This is one of the best overviews of effective military fitness training I’ve read.

Give me a 180-200lb guy that can squat, deadlift, press, clean, and snatch close to the “accepted” standards for athletic performance.** Add in cardio to his regimen – sprints, preferably. Every once in a while, with safety in mind, force him to work longer than 40 minutes. It should be taxing. Every single gym session works him toward a common goal- mobility, flexibility, strength, power, explosiveness, and injury prevention. If any workout doesn’t directly benefit (without excluding) those tenets, then don’t do it. Strength is priority numeral uno. Cardiovascular/cardiorespiratory conditioning is second, tied with mobility and injury prevention. Everything else- aesthetics, fad training ideas, things you read in muscle and fitness about your abs- throw them away. Let’s not get cute until we are in the top 10% of our weight class.

** From this chart, minimums are at least Cat. III in every lift for your weight and gender, preferably Cat. IV

It is worth noting that most military and police fitness tests were based on research done by Dr. Ken Cooper. Cooper (the man that coined the word “aerobics”) is a cardiologist that was a competitive runner and one of the first researchers to find a correlation between cardiovascular fitness and mortality. His tests were based on his clinical and competitive interests (biases?) and formed around running for time or distance, usually around 12-20 minute and/or 1.5-3 mile tests. Because this ignored any sort of upper body testing, two calisthenic exercises of some sort were added. Cooper suggested push ups and sit ups.

None of this had any relevance or merit to athletic or combat performance. Cooper’s tests were designed around the correlation of cardiovascular fitness and mortality rates. Passing a PT test indicates enough “fitness” to avoid premature death from a cardiopulmonary disease. It is an indicator of physical wellness only.

While cardiovascular fitness does correlate to physical wellness and reduced mortality, aerobic exercise is not necessary to improve it. Further research indicates that physical strength may be a better measure anyway. It’s certainly better for field performance.

And if you train to be able to run away, to simply exist as opposed to being strong enough to finish the fight- well, then run away is all you got. And that’s not the business we are in.

Even the Cooper Clinic founded by Dr. Ken Cooper, the man that coined the word aerobics, agrees:

Associations of Resistance Exercise with Cardiovascular Disease Morbidity and Mortality

A study published in October in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise provides evidence for the first time that even a little weight training might reduce the risk of heart attack or stroke. People appear to gain this benefit whether or not they also engage in frequent aerobic exercise.

The study drew from an invaluable cache of health data gathered at the Cooper Clinic in Dallas, where thousands of men and women have been undergoing annual checkups, which include filling out detailed questionnaires about their exercise habits and medical history. More than 12,500 records were anonymized for men and women, most of them middle-aged, who had visited the clinic at least twice between 1987 and 2006. The subjects were categorized according to their reported resistance exercise routines, ranging from those who never lifted to those who completed one, two, three or more weekly sessions (or whether they lifted for more or less than an hour each week). Another category was aerobic exercise and whether subjects met the standard recommendation of 150 minutes per week of brisk workouts. This exercise data was then crosschecked against heart attacks, strokes and deaths during the 11 years or so after each participant’s last clinic visit.

The findings were dramatic: The risk of experiencing these events was roughly 50 percent lower for those who lifted weights occasionally, compared with those who never did — even when they were not doing the recommended endurance exercise. People who lifted twice a week, for about an hour or so in total, had the greatest declines in risk. (Interestingly, the subjects who reported weight training four or more times per week did not show any significant health benefits compared with those who never lifted, although the researchers believe this finding is probably a statistical anomaly.)

“The good news,” says Duck-chul Lee, an associate professor of kinesiology at Iowa State University and co-author of the study, “is that we found substantial heart benefits associated with a very small amount of resistance exercise.” As an associational study, the results show only that people who occasionally lift weights happen to have healthier hearts — not that resistance training directly reduces heart-related health risks. The data, though, does reveal associations between weight lifting and a lower body mass index, Lee says, which might be connected to fewer heart problems. He and his colleagues do not know the specifics of what exercises people were doing — lat pull-downs? dead lifts? squats? — or how many repetitions they did or at what level of resistance. Lee says he is in the early stages of a major study to examine some of those factors. But he doesn’t suggest waiting for those results.