Military Muscle columns Posts

Military Muscle: 5 drills for a stronger back

Military Muscle: 5 drills for a stronger back

A lot of folks come to me with back problems — some as young as 25 and, of course, plenty of others in their later years. To help them, I’ve had a great deal of success with the program outlined here.

In the interest of full disclosure, my go-to guy is Dr. Stuart McGill, professor of spine biomechanics at the University of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. He is considered one of the foremost experts in the world on back strengthening and improvement.

These exercises can be worked in both the strengthening phase as well as a treatment phase for people with back pain.

Remember: These are focused on the muscles and tendons that surround the spine.

Write to me if you have specific questions or want to go further. Bottom line: If you have back issues, always start with your doctor to find out exactly what is going on.

Military Muscle: The best plyometric drills — and something extra for the finish

Military Muscle: The best plyometric drills — and something extra for the finish

For a great example of explosive power, watch some isolation video of the Houston Texans’ star defensive end J. J. Watt. A YouTube video shows him performing a perfect plyometrics box jump, exploding his 6-foot, 5-inch, 290-pound frame to the top of a dresser bureau just short of five feet high.

To get that kind of explosive power, athletes train using plyometrics.

To be of value, plyometrics must be executed correctly using a planned progression — it’s not simply “X” number of box jumps in a specific amount of time. “High Powered Plyometrics” by Jim Radcliffe/Robert Farentinos and “Jumping into Plyometrics” by Donald Chu go into this more deeply.

Military Muscle: 5 exercises using your gym’s Viper Rope Trainer

Military Muscle: 5 exercises using your gym’s Viper Rope Trainer

We’ve all heard the stories about some visionary who sketches an idea for an industry-leading company on a napkin (the birth of Southwest Airlines) or builds the prototype of a worldwide product in a garage (Walt and Roy Disney; Bill Hewlett and David Packard).

Likewise, in 2006, Marius Popescu, an engineer and elite-level Judo athlete, used his garage to develop the first functional prototype of his rope trainer. Eight years later, these rope trainers are produced in three versions and used in fitness centers across the country.

We liked them enough that we bought a rope trainer for each of the four fitness centers here on our naval air station. As long as the client doesn’t have shoulder issues, I use our rope trainer (we have the VLT) in almost all of my fitness programs, including for clients in their 70s and 80s.

Military Muscle: Combo exercises with personality

Military Muscle: Combo exercises with personality

Ever wonder how some exercises get their names? Just for fun, try these exercises named after people. Do 10 reps using weights appropriate to your fitness level except where noted.

Mr. Spectacular

Named for a professional wrestler with the same handle, my fellow trainer and friend Rob Shaul saw him wrestle in Salt Lake City and after talking to him came up with this excellent total-body workout:

Choose two dumbbells or kettlebells of a weight appropriate to your fitness level.

Starting with the weights on the floor, execute a clean and press, and return weights to the floor.

A sandbag strength program from Military Muscle’s Bob Thomas


Our Military Muscle columnist got this letter from a fan. Check out his reply:

Q. Do you mind designing a sandbag workout and a strength program for myself? I want to work on my explosion since the upcoming CFT season is soon upon us.  Thank you and have a good afternoon.

A. Gunny:

As a minimum the sandbag should be 20 pounds, and you can go up from there. Once you start the workout, you never put the bag down. You can do each exercise explosively.

Have a Bag

Warm-up: 10 minutes

1.  Heavy bag get-up (shown above): 10 minutes

Put the bag over your shoulder. From a standing position, go to the floor, lying on your back so that both shoulders touch the floor. Immediately return to the original standing position. Keep going up and down without rest for the full 10 minutes. At five minutes, switch the sandbag to the opposite shoulder. There are no set rules on how to get up and down, just that “up” is fully standing and “down” is on your back with both shoulders on the floor. The easiest way is always to use the side of the body without the bag to get up and down.