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An increasingly popular way of training

Some people can find keeping fit very boring and tedious, especially when going into the gym and doing the same things over and over again! Being dedicated to something that is boring is very hard to do, but recently, there has become an increasingly popular demand for military style fitness classes.

As soon as someone mentions the military, we automatically think of a strict instructor that will give you a beasting. But don’t be put off by the name! Don’t get me wrong, these classes are challenging, but they are mixed with the “fun factor” and are versatile in nature.

This style of class involves constantly varied functional movements which are performed at moderate-high intensity. The exercises fall into three main category’s; Cardio, Olympic weight lifting and gymnastics (Paine et al, 2010) and range from traditional barbell work, kettle bells, dumbbells and conditioning exercises like sit ups, squats and press-ups to crawling under nets, jumping over obstacles, rope climbing and running. Some exercises are performed for the best time (Complete the exercise as quickly as possible) whereas some exercises are performed to complete it as many times as possible within a given time frame e.g. completing as many squat jumps within 1 minuet, which is good to use as a marker of your progress (Smith et al, 2013). Military style fitness classes are very versatile and can be performed in pairs, groups, outside or inside; having a variety can help avoid boredom which will allow you to become more dedicated to your fitness. Did you know that recent research show that the majority of gym goers quit within the first 3-6 months!? (Enriquez, 2010).

What are the physical benefits?

If your goal is to lose weight and keep fit, then this style of class is for you! The average calories burned during an hour session at “British Military Fitness classes” at any level is 640. This can increase even higher the more times you attend the sessions (British military fitness, 2014). A lot of the exercises and drills in this style of class involve short bursts of high intensity exercise mixed with steady state exercise which is more beneficial for speeding up your metabolism than training at a constant intensity for a long period of time. Slow and steady does not always win the race, high intensity intervals help kick start your metabolism and allows you to carry on burning calories long after you have finished exercising (Tabata et al, 1997).
Military style training can help you Increase you cardiovascular fitness. Smith et al., (2013) conducted a study on the effects of a 10 week crossfit based High intensity power training programme and found that the VO2max ( cardiovascular fitness)of males significantly increased by 13.6% and by 11.8% in women. Not only that, but the programme also had a significant change in body fat levels, with a pre- post training change of 15.5%! According to Hawes et al, 2009, as well as feeling more energised and less fatigued with improved cardio vascular fitness, it may also improve….

  • mental health
  • Stress levels
  • Depression levels
  • Cognitive capacity

There are many different weight training exercises involved in military style fitness classes with many benefits. Body weight exercises such as burpees, press ups and squats are used frequently within this style of training. They are very good as they get you fatigued very quickly (so you don’t have to train as long) which is beneficial when you don’t have a lot of time on your hands. As well as this, as you are using you entire body to perform the exercises, it helps you develop a more fuller look rather than looking lean and muscular in the arms and not so much in the legs (Kuslikis, 2011). Olympic weight lifting exercises are also incorporated into military style fitness classes. This type of training has shown to make significant improvements on sprint and jump performance as well as improving your ability to change direction, your strength and power. (Hofferman et al, 2004; Hori et al, 2008; Haff & Potteiger, 2001). Paine et al., (2010) found that over an 8 week training programme the participants power output increased by 20%!


Are there any downsides?

There are always risks with any sort of exercise or training, some of which can be avoided! It is important for an individual to know their own personal limit. Some individuals make themselves very vulnerable to injury, especially when they exert too hard in a short amount of time (Cooperman, 2005). It is very important to periodise your training by having days of rest. Working from the bottom and then progressively increasing you training intensity and frequency is the best way to avoid injury and maximise your ability. Another risk of this type of training is when individuals are trying to perform as many reps as they can within a given time frame. There have been cases when individuals have been performing this style of training with weights that are too heavy. When using free weights it is important to get the technique correct rather than rushing to complete the exercises. If you get the technique wrong, you are not only cheating yourself but you are also increasing the chances of injury even further. Some injuries associated with this are separated shoulders, muscle strains and chronic muscle soreness. Using this style of exercising however, is very good with body weight exercises like burpees. This is because you are less likely to drop your technique as you have no added weight, and as you are performing quickly in a short amount of time, you also burn a lot of calories!


In Summary…

The positives of Military style fitness classes are:

  • They are fun
  • They are versatile
  • You wont be alone
  • Improves cardiovascular fitness
  • Increases strength
  • Increases power
  • Burns fat
  • Increases metabolism
  • Improves your mental wellbeing

To avoid injury make sure you:

  • Take part in a warm up and cool down
  • Know your personal limit and pace yourself
  • Use the correct techniques
  • Have enough days of rest to recover for your next session


British Military Fitness (2014) Benefits, [Online] available at: http://www.britmilfit.com/about-bmf/benefits/ 28/07/14
Cooperman, S. (2005) Getting Fit, Even If It Kills You, Physical Culture, New York Times [Online] available at: http://crossfittopsfield.typepad.com/my_weblog/files/NYTArticle.pdf 04/08/14
Enriquez, H. (2010) Fitness motivation ‘only lasts six months’, Health & Wellbeing, [Online] available at: http://health.ninemsn.com.au/fitness/exercise/1007406/fitness-motivation-lasts-six-months
Haff, G, G. & Potteiger, J, A. (2001) ‘A brief review: Explosive exercise and sports performance’, National Strength And Conditioning Association, 23(3), p.13-20.
Hawes, D, R., Grazioplene, R. and D’Ardenne (2009) Cardiovascular Fitness is Linked to Intelligence, Quilted Science: Patchword thoughts on psychology, neuroscience and human behaviour, Psychology today, [Online] available at: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/evolved-primate/200912/cardiovascular-fitness-is-linked-intelligence Hoffman, J, R., Cooper, J., Wendell, M. & Kang, J. (2004) Comparison on Olympic vs. traditional Power Lifting training programs in football players, Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 18(1), p. 129-135.
Hori, H., Newton, R, U., Andrews, W, A., Kawamori, N., McGuigan, M, R. & Nosaka, K. (2008) Does performance of hang power clean differentiate performance of jumping, sprinting and change of direction?, Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 22(2), p. 412-418.
Kuslikis (2011) Benefits of Bodyweight Exercises Over Usual Weightlifting, Super Trainer, [Online] available at: http://super-trainer.com/3-benefits-to-body-weight-exercises-over-traditional-weightlifting/ Paine, J., uptgraft, J. and Wylie, R. (2010) CROSSFIT STUDY, Command and General Staff College, [Online] available at: http://www.crossfitpraha.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/US-Army-Study.pdf, Smith, M, M., Sommer, A, J., Starkoff, B, E., Devor, S, T. (2013) Cross-fit Based High-Intensity Power Training Improves Maximal Aerobic Fitness and Body Composition, Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 27 (11), p. 3159-3172.
Tabata, I., Irisawa, K., Kouzaki, M. (1997) Metabolic profile of high intensity intermittent exercises, Department of Physiology and Biomechanics, National Institute of Fitness and Sports, Kanova City, Japan, Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 29 (3), p. 390-395.