As it stands now, the Army’s physical fitness test uses pushups, situps, and a 2 mile run as its measure. The morning physical training used to get soldiers up to speed in these areas, primarily focuses on these areas, which is fine if one’s premise is that pushups, situps and a two mile run are a good measure of a soldier’s battlefield readiness.
I propose that they are very poor measure of readiness. I also propose that there are training protocols which take less time, are more effective, and more beneficial to the health of the soldier.
The Army places a high value on cardiovascular fitness, thus the emphasis on long runs. However, when one looks at recent, and some not so recent science, we find that interval sprints are probably more effective in quickly building cardio/endurance than distance running is, particularly when we are looking at fairly “short-long” runs like two miles. Take a look at the Tabata study, which proved to Japanese scientists that intense interval sprints were the most effective way to build endurance. http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1608/is_5_20/ai_n6011850
Additionally, by using sprints instead of long runs in a training protocol, we can increase our anaerobic capacity, something aerobic training does not do. This means we can go at high intensity for longer. It also allows us to maintain muscle mass as well as strength. It can be very difficult to maintain strength when using long runs in training.
Interval sprints are not for the meek. They hurt. But to me, I much prefer their results and the short term pain to long, laborious runs.
There is hope here for the Army. Recently, the Army instituted “60/30s”, or 60 meter sprints intervalled with 30 meters of walking. Also, our First Sergeant uses interval sprints in the training here at C Company, Fort Huachuca, and many people have had personal best times in their two mile runs, despite the high altitude.
Were I to design a training regimen for the Army, I would include more Battlefield PT, like Fireman’s carries for long distances, as well as exercises that build strength more than the pushup does. Pullups are the supreme upper body movement, in my opinion. Also, partner assisted pushups, with the partner pushing down on the exerciser’s back. The basic movements, with more tension on the muscle and with the PT leader using minor variations of the movements would make for a more battle-ready soldier. One-legged squats would be good for the lower body. The sit-up is still a good movement for the abs, as studies show that muscular endurance in the midsection in more important than absolute strength in reducing frequency of injuries.