also linked to key military tasks, and is a good measure of upper body muscle endurance. However, evidence did not support the value of using the sit-up test to measure military task performance.
An in-depth review of key fitness elements and their association with military tasks found that muscle strength and power are critical to military task performance. Agility and speed are also very important. The APFT does not measure these key fitness elements. The ACFT will now ensure soldiers’ combat readiness determinations include these additional fitness components.
What injury risks are associated with the ACFT?
Historically, the majority of soldiers’ injuries have occurred in the lower body, which includes the knee, lower leg, ankle, and foot and the lower back. Excessive physical training emphasis on distance running and long foot marches have been to blame.
“While lower body injuries may be reduced with more cross-training, they are expected to remain a primary concern,” explained Tyson Grier, an APHC kinesiologist. “Soldiers spend the majority of their time on their feet. Their lower body is constantly absorbing forces from carrying their body weight in addition to other loads.”
The Army updated its training doctrine to the physical readiness training program in 2012 to reduce lower body injuries. The PRT deemphasizes distance running and encourages a mix of training activities to promote strength, agility, balance, and power.
The PRT has been associated with a reduction of injuries in initial entry training. Army operational units have not shown comparable trends in injury reduction, however. Since the APFT has continued to be the test of record these units may not have fully embraced the PRT.
With the implementation of the ACFT, the Army will still monitor soldiers’ aerobic fitness with the 2-mile run, but training time will need to be devoted to a variety of other activities too. The new tests are not risk-free, but the goal is to slowly build up the body’s ability to perform activities than might cause soldiers injuries on the job. While this is to enhance physical performance, Army experts recognize that the training for and conduct of the ACFT could also increase risk of injuries to the upper body such as the back and spine, shoulder, and elbows.
Sgt. Traighe Rouse, 1-87IN, 1BCT10MTN, carries two 40 pound kettle bells during the A 250-Meter Sprint, Drag and Carry event of the new Army Combat Fitness Test.
(U.S. Army photo by SSG James Avery)
Some items used for the ACFT, such as the trap/hex bar for the deadlift, have been specifically selected to reduce injury risk. To avoid injuries caused by excessive weight lifts, the maximum weight for the deadlift was limited to 340 pounds, considered a moderate weight by serious lifter. Procedures are designed to avoid injury. For example, the grader must spot the soldier during leg tuck to reduce falling injury. A required warm up before the ACFT and a specific deadlift warm up period will reduce injuries. Despite these efforts, there will be a learning curve.
“A primary reason for injury resulting from the new test and training activities will be due to improper form and technique,” says Grier. “These are new activities to learn. It is very important that soldiers learn proper technique from the start, and avoid developing bad habits.”
“We also worry that “too much too soon” will cause injuries,” notes Maj. Timothy Benedict., Army physical therapist. “Some soldiers will start this training by lifting too much weight, conducting too many repetitions, or not allowing days of rest between sessions that stress specific muscles.”
While only future surveillance of soldiers’ injuries will be able to identify actual changes to the Army’s injury trends, a review of existing evidence suggests potential injury risks associated with the new tests and associated training. Table 1 highlights key injury concerns.
Some injuries associated with the ACFT will be sudden acute injuries. Acute injuries are usually associated with sudden sharp pain and typically require immediate medical attention. These include strains or tears in arm, shoulder, chest, or back muscles, torn knee ligaments, dislocated shoulders, herniated discs in the back, pinched nerves, or fractured bones (such as from falling during the leg tuck).
While these acute injuries can occur when soldiers are conducting military tasks or other personal activities, specific training activities may raise the risk. For example, studies of both professional and amateur and weightlifters and power lifters have indicated that use of extremely heavy weights during the dead-left is associated with lower back disc herniation and knee injuries. On the other hand, some rehabilitation studies have suggested that using lighter weights during the dead-lift may be useful to strengthen the back and knees.
An acute tear of fatigued muscles and tendons in the chest, arm, or shoulder during bench-pressing of heavy weights, such as a pectoralis major rupture, is another highly studied injury. This injury is almost uniquely associated with the bench press activity — only a couple past military cases were other causes (parachuting and push-up training). Though the bench press is not part of the ACFT, there is concern that soldiers may use this activity to train for the ACFT.
Pfc. Tony Garcia, an infantryman with 2nd platoon, Company C, 2nd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, pumps out pushups during a ranger physical fitness test.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Ford)
Injuries that develop gradually over time from over training are known as cumulative or overuse injuries. Overuse injuries occur when a repeatedly used set of body tissues haven’t had adequate time to heal and rebuild. “Continuing to stress tissues already injured from improper or excessive use or weight will only make the condition worse,” warns Benedict.
While delayed muscle soreness can be a normal sign that muscles are rebuilding stronger, pain in a joint or bone is not normal. Pain associated with overuse injuries may dull during the activity, but can become more serious if use continues.
Overuse injuries to the lower body are the most common type of soldier injury. Overuse to joints in shoulders, elbows, as well as knees and spinal joints are concerns because of the new ACFT tests. A common shoulder overuse injury is a torn rotator cuff – though it can occur suddenly, tissues have often already been worn from excessive use. Other common overuse injuries include tendonitis, bursitis, and pain syndromes in the knee and the lower back. These injuries may lead to long term chronic or permanent tissue damage.
Why it matters
Though injuries will continue to be experienced by soldiers — most are preventable.
Injury can mean out of commission for some time — and can notably increase your chances of getting injured again. Or develop chronic life-long conditions as you get older.
Injuries critically impact individual, units, and Army performance. Injuries cost the Army billions of dollars annually for medical treatment, rehabilitation and re-training, medical disability, and reduced productivity from restricted duties, and attrition. Training-related musculoskeletal injuries are the leading reason for temporary medical non-deployment status.
What you can do
In order to optimize U.S. military performance, soldiers and Leaders must do their part to train smarter which includes avoiding injury.
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” So do what you can to avoid getting injured in the first place. Table 2 provides some general guidance. Using proper technique, slowly building up intensity and weight levels to acclimate your body, and allowing rest days between similar activities are the primary keys to minimizing your risk.
