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    Survival Fitness: How Fighters & Soldiers Stay in Shape

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    Survival Fitness: How Fighters & Soldiers Stay in Shape

    Many of us have spent countless hours preparing our homes, vehicles, and properties for possible SHTF scenarios. Whether it's an EMP blast or another pandemic, we understand the importance of having our homes and gear prepared. But what about our bodies?

    The truth is, many preppers neglect the one tool they know they will have to rely on when the SHTF, their body. If you can't run, duck, dive, or crawl, you are at a severe disadvantage. Of course, some of us have our physical issues, but we must strive to be more capable even within our limitations.

    This perseverance is something you see echoed in elite military members and professional fighters. These individuals are continually preparing their minds and bodies for a possible future confrontation.

    Shadowboxing, reloading drills, even simple strength training have their place in proper readiness.

    I want to spend some time looking at why preppers should be working out more, how soldiers and fighters do it outside of a gym, and why there is no good excuse for you not to. We will also spend a few minutes going over some basic exercises and routines you can do today in the space allotted to an average bedroom.

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    Working Out For Prepping

    Regardless of the amount of gear you have or the level of preparation you have put into your home, it is all worthless if you can't move, fight, or run with any effectiveness. While we all have our personal challenges and limitations, being physically prepared for action is as important as any other prepping aspect.

    Being physically fit reduces your health concerns, gives you a better quality of life, and makes you more able to handle a crisis quickly and effectively. Reaction times, motivation, energy levels, and countless other intangible benefits occur for staying physically active. There is a reason that special forces, SWAT, and other operating forces maintain such a high level of physical readiness.

    Eating healthy isn't fun, and neither is working out, but both are necessary if you want to be able to thrive when SHTF. You don't want to waddle through the apocalypse.

    No Excuses: Gyms Can Be Made Anywhere You Need Them

    What if you are somewhere without access to any gym equipment? Maybe you've been forced to shack up somewhere or need to operate in a locale where you don't have easy access to some weights.

    This happens a lot, and eventually, when a group of soldiers or fighters are stuck in an area long enough, they will develop creative ways of working out. Even soldiers stuck in the most remote locations will eventually shamble together a respectful workout space.

    We covered how important staying in shape is, and how important it is to remain combat effective, so it only makes sense that semi-gyms pop up and stay active throughout combat zones. Working out is also great for your mental health.

    Soldiers Working With Makeshift Equipment

    Soldiers and Marines will often use ammo cans, sandbags, and other makeshift items as stand-ins for regular gym equipment. In fact, homemade barbells and dumbbells became items of fine craftsmanship at certain locations during the Iraq war.

    As an interesting aside, concrete barbells are something I have seen both soldiers and monks in Thailand utilizing as cheap workout devices (I couldn’t find my personal photos, but found a stock photo from the same temple in Chiang Mai). The ones I saw in person were simply two coffee cans filled with cement with a barbell stuck between the two of them.

    Stone locks are an option used in traditional martial arts training and are very similar to modern kettlebells. It shows just how simple a workout device can be

    Ammo cans or bags filled with sand can also be utilized in place of weights. There are whole routines and training charts to help you get a full-body workout with nothing but a sandbag.

    Working Out With A Sandbag

    Really any rope can work as a jump rope if it is the proper length. If you want a real workout, try jumping rope with a  decent sized chain.

    A Basic Guideline: The USMC Combat Fitness Test

    A good example of an attempt at practical, outside-of-the-gym combat-based physical fitness training is the Marine Corps The Combat Fitness Test (CFT). Created and implemented during the Iraq and Afghan wars, the CFT was the Corps' way to try and update their physical fitness challenges to more closely mirror combat demands. For a prepper, these can operate as a simple baseline for evaluating your combat effectiveness.

    The CFT has three events:

    1. A timed, 880-yard sprint
    2. Lifting 30-pound ammo can overhead, until elbows locked out, as many times as possible in two minutes.
    3. A 300-yard shuttle run that incorporates a variety of combat-related tasks, including crawls, carries, ammunition resupply, grenade throwing, and agility running.
    Doing The Ammunition Lift

    The CFT is also used in accordance with the traditional USMC Physical Fitness Test (PFT) which consists of:

    • A Three-mile run in at least 28 minutes.
    • 100-Sit ups in under two-minutes (or at least 70)
    • Pull-Ups. You must do at least three in one attempt on the bar, and can do up to twenty (for maximum points) in one attempt.

    While these challenges don’t require you to be a super athlete by any means, attempting some of these can be a reality check and can serve as a baseline for figuring out what you need to work on to get a basic level of “combat readiness.”

    Exercises You Can Do at Home, on the Road, or in the Field

    We have briefly covered why exercising is important, how you can do it anywhere, and ways to augment your DIY gym. Now we end with some basic exercises you can do with minimal gear or space. Afterward, we will quickly look at how these can come together for a typical on-the-road workout.

    Mountain Climbers

    Mountain climbers are a simple exercise that takes almost no space and quickly gets the heart-rate up. A mountain climber works multiple muscles throughout the body and pushes your agility.

    To do a mountain climber, simply go down into a pushup or ‘plank' position with your shoulders over your wrists. Start by bringing one knee towards your chest, keeping the rest of your body controlled. Return the leg and repeat on the other side.

