Evolving Workout

Over the next few posts, I am going to ramble on about how one workout has evolved, and stayed with me through the years, giving me the confidence to tackle harder workouts today.

Morning physical training has been part of my daily life for the the last 15+ years. It is something that all the services do in one form or another, and has been that way for a long time. Morning PT improves the abilities of the fighting forces to meet the demands of combat, and training. From huge Division runs, down to squad size elements, it takes all kinds of forms and intensity levels. It’s focus can be unit cohesion, to building mental and physical ruggedness.

When I was still new to the Army, this would be about 1999, my section leader tasked me with planning, and executing a PT session. It was a way of developing his junior troops for future leadership positions. The session could be anything I wanted, and i chose a muscular endurance/strength based workout.

It was simple and all we needed was the pull up bars, and the grassy area around them. Here is the layout-

  1. Stretched out and lite calisthenics to get loose- 10minutes
  2. 10 down to 1 pull/chin ups. In between sets we did 40 sit ups with our partner holding our feet.
  3. 10 down to 1 hanging knee raises, with our partner supporting the lower back to prevent swinging. In between sets, we would do 25 push ups varying the hand positions each time we did them.
  4. Cool down of stretching

My section leader critiqued the session, and said that it was a good workout, but i needed to add some lower body in the next time we did it, either sprints or a run. We would do this several more times before I moved to my next unit, and we did add some lower body to it. We would do piggy back carries to finish the workout.

I would continue to do this workout on my own over the next few years, but it would be a while before I got to use this again with my own troops. I got promoted in late 2000, and I ended up getting my own squad early 2001. In developing my PT plan, I decided to pull this workout out of the duffle bag, and use it as my upper body day.

By this time I had seen someone doing Ankle To Bars in one of the gyms on post, and decided that they would take the place of the knee raises. I also decided to rotate ab exercises between sets in stead of just doing sit ups. I would do the same with the push ups as well, rotating both hand positions, and adding dive bomber push ups, feet elevated push ups and dips into the mix as well. To finish, we still would use piggy back carries.

  1. 10-1 pull/chin ups with 40 reps of alternating ab exercises
  2. 10-1 ATB with rotating push up exercises at 30 reps
  3. Piggy back carries at varying distances

It was a solid workout, and this is where I first discovered that if you ran hard PT the higher ups would leave you alone, and that mental strength was what this workout trained more than just the physical. Doing this once a week had an impact on my squads performance in the field, and soon the troops began to see the improvement and realized the importance of morning PT.

When the squad first did these workouts, they hated every minute. Many couldn’t do the first 10 pull ups unassisted, and muscle failure was the name of the game after the first few sets. But by using their buddies assistance, they would grind through. After several weeks though, guys would drop off the bar and announce that they got the first ten on their own. Or at the end during the cool down someone would comment on how much easier it was this time. Here is where I really learned about consistency in training and that if you keep at a workout long enough, you can meet a goal – and more importantly you can get other people to do the same. The PT we did became something that the troops bragged about to the rest of their buddies in the company. It helped bring them together.

The summer of 2002, I volunteered to switch units to go lead a squad over in Afghanistan. The train up for the deployment was brutal, involving lots of long foot marches in full kit and armor carrying as much as we could in our packs. Combining this with long runs and the live fire exercises really got us ready as a unit for what we were getting into. Downrange my squad turned into gym rats in their down time, and as a squad we started doing the pull up routine. After redeployment, we maintained a very high level of fitness.

I stayed with that platoon for the next 3 years. My squad got used to the workout and combined with the rest of the weeks PT, had the highest PT average in the company. We would do morning PT, work all day, and then go to the gym for 2 hours in the evening hitting the weights. I never realized how good in shape we were until years later when I had moved on to serve as a Drill Sergeant ( I’ll explain that more in the next post).

This workout has been a staple of mine in both the professional and personal areas of my training. From it I learned about consistency in training, mental training, and developing a team unity.

My next post will continue to explain how I use this in my personal training, and how this basic template spawned several other workouts.

Till next time Take care and good lifting,


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