Special Populations PT insructor

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I have been assigned the duty of Special Populations Physical Trainer for my unit. My duties will commence next month. Special Populations are soldiers who failed their last Physical Assessment test or did not meet the Army’s bodyfat and weight requirements.

Now, I’m producing workout templates, that I can easily reference for a certain day’s training event. I plan on using the near fail-safe method of alternating hard and easy days–a method that everyone seems to ignore these days, even the supposed cutting edge Crossfitters.

Intensity is and always has been the core of my training regiment. It produces the fastest and best results. Low intensity workout are good for recovery and fat loss, but for athletic and health benefits, you’ve got to ramp things up–way up. My easy days will consist of ruck marches and perhaps just a walk. Some of the soldiers will probably be left wondering what benefit they get from so easy a workout. I’ll remind them on the hard days why they need the easy ones.

The two most important sides of the exercise coin are intensity and time. As intensity goes up, time goes down. And as time goes up–intensity must go down. If anyone tells you they work out for four hours at the gym, I can tell you that they’re not doing it very intensely.

Some who see my training may mistake it for Crossfit. I’ve stated before my problem with Crossfit, but also make the concession that Crossfit fundamentally changed the way people trained. Intensity became key–and for that I commend Greg Glassman, Crossfit’s founder. But the cult-like mentality of many Crossfitters is troubling, leading to mindlessly following the Workout of The Day (posted daily on the Crossfit website). Also, Crossfit lacks a significant strength protocol. Again–alternate easy and tough days and watch yourself explode. Try to peak everyday and wither like an over-watered flower.

I’ll incorporate some of the following workouts and ideas into my program:

Dumbbell Complexes: Pick 5-6 exercises with dumbbells and continuously move through them in a circuit.

Bodyweight Circuits: My favorite. I have several templates that I already use. My 100, 200 and 300 workouts are incremental in difficulty and easy to perform anywhere. I use the 300 template regularly and I can assure you, it’s an ass-kicker. Here was today’s 300 workout–300 calisthenic reps in a circuit:

50 Hindu Pushups

30 Frog Jumps (Standing vertical jumps)

20 Diamond Pushups

25 Jumping split-squats–4 count (place hands on hips; jump as in a jumping jack only move your feet front and back instead of out to the sides.)

30 Flutter kicks–4 count

50 wide hand pushups

20 Frog Jumps

25 Mountain Climbers–4 count

50 Regular pushups

25 Split Squats–4 count

I finished the workout a few seconds under 18 minutes. I could feel the bile building in the back of my throat as my body pushed out the Human Growth Hormone….

Tabata Sprints: Remember the gassers you did for your high school football of basketball team? Suck it up Soldier!

Good ‘ol weight training: Guess what? 3 sets of 10 repetitions of bench press and squats works just about as well as anything. So simple people stopped doing it….showing the incessant need for humans to over-complicate.

There are two types of Soldiers that fail to meet Army fitness standards: The uninformed, the unmotivated. Genetic deficiancies as well as issues in the personal life also enter the equation, requiring added doses of dedication and knowledge. My mission is to provide knowledge to those who lack it and to motivate those that don’t care. Of the two, motivation is the more difficult to impart as the greatest drives come from within, not without.

But a good leader makes his troops want to perform to standard. There are a hundred ways to skin a cat and every soldier must be handled in subly diferent way, with varying degrees of praise and admonition. Some require very little of either, others lots of both.

If one person in my PT group fails the PT test, I will have failed my unit.


5 thoughts on “Special Populations PT insructor

    Amos Volante said:
    February 13, 2010 at 6:32 pm

    One phrase stood out in your post, regarding the good, old, 1980’s Schwarzeneggar “bench & squat” workout:

    “So simple, people stopped doing it.” And how it shows humans’ “incessant need to overcomplicate.”

    I should do a 400 page Excel doc about that….

    Dave said:
    February 19, 2010 at 2:38 pm

    Really enjoyed this post. I looked around your site for your thoughts on crossfit (you insinuated that you had shared these thoughts before) but was unable to find a post that discussed them. Could you hook me up with a link?

    Jay said:
    April 17, 2014 at 4:19 pm

    Magus, i understand your emphasis on easy and hard days. However, i don’t understand how you can make up a schedule in a week which contains such different training methods. You’ve got pure strength with weight training, then cardiovascular training with calisthenic circuits, and then a mix of the two with dumbell circuits. With a 7 day week, how do you incorporate rest while at the same time seeing strength gains if your regiment is focused on different aspects of fitness? Typically most individuals will focus entirely on weight lifting with a dose of cardio or no weight lifting with entirely calisthenics and running. What is your schedule like?

    magus71 responded:
    April 17, 2014 at 4:44 pm


    This article was written 4 years ago and I am no longer with the same unit or conducting PT for overweight soldiers.

    But to answer your question:

    When I’m training someone, the first thing I do is figure out what they need most. Since the group of overweight soldiers are usually soldiers who don’t use their bodies much at all, it is best to stick with a GPP (general physical preparation) format. That is, hit a wide base of physical fitness aspects. Studies show that people well versed in GPP are able to train specific attributes like strength or endurance to greater degrees as they mature in their abilities.

    Secondly, since I am in the Army, I have to keep in mind what the Army wants and what it tests for; right now it measures 2 minutes pushups and situps, and a 2 mile run for time. So I must have a significant dose of training that positively affects these areas.

    Thirdly and finally, I believe strength is the most important physical attribute. In the military this must be balanced with muscle and cardio endurance. Strength is a rising tide that floats all boats: A stronger runner is a faster runner, for instance.

    I myself use kettlebells extensively, as well as barbells and running. On most runs I keep my heart rate at around 140 in order to facilitate recovery and decrease the chances of injury and over training. Since I’ve been working out for decades I am able to balance workload and intensity by intuition. Basically, if I feel like crap, I take a day off. Sometimes I stretch my own workout to 60 or 90 minutes, but rarely.

    Here is a link to an article I wrote, describing in part the process for helping a Soldier lose over 40 lbs, last year.


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