Military Style Muscle-Training, Shape Up or Ship Out!


Perhaps you’re tired of the same cut and dry routine you’ve been using for ages, or maybe it’s just not seeing the same results as when you first began. There comes a time for us all when we have to up our routine, push ourselves harder to see results come back. Think for a moment about any service member in any unit of any military branch anywhere, and you’ll immediately notice the one thing they all share in common. They’re cut and have extremely low body fat percentages due to a routine they’re put on from the moment they enter boot camp and beyond. The recent winner of the U.S. Army Drill Sergeant of the Year award, SSG Sarvis helps to explain how to get these results from home.

Basic training (boot camp) is where soldiers are trained using a training circular 3.22-20, which is an approach to fitness that is both scientific and appropriate for any level of fitness. They learn how to conduct basic exercises while focusing on readiness training, consisting of precision, progression and integration. The goal is to build strength, mobility, and endurance of soldiers and a reduction in injuries for battlefield enhancement. The first few weeks can be hellish, commonly referred to as the “toughening phase” where the focus is on progressive training of the entire body. Intensity is expected to progress gradually, and performance is expected to be as precise as possible to limit potential injuries.

The reason a military style workout works at all is the whole body approach to this. Physical readiness training is for functional purposes whereas traditional weight training tends to be more for aesthetic purposes, not muscles you’ll be using daily. PRT programs build muscles and increase endurance, all while developing better agility, balance, coordination, flexibility, posture, speed and power with less chance of injury. It’s what the Army calls a “tactical athlete” and it works. It combines the best parts of a gymnast, swimmer, track runner, and weight lifter into one tight package.

For cardio, SSG Sarvis recommends 30/60’s and 60/120’s, where you sprint as fast as you can for 30 seconds, then walk for 60 seconds. The same can be applied for the second set of numbers. The runs help with speed and endurance for long runs, as well as allowing for an intense and effective workout within a short span of time. Soldiers report that after 10 weeks they’re in the best shape of their lives. The training that a military workout gives should be done 5-6 days a week, alternating muscle training and endurance days with aerobic or anaerobic endurance days (cardio). Soldiers are tested and proven to perform significantly better on their two mile runs, two minute sit-ups and two minute push-ups, which are considered some of the biggest direct indicators that it’s working.

The best part of this entire thing is that anyone at any fitness level can do it, they can take someone who is grossly out of shape and work them into a battle-ready machine in ten weeks flat. All it takes is discipline, commitment, and dedication to see the results, after all, you won’t have the benefit of SSG Sarvis breathing down your neck to “get down and give me 20”. The end result here is building lean muscle mass, which is the kind made for exerting effort daily (working muscle as opposed to aesthetic bulk) and becoming more fit overall.

The core workout can be done at any time during the week you find the time, and the conditioning drills ought to be performed on an every other day sequence. Do 15-20 reps of each exercise in the conditioning drill before moving to the next movement as quickly and efficiently as possible. Once finished, rest for 1-2 minutes, then repeat a second and third time through. It’s a lot of exercises and by the third round, it’s alright to tap out if you can’t get that far yet, if you stick with it, you will.


  • Bent leg raise (60 seconds)
  • Side bridge (60 seconds)
  • Back bridge (60 seconds)
  • Plank (60 seconds)


  • Power jump
  • V-up
  • Mountain climber
  • Leg-tuck and twist
  • Single-leg push-up


  • Turn and lunge
  • Bicycle
  • Half jack
  • Swimmer
  • Push-up


  • Sumo squat
  • Single-leg dead lift
  • Side-to-side knee lifts
  • Front kick alternating to touch
  • Tuck jump
  • Straddle run forward and backward
  • Half-squat lateral shuffle
  • Frog jumps
  • Quarter-turn jump
  • Jump lunge

If you don’t know what the exercises are, you can find most if not all of them online. Another popular site to get great ideas for military style exercise and fitness is which gives plenty of new ideas to any tired workout routine. This pyramid warmup and advanced circuit training for your upper body mixes in a bit of running and swimming to keep working every muscle group. If you were told to swim without water, it’d be a tough thing to follow through with, and how would it work anyway? Luckily the military has this one covered also, because they don’t always have access to a pool. While preparing for a fitness swim, they recommend this exercise which builds up muscular endurance using back muscles, biceps, shoulders and triceps.

The best thing you can do for yourself before taking on this military style challenge, is to get your head in the game first. Be completely prepared to push yourself to exhaustion every time, be ready to work hard, and put in the time necessary to seeing the results of this. The end result speaks for itself highly in the capability of every soldier who ever leaves basic training, roped in lean muscle and capable of running for long stretches without exhausting themselves. With the proper motivation and dedication you can see the same thing for yourself, and just remember that maintenance will keep it that way. If you find yourself short on time, don’t skip the routine, it’s better to even attempt parts of it than to skip it, or you’re tossing out the end result before you even give it a chance.


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