The Military Fitness Warm-Up

Any moderate exercise, such as jogging, is an ideal warm-up but all the muscle groups need to be worked. Walking, swimming and cycling can all be used as long as you take it steady. The general idea is to raise the pulse and get the blood circulating. The length of time spent warming up will depend on the ambient temperature. On a warm day, the minimum warm-up period is about six minutes, but on a cold day you will need to exercise for approximately 12 minutes.

Warming Up in a Gym

Jog around the gym. For the first three laps stay on your toes and exaggerate the knee lift. Start to exercise the arms on the fourth lap. Punch the arms high, first with the left arm and then with the right. On lap five, face inwards and run sideways, leading with the left leg.

Half-way through the lap, face outwards so that your right leg leads. On the next lap (lap six), hop for 10 m (33 ft) on one leg then change to the other. On lap seven, run backwards for half a lap and then forward again, punching your arms above your head.

When the seven laps are complete, stand with your legs one shoulder’s width apart, with hands on hips and elbows slightly forward. Breathe deeply, inhaling through the nose and out through the mouth.

Shuttle Runs

Select three lines about 10 m (33 ft) apart. You can use white lines on the gym floor, or they can be imaginary, or perhaps marked out with small objects such as coins. Just how long you make each line depends on your overall fitness. It is better to start with short lines of approximately 10-20 m (33-66 ft) in length.

Sprint to the end of the first line, touch the floor with the palm of your hand and sprint back to the start. Repeat the exercise for the middle and furthest line and return to the start. This is one set or repetition. Repeat this twice more to complete three sets. These shuttle runs are killers and really separate the men from the boys.

Using the same lines, we repeat the exercise, only this time we do five press-ups before sprinting back to the start. Run to the end of the middle line and do five ‘burpees’ before sprinting back. Now run to the farthest line and do five ‘crunches’ and return.

Repeat three times with a 30-second rest period between each set. Recover from the exercise with deep breathing until your respiration rate and heart rate have returned to normal.

REMEMBER: This warm-up period helps to prevent injury and prepares us for hard exercise. It should never be omitted.

Warming Up in a Restricted Space

Gyms are often crowded with either people or apparatus and it may not be possible to perform the sort of exercises described above. In this case, alternative warm-up routines will have to be found. You could run or cycle to the gym or perhaps the gym has exercise machines such as treadmills. Cycling machines and treadmills offer some very distinct advantages. Speed and distance can be varied on treadmills, while some tilt, simulating running uphill. The machines, being indoors, are not ‘weather dependent’. You are also mercifully saved from dogs, traffic and chilly winds. The machines exercise the cardio-vascular system and tone the muscles under the watchful eye of the gym instructor. Rowing machines are another variation on this theme. Some of these allow you to race against a rival crew. The graphics are great and at the very least you will not be bored! At the end of the warm-up, you are not far from a hot cup of something and a warm shower.

Warming Up Outdoors

You may be far from a gym but you can always warm up outdoors. The great difference is that if the weather is cold, a longer time must be spent on the warm-up and care must be taken if you are to avoid damaging cold muscles.

To warm up outdoors, you need to find an area of at least 25 x 25 m (82 x 82 ft). This should be large enough to complete the circuit and shuttle runs. The great advantage of outdoor training is that the space and fresh air are free! But take care to check that the ground you are to use is free from holes or humps that could cause you to turn and damage your ankles or trip you up.

Now that we have the body nice and warm, it is time to start flexing and stretching our muscles, tendons and ligaments to improve overall mobility.

Flexing and Stretching

When stretching we should always start at the top and work down the body

Head and Neck

Stand easily with hands on hips and legs one shoulder’s width apart. Rotate your head in a large circle, taking care to flex back as far as is comfortable and brush the upper chest with the chin. Do six repetitions clockwise and six counter-clockwise.

Now turn the head left and right, trying to see as far behind you as possible. Try to work up to 12 repetitions. Do this slowly at first. As your exercise programme progresses, the neck muscles will become more flexible and you will be able to do this at a faster rate.

Bend the head forwards until the chin touches the chest. Gradually flex the head back until you are looking at the sky. Repeat the exercise, starting to move your head to the right (as far as is comfortable). Do six ‘nods’ to the left and six to the right.

