The world’s finest armed forces all have their own unique styles in combat. This also means they each have their own unique methods of training. Going around the world to check out some of the toughest armies there are, we found five exercises that help keep their men in fighting shape.
Russian Spetsnaz: Kettlebell snatch
Rather than push-ups, Russian armed forces test their chest and shoulder endurance using the multi-stage kettlebell snatch exercise. Grabbing a kettlebell in one hand, start in a knees-bent squatting position with your feet positioned slightly wider than your shoulders. Straighten your knees and raise the weight in front of you until your arm is parallel to the ground. Allowing the kettlebell to swing over your wrist, continue the upward motion until your arm is vertical, squeeze your shoulders, then return to the beginning. An elite member is expected to last at least 10 minutes of continuous exercise.
French Foreign Legion: test de Luc Léger
France is the home of the obstacle course, as well as some of the baddest dudes on the planet: the French Foreign Legion. Before being trained to become expendable death machines, however, prospective Legionnaires must pass the beep test, known locally as Test de Luc-Léger. A recruit runs between two sets of cones spaced 20 metres apart whenever he hears a recorded beep. The beeps start 8.5 seconds apart, then increase in frequency by about half a second every minute. The object of the exercise is to see how many sets of six laps a recruit can perform before giving up or falling behind the recording—only prospective Legionnaires that survive seven or more sets of six are allowed to continue in their training. Don’t even get us started on the 100-kilometre Marche Kepi Blanc, their final test.
Philippine First Scout Ranger Regiment: inverted crawl
The Philippines’ Scout Rangers are an anti-guerrilla warfare unit—perhaps the world’s finest— whose elite conditioning regimen involves heavy amounts of running used to build extreme endurance. But before you can run 20 kilometres a day, you have to crawl. Several armed forces use the inverted crawl as part of their basic entry test, but the Scout Rangers’ battery is designed to weed out the weak (only about 30 per cent make it through). Starting on all fours with your belly to the ceiling, crab walk 30 metres three times for a workout that tests your agility, core strength and upper-body endurance.
Israeli Defence Forces: Krav Maga mountain climbers
Since Israel’s military service is compulsory, its trademark martial arts style, Krav Maga, is as useful in combat as it is for self-defence in civilian life. It puts the whole body to work, too, making the core and arm strength a hot commodity when punching and kicking. Mountain climbers can help build muscle in those departments without the need for a sparring partner. Starting from a plank position on all fours, draw one knee up to your chest while maintaining your balance. Return to your starting position, then alternate legs to complete one rep. Perform three sets of 30.
United States Army: standard military push-up
The exercise you’re probably the most familiar with was popularized by western militaries, specifically the U.S. of A. Depending on your age, an average United States Army recruit is required to perform up to 77 push-ups in two minutes with perfect form. Starting in a plank position with your arms fully extended and your body rigid form your shoulders to your ankles, lower your chest until your arms are parallel to the ground. To complete a rep, push your chest away from the ground until your arms are completely straight. If you need to rest, you may take the Army’s only sanctioned rest position: with your back bowed, knees bent and weight over your arms. Perform three sets of 30.