We all know that being in the military requires many physical and mental attributes. You need to be disciplined, focused, mentally strong, prepared for any challenge, and physically capable of extraordinary efforts. That’s why training to be a part of the army is not an easy feat, and it requires plenty of preparation, both mental and physical.
As we’re a weightlifting blog, in our article, we’re going to focus on the physical part of being a military member. We’re going to talk about what kind of workouts army members do, what kind of tests they need to pass and how doing Olympic weightlifting can help them improve.
So, if you would like to learn more about strength training and Olympic weightlifting in the military, keep on reading.
As you all can probably guess, being a member of the military means that you have to be pretty physically strong and capable. For that reason, many armies around the world require their members to take specific fitness tests that challenge both their strength and cardiovascular abilities, aiming to filter out the ones who aren’t fit enough.
For example, the U.S. Army requires their personnel to take the new army fitness test, ACFT biannually for active-duty soldiers or annually for Army Reserves and the National Guard. This test requires the army members to perform a series of strength-related challenges (maximum deadlift, power throw, push-up), along with cardiovascular ones such as running 2 miles and doing sprints.
In order for active members and even reserves to be able to handle that kind of physical test, they have to prepare in advance, which typically happens with a ton of rigorous training sessions. That’s why most military camps are fully equipped for strength workouts – from benches squat racks to barbell clips and even straps. Along with that, it’s key to note that army members are required to go through various obstacle-style courses, which are not only a physical challenge but also a mental one as they require thinking on the fly and good decision-making, which is vital for when they’re facing critical situations on the field.
We’ve already mentioned in this article that military-style workouts tend to be incredibly versatile and well-rounded, as members of the army have to be capable of not only lifting heavy weights but also running, jumping, climbing, and overcoming different kinds of obstacles. That’s why their training plans don’t usually focus only on one area but combine plyometrics, strength training, and running so that they can serve as the best possible preparation for the battlefield and for the required tests.
Along with that, the plans are created to be incredibly efficient, as they have to comply with a strict schedule, and they also take into account the age, gender, rank, and job demands of the military member, as they have to be designed specifically for their needs.
Having said all of that, let’s now examine some of the most widely used compound exercises in army training programs.
The squat is a key exercise in weightlifting, and for good reason. It targets all of your lower body, including the glutes, hamstrings, and quads, and also challenges the core, which must be engaged throughout the entire movement. Typically, military members don’t try out a lot of squat variations and simply stick with the classic back squat or the front squat if they have to put emphasis on the quads instead of the glutes. In most cases, military members perform the squat as a way to get stronger and more explosive legs, which will help not only increase the amount they can deadlift but also ensure their legs can last through long obstacle courses and other challenges.
Another staple in almost any strength training program, the bench press is an upper-body movement that works the muscles in the shoulders, arms, and chest. For a lot of men, in particular, how much they can lift on the bench is a way to measure upper body strength, and it’s often the one place where you will find a large group of guys standing around in the gym.
We can’t talk about strength training without mentioning the deadlift. This lift primarily targets the back, hamstrings, glutes, and core, along with testing and improving grip strength. Because of the fact that it works the entire body and, more so, the entire posterior chain (the muscles in the back of your body – glutes, hamstrings, lower and upper back), it’s considered to be the ultimate exercise for building strength and power. For members of the army, being able to lift heavy on the deadlift is key, as it’s one of the ways their strength levels are tested, and in order for them to be ready for the challenge, they have to work on improving their one-rep max deadlift frequently.
In addition to these three core exercises, depending on the weak area of an army member’s body, their program will include additional movements that target those areas specifically – that could be lunges and RDLs for the legs, military press for the shoulders and biceps curls and triceps extensions for the arms. Let’s also not forget that along with strength training with weights; military members are required to do a lot of gymnastics movements with their body weight, such as pull-ups, push-ups, planks, sit-ups, and more, so their regime has to include all of those as well.
Along with the many physical benefits already mentioned that help military members meet army requirements, strength training has plenty of other health-related advantages as well. As we all know, being a part of the military can be extremely stressful as these people see and hear about more atrocities than most of us even have to consider in our lifetimes. In addition to that, there’s the stress of potentially losing comrades and friends, so finding a way to relieve stress is key. One of the ways to do that is through training – running, lifting weights, or even just going on hikes- which is a fantastic way to get the mind to think about more positive aspects of life and a great distraction from other stressors.
To top that all off, going to the gym or going running is a terrific way to get some alone time, where you can reflect on what has happened throughout the day in peace and get through it without having to bottle it in or look for other gateways for all the emotions.
Hopefully, by now, you’ve learned all that you wanted to know about Olympic weightlifting and strength training as it pertains to members of the military. We all know that army members have to go through a number of physical tests, but that’s not the only reason why weightlifting is good for them. Along with it being a staple in their daily routine for improving their physicality and keeping them in shape, it’s also a fantastic way to let go of some of the daily stress and maintain a healthier lifestyle overall.