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It’s not a secret that strength training helps to build stronger muscles that are able to carry out more demanding physical tasks for longer periods of time. But how does that translate to the military? Does strength training enhance military fitness levels? In this article, we will explore how barbell training can be very beneficial in helping soldiers gain and maintain physical strength to help them improve their performance in the toughest of combat situations.
Fitness in the Military
Depending on what branch of the military a serviceman or woman is in will determine what level and type of fitness are required of him or her. But, one thing is certain, elite physical fitness is expected from our military personnel (1). Physical fitness in the military is essential because war is the ultimate competition with the winner taking all, and those who end up conquered often find themselves in danger. Therefore, physical dominance is paramount when violence is involved (2).
Though technology, weapons, and tactics are important elements to combat, physical strength might be the most important factor of them all for survival (2). The battlefields of today many times involve troops walking long distances and wearing and carrying at least 50 pounds of gear that include ammunition, uniforms, water, and weapons (2). An altercation on the battlefield can take place without any warning and requires physical strength to compete. Simply moving around in a combat zone can be a challenge.
Strength Under Fire
We’ve all heard the importance of cardio in our workout routines to improve our vascular and respiratory systems. But, building our muscles can have a longer-lasting effect than even cardiovascular and cardiorespiratory endurance (2). An increase in our muscular strength creates changes in muscles that are semi-permanent (2). These changes are small at first. But over time, they will give way to a body that is more functional, versatile, and more able to handle the demands needed to execute the tasks of a soldier in a combat situation (2).
If You Give a Soldier a Barbell
During deployment, a soldier generally does not have access to high-end workout equipment. So, he or she will make do with whatever they have available to them, including flat surfaces and their own bodies (1). Reasoning says if you give a soldier something as nice a barbell, he or she will make good use of it whether they are deployed on active duty or back home in a gym (1). Nothing fancy is really needed because often times it is the simplest equipment that will have the biggest payout.
Types of Military Workouts Using Barbells
Dustin Kirchofner, former U.S. Army Special Forces soldier, free fall instructor, certified strength and conditioning coach, and owner of Modern Warfare Fitness in Colorado has developed a strength training program designed to get you big and strong using four basic exercises called Big 4 (1). These exercises are also meant to improve form, concentration, and stamina (1).
The idea behind the Big 4 program is to incorporate the bench press, military press, deadlift, and squat into two four-week phases.
The workout starts lighter to slowly acclimate tendons and ligaments to the training routine, all while fostering muscular stamina before adding more weight to increase strength (1). The beauty of the Big 4 program is that it can be tailored as you progress by mixing up exercises, altering sets, repetitions, or intensity, changing rest periods, incorporating different types of movement, and several other things to help increase power and conditioning (1). To see the breakdown of the Big 4 plan, please go HERE.
There is also the Starting Strength Program developed by LtCol Mac Ward, SSC. This strength training program for the military is based on a systemic slow sustainable growth that provides strength without injury to anyone willing to put in the work (2). It is a Monday/Wednesday/Friday routine made up Squat/Bench/Deadlift or Squat/Press/Deadlift and alternated every other gym session. You can read more about the effectiveness LtCol Ward had with his soldiers HERE.
Not Just for the Military
While it is true that barbell training is beneficial for military personnel to gain strength and be able to keep it during their time in the service, these types of strength training programs can be used for everyday citizens. There are plenty of barbell routines you could incorporate into your gym sessions.
For tips on how to squat using a barbell and some of the best barbells on the market, you can go to Home Gym Strength and read articles like Our Tips On How to Squat or check out our list of currently available racks (we update it daily).
Though the military may not be for every person, there is no reason why you can’t try to be in top-notch shape like a soldier, and using barbells may just be the ticket to better overall fitness.