Strength-Building Option 2: Alternative Training
Your second option is much less expensive and is easier, but it’s less lucrative in its payoff. You’ll need three handled water containers (I would use the inexpensive pre-filled 2.5gal ones you can buy at the grocery store), a pair of grippy work gloves, and a large filled and twist tie sealed sandbag. You’ll leave them filled as is for now, but will eventually fill the containers with sand or dirt as you get stronger.
Fill the sandbag to a weight that allows you to take it from the ground to your shoulder 5x with some effort, but where you can do so safely. Always err on the side of too light!
The workout is as follows:
- Jog or fast walk for five minutes to warm up; do two minutes of mobility work.
- Sandbag Squats 5×5 (five sets of five reps)- Hold sand bag in arms across chest, and squat to below parallel. Then, return to standing position with tight abs and a flat back. Don’t force your ROM; stay in a good position and keep working your mobility until you get it right. Rest 90 seconds between each set.
- Sandbag Press 4×5. Hold bag at shoulder level with palms facing up. Set your shoulder blades down and squeezed in. Press the bag overhead to a locked out elbow position by your ears. Lower it back down the chest. If the lower back is unsteady or working too hard, stagger your stance with once foot forward eight inches. Rest 90 seconds after each set.
- Water Jug Carry (Farmers Walk) 10x50ft. The easier and hardest way to improve spinal posture, core, and grip strength. Pick up the jugs by the handles, walk heel toe with perfect posture and an active grip (squeeze, don’t slack). Complete the distance and rest 30 seconds. You can weekly and incrementally fill with rocks and sand to make them heavier. Just make sure they don’t break. Five-gallon buckets work too.
- Sandbag Row 3-4×10. Hold bag at waist height and hinge at knees and hip. Keep back flat, slide the bag to just below your knees. Gripping with palms facing each other, squeeze your shoulder blades together and row the bag to your sternum. Pause and lower with control. You can do this with a pair of bags stacked to increase the load or elevate your feet and use the water jugs!
These four exercises completed two or three times per week will make a big difference in your physical strength. Always leave a bit in the tank on your workouts, increase loads carefully, and leave the ego out. If you have any orthopaedic issues, get a good trainer to help you get started. You’re looking for a CSCS qualified coach and hopefully one with at least five years in the field.
This one is easy. I don’t have a great deal of love for jogging. It’s boring and not great in it’s ROI. However, you need to be able to do it pain free for at least three miles. Linear progression is here to save the day again.
- Start by walking 1-3 miles 3-4 times per week and stretching after.
- Once you’ve hit three months of strength work and walking, ramp up by jogging the last mile 1-3 times a week.
- Then lengthen out the jogging by a quarter to half mile each week. Take it slow and take care of your calves and feet using the mobility tricks you’ve learned from Kelly Starrett.
- Once you can jog three miles, you can add a small pack and incrementally load it. It needs to have a chest and waist strap. Being able to jog three miles with a 20lb pack is pretty impressive for most folks. Don’t worry if it takes you a year or two to achieve.
- If jogging is out of the question, go for hikes and use the same linear progression, but add the pack sooner! Your endurance work can be done.
This is the most likely situation in which you will hurt yourself when the SHTF. Lifting can be shared or made lighter to avoid injury. Endurance comes quickly to humans, simply by walking or running more. Speed and the ability to use it (agility) needs to be practiced. Imagine that right now you had to sprint down the stairs, out the door, and down the street carrying your CQB rifle or shotgun. You would need to achieve top speed quickly, change direction, and decelerate safely. It’s much harder than it seems. If you haven’t hit a dead sprint in awhile, you’re at a high risk of an ankle or knee injury that won’t heal quickly. You need to work on the motor and suspension! The fact is, some people simply aren’t fast. It’s largely genetic. Some are more fast twitch, some are largely slow twitch, and some are a compromise. You can train speed though!
Start by doing some light jogging to warm up, roll the ankles around, stretch the calves, and do some high knees and butt kicks for 20-30 yards to prepare the joints.
- Run 100 yards at 80% effort. If it’s pain free, you can proceed. (Lungs burning is fine!)
- Walk back to starting position, and repeat 5-10 times, depending on your fitness level. You can time all your runs and chart them if you’d like. Your second or third one should be the fastest. Do speed work 1-2 times per week, preferably after a strength workout! Here are several easy to remember formats. They are in meters, as tracks are set up for that. Work through them in rotation, using one format per workout.
- 12x40m, walk back rest
- 10x100m (quarter lap), 1 minute rest or walk back
- 6x200m (half lap), 90 second rest
- 4x400m (1 lap) 2-minute rest
- 3×800 (2 laps) 3-minute rest
(I’ll shoot, you move!) We will have you use this in your warmups or cool downs. You are looking to hit the following movements:
- Forward sprint start and stop/backpedal/stop
- Sprint and turn 90° and sprint/stop
- Backpedal/stop/forward sprint
- Backpedal/turn 90° and sprint/stop
Go at 50% speed to start, and work on keeping your feet underneath you and having crisp, balanced turns/stops that you can transition out of easily and smoothly. Youtube has some easy to find resources for Change of Direction work (COD). Practice in boots you plan to survive in!
I’ll keep this simple!¨You need to eat a small meal 1-2 hours before a workout and a meal (no mater the time of day!) within 30 minutes to heal up and grow. Post workout should be protein-rich foods (20-40g) with minimal fat. Carbohydrate intake post workout will be dependent on your goals. If you are trying to pack on some armour, you need a 2:1 ratio of Carbs to Protein (40-80g). If you are trying to lose some body fat, go with protein alone or a 1:1 or 1:2 carbs to protein. Earn your carbs, and store calories in buckets, not on your waistline!
This brief article should now have you ready to start developing your first weapon. Be smart about it and start slow. Be consistent and forthright in your efforts, and things will improve. Print and keep a copy of this should you need to coach an out of shape group at your bug out location. The mobility work will be the most crucial part to staying on your feet and keeping safe in uncertain times.
“Strong people are harder to kill than weak people and more useful in general.” – Mark Rippetoe