Over the past decade, CrossFit has energized and transformed the fitness community into a daily competition with Quick Workouts of the Day (WOD) in a group or online group atmosphere.
Not a day goes by that I don't see a WOD published on a Facebook page or shared on Twitter: people are very enthusiastic about the idea of practicing this sport which has become a trend. Which is great! And we can't discuss the results.
People seem to have more results with CrossFit workouts than with other fitness activities. However, this question is often asked and it is high time I posted it because people tend to confuse some things when it comes to military fitness.
This question is specifically about conventional and Special Forces military training and the use of CrossFit to prepare for physical trials.
Military training and CrossFit
Former rugby player before high school and university, bodybuilding enthusiast, I grew up lifting weights. Just because we offer a lot of no-hardware workouts doesn't mean we're not into CrossFit for military training and preparation.
I add a "lifting" cycle into my WOYs (Workouts of the Year) every year and have found that through periodization with logical progressions in many elements like running, swimming, gymnastics, lifting (powerlifting not bodybuilding) works best for the "tactical athlete" as well as the aging athlete like me. (laugh)
Lifting weights is therefore very important and CrossFit provides a solid foundation for both special ops candidates and those looking to join the conventional military.
BUT CrossFit is not the ONLY answer to this question. You need more. I often say to any candidate wishing to become a soldier : "There is no 30-minute workout in the weight room that will prepare you for a day of school, no matter what regiment you choose".
If you like lifting weights or doing CrossFit, do it, but make it your warm-up for the many other challenges that will be thrown at you in your future training regimen.
You'll often be pushed to perform multiple sets of push-ups, pull-ups, rope climbs, and a variety of abdominal exercises, so muscular endurance is key.
You must develop your cardiovascular endurance in order to be able to:
- swim 3-4 days a week for at least 1-2 km per day (with and without fins),
- run 5-6 days a week with a progressive running plan that allows you to run 4 km timed at a fast pace (aim for a time under 16' min) - and up to 5-6 km per day minimum. For volunteers who are aiming for an FS unit - vary the pleasures by putting on a backpack from time to time,
- The core, posterior chain and shoulder girdle strength gained from lifting and practicing CrossFit helps give you a solid physical foundation (Long reps are better than doing sets of 1 rep', because in the field, you will have to do these tests for hours)
The requirements of the military profession
Many soldiers will tell you that it is a race during selections. Which is not wrong, because once these tests are completed, your fitness requirements change.
You still need a good cardiovascular base, but not as much as a triathlete or a candidate for special operations. Your physical condition will evolve towards rapid movements, sprints, agility, strength and power during your urban, close quarters and tactical missions.
CrossFit is very popular with these kinds of operators. This is why many leaders in the world of FS and the military in general have hired CrossFit trainers to enable operators to be better and more resilient.
That's when a lot of military, FS or not, get HUGE! They lift big weights, train hard, and still have a solid cardio base they can rely on when needed for longer insertions/extractions, usually while carrying backpacks.
So if you're training to get bigger and stronger for military tryouts, stop. Get a solid foundation and add lifting cycles to your yearly workout routine and cardio exercises like box jumping , but you'll never become a faster runner or swimmer at the same time you're trying to lift a truck with it. your biceps or your back.
Organize your workouts so you can build speed/endurance and strength - see related articles for ideas.
The final word
I have nothing against CrossFit, but it doesn't have ALL the answers when it comes to military-specific training. CrossFit hasn't claimed to be the answer, but many confused teens who are fans (short for fanatics) think that taking classes at a CrossFit box will be enough to prepare them.
I'm not particularly a fan of CrossFit, but I really like the workouts and warm-ups offered: for example with the Murph session which I do almost weekly as well as other ideas that CrossFit has brought to the fitness world. Follow the advice of an OLD SCHOOL when it comes to your pre-op training :
The principle of FITS
F - Frequency - How many days a week do you train?
I - Intensity - How intense is your training?
T - Duration - How long do you train?
S - Specificity or Type - Are the methods you use to train going to specifically address the fitness goals you are looking for?