15 Aug 2019

Train Like a Soldier

If you are like me and don’t mind your action movies, then it’s easy to imagine a scene of some epic proportion where a soldier performs a feat of strength, carrying a fellow team member who is injured to the nearest shelter or performing a series of self-defence moves.

Wherever your imagination takes you, you must remember that the foundational understanding of a soldier is one of discipline, determination, courage and dedication to their mental and physical training.

I think we can agree that a soldiers training program would encompass an array of disciplines. Thinking about the skills they need on deployment, they would require a vast set of physical and mental skills.  Like any workout plan, you have to break down the methods of training, the end goal and of course, your starting position. So the physical skills or fitness component a soldier needs are strength, power, muscle endurance, cardiovascular endurance, coordination, balance, speed, mobility and lactic acid tolerance.

The methods of training the soldiers would use to improve these components would be resistance training, cardiovascular training, flexibility training, and skill-based training. Activities a soldier would participate in would be running, swimming, boot camps, rock climbing and, abseiling, among others. There would also be a martial art of some sort such as judo, jujitsu, maybe even Krav Maga (Israeli army) Muay Thai (Thailand army) Tae Kwon Do (Korean Army) and of course, weapons training. Understanding the battlefield and the mindset that’s required also needs to be honed. If you ever meet a military person I highly recommend you ask them the types of mental fatigue training they had to undergo. Probably very gruelling and not for the faint-hearted.

The starting position to become a soldier is to undertake army physical fitness tests. Measuring body fat, body weight and your overall fitness levels. Once you pass these tests, you move onto basic training, learning to handle a weapon, running and walking long distances, combat training and of course mental and behavioural discipline. Learning to trust your team members under pressure is key to success no matter the task at hand.

What Does a Training Program Look Like?

So what would a weekly army training program look like from a beginners or intermediate fitness level perspective? Well, firstly you have to start slowly, build your foundational components of fitness, cardiovascular endurance, strength and muscle endurance. Making sure you allow time for recovery while building the volume and intensity of your training gradually. Most people get very eager and over train by overdosing on volume and intensity. Look at this as creating discipline. Introduce fundamental primal movements into your resistance strength training, squats, deadlifts, pressing and pulling movements. Remember, this is not a bodybuilding program, so stay away from the typical exercises used to enhance aesthetics, you are after function. Mentally get ready to do a lot of running. Find out how far you can run first then build on that distance with a 5-10% increase in distance per week, (e.g. 20km per week increase 10% is 22km the next week). Challenge yourself and attend a martial arts class of some sort. I recommend starting with judo or jujitsu; they are a free form combat style that is highly adaptable.

As you lay the foundation of your military fitness, which can take on average 3 to 6 months, you can start to introduce cross-training methods into your sessions. A training session now may look like a full-body weights session followed by a 5-10 km moderate-intensity run. The next day's session might be a swimming session with a heavy backpack hike, followed by a combat class and stretching. It’s very easy at this period to have a full array of activities and now training 5-6 days a week even sometimes two times in one day.

Do not forget to train your brain. You are only as strong as you allow yourself to be. Learn to be uncomfortable, exercise in the rain, or on a cold morning. Try getting up a little earlier in the morning if you are not a morning person. Start to find ways to be used to being comfortable in uncomfortable situations.

Have fun putting your special forces military workout together and obtaining your soldier like fitness goals.

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