“Any intelligent fool can invent further complications, but it takes a genius to retain, or to recapture, simplicity.”

~ E.F. Schumacher

I’m sure many of you have already seen this Washington Post article about the increased incidence of  non-battle related musculo-skeletal injuries sustained by American (and, I would presume, other countries as well) troops engaged in the  Iraq and Afghanistan theater of operations.  I have been of the opinion for quite sometime that the military is woefully inadequate in its physical preparation of troops for combat operations.  If whatever entity is in charge of the military’s physical preparedness was a the strength and conditioning staff at even a bottom-tier college athletic program, they’d have long ago been roundly dumped.  Anyone familiar with general military physical preparedness knows that there is a complete absence of hip extension work in the overall program (body weight or otherwise), and a predominance of long, slow running.  This training methodology, of course, bears little resemblance to what soldiers will face in the real world.  A sensible program of high-intensity, sprint and weights predominant work (and plenty of hip extension work as well) is what these soldiers need.  The military would be well-advised to incorporate a CrossFit-like training regimen, with an emphasis on sprinting and high-intensity weight room work, and training for the unknown and the unknowable.  What is known, though, is that there is no place for long, slow running, sit-ups, and other such nonsense.

Along this same line of thought, let me interject with a reader’s question

Keith,

I was hoping you could offer some ideas to my current situation. You are one of the most knowledgeable writers I am regularly reading.  Sorry for the length.  I am currently in the running for a federal law enforcement position. I am training for a fitness test. Unfortunately, most law enforcement and military fitness tests are still endurance based. They lack a lot of real world application if you ask me. That is a rant for another time. Here are the tests:

Sit-up – as many as possible in 1 minute

300-meter sprint

Push-up – as many as possible, untimed

1.5-mile run

Pull-ups – as many as possible, untimed

(In that order, with approximately 5 minute breaks in between each event)

I have to admit that endurance has always been a problem. I seem to be naturally predisposed to the strength and power end of the spectrum. I have never been a fan of training for endurance either.

I would love to hear your thoughts and advice. I appreciate any thing you can offer.  Thanks and keep the great posts coming along!

Sincerely,

Jason

So here we have a case-in-point dilemma.  This individual is well aware of this test not being indicative of what an officer will face in the real world, however, his is stuck in having to master its content.  The 300 meter sprint and the pull-ups?  Right on.  The rest?  Shit-can that stupid crap.  And yes, even the push-ups.  Anyway, here was my reply:

Jason,

Write back and let me know how much time you have to prepare for this test and I’ll be able to outline a more detailed plan for you.

(*Note: Jason wrote back to let me know the following: For the 1.5-mile run, the passing time is under 12 minutes and to max it is under 9 minutes.  For the 300-meter run, the passing is under 50 seconds and to max it is under 41 seconds.  Long term goal is to max them both, but the immediate is to run the 300-meters in about 45 seconds and the 1.5-mile in the 10’s.)

Basically, though, this is how I’d attack it (I’m going to assume shooting for max points, ’cause that’s just how I am):
First off, I’m going to assume that this test is coming up pretty quick, and I’m assuming, as well, that we can concentrate on the runs at the expense of the push-ups, pull-ups and sit-ups.

We’re faced here with having to train for two different energy system requirements in the runs, and we’ll be forced to train them concurrently.  I would suggest that your total volume per training day should not exceed 1.5 miles, and I’d maintain a training frequency of every-other day (or so).  Break the first 300 meters of that into 3 x 100’s.  Sprint each of these segments, with a full recovery between each segment, in something < 15 seconds.  We’ll call a full recovery, at the onset, 2 minutes.  Each subsequent workout, then, shave some time off your recovery while at the same time attempting to shave a bit from each individual sprint time.  Now, break the remaining approx. 2200 meters (if the math conversion off the top of my head is correct) into 10 x 220 meters.  Now apply the same sprint/ full recovery concept to this chunk.  Let’s just say, in order to make the math easy, that we’ll begin with a goal of 50 sec’s for each 220 meter sprint, with a full (2 minute) recovery.  On each subsequent workout, shave off a few sec’s from the sprint time goal, and some off of the recovery time.  Ultimately, you want to shoot for shattering the (total) time requirement for each test portion when it’s broken-up this way, then work on shortening the recovery time between each sprint.  About once every 10 days or so (in place of one of your sprint workouts), I’d do a “distance check”.  This is done by setting a count-down stopwatch for (as an example) 45 sec’s, then sprinting all-out for distance.  Did you get 300 meters in? Great!  If not, you now have a “distance” deficit amount to make up which is much easier than a “time” deficiency to visualize.  Do the same test w/ the 1.5 mile run.

Hope this helps get you going in the right direction.  Feel free to hit me w/any further questions.

Of course, (and Jason is well aware of this), nothing will prepare him for the real-world of possible law enforcement encounters like a well-rounded, CrossFit-like program will.  It’s just a shame that the military and law enforcement “establishment” is as backwards in their physical preparedness prescriptions as the government is in its nutritional recommendations.

In Health,

Keith

6 COMMENTS

  1. I’m curious. What’s the beef with pushups? I think the ability to performing a high number of consecutive pushups is an excellent indicator of overall fitness. Also, pushups are a better body workout than bench-presses.

    • Tom,
      I have no problem with push-ups as an exercise and as a part of an overall, sensible workout plan. In fact, I’m a big fan of the movement. In this application, though — used as a vetting tool — it is essentially worthless. We already have pull-ups, which, in my opinion, is a much better indicator of overall upper-body fitness. As compared to the push-up, the pull-up requires much more overall body control, and CNS activation to perform. Now, that said, I’d kick both exercises to the curb (again, as a vetting tool) in lieu of the gymnastic ring muscle-up.

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