I can’t help but look at the fitness world today and ask myself, “What the hell happened?”

It was not until the early to mid-1900’s that we even NEEDED a “gym” to exercise in. Before then, people were active enough just working in a factory in New York or a corn field in Nebraska. Even since then, we’ve gone from sweaty warehouses with a couple of bars and some rusty weights to huge, air conditioned buildings with treadmills as far as the eye can see. You wouldn’t want to break a sweat while running, so it’s a good thing we have fans built into the treadmills. No scenery to take in? That’s fine – we’ll replace it with a TV or ten.

This is why I train like I do: with “old school” equipment and minimal luxuries. I first got into this style of training about three years back. I was almost off of active duty in the US Army and decided to get out of the “running five miles a day” mindset and back into the “lift heavy-ass weight” frame of mind. Problem was, I enjoyed training in the outdoors and couldn’t just jump back into the confines of four cold walls with air conditioning.

The solution? Unconventional strength and conditioning.

Nowadays, I don’t even own a conventional barbell. The equipment I train with includes old bulldozer tires, military duffle bags stuffed to the gills with sand, beer kegs filled with sand and water, rocks that I found on the side of the road and all kinds of weird stuff that I never thought of when I was training in a gym. I’ll admit that sometimes I’ll head down to StrengthCamp in St. Petersburg, Florida and train with the great bunch of guys there, but that’s the closest I’ll come to training in a gym environment. (For those who have never heard of Elliott Hulse’s StrengthCamp, it’s a warehouse gym with minimal conventional equipment and absolutely NO air conditioning or modern day amenities).

My main focus with my training is staying in shape for the Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT) and staying as big and strong as possible while doing so. I learned long ago that the Army’s version of Physical Training will keep you in shape for the APFT, but that’s about it. No real strength will be gained from it. Now that I’m a reservist, I can choose what style of training I do on my own, and as long as I pass the requirements of the US Army, I’m considered within standards. Seeing as how I didn’t weigh a pound over 220 on active duty, this makes much more sense to me, being a meathead and all.

So how do I stay within standard with the US Army while maintaining my 275 pound frame? Through a form of High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) that I’ve manipulated specifically for military and paramilitary members. An example of a typical training day for me is as follows:

450 pound tire flip: 3 sets of as many reps as possible in a 1 minute time frame.

Tire sled, loaded with a 100lb sandbag: 25 yards forward, 25 yards backwards. 3 sets, 90 second rest

Truck push: 50 yard push. 3 sets, 2 minute rest

Sledgehammer slams for minimum time: 20 right side, 20 left side. 3 sets, 90 second rest.

The secret to staying in peak cardiovascular shape here is not to cheat yourself on the rest periods. You MUST keep your heart rate elevated the entire time. If you’re like me and absolutely despise long distance running, this is the golden ticket to keeping your body in condition to withstand a long distance run. At my current bodyweight, my joints couldn’t tolerate running 2-3 miles every day. It just wouldn’t happen. I actually only run once a week, and it’s only for my required distance of two miles and not an inch more. I don’t think that running the two miles actually helps my conditioning all that much. The benefit from the run is so my body stays accustomed to the beating it takes during a run. The majority of my cardiovascular conditioning comes from the interval strength training I perform.

Your typical meathead is usually more than prepared when it comes to push-ups and sit-ups, which is why minimal time gets put into training the ACTUAL events. Obviously, if you are weak in a certain event, you need to focus more training on the lagging muscle groups.

The icing on the cake for this style of training is the cost. No gym is needed, and minimal equipment needs to be purchased. Tires can be acquired for free from commercial tire companies who have to pay to dispose of the old tires. They’ll probably help you load the thing in the back of your truck and thank you for taking it off their hands. Sandbags can be made for less than twenty dollars, used kegs can be purchased from bars for cheap, and rocks are found just about anywhere there’s nature. The most expensive piece of equipment I own is a set of Walmart dumbbell handles with 150 pounds of weight.

I feel I must warn you ahead of time that this style of training is NOT for everyone. If a person can’t stand a little bit of pain, some scratches and bruises and a whole lot of sweat, then this isn’t for them. The level of dedication required to train with these primitive objects is high. You must release your inner masochist and push yourself past your comfort zone. There are no pretty machines and juice bars in the great outdoors, but if you have the guts to step outside the norm, the results will be more than worth the slight discomfort.

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