To minimize risk follow procedures as taught by Army ACFT trainers. Seek guidance from Army Fitness Centers, doctrine in FM 7-22, a certified trainer, such as a Master Fitness Trainer, and use a buddy system during training to be warned of poor form and for hands on help as a ‘spotter’ to ensure proper balance and range of motion.
And if you are injured? Stop activities at early signs of pain and seek medical advice. Taking a break from activities temporarily to let the tissues heal can minimize the likelihood of a more serious injury. An injured knee can require weeks or months of rehabilitation. A worn rotator cuff tear can mean surgery. Lower back pain can result in a long term health condition.
The Commander-in-Chief will allow military academy athletes who excel on the field to go pro before they have to repay their service on the battlefields, according to a May 6, 2019 statement President Trump made from the White House Rose Garden. Trump was hosting the West Point Black Knights football team at the time.
“I’m going to look at doing a waiver for service academy athletes who can get into the major leagues like the NFL, hockey, baseball,” Trump said. “We’re going to see if we can do it, and they’ll serve their time after they’re finished with professional sports.”
These days, service academies can sometimes get overlooked by scouts and fans alike. Cadets and Mids who are highly touted will often switch schools in order to get access to the world of professional sports, missing their chance to serve. But service academies have introduced some great players into our collective memories.
McConkey was a former Navy Mid who spent most of his NFL career as a wide receiver with the NY Giants. McConkey was a rookie at 27 years old, but legend has it coach Bill Parcells signed McConkey based on a tip from one of his assistants who happened to have been an assistant coach at Navy, Steve Belichick. McConkey spent six years in the NFL, catching a TD pass in Super Bowl XXI that helped the Giants top the Denver Broncos.
Hennings was an award-winning defensive tackle at Air Force who was picked by the Cowboys in the 11th round of the 1987 NFL draft. He spent four years as an Air Force pilot before getting back to the NFL and playing with Dallas in a career that included three Super Bowls.
Wahle spent most of his career with the Green Bay Packers but also played in Carolina and Seattle – after playing in Annapolis. Though he spent his college years as a wide receiver, by the time he was ready to enter the draft, he was an offensive lineman. He resigned his commission before his senior year.
The former Navy defensive end was a four-time pro bowl selectee who was often called “The Meanest Man in Football.” For 12 years, he attacked quarterbacks like they were communists trying to invade America. In one championship game (before the AFL and NFL merged to form the NFL we know today), Sprinkle injured three opposing players, crippling their offense.
Minnesota Vikings vs Dallas Cowboys, 1971 NFC Divisional Playoffs
Was there ever any question about who would top this list? Staubach isn’t just a candidate for best player from a service academy, or best veteran player, he’s one of the most storied NFL players of all time. The Heisman-winning Navy alum and Vietnam veteran served his obligation in Vietnam, won two Super Bowls, one Super Bowl MVP pick, was selected to the Pro Bowl for six of the ten years he spent in the NFL, and is in the Football Hall of Fame.
Look out Navy, the tides are turning – the Army Black Knights are ranked #23 going into the 2018 Army-Navy Game. The AP Poll puts them at 23 while the Coaches Poll puts them at 24. The last time Navy was ranked going into the game was the 2017 game, where the Midshipmen were ranked 25. They lost that game, but the year prior, the Mids were ranked 21 and pulled out the W, topping Army 21-17.
A pre-game ranking seems to mean very little to Navy, but for the Black Knights, it could be a game-changer. The last time Army came in ranked was in 1996, when they were #23 — and won the game 28-24
Now, a #23 ranking may mean little to the NCAA powerhouse teams in Columbus, Tuscaloosa, or Norman, but at West Point, it’s a big deal. As the Plebes get ready to meet the Mids this year in Philadelphia, there’s a lot on the line for the Black Knights. After topping Air Force on Nov. 3, the Army is in a position to win its first back-to-back Commander-in-Chief trophy ever while beating Navy for the third year in a row.
The last time Army extended a multi-year winning streak over Navy was in 1996 – which happens to be the last time they came into the contest as an AP Poll-ranked team. In their snowy 2017 win over the Naval Academy, the Black Knights secured their first Commander-In-Chief’s Trophy since — you guessed it — 1996.
The stars might be aligned once again for the Black Knights. Air Force took down Navy 35-7 on Oct. 6, which means Army can be the clear winner with a victory in Philadelphia on Dec. 8. If they lose and the trophy is shared, the previous winner retains the trophy but… c’mon. No one wants to win by default. That’s not the Army way.
This year’s Army team is playing without West Point standout Ahmad Bradshaw, whose collegiate career ended with last season’s incredible win over Navy. The quarterback left West Point as the academy’s number five all-time rushing leader. His replacement, Kelvin Hopkins, Jr., has stepped well out of Bradshaw’s shadow, leading the Black Knights to a 9-2 record and a #23 spot on the AP Poll.
Bradshaw is now a leader in the U.S. Army as Hopkins leads the Army West Point team to its third ranking season since 1963. This is Army’s third winning season since 1996, and the Plebes seek to make it their second 10-win season in two years. Their last L came on Sept. 22, in a crushing overtime loss to Oklahoma, 28-21.
No shame in that — especially because the Black Knights went on a 7-game winning streak afterward.
It’s great preparation for the biggest game of the season – just look at last year’s Army-Navy Game.
The 2018 Army-Navy Game presented by USAA takes place on Dec. 8, 2018 in Philadelphia at noon Eastern.
There’s a reason sit-ups top the list of exercises to get your spare tire under control. They work the major rectus abdominis muscle. They are challenging to do but elementary to understand. They involve no machines or special devices.
And yet… there’s no way around it. Sit-ups are boring. Up, down, up, down — the exercise gets really old, really fast. They are also good but not perfect: All that rounding of the spine places stress on the lower back which can cause injury over time. More over, the exercise works your abdominals in two planes of motion, but does not engage your obliques or transversus abdominus, limiting the true amount of core strength you can build.
Not to worry, flat abs were not built by sit-ups alone. There are plenty of other moves out there that can give you the muscle tone you want without the monotony you dread. Here are 10 ab exercises to try instead of sit-ups.
The cousin of full sit-ups, crunches involve lying on your back, feet either flat on the floor or elevated in the air with knees bent. Perform small contractions of your abdominal muscles to raise and lower your torso a few inches. You can do these with hands by your sides or behind your head for support. Aim for 100 crunches.
