Physical training, or PT, plays a daily role in the lives of service members, whether they're Marines, soldiers, sailors or Air Force. Regular strength and cardiovascular training keep service people combat-ready. If you're headed for boot camp or just want to look like you could be, get yourself on a program of military-worthy workouts.
Military Shape: Army, Navy, Air Force
If you want to be in military shape, you need to know what's required of service members. All military men and women are tested at least annually on their running times, and on the number of abdominal crunches and push-ups they can complete. To pass the United States Army test, a 25 year-old man would have to do at least 31 push-up-ups, 43 sit-ups and run two miles in 17:30 or less. A female soldier must do at least 11 push-ups, 43 sit-ups and run two miles in 20:36 or less. Air Force requirements are similar to the Army's, with males under 30 being required to complete 33 pushups, 42 situps and run 1.5 miles within 13:36. The Navy requires male sailors ages 25 to 29 to do at least 34 pushups and 43 curl-ups and run 1.5 miles in no more than 14 minutes.
Male Marines are tested on pull-ups instead of push-ups. Female Marines may substitute the flexed-arm hang for the pull-up test. To pass, a 25 year-old male Marine must do at least three pull-ups, 50 crunches and run three miles in no more than 28 minutes. A woman of the same age has to hold herself in the flexed-arm hang for at least 15 seconds, do 50 crunches and run three miles within 31 minutes. Older Marines aren't excused from physical fitness, either. A 48 year-old female Marine must be able to do the flexed-arm hang for 15 seconds, complete 20 crunches and run three miles in 36 minutes.
Train Like a Marine
Consistency is what keeps Marines in shape, says Dan Collins, former Marine and certified fitness instructor. Since training continues during deployment, Marine workouts rely more on bodyweight for resistance rather than difficult-to-transport fitness equipment. Collins recommends a daily morning workout that combines calisthenics for muscular endurance with a steady run. For example, start with 50 side to side hops. Then do 40 pushups, 25 mountain climbers and 25 eight-count body builders. These are similar to burpees, but with a pushup thrown in and an extra kicking of the legs out and back in following the pushup. Then lie down on your back to do some leg lifts and bicycles for abdominal strengthening. If you have bars handy, do your maximum reps of pull-ups and triceps dips. Finish with 30 minutes of running.
Four-Mile Track Workout
Fitness trainer and former Navy Seal Stew Smith suggests a four-mile track workout. By alternating jogging and sprinting, you get the cardiovascular benefits of interval training, such as increased calorie burn following exercise. Start by jogging a mile. Aim for a seven to eight minute pace. Then alternate three sets of sprinting one-quarter mile with jogging the same distance. Follow this with six alternating sets of sprinting and jogging one-eighth of a mile. Smith acknowledges that at first you may need to walk after the sprints to rest. But he encourages practicing until you can use jogging as your recovery.
Increasing Your Number of Pull-Ups and Pushups
Pull-ups and pushups challenge many people, especially women, who usually have less upper-body strength. To increase your number of these difficult exercises, use the pyramid workout. Start with just one pull-up or pushup. Rest. Then do a second set of two reps. Rest. Keep going until you've done the most you can do in one set. Continue with sets in descending order. For example, maybe your progression is one, two, three, four, three, two, one. You can also do this in descending order only, starting with your max. Women and some men may need to put their knees down while building up pushup strength. It's OK to do this, especially if you find you're otherwise compromising your form by letting your chest sag or your lower back strain.