Sean Lerwill Explains the Benefits of Military Style Training
The benefits of military training are not only extensive but bridge the gap between physical and mental more than most training regimes. Military style fitness has become increasingly popular in the last decade, largely because of its apparent ease for instructors and trainees alike, but also because it can be highly beneficial to a surprisingly wide number of health and fitness goals. However, in contrast, it may also a surprise to learn that military fitness training isn’t actually very well suited to an aesthetic goal as you may have been lead to believe.
Obviously there are many different styles of military training to suit the many different kinds of military forces. For example, an infantry solider would need different fitness requirements to a fighter pilot. Once through initial basic training, an individuals "military fitness training" will be far more job specific so they are "fit for purpose". For this article we are going to concentrate on the military fitness most people know as "boot camp”.
The term boot camp is an American military term which essentially refers to the initial, early part of military training. Not just the physical side of things but the indoctrination into a military lifestyle. In the US this period is very in your face and “shouty” for want of a better word. Not so in the UK, where the idea is to teach and educate and only resort to anger when it is truly justified. After all, if you are already angry and shouting, where else do you have to go when you need to raise the stakes?
In general, this initial period of military training utilises a vast amount of bodyweight work, partner work and cardiovascular endurance. Along with stamina training, muscular endurance work and exercising while fatigued and/or sleep deprived. The question then, is how can this style of training help you with your fitness goal?
1. Get the ball rolling
Pretty much across the board, early military fitness training will be very similar. This is because it’s simple, all involving, a great leveller and superb for pushing physical as well as mental boundaries. It's therefore a great place to start. If you aren't currently exercising and want to get started on a fitness path, military fitness is a great place to get the ball rolling. Either try a military fitness programme or find a local boot camp.
Many people who love to run, cycle or swim, or all three if they do triathlon, tend to hammer the specific cardio training but fail to do any form of muscular work. Many people who constantly fail to beat an old personal best (PB) actually find that when they cut back on the cardio and introduce some strength and conditioning, they smash their previous PBs. Military style fitness improves robustness and also helps an individual cope better under fatigue, both extremely necessary for a solider and hence why they use it. This can only be beneficial to an endurance athlete.
3. Before crossfit there was military fitness
Military style training shares many of the attributes of crossfit, but of course has been around far longer. If you train crossfit, it can be a great addition to throw in some cross training and mix things up. Equally, if you like the idea/vibe of crossfit, but dislike snatching and cleaning large weights, military fitness leaves the Olympic bars and utilises the bodyweight or someone else's (think fireman’s carries).
4. Strengthen the mind
We all get comfortable in our training. We know what we like and even if it's a spin class, we kind of keep within our comfort zone. Military fitness doesn't really allow for that. At least if you follow it properly or work with a good instructor (one that has been taught to teach military fitness, not just been on the receiving end at some point) it doesn't. Following a military training regime for a month and then returning to a “normal" gym routine should see you being able to push harder and further than before.
5. Be happy being uncomfortable
All too often these days fitness is about health clubs, high-top training shoes and branded stringer vests. That isn’t for everyone! At the heart of it, what are we trying to achieve with a fitness regime? Military fitness gets to that heart. It's not about looking pretty. It's not about checking yourself in the mirror after each set. If you aren’t dripping with sweat and covered in dirt by the end of a military fitness session, you've not done it right. It teaches you self control and to forget about the unimportant things in life.
6. Increase fitness
One of the main reasons military forces utilise the type of bodyweight circuits and cardiovascular work they do in military training is to improve fitness, which in turn (when following a good nutrition plan) will improve health. There is no doubt that if following a good military training plan your fitness and health will improve.
A final thought
The one proviso with military fitness is that it actually isn't the best bet for a body compositional change. Like crossfit, it is very intense. It is by and large always full effort training, as hard as you can, often to your perceived limits. This isn't the perfect way to illicit muscle growth. Many people make the mistake of thinking this type of training is the best for gaining that fitness model physique or figure. It isn't. Muscle breakdown may be higher and muscle synthesis lower compared to a progressive resistance programme. That progressive programme can still be using bodyweight training, but not in the same way as military training. Military training will get you fit, and can help to lower your body fat if you have a lot to lose, but to really get that lean muscular physique there are better options.
Military style training has its place and when instructed well and followed fully, can be a great addition to a routine, a superb place to start a routine or an interesting way to revamp a stale fitness lifestyle. However, if a cover model body is the overall aim, it isn't the best option in isolation, rather something to throw in now and again to mix things up and have a bit of fun.