A key part of core strength is balance. In this exercise, start sitting with your knees bent, feet flat on floor. Place one hand behind each knee. Slowly lean back, lifting your feet off the floor so that the hover a few inches off the ground. When you find the sweet spot where you are balanced between your raised legs and backward-leaning torso, stop. Try to extend your legs into a straight position, so that your body forms a V shape. Hold for 10 counts.
3. Bicycle Crunches
An oldie but goodie, the bicycle move is great because it engages your oblique muscles as you twist your torso from side to side. Start by lying on your back, knees bent, feet in the air. Bend elbows and place your hands behind your head. Start circling legs in a bicycle-like motion, bringing opposite elbow to knee. Do this for one minute.
4. Inverted Hinges
Start in an extended push-up position, legs and arms straight. From here, hike your hips toward the ceiling, keeping your back flat and legs straight. Keep going until your body forms an inverted V shape, with your butt as the apex. Hold here for five counts, then slowly stretch back out in a controlled manner. Do 10 inverted hinges.
From an extended push-up position, drop down so that your weight is supported by your elbows, which should rest beneath your shoulders. Hold this position, back straight, for one minute.
(Photo by Sam Owoyemi)
6. Side Plank
From the front plank position, shift your weight so that you are resting on your right arm. Twist your entire body so that your left shoulder points toward the ceiling and your legs are stacked on one of top of the other with your left side on top. Maintain a straight line from your shoulders to your feet. Hold for one minute, then rotate to the other side and repeat.
Start sitting on the floor, knees bent, feet tucked under a sofa or chair base for support. Stretch your arms in front of you and slowly lean your torso back until your upper body creates a wide V shape with your legs. Stop in this position and begin to make small pulsations back and forward with your upper body. Do this for one minute.
Begin this move in the same wide V shape as above. Instead of pulsing up and down, swing both arms over to your right side and twist your torso to follow. Begin to “pulse” in this position, making small twists to the right and back to center (as opposed to up and down). Do 10 times, then rotate arms and torso to the left side and repeat.
9. Windshield Wipers
Start lying on your back, feet in the air, legs straight. Place arms out to either side of support. In a controlled manner, drop both legs over to the right, reaching for the floor. Keep hips still and facing up toward the ceiling. Bring legs back to the centerline, then drop them over to the left side. Repeat this side-to-side motion (like a set of windshield wipers) 10 times.
10. Leg Raises
Lie on your back, legs straight. Tuck hands under the small of your back for support. Keeping your legs straight and together, raise feet off the floor toward the ceiling. In a controlled manner, lower legs back to the floor without arching your back. Do 10 times.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
In addition to physical exercise, proper nutrition plays a major role in overall health, fitness, and training for the Army Combat Fitness Test, says Maj. Brenda Bustillos, the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command dietitian.
“It’s important for soldiers to recognize the impact proper nutrition has on them,” said Maj. Bustillos. “From how they get up and feel in the morning, how they recover from an exercise, how they utilize energy, and whether or not they have energy at the end of the day — proper nutrition is powerful, and stretches far beyond what we were taught as kids.”
Dietary decisions affect every soldier’s individual physical performance differently, too, she said, and has the power to impact careers “whether that be good or bad.”
Bustillos, a clinician who’s seen patients for the last 15 years of her career, believes the ground rules for healthy eating are only that — ground rules. “Every patient I’ve met with is different, and their needs are all different, too.”
Soldiers weave through an obstacle course.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Travis Zielinski)
“Nutrition and dietary patterns are not one size fits all,” she said. “A registered dietitian understands this, and understands the biomechanics of each individual, along with the unique metabolic concerns they may have.”
She added, “How someone eats can be what makes or breaks them during big events, such as the ACFT. That’s why it’s important for soldiers to take advantage of resources available to them, and meet with a dietitian about what works for them while training for the test.”
Army combat fitness test
The ACFT is a six-event, age- and gender-neutral, fitness assessment set to replace the Army’s current physical fitness test by October 2020. It’s the largest physical training overhaul in nearly four decades, and is currently in its second phase of implementation, with every soldier slated to take the test as a diagnostic at least once this year.
The test is designed to link soldiers’ physical fitness with their combat readiness. Each event is taken immediately following the next, and aims to be an endurance-based, cardio-intensive assessment of overall physical fitness.
“The ACFT will require soldiers to properly fuel their bodies to be fully ready to perform,” she said. “The six events require many different muscle movements, with both aerobic and anaerobic capacities, making the fueling piece of fitness incredibly important — as important as physically training.”
Nutrition has often been attributed as “fuel for the body,” she said. For example, proteins repair you, and give the body the building blocks it needs for everyday activities, carbohydrates give the body energy, vitamins strengthens the bones, minerals help regulate the body’s processes, and water is essential for being alive.
But, nutrition also plays a role “in terms of preparation and recovery,” she said. It doesn’t matter if someone is training for a marathon or the ACFT, how they eat, or what they drink makes a world of difference.
U.S. Army soldiers participate in a 2.35-mile run.
(U.S. Army photo by Senior Airman Rylan Albright)
For example, if a soldier wakes up early on an empty stomach when scheduled to take the ACFT, that soldier will lack the glucose needed for a good performance. This can make the short-term decisions as critical as the lifestyle choices made in the months prior to testing, she said.
“Consider an individual like an automobile,” Bustillos said. “If an automobile starts running out of gas, it will begin running on fumes, and then be completely empty. That’s how an individual [regardless of training leading up to the test] will perform, especially if they don’t properly fuel their body before an ACFT.”
Bustillos urges soldiers to always “train to fight,” meaning all their nutritional decisions, at all times, should holistically enhance their physical fitness, mental alertness, and overall health.
“If a soldier only eats right the night before, or morning of an ACFT — but not during the months of training leading up to it, they won’t do as well on the fitness test [regardless of physical activity],” she said.
The best course of action, according to Bustillos, is eating right “day in and day out” while training. “Muscles are hungry, and they need fuel, so if you implement a healthy dietary lifestyle while training, then your body performs much better while performing.”
Soldiers should consume a variety of healthy nutrients in their diet, she said. For example, carbohydrates, fats, dietary fiber, minerals, proteins, vitamins, and water should be taken in.
