It’s apparent to top level strength and conditioning professionals and personal trainers that the most efficient and effective method for training people is to treat them like they are athletes – whether or not the are athletes.  Gone are the days where a “reductionist” – or bodybuilding – style of training is accepted as a valid approach to training.

Illustrating this paradigm shift in training philosophies, the United States Marine Corps (USMC) has completely revamped their fitness model.  The USMC has moved away from aerobics and has embraced a more anaerobic style of training that allows Marines to improve their function and performance.

Military brass recognized that Marines – and all members of the armed forces – need to adopt training methods used by elite athletes. According to an article published in the April 2009 edition of the National Strength and Conditioning Association’s “Tactical Strength and Conditioning Report,” the Deputy Commandant for Combat Development and Integration signed a paper titled, “A Concept for Functional Fitness” that all fitness professionals – and fitness consumers – can learn from.

In the paper it was decided that;

  • Fitness should follow combat function
  • A balanced approach must be used to develop power, strength, flexibility, speed, endurance, agility and coordination
  • A program must have intensity and great variety
  • A well-balanced program that includes intensity leads to positive physical adaptation
  • Variety keeps the stimulus fresh while helping to avoid over-training and related injuries
  • Pre-habilitation exercises are a major component of a functional fitness program
  • Education regarding proper form dealing with running, lifting, jumping and landing is necessary

Many people will probably be surprised that the military decided that long distance running has been over-emphasized and does little to develop strength.  This report recognized the need for soldiers to have a strong core (which goes from the hamstrings to the middle back, not just lower back and abdominal muscles), endurance, speed and coordination.

Inefficient, time-consuming, single-joint/single plane movements, machine-based exercises and potential injurious body building methods are out and working in a multi-planar manner using ground-based, compound-movements is in.  Bodybuilding methods cause strength imbalances and produces unnatural stress on muscles, joints and connective tissue, and does not prepare the human body for the rigors of real world situations.

This training philosophy must be applied to everyone, whether they are athletes, soldiers or civilians, young or old.  A move away from the reductionist/body building style of training will benefit all members of the population.



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