Conditioning Exercises For Men

It’s easy to take for granted the things that we don’t have to think about. For example, it is commonplace in most parts of the world today to live your life without ever considering what you would do if you were stranded on an island with no food or water. However, this situation can come up quite frequently when something goes wrong on a boat trip or plane ride and people are forced into survival mode before they know it.

Conditioning exercises for men are the most important exercises for building muscle. These are the best exercises to use when trying to gain weight and strength.

This week, we’re featuring extracts from FM 21-20, a 1946 Army field manual that details the physical training regimen utilized by GIs during WWII. The backstory behind FM 21-20 may be found here. This series may provide you with useful exercise tips to adopt into your own routines, or it may just motivate you to get in shape and embody the power and fitness that would make your grandfather proud!

FM 21-20’s conditioning routine is shown today. While calisthenics have fallen out of favor with men, partly as a result of their link with the growth of lady-centric aerobics courses, they are still a very efficient technique of increasing cardiovascular and physical endurance. I first heard about FM 21-20 when I took part in a GoRuck Challenge; our ruthless crew used these exercises for our “welcome party,” a two-hour physical assault that starts off the event. If you think this kind of exercise is challenging on its own, try it while carrying a 40-pound backpack. Brutal!

FM 21-20 Army field manual physical training.

FM 20-21: Field Manual of the War Department, 1946

Conditioning Workouts

IN THE TOTAL CONDITIONING PROGRAM, EVALUATION OF CONDITIONING EXERCISES

a. In the Army’s physical training program, conditioning exercises are the most often performed activity. These exercises have several advantages: (1) they can be performed anywhere; (2) they do not require any equipment; (3) they are easily adaptable to large groups; (4) they can be easily adapted to individual physiological differences; (5) dosage and progression can be regulated; and (6) if properly selected, they will reach and develop any desired muscle group in the body.

b. One of the most significant disadvantages of conditioning activities is that they are difficult to make interesting to guys. Good leadership and the smart use of supplemental activities may help to overcome this.

EXERCISES ARE ARRANGED IN SET DRILLS.

a. A “set” drill is a carefully designed and organized collection of exercises that target and build all of the body’s major muscle groups. It should be repeated many times. It is possible to attain better precision and accuracy in execution by repeating the same exercises over time. The use of a set drill reduces the time-consuming process of constantly presenting and teaching fresh tasks. A set drill is also the most effective way to ensure dose progression.

b. Two sets of 12 exercises each were selected from the enormous variety of conditioning exercises available. They were chosen based on the following criteria: first, they best address the body’s basic muscle groups; second, they are simple to learn and execute; and third, they are simple to administer and oversee. For the greatest outcomes, the exercises that were chosen were carefully placed in the right order. It is critical to complete each set in the sequence specified.

c. Because two of the exercises in each set are performed in the supine position, suitable exercises have been added as alternatives when the men are unable to lay down due to ground circumstances. Other alternatives are not advised. If further exercises are required, they should be added to the fundamental sets rather than substituting for them.

 

DIFFERENT DRILLS ARE USED.

a. To provide variety to the program, two set drills have been chosen. The two exercises are regarded as being of equal importance and complexity. One set may be adopted and the other never used by a company. If both sets are employed, one should be used exclusively for many months before the other is introduced. Because each exercise in a set is linked to the exercises in the same set, the exercises from the two sets cannot be swapped.

b. If more diversity is required, replacing rifle or log exercises, or the strength course for the conditioning exercises may be done since they target and strengthen the same muscle areas. However, substitutes must be made for complete sets rather than individual exercises.

PRECISION AND ACCURACY ARE REQUIRED. Conditioning activities lose a lot of their efficacy if they aren’t done correctly. During the early stages, a significant amount of time and effort must be devoted to effectively teach the exercises to all men. To achieve the same level of expertise in performing the conditioning exercises as in executing the manual of arms, you’ll need the same amount of patience and time.

CONDITIONING EXERCISES ARE CONDUCTED.

a. The conditioning drill must be performed continuously. Each exercise has a unique title. The teacher expects all of the guys to learn the exercises so that the program may go smoothly. The males are frequently able to finish the full set within a few repetitions, with just enough break between exercises for the teacher to call out the following exercise by name. This strategy of executing conditioning exercises in a continuous manner considerably increases the work load while saving time.

b. Conditioning activities are usually offered in cadence once the guys have learned how to effectively perform the exercises. This is either tallied by the teacher, one of his aides, or the whole class. The cadence changes depending on the workout. If at all feasible, these exercises should be performed with music playing in the background.

c. On occasion, some activities such as push-ups, squat leaps, and rowing workouts may be performed at will. The guys react favorably to these workouts when they are done in this way. The teacher just states the number of repetitions to be accomplished, and the guys stand at ease after they have achieved this amount.

DRILL TO WARM UP

APPLICATION OF A WARM-UP DRILL.

When physical training activities are severe or done in chilly or cold conditions, warm-up exercises are required. Warming up is recommended in general unless intense activities are performed immediately before to the physical training time.

b. Troops should be warmed up by double time to the training location whenever possible. If this isn’t possible, the following exercises may be employed to start the day’s activities. The goal of this exercise is to get the muscles warmed up. There should only be as many repetitions as are required to achieve this goal.