(U.S. Army photo by Jorge Gomez)
When a soldier doesn’t eat properly in both short- and long-term capacities, muscles will break down because the body is continually searching for the fuel it needs to perform, she said.
“The night before an ACFT, a soldier should take in some proteins and carbohydrates,” she said, adding that carbohydrates are the No. 1 source of fuel for the brain and body.
Examples include moderately-sized, protein and carbohydrate-rich meals, such as a grilled chicken breast and brown rice, followed by a light breakfast the next morning, ideally two hours prior to taking the ACFT, she said. However, the possibilities for what foods to eat are seemingly endless, as long as they fall in the food healthy groups.
“I understand not everyone wants to wake up two hours before a performance test just to eat,” she said. “So, a light snack in the morning is also good. It can be a performance bar, a whole-grain English muffin, a banana, or just half of a muffin with smear of peanut butter — something to not disrupt the stomach while providing a fuel source for the body.”
With the ACFT around the corner, or if you have questions on how nutrition can enhance your lifestyle based on body type, Bustillos recommends you seek answers from a registered dietitian nearby.
“It’s important to remember there’s no such thing as bad foods, just bad dietary patterns,” she said. “As long as we’re eating well, taking good care of our bodies, and putting good things in it — it’s okay to have the scoop of ice cream, or sharing a tub of buttered popcorn with friends at the movies, those are certainly things that make life more enjoyable.”
If you come from a family sporting dad bods, you’re more likely to carry extra pounds yourself. Some of that is nurture: You grew up in an environment where people ate more and possibly exercised less. The other part is nature: Some people carry an obesity gene that makes them more likely to be overweight.
If you’re one of those people, you might want to select your workouts carefully. A new study of 18,424 Chinese adults by Wan-Yu Lin of National Taiwan University found that certain exercises are more effective than others at encouraging weight loss in people genetically predisposed to obesity.
To arrive at this conclusion, researchers investigated gene-exercise interactions by first evaluating participants on five obesity measures (BMI, body fat percentage, waist circumference, hip circumference, and waist-to-hip ratio). After performing a regression analysis to determine their genetic vulnerability to obesity, researchers reviewed the type of exercise participants engaged in, and compared these findings with the obesity level.
There were some obvious — and not so obvious — findings. Jogging was found to be the best form of exercise for weight-loss, while cycling was near the bottom of the list. Fast walking was also beneficial, as were mountain climbing, dancing, and yoga. Swimming, meanwhile, was another weight-loss dud.
(Photo by Arek Adeoye)
While the scientists are still sorting through the reason that certain exercises favor weight-loss in those genetically predisposed to obesity, it’s plausible that the most effective activities consistently elevated participants heart rate for long durations, while activities like swimming and cycling either didn’t get the heart rate up or were too “gentle” on the body (they are not considered weight-bearing activities) for people to reap the full benefit.
Whether or not genetics is contributing to your fight to stay fit, you can take control of your destiny. Start with this 30-minute workout which takes the top five science-backed weight-loss exercises from the study and mashes them into one belly fat-burning, waist-slimming workout.
1. Warm up/Walk: 5 minutes
Start with a moderate amble and work your way up to a fast-stepping, arm-swinging walk that gets your muscles warm and your head in the right space to push hard.
2. Jog: 10 minutes
Break into an easy jog, choosing a pace you can sustain for 10 minutes straight. The right tempo should be slow enough that you can converse with a friend but hard enough that those sentences are pretty short.
(Photo by Tomasz Woźniak)
3. Climb stairs: 5 minutes
Since you’re unlikely to find a mountain nearby to scale (or have the time to do it), swap slopes for stairs and find a case you can climb for the next 5 minutes. (If that’s truly mission impossible, find a single flight and run up and down it repeatedly.)
4. Dance it off: 7 minutes
While the study found international standard dancing, also known as ballroom dancing, was great for weight loss, you can get the same benefits of fast footwork and solid cardio by busting a move to your favorite tunes in the house or at the gym. Choose music with 130 BPM or higher and don’t stop moving until 7 minutes is up.
Yoga might not seem like an automatic fat-blaster, but because the classes tend to be longer (an hour or so) and participants attend frequently, it gets points for consistency. Finish your workout with this sequence that stretches muscles while building strength.
Start in downward facing dog (hand and feet on floor, hips in the air).
Inhale and lift your right left off the floor behind you, bend at the knee and allowing your hips to open.
Swing your right leg forward and place it between your hands, knee bent, so you are in a low lunge. Breath in and out five times.
Transfer your weight from your bent right front leg back to your straight left leg, bending your left knee and straightening your right in a half-split position. Hold for five breaths.
Continue to shift your weight back, allowing your body to spiral slightly, twisting until you are seated. Allow your right leg to bend and coil over the top of your left into the double-pigeon pose (sort of like Indian-style but with your right foot over your left knee and your left foot beneath your right knee).
From here, let your arms fall by your sides, straighten your spine, close your eyes and take a few deep breaths.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
The workout bench is something you find in just about every gym — even those tiny hotel workout rooms that can fit maybe three people. But it’s such a boring workout. It’s a flat, rectangular, stationary object with none of the bells and whistles of those fancy machines at the gym and all you ever see anyone do on it is bench press big weights, over and over. Here’s some advice: Get over it. The bench plays a crucial role in any strength-training program because, yes, it’s everywhere, but also it is versatile and allows for an increased range of motion during any given strength exercise.
You could spend a whole session doing variations on the traditional bench press and leave the gym a fitter man. But you can get even more mileage from your bench routine if you throw in some full body exercises that get your heart rate up and work other major muscle groups. Check out these 10 bench moves that get the job done.
1. Dumbbell triceps extension
Lie on the bench, feet on floor, holding a dumbbell in either hand. Raise dumbbells straight over your chest. Allow arms to drift back over your head slightly. Bend elbows and lower dumbbells toward the floor. Straighten elbows and raise dumbbells overhead again. (Note: If you feel more strain in your elbows than triceps, reach your arms farther behind your head.) 10 reps, 2 sets.
