Today's servicemen and servicewomen are subject to deployments that may last as long as nine months. For some, this time is spent aboard a large military vessel out in the middle of the ocean or in a remote hole-in-the wall camp far from the creature comforts most of us take for granted.

But what they all share with one another is an expectation that simply being healthy isn't enough. Troops must maintain peak mental and physical readiness at all times. Lives literally depend on it.



For anyone who loves to challenge themselves in the gym or with physique-based goals, the demands are even tougher. This is how some of our country's bravest men and women get jacked no matter where the service takes them!

The Tools to Make It Work Wherever You Are

A naval ship is a perfect example of the type of contained isolation the military as a whole has to deal with. You can be on a ship and literally not see a building for weeks on end. And yet, the gigantic ships and other structures our troops are sequestered to for more than half a year leave little room for pumping iron.

Across the entire ship, you'll be lucky to find four workout areas, which are shared by over 2,000 crew members. It's like your college campus gym at 5 p.m. on a Monday all over again, only with even tighter quarters and less fancy equipment.

In order to consistently train, troops are forced to adapt and work with rather unique training tools. Fortunately, impeccable adaptability has been engraved into their training from day one. In addition to typical weight-room fare, troops also rely on the following pieces of equipment to get their swole on:

Kettlebells: These are in most commercial gyms these days, but they're especially prominent in military gyms. Why? For one thing, they don't take up much space. For another, they're incredibly versatile. With one arm or two, you can do presses, squats, swings, rows, push-ups, or carries. And the kettlebell's ability to make almost any movement into a core-testing, lung-busting adventure doesn't hurt.

Sandbags: Sandbags serve as an excellent form of resistance that is portable and plentiful. Seriously, you can find them everywhere there are soldiers. If the squat rack is taken or there's no time to get to the other side of the ship and back before the next meeting, these suffice as a stellar workout tool. Like the kettlebell, sandbags seem to have a magical ability to make light weight feel heavy and awkward. They're great for grip strength, too.

Ammo Cans: Dumbbell work is plentiful while at sea; the only difference is that the dumbbells may look a little different than yours. That's because in many cases, troops use ammo cans. Trust me, these are more plentiful than dumbbells aboard any vessel or in any camp. From rows to curls, presses to swings, there's not much an ammo can can't be used for. They also take up little space and come in many shapes and sizes, which makes them one of the most versatile tools available.



Bodyweight Moves: Bodyweight calisthenics have been a staple in military training for centuries. Why? They're wildly effective, no matter your strength or exercise experience. Jumps, bounds, pull-ups, push-ups, inverted rows, handstand push-ups, lunges, mountain climbers, jumping jacks, planks, and dips are just some of the classic exercises we use often. When time and space are limited, you'll see plenty of troops, often in small groups, getting a bodyweight workout in. If you think bodyweight training is easy, they'd be happy to disabuse you of that notion.

Other Tools: It's not like barbells and dumbbells are totally absent in the military. They're certainly around, and in some gyms, there are a few machines as well. But you'll find more versatile, small-footprint tools like suspension systems and jump ropes than big, single-use items like chest presses. Each tool is effective in its own way at training a variety of energy systems and body parts and can be stashed easily when it's not being used.

The Soldier's Full-Body Circuit

Here's a workout I put our troops through often. It'll absolutely torch your core, send your heart rate through the roof, and give your body a solid overall muscle-growth stimulus. Prior to starting, be sure to warm up thoroughly for 5-10 minutes.

Soldier's Full-Body Circuit
Note: Complete all exercises in a row for 3-5 rounds using a weight that allows you to complete the prescribed number of repetitions with 2-3 reps left in the tank. Rest 2-3 minutes between rounds.
1
Circuit
3-5 rounds
Hang Clean
5 sets, 10 reps (perform with sandbag if possible)
One-Arm Dumbbell Row
5 sets, 10 reps (per arm, perform with sandbag if possible)
Barbell Reverse Lunge
5 sets, 10 reps (per side, perform with sandbag in front-racked position)
Standing Military Press
5 sets, 10 reps (perform with sandbag if possible)
One-Arm Kettlebell Swings
5 sets, 10 reps (per arm)
Goblet Squat
5 sets, 10 reps
Waiter's Carry
5 sets, 10 yds (alternating arms)
Plyo Kettlebell Pushups
5 sets, 20 reps (10 reps with one hand resting on kettlebell, then switch hands for 10 more reps)
Mountain Climbers
5 sets, 20 reps
Burpee
5 sets, 10 reps

About the Author

Joshua Hockett, MS, CSCS

Joshua Hockett, MS, CSCS

Joshua is a UNBA and ANBF men's physique athlete. He holds his MS in exercise science from Wisconsin La Crosse.

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