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Old Forum Kettlebells and the Army PT test

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A few months ago I posted some articles regarding one of my soldiers whom needed to lose weight and increase his fitness in order to stay in the Army. On a diet of barbells, kettlebells, and classically sensible eating, he managed to lose almost 50 lbs in only a few months and to score his highest PT (physical training) test score ever.

I've since returned from Afghanistan and purchased my own kettlebell, a 70 lber, and have some observations to share about the kettlebell's capabilities, as well as some of the other techniques advocated at Strong First, in building incredible fitness.  I don't claim the way I've done things is the best in all circumstances, but it certainly seems to be a very adequate form of GPP.

I am not new to kettlebell training, having used kbs since Pavel's original publications. I did not train with kettlebells for a few years because my two kettlebells were lost when they were placed in storage during a move and most gyms during that time did not have kbs.

Time have changed, and since my arrival at Ft. Drum and the 10th mountain Division, there's been plenty of access to kbs; there's some in almost every gym on post and good weight selections too. I began using kbs semi-regularly just before last year's deployment, mostly mixing in heavy swings and snatches with barbell squats.  I did the same thing in Afghanistan with a bit more run training.

When I got back to the States, the whole unit was given significant time off. I stay on top of my fitness even when not training with my unit; it's simply part of me now. I hurt my upper back, which prevented me from using barbells in my training, and during our leave, I did not do any running. But I did purchase a 70 lb kb and began training quite rigorously with it.

In Pavel's original kb book, RKC, he writes about athletes that prefer instinctual training to a hard schedule, and this definitely fits my style. Part of this instinct is knowing when to back off and when to push; I don't need a spread sheet to tell me this after training for decades.  The kb is perfect for this model. Merely walking through my living room and picking a 70 lb kb off the floor a few times can constitute an extremely low volume day that keeps me properly tweaked.  When I want to really push things, I'll usually mix the kb in a circuit with bodyweight training, preferable hindu pushups, air squats, jump squats, knuckle push ups and holding the plank.  My primary kettlebell movements are the two-handed swing, one handed swing, push-press, and military press.

After almost a month of leave, I used kbs to ensure that I was prepared to meet the unit's training demands when I returned. The time off from significant training was good for me, and further reinforced the maxim of cycling load and intensity. More on that in a minute. As I stated earlier, I didn't run at all during my leave time, but you'll see later this wasn't an issue at all. A week prior to ending my leave, I did the following routine, twice a day for three consecutive days, to ready myself for duty.

20 reps/ 4 sets 2 hand kb swings w/ 70 lb kb

50 hindu pushups,

100 airsquats

GTG military press with 70 lbs as desired. Usually ended up being no more than 5 reps per arm.

I also mixed in a random amount of push-presses.

I believe in throwing in some days in which I push myself beyond my normal envelope. I've recently read some articles about GPP in which the author advocated training for 90 minutes at least on some occasions and I think this idea did wonders for me. I believe we have to break away from the Crossfit dogma and get back to some of the classic basics. There are various ways I put in longer and tougher workouts. for instance, during the Super Bowl, I'd do 10 1-handed kb swings per arm and 5 push-presses per arm with the 70 during all the commercials. Not sure how many I did in total, but I ended up training in a GTG manner for almost 3 hours.

Out physical training schedule at my unit looks something like this:

Monday: Distance run; usually 3-6 miles.

Tuesday: Sprinting; 8-10 100 meter sprints or 6 200 meter sprints

Wednesday: Weight room; training is usually laissez faire, but I usually focus on pullups, kettlebells and plank.  Usually a couple of soldier will join me in a session pullup ladders. In my experience, one session of very high volume pullups in the ladder format is all we need to push our numbers to high levels. Using this format and the added benefit of kbs, I can easily max the Marine Corps' pullup standard of 20 strict pullups, even at the age of 42.

Thursday: Ruck march training; 4-6 miles with 35 lb ruck. Some of these marches are at "forced march" pace and are more taxing than you'd expect.

Friday: Either circuit training or Army combatives (the Army's martial art) training.

This format is not set in stone. Some days we have other things to due during PT hours.

I recently took the Army's APFT (physical training test). Again, I'm 42 years old and my recent training has been relatively irregular, though by no means sparse. As noted above, I only run for distance one day a week.  The three events the Army tests are: 2 minutes pushups, 2 minutes situps, and a two mile run for time. Note that in the last 3 months I have not done no situp training that I can remember; planks and the ab work from 1-hand kb swings have been my staple.

My numbers on the test? 82 pushups, 74 situps, 12:10 2-mile run. For the 42 year old age bracket this puts me in the top 1%. I never felt that I pushed myself in my training, or focused on the PT test. If I did, my numbers would have been even better.

A few conclusions:

The push-press and kb jerk are effective in improving lower body stiffness, and important aspect in running.
The plank, held for various times, between 1 minute, and yes, even to 5 minutes and beyond, is a very powerful core stabilizer, and probably improves all athletic efforts.
Mixing heavy, 1 handed kb swings into your routines will provide results beyond the effort given.
The "same but different"  and controlled chaos formats work wonders. The Crossfit protocol which maximizes chaos is inferior to a handful of similar movements that work the same motions and muscles to varying and slightly different degrees. Additionally, blowing yourself out of the water with volume and intensity every workout destroys strength and well being, and does not provide adequate compensation in other areas of fitness.
Working in longer sessions that go beyond the present day dogma is beneficial. The "20 minutes of intense training is always enough", seems untrue to me. Note this is a change in my own thinking.
Everything is cyclical.
Classical common sense reigns in diet. Three meals a day, with carbohydrates, protein and fat worked best for me.  My breakfast is usually a three egg omelette with cheese and some bacon and a bowl of oatmeal. If my great grandparents would not have eaten or drank it, neither do I . I drink water, beer, wine, and a very little milk. On inactive days I may only eat two meals, based of energy levels. Stay away from sugar. Gatorade and soda will make you fat, dumb and stupid IMO.

I hope this is helpful to some.

SSG Douglas Moore
2-22IN Battalion
"Deeds Not Words"
And sorry for the few typos; I typed and hit enter, but I think you'll get the message.
Douglas, thank you for your post!

Good observations.  You are right that an occasional long training session, high in both volume and intensity, is a good idea.

Thank you for your service.

Not a bad program. Thank you for the insights. If all of us military types band together and share info maybe we can all score a 300+ like you. Very inspiring thank you.
SSG Moore,

I have been working with several units at Ft Benning using kettlebells and have had great success. Nice to see I'm not alone! My husband was in B co Triple Deuce when we were at Drum. I'll be traveling to Ft Drum to teach a class at Atkins in March. I'll look for someone swinging the big bells!


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