(Photo by Danielle Cerullo)
2. Decline sit-ups
Angle the bench to a roughly 30- to 45-degree position. Lie with your feet at the high-end, hooking your heels over the back of the bench, or using a strap around the ankles for support. Keeping hands behind your head, do 3 sets of 20 sit-ups. (Note: If you find a full sit-up too difficult in this position, either lessen the bench angle, or do crunches instead.)
Stand facing the bench, about a foot away. Place your right foot on the bench and step up, raising your left knee high in front of you. Step down. Repeat 10 times on the right side, then 10 set-ups with your left leg. Do 3 sets.
4. Incline fly
Hinge bench so that the seat is flat and back is at a 45-degree angle. Sit with feet on floor and lean back, holding a dumbbell in either hand. Raise your arms straight front of your chest, then open them wide out to the sides, letting them pass the 90-degree angle if possible. Raise them back in front of your chest. 15 reps, 2 sets.
Lie on a flat bench, hips and butt positioned at the edge of one end, feet on floor. Place hands over your head, gripping the other end of the bench for support, or under your lower back. Lift your feet and straighten legs out in front of you, so that they are suspended in the air and creating a straight line with the rest of your body. Slowly raise your legs to the ceiling (count to 5). Lower them back down. 10 reps, 2 sets.
6. Isometric hold fly
The beauty of dumbbells is their symmetry — weights perfectly balanced on either side of your grip. Holding the dumbbell at one end, however, adds a whole new layer challenge, engaging more muscles and testing your body’s balance as well as strength. For this move, lie back on the bench, feet on floor. Holding a dumbbell in either hand, with your grip all the way at one end of the weight, raise dumbbells above your chest with straight arms, then open them wide out to the sides. Raise arms again until they are above your chest. Bend elbows, and lower dumbbells to chest. 10 reps, 2 sets.
7. Incline bench press
Set the bench at a 45-degree incline. Grab the barbell with an overhand grip, hands shoulder-width apart, and lift it off the rack. Lower to your chest with a controlled movement, then drive through your feet, engage your core, and press it toward the ceiling. (Note: Make sure to keep the barbell directly overhead, rather than drifting forward.)
8. One-arm rows
Holding a dumbbell in your left hand, stand at the left side of the bench and place your right knee and right hand on it (as if you are down on all fours, but just two limbs). Leaning forward so that your back is parallel to the floor, drop your left shoulder slightly, bend your left elbow, and imagine squeezing your shoulder blades together as you raise the dumbbell up to your chest. Lower. Do 10 reps on each side, 3 sets total.
Ok, ok. We’re not going to stop you from performing the bench press. If you’re going to do it (and it’s a fine move, so don’t let us stop you), do it right: Lie on the bench, feet on floor, grabbing the bar with hands just wider than shoulder-width apart. Lift bar out of rack and lower it toward your chest. Tuck elbows in at your sides. As soon as the bar touches your chest, engage your core and drive through your feet to raise the bar overhead. Do 10 reps, 3 sets.
10. Close-grip press
Same exercise as above, except place your hands just inside shoulder-width apart. This angle uses your triceps more, pectoral muscles less. 10 reps, 3 sets.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
Another week, another set of thrilling match-ups from military academies. While big businesses think about how to leverage on-jersey advertisements in the major leagues, cadets are practicing, communicating, and formulating a plan to take down their opponent — for nothing but the sheer love of competition.
And that’s exactly why we’re borderline addicted to watching military academy sports.
This week, We Are The Mighty will be streaming the following events, so stay tuned.
Men’s Soccer — Lafayette at Army West Point (Wednesday 7:00PM EST)
On Wednesday, October 3rd at 7:00PM EST, Army West Point is looking to break a three-game losing streak as Lafayette comes storming into Malek Stadium. The Leopards, meanwhile, are a force to be reckoning with, sitting at 3-1-1 when playing away.
Women’s Volleyball — Air Force at Wyoming (Thursday 8:30PM EST)
This Thursday, October 4th at 8:30PM EST, the scorching-hot Air Force Academy (12-5) seeks to build on their winning campaign as they charge into Wyoming. Despite a strong home performance, Air Force is currently 1-2 when playing outside of their turf — and Wyoming (11-6) has a perfect record on their own court. This is one to watch.
Men’s Soccer — Loyola at Army West Point (Sunday 5:00PM EST)
This Sunday, October 7th at 5:00PM EST, Loyola is coming to Clinton Field to try and steal a victory from West Point. If Army can rally on Wednesday, they’ll be charged up with a victory — and they’ll be looking to double down.
Going for a jog. Shooting hoops. Running stairs. Pumping iron. These forms of exercise have one thing in common: They all do a great job of raising your heart rate. That’s a critical component to any worthwhile workout because an elevated heart rate does several things for you: First, it helps you lose weight. The higher your heart rate, the more energy your body will expend, and the more pounds you’ll shed. Secondly, it helps you burn fat. Getting your heart rate up to just 50 percent of its maximum means that roughly 85 percent of the calories you burn will come from fat. So even if you’re just walking fast or bike-commuting to the office, you’re still getting fit.
So what target heart rate should you be hitting when exercising? There are actually five heart rate zones that experts focus on when designing workouts, ranging from an easy warm-up zone to an all-out sprint zone. While the easy zone won’t do much for your calorie burning and the max heart rate zone is too intense to sustain for more than a few seconds. The intermediary zones of hard and very hard provide the biggest bang for your buck.
To improve your fitness, the most important thing is that once your heart rate is up, you keep it up. That means minimal rest between sets, and maximum effort for each move. Follow this workout to hit your target heart rate — and keep it there — for 20 minutes.
1. Climbing stairs
Find a stairwell or stadium with at least 4 flights of stairs. Race to the top, then jog back down, five times.
2. Jumping jacks
To get the max heart rate benefit from this exercise, make sure you raise your arms overhead each and every time. Aim for one jack per second. Go hard for one minute, then rest 30 seconds. Repeat two more times.
3. Jumping rope
It may remind you of your childhood, but there’s nothing easy about jumping rope. Skip the bounce and jump only once per revolution, requiring you to spin the rope faster and work a little harder. Start by jumping 30 seconds with 10 seconds rest, and progress to one minute of jumping followed by 20 seconds rest. Do 3 times.
