FitOps Soldier Strong Military Workout

Erik Bartell
Amanda Suarez

Leading a group of men through war and back takes a certain mindset that very few of us possess in our daily lives. And throughout most of his life, Erik Bartell has consistently exemplified all the qualities of a leader fit and willing to take on any battle.

Serving as a platoon leader in the Army, the Chicago native led a squadron of 30 men overseas to war in Afghanistan. Even more impressive: each and every member returned home safely. “It’s my greatest achievement,” Bartell says humbly.

Today, Bartell is on a new military mission, only this time the goal is offering fitness and a chance to regain purpose through FitOps’ newest Military Athlete outreach program.

As a participant in the Military Athlete program, Bartell, and others like him, will travel to the nation’s military bases, helping today’s squad leaders become trainers to their troops by going over fitness fundamentals. Bartell’s role is the newest way of helping expand FitOps’ reach.

“I think leadership is about taking care of people,” Bartell says. “Someone a lot smarter than me coined the term ‘servant leader.’ And that’s kind of what I’ve aimed to embody.”

Bartell is a FitOps grad, so he knows the value of the information he’s sharing to these squad leaders. “I immediately loved everything the program was about,” Bartell says. “I saw so much potential for what this program could be.”

The goal now, Bartell says, is to make FitOps a centralized, one-stop, full-time training camp. Kind of like a university, but at FitOps camp the fitness curriculum will be solely for its military vets. “Right now, FitOps hosts camps all over the country at campsites that offer us a great deal,” Bartell says. “The goal is to build a full-time facility where veterans can be helped all year long.”

This is where the Military Athlete program comes in. Bartell recently trained 25 squad leaders at Georgia’s Fort Benning on movement techniques, fitness philosophy, and other mentorship ideals.

The Military Athlete program will help squad leaders pass on everything they’ve learned under Military Athletes’ tutelage to each of their roughly 120 soldiers.

“Right now FitOps camps can serve 40 at a time,” Bartell says. “This new program is going to help thousands and bring more opportunity for veterans.”

Bartell’s workout program that follows—which he calls “foundational”—is a culmination of his experience as a certified trainer and strength and conditioning coach. It consists of one priming day to prep you for the development day, and then a recovery day, which Bartell says to take seriously.

The Bartell Fit Brief

Erik Bartell on…

  • YOUR RIBS: The warmup is meant to expand your ribs from all angles. The pullover expands your ribs from the front; bear breathing and the inchworm opens you up from the back, and the groiner expands your sides.
  • THE SLOUCH SOLUTION: You hear a lot about pulling back your shoulders, because people slouch nowadays. If you want to fix that, you should focus on your lats. Strengthening those will pull you back and down.
  • DEADLIFTING RIGHT: Think of the deadlift in three parts— brace your abs, drive your hips forward to lift the weight, and then squeeze your quads to help lockout the weight.
  • BOX JUMP FOOLERY: This is supposed to be fun. After those sprints and heavy deadlifts, let’s see if we can still perform.

The Workout

DIRECTIONS: Moves marked with the same number and a letter should be performed back to back, with no rest. Take a day’s rest between each workout.

Day 1: Priming

Erik Bartell Performing the Inchworm
Amanda Suarez

Inchworm
From a standing position, walk your body toward the floor, keeping your upper back arched. Now breathe into your stomach, which expands your ribcage and allows your lungs more room to expand.

 

WARMUP

EXERCISE

SETS

REPS

REST

1A. Inchworm

1

5

1B. Groiner

1

5

1C. Pushup

1

5

1 min.

2. Horse-Stance Squat

3

3

1 min.

3. Assault Bike Sprint

1

10 cal (to gauge preparedness)

 

Erik Bartell Performing the Strong Horse Stance Squat
Amanda Suarez

Horse-Stance Squat
Stand a foot away from a pole and grab it with both hands. Now widen your feet and spread your knees apart. From there, squat until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Actively pull on the pole to keep your body tight and upright throughout the move.

 

CONDITIONING

EXERCISE

SETS

REPS

REST

1A. Prowler Relay

5

6-8 sec.

1B. Wall Sit

5

60-90 sec.

2 min.

2. Trap-Bar Deadlift

3

8

1 min.

 

Erik Bartell Performing the Trap Bar Deadlift
Amanda Suarez

Trap-Bar Deadlift
Stand in the middle of a loaded trap-bar and grab onto the center of the handles. (If possible, use the low-handle option, as this creates a longer range of motion.) Hinge at the hips and bend forward, then drive your hips forward to lift the weight.