REMEMBER: Exercise must be fun, otherwise you will not want to continue doing it regularly. Try and do it with a companion or with a group of friends. Exercising to music makes it all the more enjoyable.

A lot of people appear to hate exercise, either because of bad experiences at school or other reasons. It is hard work but of course almost anything worthwhile has a price. The more you do, the easier it becomes and the more you will enjoy it. It can become an addiction, but this habit is good!

Shoulders

Stand as usual with your legs one shoulders width apart. Hold your arms parallel to the ground, fists slightly clenched. Circle the arms forwards for 12 repetitions and again backwards for 12 repetitions.

To practice co-ordination, do another 12 repetitions, only this time move the arms in opposite directions. Practice changing the direction of rotation of both arms.

We now continue the exercise while bending forward at the waist until the upper body is parallel to the ground. Do three repetitions on the way down and three on the way back up. Rotating your arms while bending forward is easy but revolving your arms while returning to the upright position requires more practice. This helps to perfect co-ordination.

Next, we start the exercise with the arms extended at the shoulder. Raise your arms above your head until the palms touch and then slap them down on the outside of the knees. Do 12 repetitions.

Stand up straight and circle your arms, keeping them as close to the body as possible. Do 12 repetitions forwards and another 12 in the reverse direction.

Trunk

Stand with left hand on hip, legs shoulder width apart. Bend to the right forcing the right hand to slide down to touch the right ankle. Remember, do not bend at the knees or allow the body to lean forwards. Repeat the exercise bending to the left. Do 12 repetitions on each side.

Standing with legs apart, try and place the palms of the hand on the ground as you reach forwards, back, left, right and then centre. Return to the standing position slowly. Do 12 repetitions in total.

Legs

We finally finish our warm up by stretching the hamstring muscles in the leg.

Stand upright with legs as wide apart as possible. Turn and pivot to the right, bending the left knee but keeping the right leg straight. Reach down and hold the right ankle for three seconds. Do six repetitions on each leg.

To end the warm-up, jog three slow laps of the gym, shaking out the limbs. .

Speed, Strength and Endurance Training

There are a wide range of exercises we can do to build up our strength, speed and stamina, falling under such headings as:

Callisthenics: These are the rigid, military-type, ‘parade ground’ exercises, designed to promote straight backs, raised chests and a shoulders-back attitude. Some regard a rigid military bearing as a painfully unnatural position but there are others willing to take a pride in themselves and undergo slight discomfort to look and feel the part. As the old adage goes ‘If you look good, you feel good’.

Anaerobic Exercise: Very few exercises are anaerobic. Anaerobic exercises tend to be fast, furious and short. During this type of exercise, energy and power are generated in the muscles without using oxygen from the blood. So this sort of exercise does not depend on regulating your breathing or having muscles well supplied with blood vessels. It is also very inefficient, producing only 10 per cent of the available energy compared to aerobic processes. Of all the standard track events, only the 100 metres is run without using oxygen from the blood. The essence of the 100 metres is, of course, fast sprinting, and this has led some doctors to speculate that anaerobic respiration was developed to provide early man with a short, fast burst of speed which helped him out-run predators.

Aerobic Exercise: Most exercise is aerobic, requiring increased heart and lung capacity. Aerobic exercise also includes endurance work-outs such as rowing, cycling and swimming and the longer track events such as the 800 and 1500 metres and, of course, the marathon. Aerobic exercise helps develop heart and lung capacity vital to overall fitness. Interval Training: Interval training is an extensive workout which builds up speed and strength without using weights. Intensive periods of exercise interspersed with short rest periods enable you to work longer and more efficiently. During each short ‘recovery’ period, the chemicals responsible for fatigue, such as lactic acid, are cleared from the muscles, energy-rich chemicals are regenerated and blood oxygen saturates the tissues.

Circuit Training: Circuit training is similar to interval training but here we include weights and exercise machines. You should aim to exercise all of the muscle groups in the body and complete as many repetitions in a given time as possible, before moving on to the next exercise.

Weight Training: This increases performance by increasing our strength. It also develops muscles which protect vulnerable areas, such as the straight muscles of the abdomen that guard the solar plexus against blows.

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