In the Army, that means pushups, situps and a two-mile run. My soldiers and leaders often are reluctant to try new things such as CrossFit (my personal favorite) or other forms of exercise because they don’t see how it will help them on the APFT, which affects boards, awards and ultimately promotions.
Allow me to shine some light on this, my skeptical friends. Just using the example of the squat, I will show not only how it will help you perform on the APFT — or any PT test — but perform better as a service person as well.
Here are 5 of the benefits of squatting, regardless of your sport.
1. Squatting will make you run faster. Not just in sprinting (but consider: When I was on the track team, the sprinters did squat three times a week) but in long-distance as well. The stronger the legs, the more force you can apply to the ground, which will propel you farther forward. Regardless of the distance you are running, squatting will improve your time.
2. Squatting properly will increase mobility. Yup, it’s true. Not all strength training will make you look like the juiceheads in the gym — you know, people who are so muscle-bound they can’t even scratch their heads. Athletes who squat frequently are very mobile. Look at the range of motion of Olympic lifters (who squat constantly), and tell me I’m wrong.
3.Deep squats increase vertical jumps. Not a huge shock here that squatting below parallel engages the hamstrings, which will get stronger and allow you to apply more force to the ground. This will send the body higher into the air with a single bound.
4. Squats strengthen your core like a champ. Think of how much your lower back and abs are engaged when you are doing a squat. You’re keeping a heavy weight over the midline of your body, so it’s one of the fastest ways to improve your core.
5. Squats are safe! This is a big one with me. People are often reluctant to do any sort of lower-body exercise because you could get hurt. Baloney: Every unit has soldiers who have been injured from some form of overuse injury from constant running. Joint strengthening is actually one of the best ways to avoid injury. This is why endurance athletes are constantly cross training.
In summary, athletic performance, whether it’s on your PT test or the battlefield, can be improved by branching out into other events.
More from Derek: Ask the experts: Why you should cross train
Army Lt. Derek Wales is serving as an executive officer in Dog Troop, 1-16 Cavalry at Fort Benning, Ga. He is a former Division 1 decathlete, Modern Army Combatives competitor, and is a CrossFit competitive athlete and rugby player. He is a CrossFit Olympic Lifting and Level 1 Trainer, and former lead trainer at CrossFit Spartan Shield (Operation Enduring Freedom, Kuwait). He’s also the designer of the WOD Programmer app and runs www.wodprogrammer.com.