SOMEWHERE, RIGHT NOW, an 18-year-old, fresh-off-the-bus patriot is pressing out a pushup total that would make an orthopedic surgeon wince. These reps will likely be followed by a run upwards of three miles through varying terrain. The mindset: Volume (and distance) at all costs. Somewhere, right now, in a sandy, makeshift gym in the Middle East, an elite operator is training amid spartan conditions. He or she is focusing on developing the traits required to kick through doors and chase down insurgents. The mindset: Strength, speed, and durability at all costs.
The vast chasm between these two tactical athletes represents the difference between the old school and the new—between arbitrary tradition and modern science, pain-tolerance assessment and proven combat needs. “In my opinion, the exercise during boot camp is mainly focused on breaking a soldier down, not necessarily to peak one’s physical performance,” says Callen David, the former Army Specialist (E-4), fitness model, and actor featured on these pages. “Yes, some individuals will lose weight, do more pushups than they originally could, and run a faster two-mile. But there are far more aspects to physical fitness and combat readiness than just those few things.” Put another way, if you’re interested in chasing the physique and capabilities of a modern serviceman or servicewoman, you’ll need to diversify your training portfolio beyond routines that are focused only on aesthetics.
BUILT FOR BATTLE
As the past two decades of warfare have proven, today’s skirmishes are dynamic, violent, and often fought in close quarters. Sprinting to cover, scaling walls for a better observation point, dragging someone to safety, or booting an enemy combatant in the chest to keep control of your weapon— these are all activities that require maximum-limit strength, at-the-ready explosiveness, and a knack for covering ground faster than the enemy can track you with the barrel of an AK-47. With that in mind, it’s difficult to see where the ability to perform 120 consecutive pushups and a sub-13-minute two-mile time fit into battlefield preparedness.
Similarly, a routine built largely on size and muscular detail will provide diminishing gains to the individual who desires to be stronger, faster, and more durable. Training smart is key when developing a physique for the rigors of war.
“Bodybuilding is exactly that: building the body and muscles, mainly for aesthetic purposes,” David says. “Not much focus is placed on athletic or functional fitness. Having a range of athletic and tactical skills will come in handy in the military and in life.”
Here’s the good news: Adopting an elite soldier’s work habits in the gym will definitely have an impact on the way your body looks. By training with heavy weights and working on speed development, you are enhancing your body’s fast-twitch musculature. These are the muscle fibers most responsible for growth. This type of work also results in greater testosterone levels and growth hormone release, provided you are feeding yourself well and sleeping enough, of course.
“In my experience, when I worry less about how I look and more about how well I can perform, I not only feel better but actually look better, too,” David says. “Looking good just kind of comes along naturally with the hard work you put in.”
If you’re ready to develop a physique capable of lifting more, running faster, and being generally fitter to fight, this 12-week program is just what the doctor— or drill sergeant—ordered.
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