    Man Doing Mountain Climbers Exercise

    Eventually, you will speed this process up in order to boost your cardio benefits. Try to do the mountain climbers in multiple sets.

    To start, go for about twenty seconds, rest for ten seconds, and repeat. Do this for around two minutes to start and adjust the times and number of rounds accordingly.

    Jump Rope

    A fighter's favorite. A jump rope is super simple, yet can be made complex and can take decades to master. Jumping ropes helps not only your cardio and leg strength but your coordination, balance, and agility as well. Once you can get decent at jumping rope, you are ready to dance.

    Most fighters will warm up with a jump rope and do their round time equivalent (i.e., an MMA fighter will regularly start with a jump rope session for at least three five minute rounds, or perhaps one fifteen-minute round).

    Those of us who are not professional athletes should start with a few rounds of around 2 minutes each. See how you feel and adjust the times/rounds accordingly.

    Shadow Boxing

    The king of anywhere, anytime workouts. It is almost crazy how fast you can work up a sweat and get yourself breathing heavily when you do some serious shadow boxing.

    While everyone has their own quirks, there is no real secret to shadow boxing. You are simply pantomiming a fight with an imaginary opponent. The only catch is, you need to have at least some experience with proper fighting footwork, blocks, and attacks in order to know what to do.

    You also need to have a little sparring experience in order to know what to imagine and pantomime around. A mirror helps a lot and can be a useful tool for seeing your fighting form.

    To start on your own, learn a few easy boxing (and eventually kickboxing) combinations and do them slowly with the proper form to build that muscle memory. Eventually, string a series of these combinations together with some footwork and a few blocks and you are doing the basics of shadowboxing.

    Like the jump rope, fighters will often shadow box in the same time intervals as their rounds (typically five-minute sessions with a quick break between). Like the jump rope, it is recommended for beginners to start with 3-5 rounds of 2-minutes each.

    The Heavy Bag

    Once you have the combinations down, and if you have the space and materials, it can be worth it to put up a heavy bag. Working a bag into your sessions occasionally allows you to also build the striking strength and durability of arms and legs. Throw enough padding around a pole or tree and you have a very basic heavy bag.

    Boxing Punching Bag Made Of Tires

    A classic is the homemade punching bag made of tires you can suspend from any tree, pole, or roof.

    Box Jumps

    Jump up and down on a (stable) box or raised surface for a couple minutes at a time. Adjust for difficulty. This is another exercise that people forget about but is amazingly practical.

    Girl Doing Box Jumps Exercise

    Other Common Exercises

    Anyone who has worked out often knows that a list like this could go on forever. I tried to focus on workouts that you may not have considered that have a general combat-ready purpose.

    For brevity’s sake, here are some more basic exercises you should familiarize yourself with and that don’t take a bunch of room to do.

    • Indian Pushups are great. Clapping pushups help train your punching muscles better.
    • Burpees
    • Jumping Jacks
    • Squats and Lunges
    • Sit-ups, side-sit ups, and leg raises
    • Dips (easy to do off a bed or chair)
    • Pull-Ups

    All of these are easy to get videos and instructions on with a quick Youtube search. Hundreds of options will show up. Just try and be discerning with who you learn from.

    Example Workouts

    Just as with the exercises, the number of routines and ideas floating around online are endless. The following are a couple quick examples that can be done without much experience and are proven to be effective.

    The Fighter in the Hotel Room Workout

    For a fighter, a basic hotel room workout might look something like this:

    5 x 5-minute sets

    Each consists of:

    • A minute of rapid crunches
    • A minute of rapid pushups (clapping pushups if possible).
    • A minute of mountain climbers
    • A minute of burpees
    • Rest for a minute (just like a fight) and then start the next round.

    This should also be followed with at least three rounds of shadowboxing.

    This workout is good for cardio and focuses on the core, with plenty of explosive movements coming through the limbs.

    The Anywhere Workout

    Just as with the fighter workout, this is a basic full-body workout that focuses on practical and applicable movements that you do anywhere.

    3-5 Sets Consisting of:

    • Pull-ups (Max number)
    • 20-50 Dips
    • 20-50 Push-Ups
    • 20-50 Sit-Ups
    • 20-50 Burpees
    • 20-50 Lunges

    Warm-up with some jumping jacks beforehand, and go for a run or a jog afterward. If you can’t leave the area, jump some rope or run up and down some stairs for a few minutes.

    Pedro Solana Warming Up

    There are Many Options for Getting in Fighting Shape

    It doesn't always have to be traditional exercises like pushups or lifting weights. This is a video taught by a former Muay Thai Champion Pedro Solana, demonstrating some full-body warmups for a fight camp.

    Doing each of these warmups for a few minutes is guaranteed to work you out and provide you with a full range of usable strength. It can take some time to get the agility and strength required for all the movements.

    The point is, you need to be preparing your body as much as anything else. Without preparing the speed, agility, and strength needed to defend yourself, it's like leaving the sights off your guns and the locks off your doors.

    Hopefully, this helped to motivate you to get moving—even during the times of global lockdown—and helped show that you have no excuses for not staying in shape, no matter where you are.

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