7 Jun 2012

The Army workout

The soilder

The army is redefining fitness to match the real world soldiers fight in. Shouldn't you do the same, maggot?

ON A WARM AFTERNOON AT THE U.S. ARMY physical readiness division, or PRD, in Fort Jackson, South Carolina, Sergeant First Class Steven Lee leads 50 U.S. Army Reserve drill sergeants through an hour of tough new exercises. He never hollers once. Welcome to the army's new approach to fitness. It's about time.

In the first drill, soldiers traverse 25 yards of Carolina scrub grass in a hip-blasting lunge walk, their backs upright and butts hovering at an altitude just above chair level. Most of them lunge-walk like the Bolshoi troupe, but a few have trouble getting their butts very low or their backs very straight—at least since no actual snipers are nearby.

In the next exercise each man tucks his head, rolls over a shoulder, and pops back up on his feet. A shoulder roll trains body awareness and coordination, yes, but it also moves a man safely out of a stumble and back into a defensive position—which can make the difference between life and death. Bad news: A few of the soldiers struggle to roll forward instead of sideways, but that they're even trying to do this can be considered progress. After one last drill—lifting and carrying a fallen comrade in six basic movements—the group takes a pair of laps around a 10-part whole-body strength circuit, making 1-minute stops for pullups, hanging leg tucks, kettlebell squats, stepups, straight-leg deadlifts, chest presses, overhead push presses, rows, forward lunges, and twists.
The pride of nation

With its focus on gymnastic movements, whole-body exercises, and Russian strongman hardware, this training session looks like strength camp for a Division I sports program. Evidently your average grunt has come a long way from "drop and give me 50." This is the rollout of Training Circular 3-22.20, Army Physical Readiness Training, the uninspiring title of an awesome 434-page manual and Web media package a decade in the making. TC 3-22.20 is revamping what it means to be fit enough to serve in the largest branch of the U.S. military.
(Looking for your best workout ever? Join Men's Health in New York this summer for the Beach Boot Camp on Aug. 18-19!)
Be the Best

Unlike the army's previous fitness test—a desultory couple of minutes' worth of pushups and situps, plus a 2-mile run—the new test measures the physical qualities you can't cram for on the cheap. It has a long-jump component, for instance, and its combat version is an agility circuit that soldiers run in uniform while carrying their weapons. "If you're following the new training program, the test will be the easiest day you ever had," says Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling, U.S. Army Europe commander, who has worked on the physical preparation of our troops. "We hope these tests will ensure that soldiers know that physical readiness is a 24-7/365 requirement. Because you can't train for them, there's going to be more emphasis on maintaining and improving conditioning at all times."

way of living
TC 3-22.20 has been in place since August 2010, and the PRD has tried out the tests for a new exam and collected data on thousands of soldiers in order to develop scoring and standards for it. The army will next decide on revisions (if any) and timelines. But the manual's impact will be nothing less than profound. Following the lead of military-readiness experts, the army is abandoning a corporate-health fitness model and replacing it with one focused on performance. And here's the good part: As a taxpayer in the United States, TC 3-22.20 is yours for the taking. Given the brainpower behind it, you would be smart to enlist.

IN THE PAST, THE ARMY TRAINED ITS SOLDIERS as if they were a bunch of office workers hoping to notch points in some corporate wellness program. It was all about aerobics and muscle endurance. Check the box, move on to the next exercise. The new manual focuses on more meaningful "soldier athlete" skills—badass qualities like quickness, body control, mobility, and total muscular-skeletal readiness for the work of battle. "All kinds of rumors have been circulating about what this is and what it isn't," Hertling says. "People say it's like yoga, it's Pilates, it's CrossFit. Frankly it is all of those things. It's functional fitness. It's preparing the body to take on challenges in different ways."
The Icone

In other words, take heed Bally's, because TC 3-22.20 marks a turning point in the evolution of exercise. By doing away with the traditional value system of old-school gyms, this updated army method officially makes movement-based training the new mainstream, the American way of exercise. The largest branch of the United States military didn't go about this change in a haphazard manner: It abandoned its focus on situps and jogging only after a painstaking review of its history of physical readiness preparation. By studying the records of past generations of army recruits, some of whom emerged from basic training ready for battle and some who did not, the PRD discovered a consistent pattern of superior soldiers who were trained following the hard-won lessons of war.

By Paul John Scott, Photographs by Greg Broom

1 Jun 2012

Shape up for summer by ditching dumbbells for a super sandbag

Summer fitness

MANY MEN TREAT WEIGHTLIFTING LIKE A RELIGION. Pump Iron, have faith, and you will sculpt a six-pack. Amen. But there's a faster way to reach beach-body heaven: Sling sand. "A sandbag's shape shifts, forcing more muscles to work together to maintain balance," says Josh Henkin, C.S.C.S., inventor of the Ultimate Sandbag Training System. Order yours at ultimatesandbagtraining.com, or check out "D.I.Y. Muscle" to make your own.

Perform the exercises as a circuit, doing as many reps of each as you can in 30 seconds before moving on to the next one (use a 30-to 70-pound bag). Rest 30 seconds between moves. Do the circuit 3 times.

1. Side Lunge and Snatch

Hold a sandbag in front of your thighs. Lunge to your left, touching the sandbag to the floor. Quickly stand up, flipping the bag onto your forearms as you press it overhead. Return to standing and then lunge to your right. Continue alternating sides. "Keep your weight over your heel," says Henkin. "That will force your hamstring and glute to activate, so you'll lift from your hips instead of your back."

2. Pushup with Sandbag Drag

Place a sandbag on the floor and assume a pushup position so the bag is to your right. Grab the bag with your left hand and drag it underneath your chest to your left side. Do a pushup. Now drag the bag back to your right side with your right hand. Do another pushup. Continue alternating sides. "Brace your core to avoid rotating your body as you drag the bag," says Henkin.

3. Rotational Reverse Lunge and Balance


Hold a sandbag in front of your thighs. Step back with your right foot and swing the bag to the outside of your left thigh. Stand up, raising your right knee as you flip the bag over your forearms to catch it at chest level. Pause and return to the starting position. Repeat, switching legs halfway through the set. "To increase difficulty, go into your next lunge without pausing," says Henkin.

4. Single-Leg Row

Holding a sandbag at arm's length, raise your right leg behind you as you lower your torso until it's nearly parallel to the floor. Pull the bag to your chest, pause, and then slowly lower it. Switch legs after 15 seconds. "It's harder to hold on to a sandbag than a dumbbell or a barbell," says Henkin, "so you'll work the muscles in your forearms in addition to those in your back."
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