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Military Physical Training: Good for You Too!

Just when you thought our Military couldn’t get any tougher, it has.  Physical training has not changed for decades…but with recent statistics of soldiers sustaining a 40 to 60 percent injury rate during physical training, it was clear that something needed to change. This change is the Eagle Tactical Athletic Program (ETAP), a new physical training program.

Dr. Scott Lephart, from the University of Pittsburgh’s Department of Sports Medicine and Nutrition, had a proven track record of reducing injury in professional sports teams.  He seemed to be just what the Army needed.  Traditionally, much of the military’s physical training included calisthenics.  However, Lephart’s ETAP takes quite a different approach: Interval circuit training.  Through 45 second circuits, soldiers increase their speed, agility, flexibility and balance.  And although injury rates were the primary focus, it is clear that the results have proven to be beneficial in making soldiers stronger:  ETAP participants are 30 percent more fit than those that go through traditional training!

So, how can you get in on the action?  And, is it really something that you should consider?  Absolutely!


  1. Cardio AND Strength: Circuit training is a workout combining both cardiovascular fitness and resistance training.  By allowing only a short rest interval of 30-90 seconds between exercises, you get both cardio and strength training in your workout.
  2. Boredom: Because circuit training allows a wide variety of exercises and equipment, it is more difficult to get bored.
  3. Cost: A lot of the equipment you can use is free or inexpensive.  Some of the equipment you can use includes: your own body weight (free!), resistance bands, jump ropes, dumbbells, medicine balls, physioballs and weight training machines
  4. Flexible Fitness Levels: You can do as little anywhere from 6 to 15 stations based on your goals and fitness level.
  5. Time Required: Because you are fitting both cardio AND strength into your regimen, you are actually saving time (as compared to splitting them up).

Making it Work for You

You, too, can be as fit as a man or woman of service.  Here’s how:

Warm-up: As with any workout program, always warm up first.  Do 5 to 10 minutes of low-impact cardio, such as walking, elliptical or stationary bike to get your heart rate up; followed by light stretching.

Exercises: You’ll put circuits together of cardio, upper-body, lower-body and core exercises.  Generally, you’ll want to do 10 – 15 repetitions for upper and lower body exercises, and 10 – 30 repetitions for core exercises.  Take no more than a one minute break between exercises (YES! Time yourself!).  To create your own circuits, do the following:

  • Decide how many rotations you will do (a rotation includes one of each of the below categories)…2 should be your minimum and 4 should be your maximum.
  • From the below chart, start with a cardio exercise and follow it with an upper-body, a lower-body and a core exercise. (The chart provides several examples, but if you know or like other exercises in each category, you can do those as well.)
  • Except for cardio, each rotation should have different exercises from each category.
  • At the end of your last rotation, do one last cardio exercise.
Cardio Upper-Body Lower-Body Core
Jump Rope 100x
Jumping Jacks 30 seconds
Step Ups 30 Seconds
Rows with Dumbbells
Reverse flies
Shoulder press
Bicep Curls
Tricep Kickbacks
Chest Press
Dumbell Flies
Dead Lifts
Leg Extension
Leg Curls
Walking Lunges
Forward lunge
Hamstring Flexion
Back Extension
Bicycle crunch
Elbow to knee crunch
Plank hold
Lumbar extension

Cool-down: You should follow your final rotation with 5 to 10 minutes of low-impact, low-intensity cardio and stretching to get your heart rate down and muscles stretched out.

Have you tried circuit training?  Did you see results?

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Posted in Brett's Blog, Fitness Tagged with: , , ,