The other day my friend said he wants to join the military to pay for Law School. He then asked me if my workouts would be able to prepare him for military. I did some research and found out that basic training for all branches of the military focuses on four exercises:
I don’t know why they don’t test squats, because that is one of the most important movements for both average joes and military men. In addition, Situps are clearly an out dated form of testing your abdominal strength.
Back to my friend – I told him that his core was certainly getting stronger. We were still working on his pullups, and his pushups were top notch. One thing we never worked on was running, because frankly I don’t like running.
So I said, I’ll set a timer for 10 minutes. And we’ll just jog as far as we can. Then, we’re run back and try to make it back in under 10 minutes. My friend agreed, and off we went.
8 minutes later, my friend was gasping for air. I looked at him. What the hell was this? How can a 24 year old man who’s been training with me for 2 months not be able to jog at a steady pace for 10 minutes?
I saw problems.
I believed that my short, intense workouts would have carry over to endurance training as well. I’d tested this out when after about 8 months of not running, I went out for a 3 mile run. The run felt easier after 8 months than before the 8 months.
And what did I do in those 8 months? High intensity Kettlebell training. So I was training my heart.
Why didn’t it work for my friend? He used to be on the lacrosse team in High School? His coach would make him run 2 miles before practice every day.
But he told me he would eat a lot of bad food. He would literally eat onion rings right before practice, and be able to burn it all off. Ah, the good old high school days. Unfortunately, you’re not in high school any more, and you’re body isn’t the same as it was back then.
You can’t eat crap food, and expect to recover properly. In order to get maximum benefits with my, or any training program, you MUST clean up your diet. And that involves banning yourself from McDonalds and knowing when to say no.
How to Clean up your Diet
Cleaning up your diet isn’t rocket science. Here’s what you do:
- Write down everything you eat for an entire week.
- Organize your list into three parts: good food, bad food, and ok food.
- The key is to expand on the good food, get rid of the bad food, and cut down on the ok food.
Pretty simple. Here are some more tips to help you organize your food intake:
Don’t avoid carbohydrates, especially if you’re training like an athlete. Choose carbohydrates with a low glycemic index. The Glycemic Index is a measure of how quickly carbs are absorbed into your bloodstream.
Some foods with a low glycemic index include noodles, mixed grain bread, carrots, corn, and chickpeas. Foods with a high glycemic index include bagels, candy, honey, and sports drinks.
So, avoid Gatorade and your morning bagel with cream cheese as much as possible.
Don’t be a protein whore. Average people only need about .36 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight. If you workout, you can get away with .5 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight. The 2 grams per bodyweight recommendation is strictly for bodybuilders.
Focus on learning how to listen to your body. If you feel sore and tired, then increase your protein and carb intake slightly to aid recovery.
All fat’s are not bad. In fact, you need good fats in your diet. When you get hungry, instead of reaching for a piece of candy, grab some almonds or peanuts. Start using olive oil in your cooking.
I think calories are important, especially if you’re trying to change your body composition. But you don’t need to count every single calorie. Once a week, just count up your calories for that day, to see where you are, and make sure you’re not over eating.
Once again, learn to listen to your body. As someone who works out, you will need more food to fuel your workouts, and recover from them.
How to Improve your Core Strength
As mentioned earlier, I do not believe that situps are important for core strength. Even elite branches of the government, such as Marine RECON, use situps as a measure of core strength. They’re standards are 80 situps in 2 minutes.
Seems simple enough. No?
Well, then you obviously need to do more situps. Here’s the right way to do them:
The reason why I hate sit ups so much is because you need to round your lower back in order to bend forward at the waist. This is the exact same motion that doctor say causes a herniated disc!
So how do you train your abs properly? Try this:
These movements are certainly going to make your abs stronger, so situps are going to be super easy. However, right before your military physical exam, make sure you see that you can actually meet the requirements they set for you.
How to Improve your Running
The abdominal training exercises laid out by Craig Ballantyne will help improve your running, pushups, and pullups. That’s the first step.
The second step is to focus on your breathing. Most people have erratic breathing patterns while running, causing them to hyperventilate. Improper breathing also causes extreme cramping in your abdomen and legs.
Here’s a great way to practice a full inhale, and full exhale:
- INHALE on your left, right, left foot steps
- EXHALE on your right, left foot steps
Slow down your pace, and practice breathing in this manner. It will soon become a habit, and you will notice that your body is much more relaxed while running.
High intensity training is great, but when your heart rates are elevated for too long a time at once, you are unable to full exhale and inhale. This raises the CO2 levels in your body, raising your lactic acid production, and preventing your from finishing the run.
The final step is high intensity training. One of the reasons why the 3 mile run felt so easy to me was because my heart was used to tougher training. Start incorporating interval training, bodyweight or kettlebell circuits.
Here’s a sample bodyweight circuit to try:
How to Do More Pullups
The minimal amount of pullups necessary in any military branch is 3 repetitions. However, the more pullups you do, the higher you score on your physical test. So lets first make sure that you can do pullups.
Here is the best way to work up to your first pullup:
Here are some more tips on getting your first pullup:
Now, lets focus on increasing your pullup repetitions. There are three different techniques you can use:
Reps for Time
The first method is to choose a number, lets say 10 pullups, and then time yourself to see how much time it takes you to do 10 pullups. So, for complete pullups, you’ll most likely have to do sets of 1-2, with 2-3 minutes rest in between each set.
Lets assume it takes you 20 minutes to do 10 pullups. The following week, try to do those 10 pullups in less then 19 minutes. Keep going until you cut your time in half. Then, increase your goal, lets say 15 pullups, and start over.
Very simple: perform a maximum set of pullups. Rest 5 minutes, and repeat 2-3 times. This only works if you can do at least 5 pullups. If you can’t do more than 5 pullups without restin, then use the first method.
With max reps, simply record your total number of repetitions over the 3-4 sets, and focus on performing at least on more repetition the following week.
Pyramid training can be used by all fitness levels. They allow you to perform more repetitions in a shorter period of time.
Here is what a beginner pyramid scheme might look like:
That is 9 repetitions! So with this workout, you perform 1 repetition, rest for 60 seconds, then do 2 repetitions, rest for 60 seconds, then do 3 repetitions. Go back down the ladder. If you still have the strength, then repeat the sequence.
You can combine the pyramid scheme with Reps for time, for improved scores.
How to Do More Pushups
First, you should be able to do pushups. Here’s a quick tutorial to get you started with your first pushup:
To increase your pushups, you can use the same methods as I mentione earlier for Pullups. Craig Ballantyne also has some tips to perform more pushups:
So, that’s that. Whether or not you wish to join the military, getting the basics down is extremely important. If you with to improve with your bodyweight training, or are simply seeking to lose fat, then I strongly recommend Craig Ballantyne’s bodyweight workouts.