Military-Style Workouts

Updated: October 31, 2020
In this Article

    There are military workouts created by non-military people intended to mimic the kinds of training you’ll get in preparation for boot camp and/or actual boot camp itself. And then there are military-type workouts recommended by recruiting officials from the various branches of military service that are designed specifically to help people get ready for basic training.

    What follows is not medical advice. The only medical advice you should take away from this article is that you should consult your primary care physician before starting any new workout, especially intensive ones.

    Your doctor will have the best medical advice for you and everything you read here should be considered only AFTER you talk to your care provider about your specific physical needs and requirements. And it’s not just us dispensing the “see your doctor” advice; the U.S. Army and other branches of service strongly recommend all newcomers to these workouts to consult a doctor first.

    Military-Style Workouts

    If you are looking for a military-style workout simply for the purpose of incorporating the rigor of military strength training into your routine, there are many resources, and you’ll find that some mimic the intensity of basic training but don’t duplicate the workouts exactly. Men’s Journal and Men’s Health Magazine are two resources offering such workouts, which may typically include some or all of the following:

    • Jumping Jacks
    • Windmills
    • Butt kicks
    • “High knees”
    • Overhead squats to march
    • Reverse lunges with arm raise
    • Spider Steps
    • T Pushups
    • Weight training (free weights/dumbbells, etc.)
    • Running/sprinting

    You can find plenty of resources for workouts like these on YouTube and other online platforms.

    Some online resources for military-type workouts include workout regimens designed specifically to prepare people for certain military tryouts and fitness tests., for example, has a workout designed to help people pass the Army Combat Fitness Test and includes an eight-week program with workouts designed to get you past day one all the way to the final day of the eight weeks.

    Such programs may include sit ups, pushups, pullups, running, marching with a heavy backpack, swimming, and more. Army combat fitness tests include timed workout efforts such as seeing how many pushups you can do in 60 seconds, etc.

    In today’s military fitness tests, the timed aspect of the tests is crucial–you aren’t asked to do X number of pushups, you’re asked to do as many pushups as you possibly can within the time limit–AND be ready to move on to the next phase of the test afterwards.

    And for those who aren’t sure what that really means, you should assume that endurance is a major factor in these tests. Building the right amount of endurance takes time, can’t be done in a short amount of time, and requires dedication to the end result.

    Military-Recommended Workouts

    Some ask, “Why should I bother looking at military inspired workouts when I can take advice directly from the military about how to prepare for basic training or the next fitness test?” And for many, that’s exactly what they do–they seek out the official instructions from their chosen branch of military service and customize their workout routine to match the recommendations.

    We can’t list all the military-recommended workouts here–there are different recommendations for the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Coast Guard, Air Force, and even separate suggestions for those joining the Guard or Reserve.

    But as examples of military-recommended workouts, look no further than the United States Army as a place to get started. Naturally, potential recruits should follow their branch of service’s guidelines, but if you aren’t sure which branch of service you want to join, the Army recommendations are a good place to start. Ditto for those who don’t have an interest in joining the military but who DO want a fitness program that can get you into military-style shape.


    The Army Fitness Program For New Recruits

    The United States Army official site provides a 14-week fitness program for those who have signed on the dotted line and will attend basic training at some point.

    The fitness program is available to all who are interested and the information is not restricted to new recruits–anyone can try the fitness program which is specifically designed to help get the human body physically ready for the demands of Army boot camp.

    Basic Army Workout Recommendations

    In general, the Army advises recruits to start physically training at least six weeks prior to basic training. The actual program is 14 weeks long and it’s best to tackle the entire 14 weeks before shipping out wherever possible. Army guidelines advise you to work out at least three to five times per week and include all areas of the fitness program including:

    • Stretching
    • Running
    • Push-ups
    • Sit-ups/crunches

    One thing you will notice about the Army’s fitness program is that there’s a gradual progression from Day One to the final day of the routine. You won’t start out doing a full-length PT test style run; in fact the first day has you walking much more than running. The first day’s workout includes the following:

    • Five minute stretch/warm-up
    • Two minute sit-/push-up intervals
    • Five minute walk
    • One minute jog
    • Three-to-five minute walk
    • Two minute stretch

    All of that seems fairly low-impact, and that is by design. You are expected to do all of the above in a single session repeated three to five times per week.

    The workouts are designed to gradually increase in intensity. Here’s the workout you are expected to be ready for by Week Seven of the program:

    • Five minute stretch/warm-up
    • Six minute sit-up/push-up intervals
    • Four minute walk
    • Eight minute jog
    • Four minute walk
    • Eight minute jog
    • Three to five minute walk
    • Two minute stretch

    Compare the introduction to the mid-way point and final week of the program which includes the following, all in a single session done three to five times per week:

    • Five minute stretch/warm-up
    • Two minute sit-/push-up intervals
    • Three minute jog
    • 17-minute run
    • Three-to-five minute walk
    • Two minute stretch

    The Army doesn’t expect people to know the proper form or procedures for stretching, push-ups, sit-ups, etc. and provides guidance on how to do the exercises properly in order to pass the fitness tests administered in basic training and beyond.

    For stretching, recommendations are to begin five to seven minutes before and after the workout, and all stretching should be done slowly, deliberately, and without bouncing or sudden changes in stance or posture. No jerking motions, rapid position changes, etc.

    Those new to running are advised by the Army to ease into the running portion (hence the walking/running combinations, etc). You should keep a steady pace while running, and “initially build your pace until you can run consistently for 30 to 40 minutes.”

    For Army sit-ups, the requirement is to lie with the feet together or as much as 12 inches apart and keep the knees bent at a 90-degree angle. A spotter is recommended to hold your feet secure at the ankles. The actual sit-up procedure is as follows:

    • Cross your arms over the chest
    • Bring the upper body forward until your elbows touch the top of the knees
    • Lower your body back to the ground
    • Repeat

    For best results, and to anticipate what you will be required to do in Basic Training, any resting you do while performing the sit-ups, “must be done in the up position.”

    The Army push-up requirements include getting into pushup position (which the Army straight-facedly calls the “front-leaning rest position”) with the arms shoulder-width apart, feet touching, and your body should form a straight line. The head must be kept up during the push-up, which must happen as follows:

    • Lower your upper body from the “rest” position (arms extended with the body elevated) until your upper arms are at least parallel to the floor (elbows bent at 90 degrees)
    • Push up from the lowered position until your arms are fully extended for one repetition
    • Resting must be done in the up position, hence the term “front leaning rest position”

    Remember that gradual improvements in strength and endurance are the goals. You won’t see instant results, and you won’t be able to make this program work in its intended fashion–to get the body ready for the rigors of boot camp–without working out consistently, regularly, and often.

    About The AuthorJoe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter for Air Force Television News

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