Modern Military Fitness Training

Overweight and unfit recruits are now a pressing issue on the US military. To overcome this problem the military branches are adapting and revising their fitness training programs.

The Army's new fitness regime incorporates more stretching, more exercises for the abdomen and lower back, instead of the traditional situps, and more agility and balance training. It increases in difficulty more gradually. And it sets up a multiweek course of linked exercises, rather than offering discrete drills.

There are fewer situps, different kinds of push-ups and fewer long runs, which Army officials say are good for building strength and endurance but often lead to injuries. They also do not necessarily prepare soldiers for carrying heavy packs or sprinting short distances. "We havent eliminated running," General Hertling said. "But its trying to get away from that being the only thing we do." (The new system does include plenty of sprinting.)

Some of the new routines would look familiar to a devotee of pilates, yoga or even the latest home workout regimens on DVD, with a variety of side twists, back bridges and rowinglike exercises. "Its more whole body," said First Lt. Tameeka Hayes, a platoon leader for a class of new privates at Fort Jackson. "No one who has done this routine says weve made it easier."

To design the new program they began by considering what combat soldiers do and came up with a checklist of things like throwing grenades and dodging gunfire.

Then they matched those needs with exercises. Some of those are already in use by the Army, but others are new and still others are drawn from century-old routines. There are drills that mimic climbing, that teach soldiers how to roll and that require swift lateral movements. Some are done in body armor.

The Marine Corps has adopted the concept of battlefield athleticism in a program called Semper Fit to enhance Marine survivability in combat and promote overall health and wellness.

To meet these demands, Semper Fit implemented new exercise programs, bought more training equipment and took the concept of combat fitness to heart. "Weve been getting ready for the official change for about a year-and-a-half," said Bart Browning, station Semper Fit fitness manager.

As the measure of a Marines combat readiness, the Combat Fitness Test doesnt focus on endurance-based aerobics like the physical fitness test, but high-intensity movements like those found in combat.

"Combat fitness and the CFT have evened the playing field for Marines," said Sgt. Jeff McCarstle, Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron 1 crew chief instructor. "You get the 150-pound guys who can run marathons and do 20 pull-ups because theyre so light. Then you get guys like me who weigh 200 plus pounds, but can firemans carry a guy 400 yards."

To support the new concept, Semper Fit bought kits that contain cones, ammunition cans and everything thats needed to conduct a proper CFT, which all Marines are required to pass once a year.

Semper Fit also provides supplemental gear for Marines who want to get the extra edge when training.

This new strength equipment includes Olympic power bars and bumper plates for power lifting, kettle bells, gymnastics rings, military suspension trainers, agility ladders, bungee cords, medicine balls, parachutes and weighted sleds.

This gear is available to any unit upon request, as well as individual Marines, said Browning. However, the more expensive fitness equipment must remain under the supervision of a Semper Fit instructor when checked out.

In addition to the new exercise equipment, Semper Fit offers physical training programs, which units can request to suit their needs. These physical training sessions can range from individual PFT preparation to basic, functional fitness that will help in everyday life.

The Corps and Crossfit

More troops than ever are flipping tractor tires, lobbing 50-pound kettle bells and conquering the Three Bars of Death in an effort to become tougher, faster, hard-bodied freedom fighters. CrossFit is taught by several Army Captains and has become a mainstay in the Marine Corps.

"CrossFit exercises are constant, varied, high-intensity functional movement workouts. These type of exercises not only promote a healthy, strong body and physique, but also improve PFT run times and scores." - Maj. David Joseforsky

The CrossFit workouts are a mix between cardio, weight training and gymnastics.

"Through these metabolic workouts, our cardiovascular system is constantly being worked," said Joseforsky. "Therefore, while we only run maybe two or three times a month, Marines are dropping their three-mile run times by three and four minutes. The transformation people receive from these workouts is not just physical, but mental as well. Just knowing you can accomplish something above what you thought you could makes a difference."