Lessons from extreme military athletes – Joint Centric Training

Hey why not look at Military training to learn a few things about our physical limits. Lets take a look at some Special Forces training and figure out the weakest links in our bodies so we can build the strongest possible foundation for excellence.

special forces march

Factoid: The most common injury on the battlefield is concussion

From Will Brinks blog:

“This study revealed that physical training caused 50% of all injuries, and 30% were linked to running. Injuries resulted in 10-times the number of profile days (lost work days) as illnesses with the leading reason for outpatient visits in our Group was for musculoskeletal disorders.

The locations of affected musculoskeletal conditions in descending order include: back/neck (31%), ankle (10%), shoulder (10%), and knee (10%).”

It was interesting to note that in other army units studied, musculoskeletal injuries are more common in the lower extremities (e.g., knees and ankles) but in SF, upper extremity injuries (e.g., lower back, upper back, shoulders, etc) are more common. The authors theorized “This may be due to the slightly older average age of our Soldiers versus conventional units, in addition to the cumulative effect of repetitive micro trauma from airborne operations, combatives training, wearing heavy body armor, and carrying heavy loads.”

    Aside: I can tell you right now as an ex Infantry Soldier – Its from wearing a very heavy pack which is put on and off all day long – for training purposes you are better off wearing a weight vest.

Stew Smith says “Pain is not an injury” –> LOL neither is a scab if you’re hungry I guess.

But Stew is not a dummy, From his site…

The most common of knee injuries is Patello-Femoral Pain Syndrome (PFPS) or commonly called “runner’s knee.”(link http://www.drpribut.com/sports/spknees.html) and Iliotibial Band (ITB) (link http://www.drpribut.com/sports/spitb.html) For most people these injuries are classified in the “over-use injury” category.

In fact, the nick name for ITB at SEAL training is “I Tried BUDS” due to so many students failing out of training with this over-use injury. PFPS can occur in avid runners as well as people who decide to go running for the first time in several months or even years without proper training prior to running again. It is also important to rule out other knee problems when knee pain occurs and not assume every pain as “runner’s knee” for you could be suffering from a knee injury that requires surgery.

Usually, if your knee injury involves ligaments or cartilage, surgery is required and can be relatively quick with a speedy recovery thanks to the latest in arthroscopic surgery techniques.

Stew also says, the lower back is the most common injury area and you should always balance core exercises with lower back exercises like hyper extensions, flutter kicks, etc.

And more from Stew on pain:

Many graduates of these SO programs were athletes in high school or college and know the difference between injury and pain. Sports, martial arts, tough training workouts, and life in general can help you know what the difference is. But mainly graduates can suck it up when they need to and “tape it up and play” if required. This is where they say that SEAL Training is 90% mental. It is not academic mental – but mentally challenging because you have to deal with pain and discomfort on a daily basis.

Aside: In war – you can’t take a crap.

Factoid: Lateral ankle sprains are the most common injury in all of sports, and are examined in the emergency room more than 500,000 times per year. They are typically classified into one of three grades that indicate the level of damage done to the supporting ligaments.

Factoid: The most common injury for female basic trainees is femoral head and hip fractures … This not just for Special Forces, but for infantry in general.

So basically what do you get out of that information ?

Here’s what I get. Most of us train in two ways. “Muscle Group Training” or “Exercise Regimen Training”. Neither of these would be classed as functional training. Athletes of all walks are guilty of this training trap.

Let me explain. Lets say you are a body builder. They are avid “Muscle Group” trainers

Upper Legs
Lower Legs

And subdivisions of the above – then exercises are chosen to match these specific muscle groups or body parts and a training program is designed around that. The system works in many respects and almost all of us follow this system in some way. Many athletes in other sports will still train in this way but just skewed to their sport.

Next up is “Exercise Regimen Training”

Power lifters for example train…

Bench Press
Dead lift

Then they select sub exercises to support that regimen. Swimmers train a swimming regimen, runners a running regimen. The list is a long one. Probably more athletes train an “Exercise Regimen” system than “Muscle Group” although there some overlap.

Again I too am guilty of this and enjoy my sports.

OK so what happens when you get all of these fit people and stick them in the military ?

They break.

Military selection is designed to find weakness – and they will find it. Why?

Because people do not train functionally. We don’t set out to build our anatomical foundation. Physiological foundation yes, most athletes are masters of aerobic and or anaerobic fitness.

Where we are failing is our anatomy – our joint system.

How about “Joint Centric Training” ?

This is a third paradigm in fitness training.

How about breaking it down to strengthen & condition the weak links in your anatomy…

Lower Back

It doesn’t sound like sports does it ? No – it sounds more like physiotherapy. Stop and take a look at how the Special Forces guys break. Its not because they are not fit or strong, its because they did not strengthen their joints.

I’m 44 this week and hitting andropause has made me pay attention – these same injuries hit the elderly. Masters athletes are an oddity because we don’t train in this way. Most older athletes will never build this anatomical core. Many will hit a serious injury and that’s it – end of career.

So the bottom line is that an aspect of your training should be “Joint Centric” to build a foundation of “Anatomical Fitness” – just as you do Aerobic & Anaerobic training to build a foundation of “Physiological Fitness”.

Also “Joint Centric” does not mean Yoga & stretching. There is much more to it than that including special massage & strength training as well as stretching.

Adding this regimen will take you to a new level of physical capability that most of us have neglected – quite by accident.

special forces

Finally: here is a post on strength coach.com along the same lines


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