As far as fitness (physical and mental) goes, the men and women of the military stand in a league of their own. There is fitness, and then there is military fitness.

Armies throughout the world are famous for their use of calisthenics. Today we will be breaking down what makes a good army body weight workout, as well as how you can make full use of what it has to offer.

No tips or tricks here. No secret ingredient you can toss into the mix for quick, easy results. A good military workout (even if you do it at home) is all about persistence, intensity, and hard work.

The best part of this workout? No pull-up or parallel bars needed! You just need motivation and your own body weight.

The Value of Military Calisthenics

In this day and age, body weight exercise tends to get overshadowed by weightlifting. Not the case in the military, who have honed both the practice—and themselves—to perfection. The reasons behind that are clear as day:

  • As the most ancient method of training we have, calisthenics have been shaped by us just as we have been shaped by them. In result, injuring yourself while doing body weight exercise is much more difficult when compared to other methods.
  • Military workout with no equipment can be done at anytime, anywhere, making external factors almost irrelevant.
  • It gives you the whole package. No choosing between muscle groups and isolation here! When you do a military-grade workout, you build strength, endurance, and coordination—all at once!
  • The results are long-lasting. The improvements you gain through these methods won’t start leaving you as soon as your habits change—though consistency is always a good thing.

Components of a Good Military Workout

Living up to its name, the approach is highly adaptable. You grab a handful of ingredients and then mix- and-match, adding and removing to keep your body—and yourself—on your toes!

Listed below are a bunch of tried-and-true exercises. Military men and women have proven them effective again and again; now it’s your turn! Just make sure to warm-up beforehand, and you’re on your way!

  • Push-ups
  • Crunches
  • Chin-ups
  • Leg raises
  • Pull ups
  • Plank (elbow or side)
  • Dips
  • Squats
  • Lunges
  • Sit-ups
  • Rope climbing
  • Diamond push-ups (shown below)
  • Swimming (if possible; if not, replace with rope skip)
  • Rope skip (is swimming isn’t an option)

These should be done in 4-7 cycles, depending on ability. Start with 4 reps per exercise, then add 2 for each additional cycle. Also consider pushing an exercise until failure; something we are both fond of and resentful of doing.

Swimming itself is a brutal bout of whole-body cardio that should be performed in instances of 5-10 minutes. If a swimming pool is unavailable, rope skipping is a worthwhile substitute. Do it in instances of 2 minutes.

The traditional exercises listed above are to be combined with military-style running and shadow boxing. Military running is done with an alternating pace; run at your normal pace for five minutes, then follow up with a 2 minute sprint. Aim for a total time of half an hour.

As for shadow boxing, here is an excellent guide.

Space these out over the course of a week for a full-body workout, and you will be unstoppable. But for those unwilling to experiment (or eager for a challenge), here is a suggested program.

The 7-Day Military Workout Program

Day One

  • Warm up
  • 3 mile military-style run
  • Warm down
  • Couple hours of rest
  • Either 2, 10-minute rounds of swimming, or 10, 2-minute rounds of rope skipping Warm down

Day Two

  • Warm up
  • 5 rounds (4 reps at round one, 6 at round two, etc.) of: Close grip push-ups
  • Far grip push-ups
  • Squats
  • Either pull-ups or diamond push-ups Lunges
  • Dips
  • Crunches or sit-ups

Day Three

  • Rest

Day Four

  • Warm up
  • 3 mile military-style run
  • 5 rounds (6 reps at round one, 8 at round two, etc.) of: Squats
  • Abs
  • Lunges
  • Abs
  • Squats
  • Abs
  • Lunges

Day Five

  • Warm up
  • 3 rounds (until failure, rest for 3 minutes in-between) of: Regular push-ups
  • Abs
  • Diamond push-ups
  • Abs
  • Pull-ups
  • Abs
  • Chin-ups or dips

Day Six

  • Either repeat Day One, or do beginners’ yoga (shown below), followed by an intense stretching session

Day Seven

  • Rest

Going the Extra Mile

A structure is only as strong as its foundation, in this case being your diet. Make sure to stay hydrated, and eat a good balance of protein, fat, and total energy. Like any other machine, your body will only let you down if you don’t treat it well.

Investing in any kind of training gear is generally unnecessary, but a decent pull-up bar (possibly with a dip station) is never a waste. Also, getting your hands on a good pair of running shoes and training gloves will long-term in fact save you money, given that they won’t break down from all the abuse.

But ultimately, all you really need is yourself and some good old willpower. With the right approach, everything is doable.

Now get out there and make it happen, soldier!

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