After years of dealing with recruits that are great at manipulating their PS3 controllers, but lousy at anything physically demanding, the Army has finally had enough. They have implemented a new physical fitness training program that concentrates more on building muscle and agility training than grueling, 5-mile runs in full gear.
Time will tell how this new emphasis ultimately affects the Army’s war fighting ability, but the bottom line was that they felt that they were no longer getting recruits that can take care of themselves when facing an adversary on the battlefield without first packing on a load of muscle and learning how to use it.
Feedback from the field in Iraq and Afghanistan points to soldiers who have limited to no physical contest experience, weather that is sports, street fighting, or even PE at school. Many schools now have PE classes only one or two days per week, rather than the daily classes many of us remember from our youth.
Captain Scott Sewell, a training officer at the Army’s Physical Fitness School at Ft. Jackson, SC put it this way: “Most of these soldiers have never been in a fist fight or any kind of a physical confrontation. They are stunned when they get smacked in the face” I bet!
The new program is a 10 week course that aims to increase power, speed, and agility. Getting new recruit’s body fat back to healthy levels is also one of the primary goals of the new program. Some have described the new regimen as similar to cardio kickboxing or ab blaster classes at your local gym or health club. Now imagine those cardio kickboxing classes lasting for a few hours. Everything has been done with a specific result in mind though. “It’s not a routine, it’s a system,” said U.S. Army Physical Fitness School director Frank Palkoska.
Actually, the classes are very structured, stressing precision, and progressiveness. Intensity is gradually ramped up to deliver maximum gains. All exercise are done in a certain way, so as to maximize effectiveness and minimize the chance of injury to soldiers. The three key components of the program are balance, strength and agility training, all of which are integrated together to form a goal oriented fitness program. In the case the goal is to prep new soldiers for what they actually face when overseas, rather than just acing the the Army’s PT test.
The manual is about 600 pages and lays out a year’s worth of different exercises. They are based on the latest research and practical experience in physical fitness. For example, high intensity interval training replaces long, steady speed runs, because such a training style has been shown to be more effective at achieving results in a shorter training time. In addition, many exercises have soldiers training in full battle dress, to better prepare them for the conditions they may face in overseas combat.
The keys to the Army’s new program are:
・ high intensity, interval training
・ weight training, including extensive strength training with dumbbells
・ body resistance exercise and calisthenics
・ combat drills
It sounds like the Army has combined a modern program that will maximize soldier’s strength, agility and endurance to deliver a soldier that can better protect us (and themselves) against the bad actors in the world today.