Sprint drills will raise your heart rate, but they also require space. Instead, practice your quick feet and fine motor skills by moving your legs as fast as you can vertically, hiking knees high for 20 seconds, followed by 20 seconds of kicking your heels to your butt as many times as you can while running in place. Rest 20 seconds. Do 5 sets.
From standing, bend your knees, crouch down to the floor, place your hands on the ground, and jump your feet back so you are in an extended plank position. Jump feet forward toward your hands again, push off the floor and jump into a vertical position. Do as many as you can for 30 seconds. Rest for 10 seconds. Repeat 5 times.
They aren’t typically considered aerobic moves, but these all-over body strengtheners can really raise your heart rate if you do them all-out without rest. Drop and do 20 pushups, then flip over to your back and immediately do 20 sit-ups. With both, you’re aiming for a 1-1.5 second timeframe per move. Do 5 sets.
The right way to use a heart rate monitor
The latest crop of monitors ranges from basic to super high-tech. To start, you need to choose from the chest-strap variety (a sensor on a strap around your chest electronically detects your pulse and sends a signal to your wristwatch, which then displays the info) or a wrist monitor (takes your pulse via a sensor on the back of a watch). While chest straps provide the most accurate reading, some people prefer the convenience of the simpler wrist version.
A basic monitor will track workout time, and show your high, low, and average heart rate during the session. More sophisticated models will allow you to program a desired heart rate range pre-workout, so you can monitor whether you are staying within the targeted zone.
Some will also track how long it takes your heart rate to return to normal after an intense aerobic bout. That’s key because length of recovery is equated with how fit you are (the faster your pulse can return to its baseline, the fitter you are getting).
To figure out your ideal heart rate for different types of workouts, check out the recommendations from the American Heart Association, then program your monitor to make sure your workout falls within the parameter that’s best for you.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
Since his fellow cadets stormed Baltimore’s M&T Bank Stadium three years ago after Army ended Navy’s 14-game winning streak, Ryan Velez had waited for his chance to play in the storied Army-Navy game.
Velez, now a senior safety from Fountain Hills, Arizona, finally saw action on special teams during last year’s 17-10 Army triumph in Philadelphia.
On Dec. 14, 2019, Velez can help the 5-7 Black Knights defeat Navy for the fourth straight time, and cement the 2020 senior class as one of the greatest in West Point’s history. Army takes on the No. 23 Midshipmen (9-2) at the Philadelphia Eagles’ Lincoln Financial Field at 3 p.m. EST.
“This is like a season of its own,” Velez said of the Army-Navy Game. “That’s unlike any other games in college football … the opportunity to win a trophy and go to the White House. That’s something special. It’s surreal and something I’ll be able to take with me for the rest of my life.”
Army Black Knights football coach Jeff Monken leads the team onto the field for the Army-Navy game in Philadelphia, Dec. 8, 2018.
(Photo by Sean Kimmons)
A high school tailback, Velez moved to defense at West Point and played mostly on the scout team his freshman year. After switching to safety his sophomore year, he still couldn’t get on the field, but finally contributed to Army’s 11-2 campaign as a junior, seeing action in 11 of 13 games.
Velez worked harder in practice and studied diligently to learn the intricacies of both strong and free safety, earning the trust of his coaches.
This fall, Velez has become a leader on defense, recording 40 solo tackles, two interceptions, one forced fumble and a sack in 12 games. Not bad for a player who spent most of his first two seasons on the bench.
“During that time it was hard,” he said. “Obviously taking a backseat, having a secondary role, that was one of those challenges I’ve had to overcome — fight through and I’m glad I did. It’s been a ride; it’s been a journey. I’m just very appreciative to be where I’m at right now.”
A 5-7 mark could seem disappointing for the Army football team after cruising to an 11-2 record last fall and the program’s best finish since 1958.
Records can be deceiving.
Army has proven it can still compete with the nation’s best. Despite the final scores, the results on the field have shown competitiveness.
In each of those seven losses, the Black Knights remained within striking distance, including a near-upset of No. 17 Michigan in Ann Arbor. Army forced overtime against the Wolverines before falling 24-21.
The Black Knights narrowly lost to service rival Air Force 17-13 in Colorado Springs Nov. 2, when the No. 25 Falcons stopped Army at the goal line with less than a minute in regulation.
During a 52-31 offensive shootout at Hawaii Nov. 30, Army trailed only 38-31 with seven minutes remaining in the game. The Black Knights’ drive stalled after driving to the Hawaii 35-yard line and the Warriors scored the final two touchdowns.
“We played a really tough schedule, some really great competition,” Velez said. “All that stuff that happened in the past, that’s gut-wrenching. We can’t focus on that right now. We just got to focus on Navy, finishing out the season strong.”
Army quarterback Kelvin Hopkins, center, scores the final touchdown of the Army-Navy game in Philadelphia, Dec. 8, 2018.
(Photo by Sean Kimmons)
Army’s senior class, which has not lost in the annual rivalry game, hopes to complete a four-year sweep. Senior quarterback Kelvin Hopkins (706 rushing yards, seven TDs) and senior running back Connor Slompka (637 yards, eight TDs) lead Army’s No. 2 rushing attack. Hopkins has also thrown for 570 yards and four touchdowns, but his time on the field has been limited by injuries.
Since head coach Jeff Monken took over, Army bounced back from a 2-10 mark in 2015, to go 21-5 in the 2017 and 2018 seasons.
That run includes a 70-14 trouncing of Houston in the Armed Forces Bowl and finishing at No. 19 in the college football rankings during the 2018 season.
“We had a great senior class my freshman year,” Velez said. “We were able to end the streak. That was something that the whole Army itself was looking forward to, just ending that streak, being able to say we finally beat Navy. That senior class kind of gave us the ground rules for continuing that streak the past couple of years, giving us the formula to beat Navy so they set the example and … we hope to continue that this coming Saturday.”
The contest holds special significance for Velez, as his younger brother Ross, a freshman at the Naval Academy, will be pulling for the Midshipmen from the stands. Velez, whose great uncles served as enlisted troops in the Korean War and World War II, will become the first officer in his family when he graduates from West Point next spring. He said his parents, Roger and Evangeline Velez, will have torn allegiances when they attend this year’s game.
