This is the first article in a series for meatheads (used as a term of respect) who joined the military for whatever reason and are trying to get as big and strong as possible while still beating the majority of your unit on the PT test. I am a competitive SOB and I hate “losing” at anything, include PT runs against marathon types whom I outweigh by 80-100 pounds.

Before I get too far, I need to get one rant out of the way. I am by no means an expert in the field of physical preparation and I have no desire to make any money in the field for another 12-13 years, if ever. I will probably not say anything original. This is not written because I want to drum up interest in my website (I’m halfway paranoid about OPSEC so I refuse to even get on FaceSpace or whatever it’s called), or try to sell you an outrageously priced e-book on military training at the end of this article. This is written because I am sick of seeing self-proclaimed gurus who have never served a day in their life publishing articles and selling expensive products on military fitness. I’m a pretty laid back guy, but not much can get me going more than seeing some pencil-neck who has never been military write “the definitive piece” on how those actually in the military should train. This is written to -hopefully- be of some help to those, like myself, who have struggled for years with balancing training for the military’s definition of “fitness” with meathead inclinations, not to mention the inherent challenges associated with implementing effective PT sessions when working with large groups of personnel (up to 100+). This is simply a summary of what I have found over the past 16+ years of training myself and others, formally and informally.

I maintain a fairly lean body weight of 215-220 lbs at 5’11” and train mostly for strength while still maintaining a pretty good level of conditioning (94.8 on my PT test suckas).  Obviously at this size I am not “Tommy Tough-Nuts,” nor do I claim that by reading the following article you will become a hard as nails snake-eater. I have been drawing an active-duty paycheck for over eleven years and been a lot of places. That experience has driven home the point that the world is full of individuals vastly more badass than I will ever be. I will also say up front that I am a civil/construction/combat engineer in the Air Force.  Yes, the Air Force. All the soldiers, sailors, and Marines reading this article might as well get your jokes out of the way before we get started. On my first deployment I was the only AF-type in a shop full of Marines so believe me I’ve probably heard them all.

Since meatheads tend to gravitate towards talking about training, I’ve also got a pretty good idea about standard training procedures among the different services. Still, I’ll refer you to my opening statement on not being an expert on any of this. If this article hits too close to home for some of these snake oil salesmen mentioned above, know these important facts: it’s probably not personally directed at you, I am explosive demolition-qualified, and my wife’s occupation involves the targeting of nuclear weapons. In the immortal words of Degeneration X, “I’ve got two words for you…” (that was a joke, don’t take yourself too seriously). Sarcasm is a second language for me so keep that in mind as you’re reading this. Honestly, I started this article over a year ago and had it finished six months ago, so I don’t even remember what I read that ticked me off enough to write this manifesto in the first place.

Some people walk across fire, the author walks across a few thousand pounds of various munitions and C-4, proving he is neither an expert in anything nor the smartest man in the world.

I should mention that this is by no means directed at anyone associated with this website. Offering advice based on years of experience is a great service to provide, and I have liberally used the free training advice from this site in my own training as well as in unit training. I am calling out those who sell products to gullible housewives and skinny teenagers, promising that they can be Rambo after completing their 12 week e-book priced at an incredibly low one-time special offer ($99.99!) that will expire in the next thirty seconds. I don’t want to burst anyone’s bubble or tell you want you can or cannot do, but if you’re an out-of-shape untrained slob you’re not going to be ready to meet week nine PJ Indoc standards after six weeks of training, no matter how impressive your chosen guru’s marketing spiel is. If you’re like me, you’ve signed up for your fair share of physical preparation newsletters over the years and you get some pretty random e-mails now and again (luckily I’ve moved on from a lot of those location specific military e-mail addresses). Once while deployed I got one where a guy was selling an e-book claiming to reveal the “once-classified” exercise and diet secrets of the US Military to build “hyooge guns” while getting a fourteen-pack and making your penis substantially longer (ok, I may have made up that last part but you get the gist). All of this for just fewer than fifty bucks. All of this should sound ridiculous to anyone who finished basic training. I’ll go one step further and give you the military’s fat loss secrets for free since I’m such a nice guy:

Workout A: 1) Push-ups x 1 million 2) Sit-ups x 1 million 3) Run to infinity

Workout B: Repeat Workout 1

Diet: Whatever the chow hall is serving. That shit is free!

