Train Like a Marine
Posted 6/12/2017 by UHBlog
Military-style “boot camp” workouts have become increasingly popular over the last five years or so. Are you physically and mentally ready to rumble?
“One thing athletes and soldiers have in common is that their most important equipment is their bodies,” says certified strength and conditioning specialist Matt Short, PT, who served in the U.S. Army in Iraq and was a college athlete. “Athletes and soldiers need to take care of their bodies above all so they know that they are not going to fail them when the time comes to go into battle or a sporting contest. A body that is strong and ready is a great confidence booster.”
Is a strenuous Marine-style training program that pushes the body to its limits a smart idea for average civilians who want to get their bodies in the best possible shape?
“It all depends on what kind of shape a person is in,” Short says. “For the average weekend warrior, this kind of intense training is probably not the best place to start. In the therapy world, we see a lot of people getting hurt by doing these boot camps and warrior dashes before their bodies are adequately prepared for them. Once you get hurt by doing too much, too fast, you may not be able to exercise at all.”
Military-style workouts, he says, are generally high in intensity, long in duration and moderately specific to targeted exercises or skills – three principles of training that can be manipulated based on a person’s fitness level and goals.
Particularly for people who are fitness novices, Short suggests starting slowly and working your way into shape before getting involved in Marine-style programs.
“A less experienced or de-conditioned person would want to start with a lower intensity, shorter duration and nonspecific workout,” he says. “If you have certain pre-existing injuries, high-level training may be detrimental. If you're healthy, start slow and take six weeks to a few months to progressively work your way into a condition that is appropriate for high-level training. If you have the resources, I would strongly recommend working with a personal trainer or a physical therapist who can guide you along – at least during the beginning part of your fitness program.”
Physical fitness – not age – is the most important factor in deciding whether to do a high-intensity workout.
“I've seen 22-year-old men who should not do this, and I've been around guys in their 50s who are in excellent shape,” Short says. “More than age, it’s a matter of fitness, pre-existing medical conditions and injuries.”
For people who are ready for it, Short says a military-style workout can provide many benefits – particularly for athletes.
“The theory behind the boot camps and the CrossFit-type workouts is sound,” he says. “It can take your body to a higher level of fitness. You’re actually working large muscle groups, and you’re doing exercises in succession and keeping your heart rate up. Our military men and women are some of the most highly trained athletes we have. An athlete may not be going into battle, but the concept is the same: If you train and practice hard enough, the contest or sport that you are going to be involved in should be easy in comparison.”
According to Short, the fitness benefits of military workouts – when progressed and performed appropriately – are:
- Increased cardiovascular stamina
- Increased core stability
- Increased strength
When choosing a high-intensity program, Short suggests being sure that the person leading it is adequately trained in injury prevention.
“As a physical therapist in the Army, I spent a lot of my time making sure that our soldiers weren’t getting injured during basic training,” he says. “Every single person who enlists in the Army isn’t necessarily in peak shape when they arrive. It’s the job of the drill instructor to get them into shape, but they have to do it wisely. It’s the same at the fitness centers. A person who has never worked out in their life can’t approach a workout the same as a high school athlete.”
Working with a certified trainer or a physical therapist can help to prevent injuries and optimize the benefits of exercise, he says.
“The key, like anything else, is to do it right,” he says.
Matt Short, PT, CSCS, OCS, is a physical therapist at University Hospitals Mentor Health Center. You can request an appointment with Short or any other health care provider online.