 

EXERCISE 1: WALK WITH THE STORKS

Army physical training stork walk.

Position to begin. Attention. Cadence. Gradually become more mild. Movement:

(1) Raise the left knee till the upper leg is parallel to the body. Raise your right arm to shoulder height at the same moment. Return to the starting position with your left leg and right arm.

(2) With the right foot and left arm, repeat count (1).

(3) Count again (1).

(4) Count again (2).

Reps range from four to six (four count). This is a fixed, slow and forceful stroll. Swing the arms upward and behind the hips on the upswing then downward and behind the hips on the downswing until they are virtually vertical.

EXERCISE 2: CROUCH IN THE BACKFIELD

Army physical training Backfield Crouch.

Position to begin. About eighteen inches between your feet. Otherwise, I’ll be paying attention. Cadence. Moderate. Movement:

(1) Squat and place your fingers 12 to 18 inches in front of your feet on the ground. The knees are bent, the back is straight, and the head is held high.

(2) Return to your original position.

(3) Count again (1).

(4) Return to your original location. Reps range from two to four (four count).

STATIONARY RUN (EXERCISE 3)

Only do this exercise for as long as it takes you to feel flexible and warm in your muscles, which is generally 20 to 40 steps. The cadence is neither too fast or too slow.

EXERCISE NUMBER FOUR: THE BOBBER

Army physical training the Bobber.

Position to begin. Lie on your side with your arms at your sides. Cadence. Gradually become more mild. Movement:

(1) Bend forward, keeping your knees straight, and reach for the ground between your feet with your hands.

(2) Gently relax, then “bounce” downward again, approximately 6 inches farther forward.

(3) Relax once more and “bounce” downward, reaching roughly a foot or more forward.

(4) Return to the initial location.

Reps range from four to six (four count). When doing this exercise, go as far as you can without straining. With each repetition, increase the amount of flexion until the back muscles and the backs of the legs have been stretched and limbered up.

EXERCISE DRILLS FOR CONDITIONING

NO. 1 DRILL

a. The initial dose is five repetitions of each exercise, whether it’s a four- or eight-count exercise. As the soldier’s strength and endurance improves, the number of repetitions is raised one at a time until a maximum of 16 is attained.

b. Due to the terrain, several of the exercises listed below may be impractical. Exercises that may be used as a stand-in have been supplied. The inclusion of a “A” distinguishes them from the standard workouts.

HIGH JUMPER EXERCISE 1

Army physical training high jumper.

Army physical training high jumper.

Position to begin. Feet 12 inches apart, knees slightly bent, torso 45 degrees forward at the waist, arms lifted rearward Cadence. Moderate. Movement:

(1) Jump a few inches higher by swinging your arms forward.

(2) Jump up a few inches by swinging your arms backwards.

(3) Jump upward at least 12 inches by swinging arms forward and above fiercely.

(4) Jump a few inches higher and swing your arms backward.

These EXERCISE 1 HIGH JUMPER actions are continuous and build on one another. The arm swing is similar to the one used right before a standing wide jump. Counts (1), (2), and (4) have just “crow hops” as leaps. The leap on count (3) requires all-out effort.

EXERCISE 2: REACH AND BEND

Army physical training bend and reach.

Army physical training bend and reach 2.

Position to begin. Arms above, side straddle. Cadence. Moderate. Movement:

(1) Bend forward and downward with your trunk. Swing arms between the legs at the same moment, touching fingertips to the ground between and behind the heels. The knees are bowed. Fingers should be as far behind the heels as feasible.

 

(2) Return to your original position.

(3) Count again (1).

(4) Return to your original location.

SQUAT THRUST (EXERCISE 3)

Army physical training squat thrust 3.

Position to begin. Attention. Moderate cadence. Movement:

(1) Squat down and put hands on the ground shoulder width apart, bending knees and hips. Keep your elbows tucked into your knees.

(2) Return to a forward leaning rest posture by thrusting your feet and legs backward. Maintain a straight line from head to heels. Weight should be supported by the hands and toes.

(3) Get back into a squatting stance.

(4) Return to your original location.

ROWING EXERCISE (EXERCISE 4)

Army physical training Rowing exercise.

Position to begin. Arms stretched upwards, feet together, on back. Cadence. Gradually become more mild. Movement:

(1) Sit up straight while bending your knees forcefully. To get into a “rowing posture,” lean forward and swing your arms forward. Knees should be pressed towards the chest, feet should be level on the ground, and heels should be near to the buttocks.

(2) Return to your original position.

(3) Count again (1).

(4) Return to your original location.

EXERCISE 4A: BOTTOMS UP EXERCISE 4A: BOTTOMS UP EXERCISE 4A

Army physical training bottoms up.

Position to begin. Resting in the front, with the body straight from head to heels and the weight supported by the hands and toes. Cadence. Moderate. Movement:

(1) Push on the ground with your feet, keeping your knees straight, rise your hips abruptly, and leap with your feet forward, forming an inverted V with your trunk and legs. Jump as far forward as you can while keeping your knees straight.

