It’s "Happy Birthday" once again for the US Marine Corps, that branch of the military that has been a global fighting force in readiness for the last 236 years. Have you ever wondered how they manage to achieve and retain the optimum physical and mental capabilities that keep them always ready? For one, their boot camp is generally regarded as the most challenging among all the branches, and it has physical conditioning criteria that is more stringent than the other services. One has to meet these requirements to gain entry into this elite fighting force.
Whether you are aspiring to enter the US Marines or you just want to be like them, here are some of the exercises that helps keep the Marines combat ready. Regular performance of these workouts will help you achieve your to-die-for physique, develop well-built muscles, increased strength and speed, and add overall fitness to your current lifestyle. These three exercises are also the way in which the Corps assesses the physical fitness of all Marines. So in the spirit of the Corps, drop and gimme 20 to kick things off the right.
Running, some diehards say, is the easiest form of exercise. You don’t have to learn certain sports techniques or buy costly equipment, yet the benefits are immense. A pair of good running shoes and your determination to run is all that’s needed.
The benefits of running include developing a healthy cardiovascular system that keeps high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels at bay, thereby lessening the risks for heart attacks and strokes. It pumps up your respiration rates and expands the lungs, drawing in more oxygen and maximizing lung function. Running uses up energy and calories, helping you maintain your ideal body weight and muscle-to-fat ratio. It keeps your bones strong and reduces bone loss due to aging, hence, your risks for osteoporosis and fractures are lowered. Running also boosts the production of serotonin, the happy hormone. Along with the increase in concentration of the neurotransmitter norepinephrine, running becomes a natural mood enhancer and an adjunct in the treatment of depression.
Proper running techniques and running shoes are important to prevent possible injuries. These include deep breathing to take in as much oxygen as you can. The correct heel-toe coordination involves pushing off the ground with your toes and landing near your heels. Arm swing should be relaxed and loose, and the upper half of your body straight.
Don’t forget to warm up by stretching for at least 10 - 15 minutes. Run every other day and gradually increase your distance until you reach the three miles, which is the Marine Corps standard. Perfect scores go to guys who can run this in under 18 minutes and girls who can do it in under 21.
Being able to do pull-ups is supposedly the mark of someone with highly developed strength. Gripping a bar with both hands and pulling up your body until your chin is above the bar is no mean feat, especially for women who have less upper body strength than men. Nevertheless, it's an exercise than can be learned with constant practice, and depending on your grip, can benefit either the back, biceps or both.
Pull-ups build a strong back while strengthening the biceps and forearm muscles. For men, there is the benefit of muscled, well-built arms that result from repeated pull-ups. Grip strength is the most obvious benefit of pull-ups and the entire upper extremities, from the shoulders down to the forearms, wrists, hands and fingers are involved in this workout.
To do the regular pull-up, face a handle bar and grip it with both hands parallel to your shoulders, palms facing either away from you (to hit the back) or toward you (to hit your arms). Slowly pull your body up until your chin has reached beyond the bar, then release and make sure your elbows have fully extended when at the bottom of your hang. Since the regular pull-up is quite difficult to do if you’ve never tried it before, you can start with the assisted pull-up. Using a regular pull-up bar, position a chair behind where you're going to be hanging. Do as many regular pull-ups as you can but before you drop, cross your ankles and bend your knees so that your feet are barely supporting your weight on the chair. From there, you should be able to finish out your set. Just remember, use the chair to support as little of your weight as possible.
In the Marines, men get perfect scores for being able to do 20 dead hang pull-ups and women get perfect scores for being able to dead hang (above the bar) for 70 seconds.
Doing crunches is a very common and popular exercise routine; doing it the wrong way is even more common and can lead to neck and spine injuries. So make sure you learn the correct technique before attempting to do abdominal crunches to avoid costly and harmful mistakes.
Crunches target the abdominal muscles, giving you coordination in movements, which is especially important in amphibious landings and storming the beaches. Crunches tone this particular group of muscles, making your gut strong, flexible and flat. Six-pack abs, however, is the biggest motivator to doing abdominal crunches.
To start, lie on your back with knees bent and both feet flat on the ground. Keep your hand either crossed and on your shoulders or on your elbows, but remember that the Corps doesn't recognize crunches performed with the arms or hands flailing about. Raise your torso so that it isn’t touching the ground, make contact between your elbows and your thighs and then release. Repeat as many times as you can in two minutes.
For the perfect score, hit 100 in under two minutes - male and female alike.
Now that you know the how the US Marines keep themselves fit and strong, you know it’s possible for anyone to achieve the Marine Corps build. Weight training, Indian runs, calisthenics and all things similar are great ways to keep your body shocked but pull-ups, running and crunches are the foundation to good overall fitness.