John Carroll University ROTC Seminar — Powerlifting as Military Training

TAGS: distance running, Army Physical Readiness Manual FM 7-22, ROTC, John Carroll University, Travis Leonhardt, US Army, zach gallmann, physical fitness test, military training, Alycia Israel, sprinting, Joe Schillero, physical training, powerlifting

A few months ago, several members of Team elitefts visited my organization and gave us a brief presentation about powerlifting and nutrition for military personnel. Let me say that this was one of the best seminars I have attended in nearly 20 years of military service.

First, some information about me and my organization: I am currently the Senior Military Instructor for the John Carroll University Army ROTC Program. Participating in ROTC programs such as this one is one of the three ways to become a commissioned officer in the army. Our program has anywhere between 50 and 70 cadets who will one day be in charge of as many as 40 soldiers each. Simple math shows how important is it to teach these young cadets the proper training techniques that will help improve the future of the US Army.


RELATED: My Experience with Strength Training in the Military


After 20 years of service, I have come to realize that a powerlifting style of training is best for members of the military. The mindset of someone who is about to take a true one-rep max is very similar to what someone in the army needs to lead soldiers into combat.

army travis

The army does require physical training, but quite often it isn’t good physical training. Many units simply follow the Army Physical Readiness Manual FM 7-22 and do only what it says. This method of training will get soldiers in the shape required to pass the physical fitness test, but it does not adequately prepare them for combat. A better approach would be to use a powerlifting-based training regiment combined with a good amount of both distance running and sprinting.

At the seminar, Joe Schillero, Alycia Israel, and Zach Gallmann began by giving a presentation on nutrition, group training, injury prevention, and how to design a training program for platoons. The cadets and the cadre benefited greatly from the presentation. They were engaged and asked questions to learn more, which is hard to get college kids to do on a weekend morning. Zach’s experience as an enlisted airborne medic really resonated with the cadets and helped them take away information that will make them better leaders in the future.

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After the presentations, we moved to the weight room. The presenters showed us a simple warm-up that is more effective and more targeted to the cadets’ needs than what they normally do. Then the groups broke up into groups and started learning how to coach the big three movements. I stressed this part of the seminar because it is important for these cadets to learn not only how to do the movements, but also how to instruct others to do the movements properly. This is what they will have to do as future leaders. Each group rotated through instruction of the three lifts, as well as the three spotting positions.


Joe, Alycia, and Zach knew how to motivate their audience and make the cadets really want to learn. It is easy to force soldiers and cadets to show up and learn, but actually motivating them to want to learn is a different challenge altogether. After the seminar, many cadets came to me and told me that they learned things that they could take and use with soldiers in the future. It was awesome to see the cadets learn lessons in leadership. In the months since this event, I have witnessed a much more focused, productive group of cadets during their physical and tactical training. I have been fortunate enough to learn from elitefts athletes and coaches several times in the last three years, and after seeing the impact this seminar had on our cadets, I will definitely hold the event again in the future.


Travis Leonhardt is a Senior Noncommisioned Officer in the United States Army and is currently the Senior Military Instructor for the John Carroll University Army ROTC Program.

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