Supplemental Workouts that Can Blend in with Your Unit PT

Performing pull-ups in Kuwait
Competitors for the 7th Engineer Dive Team Commander’s Challenge work as a team to complete the pull up event. Each team in the competition had to complete 125 pull ups before moving on to the next event. The challenge took place at Kuwait Naval Base on the coast of the Persian Gulf Dec. 23, 2011. (Courtesy of the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 34th Red Bull Infantry Division)

Developing and maintaining a personal routine while serving in the military can be a challenge. That's even more true if you have regular and mandatory physical training with your unit.

Finding ways to add personal workouts to the group PT, runs and rucks required by the military can be difficult, and whatever you do needs to make sense in the context of your unit's overall program for the week, month and quarter.

If you are not careful, you can overwork the same muscle groups day after day until you develop overuse injuries or even overtraining symptoms, reversing any progress you have made.

Here are some ideas for additional activities you can incorporate when your unit does certain workouts and how you can accommodate smart follow-on routines when you want to do a second workout of the day.

Upper-Body PT and Unit Run

Often, group PT will be a combination of pull-ups, push-ups, core exercises and running. If your workout group does a moderate number of repetitions of calisthenics and a decent amount of running (2-3 miles), consider the following options.

If you get a good upper-body calisthenics workout, consider working the same muscle groups later in the day, just in a different way.

Warm up with a quick push-up pyramid (1-10 with a 100-meter jog between sets, stopping at 10).

Light weight shoulders

Repeat three times.

  • Weight-vest pull-ups: 5-10 (slow)
  • Bench press: 5-10

Repeat three times.

  • Biceps or military press: 10 (combo)
  • Heavy rows: 5-10

If you feel like you need to do more work on hip flexors for swimming with fins or other grinder PT events, mix in some goal-paced running or swimming with the following exercises:

  • Warm up with a mile run or 500-meter swim

Repeat 4-6 times.

  • Run 400 meters at goal pace for timed runs or swim 200 meters
  • Flutter kicks: 25
  • Leg levers: 25 or leg tucks: one minute (for Army members)
  • Scissors: 25

Lower-Body Day: Run and Ruck

If your unit has a mix of upper-body and lower-body days, consider the following if you run and ruck with added leg exercises, such as squats, lunges, step-ups and jumps.

Depending on your abilities, you can do another leg lift workout, or if your legs are sore from leg workouts, running or rucking, consider a second workout of mobility day.

Lift optional (similar tactical fitness testing events seen in ACFT)

Repeat three times.

  • Sandbag overhead throw: 5-10
  • Deadlift: 5 or kettlebell Romanian deadlift: 10
  • Kettlebell swings: 20
  • Kettlebell run and farmer's walk: 50 meters (2 x 25 meters)
  • Run: 2 x 25 meters fast with no kettlebell in hand
  • Drag: 2 x 25 meters of weight or sled if possible

Mobility Day

If you feel beat up from morning workouts, consider a Mobility Day. It's great for any day you are sore from your previous workout or feel tired.

Repeat four times.

  • Cardio of choice: Five minutes at an easy pace with no impact recommended
  • Stretch body or foam roll: Five minutes

If you have access to a pool or water:

  • Swim 10 minutes
  • Tread 10 minutes
  • Dynamic stretch in chest-deep water for 10 minutes or ride bike for 30 minutes

If your unit does a long run or ruck as its primary workout in the morning, consider adding some form of PT or lift, depending on your weekly cycle of workouts on days both before and after during the week. Avoid placing supplemental workouts into your day that use the same muscle groups for multiple days in a row.

If you do not do a lot of volume in your group PT, then the second workout of the day is fair game, especially if you know the next day will be a cardio event.

Just remember that you only get stronger, faster, bigger and see performance gains with smart recovery placed into your training week. Proper nutrition, sleep and a balanced training schedule are required for optimal performance gains in tactical fitness training or personal training goals. Be smart and remember that, nine times out of 10, less is more when working hard, training hard and living hard.

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you're looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to

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