You’re not an expert just because your Under Armor shirt is a size small and you’re wearing fatigues. There are definitely some very knowledgeable, good-hearted individuals in the field of military fitness. Please don’t think I’m being overly critical of the physical training leaders in the military (for the most part). I think that people really try to do the best with what they have when they are put in these situations. The military’s bread-and-butter PT plan consists of stretching, calisthenics for high repetitions, and running for a reason. It is the easiest way to get 100 people to train at once and in cadence. Another reason is because calisthenics and running cost nothing to the US Government. It is just not cost-effective to outfit each individual Soldier/Sailor/Airman/Marine with all the cutting edge toys to develop fitness. Even if you are extremely creative, you are often held back by the sheer logistics of training that many individuals at once with absolutely no equipment available. I will go into detail later on getting the most out of what you have available, and ways of rigging equipment up in austere environments, but even then you have to get buy-in from senior leadership who grew up with the standard military PT session of 15 minutes of static stretching, 15 minutes of endless variations of pushups/sit-ups/calisthenics, and then running three miles. That has been the PT plan everywhere I’ve gone, from Alaska to Afghanistan. I’m not saying you need fancy equipment to get results, but it is very tough to do without even the basics. For this reason, I value very highly the opinions of those who are both experts in the field of physical preparation and have military service time under their belt when it comes to looking for ideas on PT. Those on this site who have served immediately come to mind. James Smith in particular has been extremely helpful in increasing my knowledge of effectively programming both individual and unit training. I corresponded with James during my most recent deployment to southern Iraq when I was developing the PT program for my unit there and his advice was incredibly helpful. The man definitely knows his stuff and was very generous with his time.

All this is a lead-up to say that these articles will not be about how to bench press 500 lbs or squat a grand. I have not accomplished -or trained anyone who has accomplished- those feats so I don’t have anything to say on the matter. There are plenty of others on this website who can. I am not a policeman or firefighter and have no idea of what a typical day in your life entails if you work in one of those professions. I don’t feel comfortable giving advice when I haven’t rucked a mile in your boots. I do hope anyone reading this, military or civilian, can at least get something out of it that you can apply to your own training, but if not then hopefully it’s entertaining. This is also not written for those that actually compete in strength sports in the military. If you are a powerlifter or bodybuilder in the military, keep on doing whatever you are doing. We all know that just passing the PT test is really not all that hard, so do the minimum you need to pass while concentrating on preparing for your chosen sport. Just do the rest of us a favor and spend some time improving general fitness levels before deployments, etc. where your physical prowess may be called upon. A note on verbiage, I’m going to use the word “soldier” to denote members of all services for the rest of this piece because, A: that’s what everyone calls all of us anyway, and B: typing out “military personnel” over and over gets old fast.

I want to cover both individual and unit training, as well as deployed versus home station training, but these are all fairly different animals so each will be covered in their own section. I will also give a full-case study on implementing a successful PT program in the desert so you can see the thought process that went into it.

Before I go into the first section, I just want to urge you to really think about what you are doing and what you are hoping to accomplish before you do something. Everything should have its purpose and those cumulative purposes should add up to getting you to your goals. This may sound somewhat counter-intuitive, but a lot of people who read this site need to start reading less and start thinking more. I’ve fallen victim to this in the past. You’ll see when I give my case study in a later article that by simply sitting down and actually thinking hard about why every piece of the puzzle fits together the way it does, rather than just throwing a bunch of hard stuff in there and calling it good, I really began to understand the material much better. I’ve spent a pretty good chunk of change here on Elite and other places on training material so I understand, but I think more people need to spend time thinking and doing rather than just reading and following the pack.

Next: Individual and Unit Training at Home Station

Later: Individual and Unit Training While Deployed

Even Later: Case Study on Implementing a PT Program While Deployed