Thursday, March 14, 2013

Military Fitness Preparation

I have hesitated on writing this for a long time for a few reasons.

1.  I have not trained guys going into the military.

I feel like in order to really write or speak intelligently on a subject you need more than self application.  I mean, just because you masturbate doesn't mean you're an expert in the art of handjobs.

2.  When I was training for reenlistment, my paperwork to get back in fell through (because I was prior service and as many know, the military is strange about windows of who it is letting in at the time, and why).

So I never got to actually apply the almost-year of training I put in to get ready to at least try to get into a high speed unit.

But I'm going to write it anyway because I've been asked so many times.

Let me preface this by saying, the reason all of this happened is because like many Americans, after 9/11 I desired to serve my country again.  It's really that simple.  However because everyone was enlisting at the time, or reenlisting, the military was being pretty picky about the prior service it was letting back in.  Regardless of branch (I know, I tried them all except the Navy.  I had no wants to do 6 months of mandatory sea duty).

I am drawing a lot from memory because this was a long time ago, but I will do the best I can.

When I started adjusting my training, the guy I got a lot of my stuff from was Stew Smith.  Former Navy SEAL who is also a strength and conditioning specialist.  So if you REALLY want to read how to train for this shit, he's the guy you should go check out.

My training took place over about 10 months or so.  During that time I believe I dropped from around 230 or so, to 198-202.  I was incredibly lean.  I remember being able to wear size 28 jeans, if that tells you anything.

Lifting - 

I pared my lifting back to just a few movements.  I'm talking actual free weights here.  Namely.....

1.  Squats
2.  Clean and press
3.  Deadlifts
4.  Incline

I remember doing 315x30 for squats, and clean and press with 135 for what seemed like a day, non stop.  I remember doing lots of sets of 225 on incline for reps.  I can remember deadlifting but I'm not sure how pathetic it was, or how I trained it.  I do remember doing a lot of supersets of deadlifts and stiff legs.  That was so much fun!

That was the mainstay of my free weight work.  The rest of my training was really centered around bodyweight work.

1.  Lunges
2.  Chins (more than you can ever imagine)
3.  Push ups (more than you can ever imagine)
4.  Sit-ups (more than you can ever imagine)
5.  Dips (about what you could imagine)

In the morning, as soon as I rolled out of bed I hit the floor and did as many push ups as I could.  Then without stopping, as many sit ups as I could.  I would eat breakfast, and repeat this before I left for work.  At work, after lunch I would walk around the entire complex that I worked at.  It was more than a mile and I tried to walk it as fast as possible in dress shoes.  Some would say "ouch" but my mentality at the time was that the more uncomfortable I was, the better.

As soon as I got home, as many push ups and sit ups as I could hit were done.  Then I'd lift.  I can't remember what my split was, but I do remember doing the calisthenics pyramid circuit that I've outlined here many times.

Lunges - 5,10,15,20,25,20,15,10,5
Push Ups - 5,10,15,20,25,20,15,10,5
Sit Ups - 5,10,15,20,25,20,15,10,5
Dips - 5,10,15,20,25,20,15,10,5
Chins - 3,6,9,12,15,12,9,6,3
Flutter Kicks - 5,10,15,20,25,20,15,10,5

I would do a round, then rest for 1 minute.  Then do the next ladder.  So forth and so on.

I pretty much just spent all of my time, or as much as I could, doing chins, push ups, and sits ups, as far as training went.  I remember being able to do 120+ push ups in two minutes (which was my goal), and 100+ sit-ups.  I wanted to be able to destroy the graduation standards so that even if I got a bit detrained early (which I read can happen) I'd still be in good shape.

Running, swimming, and shit - 

When I first started running, well, it was fucking sad.  I don't think I could make it a mile without having to walk.  So I did what I always do when I want to get better at something.  I read and apply, until I find what works.

The two things I knew I could do was walk (hur hur hur), and sprint.

So I started running/walking for time.  Every Saturday I would do 30 minutes.  I didn't care how far I got, I just did 30 minutes.  Some jogging, some walking.  One other day of the week, I (tried) to run the mile.  Then another day of the week, I'd do my usual sprints, or hills.

The great thing about getting into shape is, the body responds very fast.  I remember very soon being able to run the mile easily, and then my "job/walk" was all jog for 45 minutes, then eventually 90 minutes.  I ended up adding in a day where I would run 3 miles, end up at the community pool, swim 500 meters, then jog another mile home.  This alternated the day where I would run the mile.  Yes, I kept the mile run in.  I tried to run it as hard as possible every week.  Eventually I broke into the 6:00-something time.  Which for a 5'11" 200 pounder I felt like wasn't too awful.

