This fantastic article was written by Joshua Graham, CNP, FRCms, CF-L2, who is a fitness trainer, Holistic Nutritionist, and owner of Cocoon Health & Fitness. You can find out more about Cocoon Health by checking out their website and following them on Facebook and Instagram.
There is no doubt about it that military workouts are extremely physically demanding. There are lots of marches, runs, workouts and more. All of these things help to get them into peak physical condition to perform at the top of their game.
Most of us do not have the same time available to do hours of physical activity every day. So let’s look at exercises from various military workouts that have been implemented to get their soldiers in such amazing shape that the rest of us can use to help ourselves to get into great shape. In this article I will demonstrate some of the best use for your time exercises you can use, inspired by the military, to get into great shape.
Are probably the most important and under-utilized exercise out there. A pull-up is when you hang from a bar with palms facing away from you, with hands slightly outside your shoulders and you pull yourself up so ideally your chest hits the bar. You can also do different variations of pull-ups with palms facing towards you for more bicep engagement, alternating grip with one palm away and one palm facing you or wide grip pull-ups.
A key for pull-ups is keeping your shoulder blades down as it will help to engage your mid-back more rather than letting the shoulders (upper traps) take over, it also helps to put the elbows into a better position taking stress off of them. If you ever feel neck tightness after pull-ups that are typically a tell-tale sign that your upper traps are taking over.
Pull-ups are compound movement, meaning they use many muscle groups at once and because of that, they burn quite a bit of energy. They are also fantastic for building a strong back, arms, core strength and grip strength.
If you are unable to do one pull-up, then I would recommend using pull-up negatives. A pull-up negative is when you jump up to the top of a pull-up position then slowly lower yourself down to the bottom under control, the descent should take 4-5 seconds. If you are unable to control the descent, consider using a band to help lower yourself down under control.
When you think military exercise, push-ups are almost always the first exercise to arise: “drop and give me 20!” There is a reason why they are a staple for military training, and that is because they are a fantastic exercise for developing upper body strength. Watch the video below for an explanation of the push-ups and some key points to remember.
As mentioned in the video we can scale the push-up as needed. My go-to for scaling with any of my clients is always a bench, counter or table before going to the knees. The reason for this is that it allows for the mechanics to stay the same in terms of glute (butt) and core engagement. If you cannot do push-ups on the ground, start with one of these options and increase the load (decrease the angle of your body to the ground) once you can complete 5 good reps at the height you are at.
We have talked a lot about the upper body, so it is time to talk about my favorite exercise for the lower body, squats. Squats are an amazing bang for your buck exercise because when we add load, they also work the upper body as well. Squatting is a very natural human movement, and it is something we used to do all the time before chairs came around. If you have small children, then you have seen them squat down to pick things up or to hang out. Many of us have lost this capability, but it is time to start to reclaim it.
As we progress with bodyweight squats, we can increase the load by hugging sandbags or holding a weight on our chest. Doing this helps to increase the load we are lifting with our legs, but it also helps to reinforce proper movement patterns too.
Sit-ups / Shoot-ups:
In the military, sit-ups are a staple across the board when it comes to fitness testing. When it comes to sit-ups, you anchor your feet under something then raise your chest up to your legs. This is a great starting place for a lot of people and a good exercise to do. A key point to remember when doing sit-ups is to try and keep your neck in-line with your spine throughout the whole movement. Sit-ups help to build core strength which in turn helps with every movement.
If you want to take sit-ups a step further, I recommend what I call shoot-ups. They involve bringing the chest and legs together from a lying position allowing us to engage the lower abdominals as well. If you try shoot ups but have a hard time getting your chest up off the floor, then stick with sit-ups for now and then try shoot-ups again soon. Below is a video for shoot-ups
If you try shoot-ups and they are too easy, try keeping your legs and arms straight throughout the whole motion and touch your fingers to your toes at the top. These can get spicy pretty quickly!
Military Workouts (Sample Routine):
Below is a sample workout using the above movements to help build strength and lose weight.
- 5 mins of light jogging
- 10 Arm-circles each direction
- 10 Front and back legs swings (each leg)
- Max effort pull-ups
3 sets of 60% of your max effort pull-ups
(If you cannot complete a pull-up do 4 sets of 2 negatives)
Rest 1-2 mins between sets
- 5 Rounds of the following with as little rest as possible:
- 10 Push-ups
- 20 Squats
- 10 Sit-ups or Shoot-ups
- 1 min/arm Wall chest stretch https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N6X4w5b5sEs
- 1 min Up Dog https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fo0HCqP-PTg
- 2 min 90-90 / leg https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pofTzE24UMg
Exercise is great for not only weight loss but overall health as well, the trick is to stay consistent and keep at it. Small changes and progressions add up to big changes down the road. If you have any questions about military workouts, or training in general, send me a note at [email protected]