I can't help but look at the fitness world today and ask myself "What the F%&K happened?"
It was not until the early to mid 1900's did we even NEED a "gym" to workout in. Before then, people were active enough just working in a factory in New York or a field in Nebraska. Even since then, we've gone from sweaty warehouses with a couple bars and some rusty weights, to air conditioned huge buildings with treadmills as far as the eye can see. Wouldn't want to break a sweat while running, so it's a good thing we have fans built in to the treadmills. No scenery to take in? That's fine; we'll replace it with a TV or ten.
This is why I train like I do. With "old school" equipment and minimal luxuries. I first got into this style training about 3 years back. I was almost off of active duty in the US Army and decided to get out of the "running 5 miles a day" mindset and back into the "lift heavy ass weight" frame of mind. Problem was, I enjoyed training in the outdoors and couldn't just jump back into the confines of 4 cold walls with air conditioning. The Solution, unconventional strength and conditioning.
Now-a-days, I don't even own a conventional barbell.
The equipment I train with is old bulldozer tires, military duffle bags stuffed to the gills with sand, beer kegs filled with sand and water, rocks that I found on the side of the road and all kinds of weird stuff that I never thought of when I was training in a gym. I'll admit that sometimes Ill head down to StrengthCamp and train with the great bunch of guys down in St Petersburg, Florida, but that's the closest ill come to training in a gym environment. (For those who have never heard of Elliott Hulses' StrengthCamp, it's a warehouse gym with minimal conventional equipment and absolutely NO air conditioning or modern day amenities.)
My main focus with my training is staying in shape for the Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT) and staying as big and strong as possible while doing so. I learned long ago that the Army's version of Physical Training will keep you in shape for the APFT, but that's about it. No real strength will be had from it. Now that I'm a reservist, I can choose what style of training I do on my own and as long as I pass the requirements of the US Army, I'm considered within standards. Seeing I didn't break a pound over 220lbs on active duty, this makes much more sense to me, being a meathead and all.
So how do I stay in standard with US Army, and maintain my 275Lb frame? Through a form of High Intensity Interval Training that I've manipulated for Military and Para-military members specifically. An example of a typical training day for me is as follows
450lb tire flip: 3 sets of as many reps as possible in a 1 minute time frame.
Tire sled, loaded with a 100lb sandbag: 25 yards forward, 25 yards backwards. 3 sets, 90 second rest
Truck push: 50 yard push. 3 sets, 2 minute rest
Sledge hammer slams for minimum time: 20 right side, 20 left side. 3 sets, 90 second rest.
The secret to staying in peak cardiovascular shape here is not to cheat yourself on the rest periods. You MUST keep your heart rate elevated the entire time. If you're like me and absolutely despise long distance running, this is the golden ticket to keeping your body in condition to withstand a long distance run. At my current bodyweight, my joints couldn't bear running 2-3 miles every day; it just wouldn't happen. I actually only run once a week and it's only for my required distance of 2 miles and not an inch more. I don't think that running the 2 miles actually helps my conditioning all that much. The benefit from the run is so my body stays accustom to the beating it takes during a run. The majority of my cardiovascular conditioning comes from the Interval strength training I perform.
Your typical meathead is usually more than prepared when it comes to push-ups and sit-ups, which is why minimal time gets put into training the ACTUAL events. Obviously, if you are weak in a certain event, you need to focus more training to the lagging muscle groups.
The icing on the cake of this style of training is the cost. No gym Is needed, and minimal equipment needs to be purchased. Tires can be acquired for free from commercial tire companies who have to pay to dispose of the old tires. They'll probably help you load the thing in the back of your truck and thank you for taking it off their hands. Sandbags can be made for less than 20 dollars, Used kegs can be purchased from bars for cheap and rocks are found just about anywhere there is nature. The most expensive piece of equipment I own is a set of Wal-Mart dumbbell handles with 150lbs of weight.
I feel I must warn you ahead of time, this style of training is NOT for everyone. If a person cannot stand a little bit of pain, maybe some scratches and bruises and a whole lot of sweat, then this isn't for them. The level of dedication required to train with these primitive objects is high. You must release your inner masochist and push yourself past your comfort zone. There are no pretty machines and juice bars in the great outdoors, but if you have the guts to step outside the norm, the results will be more than worth the slight discomfort.
About The Author
Donnie Kiernan is a strength and fitness coach, US Army Reservist and the author of "Maximize Your PT." This brand new product revives the "old school" methods of training for Military, police, firefighters and other athletes who want to gain strength and increase cardiovascular conditioning at the same time.