The Bottom Line Up Front:
- Emphasize quality of work over quantity of work. Maximize the outcome of a minimalist approach.
- Resist the urge to add filler.
Being a lifter bro in the military is honestly a sweet gig. Its an encouraged lifestyle, and there are gyms out the butt on most military installations. Combine that with fairly easy 2-mile run time standards, and you can get righteously swole without really putting your career at risk. But there may come a time in your military career where you want to be a dummy and raise your hand for something that sounds really hard. A lot of us fall for that trap. And suddenly you are presented with a slew of endurance events you must pass in order to get whatever it is you set out to do.
Likewise for civilians, you may encounter something that spurs an effort to drastically increase your conditioning levels. Perhaps you took bulking a little too seriously and you now suffer while climbing the stairs. Or less grim, your wife has convinced the both of you to enter into some sort of adventure race obstacle course. Different lifestyle choices for sure, but the approach can remain the same.
My successful method was based on a stripped down 4 day workout split, but performed 6 days per week, and 3 days of running (but this can be any conditioning work, so long as it fits the template). During this time I was able to increase my aerobic capacity, improve my run times, and still bench over 300, deadlift over 400, at 205 lbs of twisted steel and sex appeal.
The Strength Work
For your strength work, you are going to have to have a good feel for your minimum effective volume. The way I approached it was using Wendler’s 5/3/1 for 6 days a week. Some would suggest that 5/3/1 is light on volume. Some would answer that by suggesting that your assistance work carries the burden of providing volume. But even 3 sets of bench + 5 sets of bench variation assistance work is 8 sets per week. For most people, this is still on the light side. I mitigated this with doing the 6 day split, which gave me 2 days of each main lift on every other week. One week I would bench and squat twice, the other week I would OHP and deadlift twice. I accumulated more volume by nudging the frequency a little bit.
With this added frequency, it is important to resist the urge to add a ton of accessory work. Your lifting sessions may seem shorter, but they will be very effective. If you add too much, you risk moving beyond your body’s ability to recover well from the previous workout. My rule of thumb for this work was a 10 minute rule. Anything I can’t get done in 10 minutes or less was to be avoided. For upper body work, it was pure bro lifts. On lower body days, it was typically movement based work like sleds, tires, short/steep hill sprints, etc. Each day would be accomplished in under 1 hour of good work.
Sample For Upper Body Work:
- Military press (per 5/3/1 progression)
- Seated dumbbell military press (5×10, 90 sec rest)
- Weighted pull ups (5×8, 90 sec rest)
- Tricep push downs (3×12, 60 sec rest)
- Straight bar curls (3×12, 60 sec rest)
Sample For Lower Body Work:
- Squat (per 5/3/1 progression)
- Front Squat (5×10, 90 sec rest)
- Leg curls (5×10, 90 sec rest)
- 12 flights of stadium step sprints (sprint up, walk down, no rest at the bottom)
The biggest takeaway I can offer is: Make every rep a quality rep. Don’t be sloppy. Junk volume isn’t good for building strength, but it is still quite effective at building fatigue.
In the same line of thinking as the strength work, you should emphasize the quality of your work. Its a balancing act, your body is adapting to strength work as well, so excess mileage will do nothing but overtax your body. I achieved quality by addressing 3 phases with 3 workouts per week, by putting a cap on mileage per day, and also by alternating conditioning work on days that I don’t do lower body work. I also happened to do this work in the morning, but that’s only due to Big Army asking politely that I wake up early sometimes to do workouts. Thankfully I belonged to units that at least gave me the freedom to dictate my own work, versus having some clueless goober leading a workout (prayers for you, if you’re still in that boat).
- Less than one mile of total working distance (walk/recovery distance isn’t counted)
- 20-30 minutes of total work
- Repetitions are max 400m in distance
- Work:Rest ratio of 1:2-3
- Roughly 3 miles of total working distance
- Roughly 30 minutes of total work
- “Work” reps typically 400-800m in distance, done at a goal target pace (my goal was a 30 minute 5 mile, so I aimed for 6:00 pace work)
- Recovery reps can be walking or jogging
- Low intensity mileage, breathing rate should be comfortable and controlled
- 40+ minutes of total work
- Total distance was based on no less than goal distance*1.25. For me, I was concerned with a 5 mile event, and my favorite route for this day was a 7 mile route.
The Final Picture
An average week would look like this:
|Day||Conditioning Work (Morning Workout)||Strength Work (Afternoon Workout)|
3x150m hill sprint
|Upper Body Strength Work|
|Tuesday||Rest||Lower Body Strength Work|
12x400m @3:00, aiming for 1:30/1:30
|Upper Body Strength Work|
|Thursday||Rest||Lower Body Strength Work|
|Friday||Low Intensity Mileage |
7 miles @ easy breezy pace
|Upper Body Strength Work|
|Saturday||Rest||Lower Body Strength Work|