On Saturdays I eventually added in a swimming session to the afternoon as well.  Generally 500-2000 meters.  I also practiced my 50 meter underwater swims.  I know, not entirely smart but hey, you do what you gotta do.

I also took my sprint days to the track.  I would do 12 1/4 mile sprints in 90 seconds, with two minutes of rest in between.  This REALLY took my running to a new level.  On the weekend run for time I ran much longer at a faster pace.  Pretty simple, it's all about progression right?

I think by the end my schedule looked something like this......

Monday - mile run or run with swim

Wednesday - track

Saturday - run for time, then swim in the afternoon

I trained every day, pretty much all day long.  I was also fortunate to have a job I hated that sucked the life out of me.  It's much harder to go home and train after a day of stress on the job.  To me, this wasn't a bad thing.  It was a good thing.  I knew that no matter how bad my day was, it'd be 10X harder at the indoc course.  So on the days I felt shittiest, I generally had the most motivation.

That's my round up about training for the military.  Again, most of the stuff that I incorporated came from Stew Smith, and then I tweaked as I went along.

I do remember this.  I got in such shape that I literally could not make myself tired or winded.  I tried everything possible to do so, but couldn't.  I remember doing 100 non stop bodyweight squats, then sprinting half a mile about as fast as I could, resting for 30 seconds, and doing it again.  It's pretty amazing what the body will eventually turn into when you keep pushing it further and further along.

I have no idea if this is ideal for anyone, but it's basically what I did.  I wish anyone enlisting the military the best of luck and my advice is to prepare to destroy all of the physical fitness tests.  NOT meet the stop standard, but destroy it.


  1. This is a good post Paul, thanks for putting it up. What was your diet during this type of training?

    1. That's a good one.

      I ate super clean during the week. Mostly no carb actually. But on Sunday's I would eat as much as I wanted all day long.

  2. No wishing best of luck to those going officer? Seriously though I enjoyed the article.

  3. Good write-up as usual. Yep, most things work out when you approach it as a progression. Size 28 jeans ... I think I was a high school freshmen when those last fit me.

    I've actually met Stew Smith a few times - he did/does personal training for a friend of mine's father.

  4. This sounds kind of similar to what I did for my BBing show last year in terms of the workload.

    Once I hit a "basement" level of calories I really didnt feel like going below i just kept adding in more work... Walks, sprints, metabolic circuits, prowler, sleds, etc..

    Got shredded as hell from it and IN SHAPE like a mother f@cker. I had the same "couldnt get winded" that you had. Lots of time invested, but i think its the best way to get into crazy low body fat AND it has the benefit of turning your body into a wrecking machine.

  5. Thanks for posting this, I see you have always had intensity and commitment in everything you do.

    I started running again (30 mins) incline treadmill straight after strength training and have found I have shorter rest periods and better recovery no matter how hard I push it in following sessions.

    I was afraid of losing strength, but it just has NOT happened.


  6. Any pictures of your 200 pound 28" waist lean self?

  7. Definitely a good write up and I wish I would have read something like it back in April or so. I'm two and a half months into my basic training and definitely learning the hard way some of the different training I should have done in the months leading up. I did lots of work on bulking and building up my 1RM to the almost total neglect of conditioning.

    I have noticed an enormous emphasis on leg endurance. Carrying lots of gear up many flights of stairs numerous times per day, running, chair squats for however long your instructor feels like punishing you, marking time marking time marking time. I used to do lots of distance running, and it came back quite quickly, but lower weight very high rep plans for squats is a great idea to get you ready for the demands of basic. Also, build that core strength! I'm not the biggest guy here by any means, kinda small actually, but I can hold proper push-up and plank position through the worst of times while others look like they're humping the pavement because I've trained core a lot.

    From a more health related point than just strength, do what you can to harden up your feet! Throw on boot and a backpack and go walking for an hour or so, try to build up callouses! We just did a 13km forced march with around 60-70 lbs. of gear yesterday and lots of peoples feet look like ground beef! Best of luck to anyone joining, I'm almost finished basic and it's one of the best things I've ever done!

  8. I know I'm immature but anyone else laugh at "sea duty"?

  9. with that bodyweight circuit did you do say 5 of each exercise, then 10 of each etc? alo with the lunges where they the straight back and forth lunges or walking? it looks like something i'd have a damn could crack at doing regularly as the weather's shit and i could do with some conditioning

  10. How many days a week did you lift?

    1. everyday at that time in some form or fashion

  11. If I followed this (17 years old, 6'7" 270) 6 days a week would I get as physically prepared for an 18x enlistment as possible? It's always been a dream of mine to enter SF but I have no idea how to prepare.