Army faces a No. 23-ranked Navy squad that handed Air Force one of its only two losses this season. Last season Army’s football team won a defensive struggle in frigid winter conditions. In 2018, Army carried a No. 22 ranking and 9-2 record heading into the game while Navy had weathered its worst season since 2002 at 2-9.
This fall, Navy enters the game as the favorite as Army failed to qualify for a bowl game for the first time since 2015.
Navy bounced back from its worst campaign to finish second in the American Athletic Conference and earn a bid to play in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl vs. Kansas State Dec. 31.
This season’s Army-Navy game features a matchup of the nation’s top two rushing offenses. The Midshipmen’s high-powered offense ranks No. 9 in the nation.
Navy quarterback Garret Lewis is sacked during the Army-Navy game in Philadelphia, Dec. 8, 2018.
(Photo by Sean Kimmons)
Senior QB Malcolm Perry leads Navy’s top-ranked rushing attack, as he has rushed for 1,500 yards and 19 touchdowns and thrown for another 1,027 yards and six touchdowns.
While standing only 5-9, the elusive Perry has quickly become one of the nation’s most potent offensive weapons and will test the Black Knights’ No. 30-ranked defense, which has struggled with consistency. Perry ranks No. 6 in the nation in rushing yards.
Sophomore fullback Jamale Carothers has made big play after big play for the Midshipmen, rushing for 637 yards on only 76 carries (8.4 yards per carry) and has 741 yards from scrimmage and 14 total touchdowns. Carothers scored five of those touchdowns in a 56-41 triumph over Houston Nov. 30, one shy of the conference record.
Velez said the Army defense carries a swagger, built from three consecutive victories and weathering a brutal schedule.
“We just have a calmness going into it, we know how to win,” Velez said. “It’s just a blood bath when we go out there. I think going in we have some confidence, we have some swagger. We know what it takes to win. At the end of the day, we just got to line up, be a tougher team and out-physical them.”
Navy still holds a 60-52-7 all-time lead in the contest, though Army has won the last three matchups.
While Army’s defense had been a stalwart force the previous two seasons, it has struggled at times this season. In 2018, the Black Knights boasted the nation’s 10th best defense, allowing only 17.7 points a game and 295.3 yards of total offense per contest.
This fall those numbers jumped to 337.8 yards allowed and the Black Knights fell to No. 30 in total yards allowed, and No. 33 in points allowed.
Senior cornerback Elijah Riley leads Army in interceptions (three), forced fumbles (three), sacks (four) and ranks second on the squad with 73 tackles.
(West Point Athletics Department)
Honoring the past
Army will pay tribute to the 1st Cavalry Division, the first full unit of its kind to deploy to Vietnam. The division pioneered a new battle concept which used helicopters to mobilize large masses of soldiers.
The Black Knights will don green helmets that display the golden sabers to honor the 1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry regiment.
The Midshipmen will wear a throwback classic 1960s-era uniform with gold shoulder stripes and a special paint design that resembles football helmets of the past.
It was a big weekend for the Arizona Cardinals. The team has been struggling this season and they were looking to roll into Green Bay and hand the vaunted Packers their first loss at home. It was a special game for a number of reasons, but for Larry Fitzgerald, it allowed him to participate in the NFL’s “My Cause, My Cleats” campaign.
The star wideout is one of the greatest players in the NFL today, and his cleats bore the name and likeness of one of the NFL’s legends – Pat Tillman.
NFL uniform wear is incredibly strict, and the league is known to hand down steep fines to players who step onto the field out of regs. But during the “My Cause, My Cleats” weekend, 800 select players get to sport customized cleats that raise awareness and funds for their personal causes, from fighting colon cancer to ending sex trafficking. Larry Fitzgerald wanted to honor the men and women who serve in the U.S. military.
As an Arizona Cardinal, that meant honoring the legacy of Pat Tillman.
Fitzgerald’s cleats were custom-made by Miami, Florida-based Marcus Rivero of Soles by Sir. He incorporated an image of Pat Tillman himself, as well as the name of former Arizona Senator, John McCain, who died earlier in 2018. The designer also added the name of Fitzgerald’s grandfather, who served in the Korean War.
Beyond simply making and wearing the custom cleats, the Cardinals wide receiver gave a special experience to two U.S. Army veterans and Pat Tillman scholars, Joseph Wheaton and Jameson Lopez. Wheaton is a native of northern Maine who joined the military after the attacks of September 11, 2001. Lopez is member of the Quechan Tribe from Arizona’s Colorado River Valley.
The Cardinals wide receiver gave the two scholars a tour of the Cardinals facility, a chance to meet the trainers and staff, and presented them each with a Pat Tillman Cardinals jersey.
Fitzgerald’s custom “My Cause, My Cleats” wear, honoring Pat Tillman, Arizona Sen. John McCain, and his own grandfather, a Korean War veteran.
The mission of the Tillman Foundation is to empower military veterans and military spouses to become the next generation of great American leaders. More than 580 Tillman Scholars around the country are tackling the widespread issues surrounding national security, healthcare, technology, civil rights, and education.
“I’ve always just had so much respect for everything the organization and foundation has done,” Fitzgerald said.
Fitzgerald and the Cardinals improved to 3-9 with a win over Green Bay at home as Fitzgerald caught three passes for 48 yards wearing his custom Pat Tillman-inspired cleats.
Fall is definitely a sports season. Baseball season wraps up with the World Series, hockey and basketball are just getting started, and football season is in full swing. The odds are good that, at some point, you’re going to either throw or at least be part of a sports party. Whether you like sports or not, you still like your friends and will probably want to join them.
What to bring to that party is, however, an important decision — especially if you don’t know sports, because you want to get invited to the next one.
With this simple decision, you can either turn yourself into a party snack legend by going the extra mile or you can ensure that you’ll never be invited again and irreparably damage the personal relationships you’ve built with people who thought you were their friend until you proved otherwise with that terrible thing you brought.
Note: This list is just for snack foods. Just because something didn’t make the list doesn’t mean you shouldn’t bring it. Nearly any party will also accept finger-food desserts, like brownies, cupcakes, and Jell-O shots.
Who puts okra on a cheese plate?
12. Cheese Plates
How to win: A cheese plate is an easy crowd-pleaser. Add some crackers, some cold cuts, and a few grapes for effect and you’re good to go. No one ever objects to a cheese plate. Be advised: Blue cheese is for wings, not cheese plates. That stuff smells like feet.
