Armory, Self Defense, And EDC > Martial Arts, Unarmed Self Defense, Hand To Hand Combat, and Physical Fitness

Physical Fitness and the Prepper: Or, the Chemsoldier changes how he exercises

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Physical Fitness and the Prepper

This section is called "Martial Arts, Unarmed Self Defense, Hand To Hand Combat, and Physical Fitness."

But it seems that we always talk about martial arts and combatives and rarely about fitness and physical training.  This seems like a shame so I will make my contribution.  Many preppers will go their whole lives without getting into a fight.  All of us though, will find our physical readiness an important factor in our activities on a nearly daily basis.

I was an active and outdoorsy kid and did my share of youth league sports until high school. At that point my only athletic endeavors were Army PT.  My physical fitness pursuits after that was all based around the Army Physical Fitness Test events, Push-Up, Sit-Up and running with a bit of pull-ups thrown in because Airborne.  That eventuallt led to some injuries and finally I started to learn a bit about fitness and think maybe there was more to fitness than the Army Physical Fitness Test.  So I talked to some people I respected and did a lot of reading (per usual), and finally decided how I was going to change how I conducted physical preparation.

“Strong people are harder to kill than weak people, and more useful in general.”
-Mark Rippetoe

After an adulthood  of long, slow running and body weight calisthenics, I decided that getting stronger without compromising the cardio abilities that were key to excelling at the PT test.  After study and such I started lifting weights (squat, deadlift, bench, power cleans, etc.) and doing some circuits that are somewhat similar to football circuit training (weighted sled pushes, sprints, ball slams, box jumps, etc).  I am managing the strength training 3 times a week in addition to the normal Army PT 5 days a week. 

I have to say that I am very happy with the results.  I have a much easier time moving under a load, picking up the kids and loading and unloading the car is much easier now.  I carried my youngest for over a mile after a public event.  I simply couldn’t have done it 6 months ago.  Finally some elements of cardio actually seem improved by this.  I have a lot more gas, especially sprinting up hills.  It is something where I am seeing an improved level of performance on a daily basis.  I am moving things easier than I would have before.  I have noticed a more pronounced increase in energy than I was getting from steady state cardio.   My posture has improved.  Oh, and the wife says I am getting more muscular and she approves.  ;)

From a prepping standpoint I think this has been a big win.  Moving heavy things is really handy as I look at tasks to be done in some of the scenarios I have planned.  Loading the car rapidly to bug out.  Picking up my kid and running a long distance.  Picking up and moving my spouse if she is injured.  Changing tires on the truck.  Rucking.  Figure farmer’s carries are important if you are gardening?  I have found it so.  Survival is about unreasonable circumstances, and simply doing what you do every day (no matter how strenuous) is not preparing you for these unreasonable demands.

Despite being a prep for unreasonable situations, it is something I find useful every day and will continue to even if life is boringly suburban for the rest of my life.

My recommendation:  Most anyone could benefit from getting stronger.  I am not saying you need to devote tons of time to it, or try to get massively and overtly strong, but Rippetoe is right, I feel much more generally useful than I used to be.  Lifting heavy things is good training and the overload of this training is great preparation.

As a Soldier I put a lot of stock in being able to pick up and carry your battle buddy.  Don’t be afraid to get help on learning this stuff.  Reading and youtube videos are great and you should absolutely use them.  But nothing beats feedback from a real person.

Lift weights, free weights and not just super light weight high rep work.  Barbell exercises, combined with circuit style training WORKS. 


The Purposeful Primitive by Marty Gallagher:  A great bare bones look at training from a guy who writes pretty well.  He reinforces that this can be as time intensive as you want or fairly minimal…as long as you are willing to work HARD when you are training.  Anyone who tells you different is selling something.

Starting Strength by Mark Rippetoe:  Long and wordy (though colorful at times) but as close as you can get to teaching how to lift from a book. Has extremely detailed, well articulated explanations of why to lift, how to lift (down to the mechanics of the exercise) and programming.  If you really want to understand how it works, how the muscles, bones and angles all work together to make a squat or deadlift work, this is the source to go with.

Wild Colonial Boy:
Its amazing how much damage one does to ones body whilst in the Services. Most via PT.

I fully concur that fitness (much like insurance) is an everyday prep that is overlooked by many in the community (you just need to spend a few hours on youtube to form that opinion).

In addition to circuit training have you every used the TRX Suspension training system either in the field or in Barracks.  I've heard positive results from a number of guys and have been agonising over whether I should buy the kit or not.  Any opinions?

I concur, I need to find something better than what I've been doing.  While I can still walk the legs off just about anyone, the fire academy has revealed my upper body weakness.  While the academy itself has certainly helped, I need to build off this foundation going forward.  There's nothing worse than standing in that narrow stairwell shoving hose and hard and fast as you can and running out of juice in your grip strength or shoulder... and then having a real emergency where you might need that strength to save a life, possibly your own.

any kind of exercise is good, it does not have to be alot of heavy strenuous, maybe some of that is good but too much may actually not be  .. if it's fun or something productive that's better, why should exercise be boring ? I like walking, riding a bike, paddle canoe, surfing, cutting wood, splitting wood, kung fu, thai chi. surfing can be super exhilarating for some reason, maybe because of the salt water ..

Completely agree, this is a much needed topic in this community. The references in the OP (Rippetoe and Gallagher) are excellent. Two others I like a lot are Robert dos Remedios (NASC award winner and S&C coach at a small college in So Cal), and Dan John (S&C coach to Olympic level track & field athletes and NFL pros).

If you're over 40, read Dan John's Intervention. Excellent book that will have you focused on keeping/improving quality of life as you age.


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