 

STRENGTH

EXERCISE

SETS

REPS

REST

1. Kettlebell Front Squat

3

5 (heavy)

1-3 min.

2. Rear-Foot-Elevated Split Squat

3

10

1-3 min.

FINISHER

EXERCISE

SETS

REPS

REST

1A. Sandbag Bear Crawl and Drag

3

100 feet

1B. Medicine Ball Hang and Burpee

3

10

1 min.

COOLDOWN

EXERCISE

2–3 min. low-intensity assault bike conditioning to decrease heart rate below 100 beats per minute.

2–3 min. in recovery posture, extending exhalation to drive heart rate down to resting.

Foam rolling, Theragun, stretch.

Day 2: Development

Erik Bartell Performing the Kettlebell Clean
Amanda Suarez

Kettlebell Clean
Grab a kettlebell set in front of you with one hand and hike it back behind you. Drive your hips forward, and as the bell reaches chest height, flip the bell over your wrist and catch the kettlebell in the front rack position. Ensure the bell travels up and down in a straight line throughout the move.

 

WARMUP

EXERCISE

SETS

REPS

REST

1A. Inchworm

1

5

1B. Groiner

1

5

1C. Pushup

1

5

1 min.

2. Split-Stance Band PNF

1

6

1 min.

3. Ski ERG Sprint

1

10 cal (use as a gauge for workout)

1 min.

CONDITIONING

EXERCISE

SETS

REPS

REST

1A. Med Ball Hip Firing

3

30 sec.

1B. Wall Breathing

3

60 sec.

2. Treadmill Sprint

6

6 sec.

1 min.

STRENGTH

EXERCISE

SETS

REPS

REST

1A. Kettlebell Swing

3

3

1B. Kettlebell Clean

3

3

1C. Kettlebell Snatch

3

3

2 min.

2. Single-Arm Floor Press

3

6

2 min.

FINISHER

EXERCISE

SETS

REPS

REST

1A. Sandbag Sprawl and Squat

3

10

1B. Broad Jump to Vertical Jump

3

1

2 min.

 

Erik Bartell Performing the Sandbag Sprawl Squat
Amanda Suarez

Sandbag Sprawl & Squat
Hold a sandbag and drop down into a burpee, quickly exploding your feet back out behind you and then back in. Stand up, and clean the sandbag up and over your head so it’s on your back. Now squat down. That’s one rep.

 

COOLDOWN

EXERCISE

2–3 min. low-intensity rowing conditioning to decrease heart rate below 100 beats per minute.

2–3 min. in recovery posture with controlled breathing (on back and extend exhalation to drive heart rate down to resting).

Foam rolling, Theragun, stretch.

Day 3: Recovery

 

Erik Bartell Performing the Box Jump
Amanda Suarez

Box Jump
Bartell likes to finish off his workout with a fun challenge. Here, he takes a running start, leaps over the first box, and then explodes onto the second. If you’re not able to complete the hurdle-jump-to-box-jump, just do box jumps at a reasonable height.

 

WARMUP

EXERCISE

SETS

REPS

1A. Inchworm

1

5

1B. Groiner

1

5

2. Bear Breathing

3

5

3. Kettlebell Pullover

3

5

4. Plate Squat

3

5

CONDITIONING

EXERCISE

SETS

REPS

1A. Battle Ropes (50% effort)

4

30 sec.

1B. Focused Breathing

4

1 min.

2. Row (50% effort)

8 min.

STRENGTH

EXERCISE

SETS

REPS

1. Single-Leg Kettlebell Deadlift

3

3

2. Box Jump

3

6

COOLDOWN

EXERCISE

2–3 min. walk

90/90 wall breathing

Foam rolling, Theragun, stretch.

Crushing It with Cena

Bartell dishes on what it’s like to work out with WWE Superstar and FitOps ambassador John Cena.

He’s intense. You just have to do your best around him. I always hit a personal record when we’re training together.

I remember this one workout was just an absolute crusher. We started with cleans, and worked up to a weight that we couldn’t maintain. Then we did the same thing with front squats, then back squats, and then finally deadlifts.

I think I kept up with him on front squats, I matched my all-time best with 335, but he definitely beat me on deadlifts. We only did overhand, no straps. He calls it a “gentleman grip.” I got up to 405 and couldn’t do any more. He got up to 500 pounds, and I’m watching him like, man, you’re insane.

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