How to be a legend: Upgrade the cheeses from your standard cheddar, colby, and pepperjack. Get some real cheeses in there. We’re talking brie, gruyere, and fresh mozzarella. Spring for better crackers. Ditch the cold cuts and make all those meats prosciutto.
How to lose: Fried cheese sticks. You know this game is three hours long, right? If you aren’t deep-frying them at the party, there’s no way to win by bringing these. Ever see fried cheese sticks after they’ve been sitting out for an hour? Not pretty.
French Onion dip is the easiest thing to make on this list. At least make it yourself.
11. Chips & Dip
How to win: Even if you only brought a tub of sour cream with a packet of french onion seasoning mixed in, you already won. Even if no one actually puts this on a plate, almost everyone will have at least one chip with dip. And no one will feel like they should save it when there are leftovers.
How to win: Proper potato skins have crispy shells and don’t skimp on the cheese and bacon. I don’t actually want big chunks of mushy potato in my mouth. That’s not what I signed up for.
How to be a legend: More meat. Every time. Maybe add a little spice to kick up the bland potato parts. Buffalo chicken potato skins are always a winner. Maybe some sriracha. Maybe even twice bake them.
How to lose: Bring a bag of Friday’s Potato Skins chips. C’mon, man.
It’s entirely likely both of these ingredients came from a can. Amazing.
9. Pigs in a Blanket
How to win: Bring all-beef junior franks wrapped in crispy golden-brown dough. Brush on melted butter for extra effect. Even your friend who swears they don’t eat processed food is going to sneak one or two.
How to lose: Someone once told me that anything wrapped in dough is a surefire winner, then I discovered Spanakopita. If you bring spinach wrapped in dough to my football party, I’ll know we aren’t friends.
Bringing sub sandwich ingredients not in sandwich form will get you ejected from the party.
8. Party Subs
How to Win: Sandwiches are the closest thing to an entree anyone should bring to a sports party. From cold cuts to po’boys, they will be the unofficial main course on everyone’s plate.
How to be a legend: Tie the sub to the favorite team in the night’s game. If you’re watching the Steelers or Penguins, get some french fries and make a Primanti Brothers sandwich. For the Bills or Sabres, Beef on weck. Watching the Saints or Pelicans? Make a Muffuletta. You get the idea.
How to lose: Bringing Sloppy Joes or Manwiches. Those sandwiches are about as appetizing as their names make them sound.
7. Bacon-Wrapped Anything
How to win: The best part of this is that you get to mix up everyone’s expectations and bring something memorable. Bacon-wrapped pork medallions with little toothpicks are a surefire winner. Bacon-wrapped scallops are a classic. Even bringing bacon-wrapped bacon will be good for a laugh — and people will still want it.
How to be a legend: Get some cheese in there, too. Everyone likes bacon-wrapped jalapeño poppers. Everyone.
How to lose: Anything where the bacon ends up served cold. Desserts. Salad bowls. Bacon needs to be served hot and crisp.
If these aren’t actually soft, then we’re not actually friends.
6. Soft Pretzels
How to win: It’s important to emphasize that we’re talking about soft pretzels here. Not a bag of hard, sourdough pretzels. Those are for when I’m drinking all the leftover Bud Light later because the Bengals blew their playoff win with less than a minute left on the game clock.
How to be a legend: The pretzels are the easy part. What you’re going to bring is extra salt and an assortment of dipping sauces for everyone to enjoy with their pretzels – hot cheese, stone ground mustard, and pizza sauce are just the beginning.
How to lose: Few things in life are worse than picking up a warm pretzel, expecting to sink your teeth into its soft, buttery flesh and finding out it’s rock hard, either because it’s stale, old, or wasn’t cooked properly. Do your due diligence.
If it’s DiGiorno, you better have a good reason.
How to win: Everyone loves a fresh, hot slice. Your best bet is to come with one cooked and ready and have a prepared, uncooked one ready to heat up mid-game. Coordinate with your host.
How to be a legend: Individual calzones.
How to lose: If you put pineapple on a pizza meant for a group, you’re a sadist. Some people hate that. If you dip it in milk, you might as well be ISIS.
The only item on the list that is acceptable in its deconstructed form.
4. Street Tacos
How to win: Your biggest problem will be that some people will expect flour tortillas and/or cheese when we all know real street tacos have neither. It’s fine; bring both. This is America.
How to be a legend: Bring a spit and carve off some al pastor filling for you and your friends. No one will ever be able to forget you. Make a day of it.
How to lose: Forgetting the pickled onions.
Extra credit for King’s Hawaiian buns.
How to win: It’s hard to go wrong with tiny cheeseburgers, my dude.
How to be a legend: Imagine the best burger you’ve ever had. Was it made with lamb? Wagyu or kobe beef? Did it have an amazing cheese component? Think of the veggies – pickles, arugula, tomatoes, onions, caramelized onions… the sky is the limit. Whatever made it so good, make a ton of those for your friends. Grab a few Beyond Meat patties for your vegetarian friends.
How to lose: Everyone will eat turkey burger sliders if you bring them, but many will resent you for it.
Blue Cheese still smells like feet but is an expected condiment here.
How to win: I know, everyone’s probably wondering how wings ended up at #2 on a ranking of football foods. I love a good wing as much as anyone. While they’re still tops, they’re not the top. They’re just expected at a football party these days and when was the last time you heard anyone say, “oh, you have Buffalo Wings?! I love these!”
How to be a legend: Bring a bunch of different flavors, outside of ‘hot’ and ‘mild.’ You should always bring the classics (because everyone expects them) but nowadays, there’s so much everyone wants to try on a chicken wing: lemon pepper, Old Bay seasoning, spicy ginger, and so on.
How to lose: If you brought a bunch of crazy flavors and neglected to bring hot and/or mild, everyone is just going to ask for hot or mild. When you tell them you only brought garlic parmesan, they’re going to look down and just say “oh.” They’re looking down because delivering any respect to your face is going to be difficult in that moment.
How to win: If I went to a football party and someone brought a legit racks of ribs, they’ll be invited to every party I ever throw until the end of time.
How to be a legend: You brought ribs, buddy. You ARE a legend.