When developing strength programs for units, there are limits to the type of training that can be done. The availability of facilities is always a major concern. Although many installations have excellent strength-training facilities, it is unreasonable to expect that all units can use them on a regular basis. However, the development of strength does not require expensive equipment. All that is required is for the soldier, three times a week, to progressively overload his muscles.
TRAINING WITHOUT SPECIAL EQUIPMENT
Muscles do not care what is supplying the resistance. Any regular resistance exercise that makes the muscle work harder than it is used to causes it to adapt and become stronger. Whether the training uses expensive machines, sandbags, or partners, the result is largely the same.
Sandbags are convenient for training large numbers of soldiers, as they are available in all military units. The weight of the bags can be varied depending on the amount of fill. Sandbag exercises are very effective in strength-training circuits. Logs, ammo boxes, dummy rounds, or other equipment that is unique to a unit can also be used to provide resistance for strength training. Using a soldier’s own body weight as the resistive force is another excellent alternative method of strength training. Pull-ups, push-ups, dips, situps, and single-leg squats are examples of exercises which use a person’s body weight. They can improve an untrained soldier’s level of strength.
Partner-resisted exercises (PREs) are another good way to develop muscular strength without equipment, especially when training large numbers of soldiers at one time. As with all training, safety is a critical factor. Soldiers should warm up, cool down, and follow the principles of exercise previously outlined.
In partner-resisted exercises (PREs) a person exercises against a partner’s opposing resistance. The longer the partners work together, the more effective they should become in providing the proper resistance for each exercise. They must communicate with each other to ensure that neither too much nor too little resistance is applied. The resister must apply enough resistance to bring the exerciser to muscle failure in 8 to 12 repetitions. More resistance usually can and should be applied during the eccentric (negative) phase of contraction (in other words, the second half of each repetition as the exerciser returns to the starting position). The speed of movement for PREs should always be slow and controlled. As a general rule, the negative part of each exercise should take at least as long to complete as the positive part. Proper exercise form and regularity in performance are key ingredients when using PREs for improving strength.
Following are descriptions and illustrations of several Pres. They should be done in the order given to ensure that the exercising soldier is working his muscle groups from the largest to the smallest. More than one exercise per muscle group may be used. The PT leader can select exercises which meet the unit’s specific goals while considering individual limitations:
A 36-to 48-inch stick or bar one inch in diameter may be used for some of the exercises. This gives the resister a better grip and/or leverage and also provides a feel similar to that of free weights and exercise machines.
TRAINING WITH EQUIPMENT
Units in garrison usually have access to weight rooms with basic equipment for resistance-training exercises. The exercises described here require free weights and supporting equipment. Although not shown below for the sake of simplicity, all exercises done with free weights require a partner, or spotter, to ensure proper form and the safety of the lifter.
Exercises Performed with an Exercise Machine
If exercise machines are available, the exercises described below are also good for strength training. All movements, particularly during the eccentric (negative) phase of contraction, should be done in a deliberate, controlled manner.
The following exercises can be performed to condition the muscles of the midsection (erector spinae, rectus abdominus and external and internal obliques). As the soldier becomes more conditioned on these exercises, resistance can be added.
The chart labeled Figure 3-5 will help the soldier select appropriate exercises for use in developing a good muscular endurance and strength workout. For example, if the soldier wants to develop his upper leg muscles, he has several options. He may choose from the following: 1) PREs, concentrating on the split- or single-leg squat; 2) exercises with equipment, doing free weight squats; or, 3) exercises with a machine, doing leg presses, leg curls, and leg extensions.