(2) Return to your original position.

(3) Count again (1).

(4) Return to your original location.

SQUAT BENDER (EXERCISE 5)

Army physical training Squat bender.

Position to begin. Standing with your feet slightly apart and your hands on your hips. Cadence. Moderate. Movement:

(1) Bend your knees completely and shove your arms forward. Fingers should be extended, palms should be down, and the trunk should be upright.

(2) Return to your original position.

(3) Bend your trunk forward and touch the ground in front of your toes while maintaining your knees straight.

(4) Return to your original location.

PUSH UP (EXERCISE 6)

Army physical training Push up.

Position to begin. Resting in the front, with the body straight from head to heels and the weight supported by the hands and toes. Cadence. Moderate or at your discretion. Movement:

(1) Keep your body straight while bending your elbows and touching your chest to the ground.

(2) Return to starting posture by straightening elbows.

(3) Count again (1).

(4) Count again (2).

SIDE BENDER (EXERCISE 7)

Army physical training Side bender 3.

Position to begin. Thumbs clasped, side straddle, arms above. Cadence. Slow. Movement:

(1) Bend your left knee and bend forcefully to the left. Without rotating the trunk or shoulders, bend straight to the side.

(2) Return to a little higher position and repeat with a bounce.

(3) Count again (2).

(4) Return to your original location.

Counts (5), (6), (7), and (8) are repeated on the right side (8).

BODY TWISTING (EXERCISE 8)

Army physical training Body twist.

Position to begin. Legs vertical, feet together, knees straight. On back, arms on ground and stretched sideward, palms down, legs vertical, feet together, knees straight. Cadence. Slow. Movement:

(1) Lower your legs to the left, rotating your body and placing your left hand on the ground. Maintain a straight line with your knees and both shoulders on the ground. Legs should be lowered rather than dropped.

(2) Without bending the knees, return to the starting posture.

(3) Lower your legs to the right, rotate your trunk, and place your right hand on the ground.

(4) Return to your original location.

EXERCISE 8A: BOUNCE AND TURN

Army physical training turn and bounce 3.

Position to begin. Side straddle with arms outstretched and palms up. Cadence. Moderate. Movement:

(1) Turn the trunk quickly to the left to reach the limit of motion, then gently relax the rotation.

(2) Slightly relax and bounce to the left.

(3) Count again (2).

(4) Return to your original location. Counts (5), (6), (7), and (8) are repeated on the right side (8).

SQUAT JUMPER (EXERCISE 9)

Army physical training Squat jumper 3.

Position to begin. Full knee bend with feet 8 inches apart and left foot 8 inches forward, fingers intertwined on top of head. Cadence. Moderate or at your discretion. Movement:

 

(1) Straighten the knees and lift both feet off the ground by springing upward. While in the air, reverse the position of the feet by moving the right foot forward and the left foot backward. Return to your original starting position.

(2) Without pausing, repeat count (1).

(3) Without pausing, repeat count (1).

(4) Without pausing, repeat count (1).

*Complete half of the four-count repetitions used in the previous exercises.

TRUNK TWISTER (EXERCISE 10)

Army physical training Trunk twister 1.

Army physical training Trunk twister 2.

Position to begin. Side straddle with fingers clasped behind head, elbows backwards, and chin tucked in. Cadence. Slow. Movement:

(1) Bent forward forcefully, keeping knees straight, with a tiny bouncing action that creates a brief recovery from the bend. This is a really active movement.

(2) Bounce downward while simultaneously turning the trunk strongly to the left, swinging the right elbow between the knees.

(3) Count to the right on the second count. The left elbow swings down between the knees this time.

(4) Return to the beginning posture by firmly drawing your head backward and your chin inward.

STATIONARY RUN (EXERCISE 11)

Army physical training Stationary run.

Position to begin. Standing in a loose thrust stance with arms outstretched. Cadence. Sluggish at first, then rapid, then slow again. Movement:

Begin by running gently, then gradually increase your pace while elevating your knees over your hips. Gradually increase to maximum speed, elevating knees high, and then slow down. This exercise should be continued for 1 to 1.5 minutes for men in excellent shape, with the middle half minute being performed at peak speed.

EXERCISE 12: EIGHT COUNT PUSH UP EXERCISE 12: EIGHT COUNT PUSH UP EXERCISE 12:

Army physical training 8 count push up.

Position to begin. Attention. Moderate cadence. Movement:

(1) In a squatting stance, bend your knees and hips and put your hands on the floor in front of your feet.

(2) Return to a forward leaning rest posture by thrusting your feet and legs backward. Maintain a straight line from head to heels. Weight should be supported by the hands and toes.

(3) Touch your chest to the ground by bending your elbows.

(4) Return to the rest posture in front of you.

(5) Count again (3).

(6) Return to the rest posture in front of you.

(7) Return to a squat stance.

(8) Return to your original location.

NO. 2 DRILL

JUMPING JACK EXERCISE 1

Army physical training jumping jack 3.

Position to begin. Arms above, side straddle. Cadence. Fast. Movement:

(1) Start with your feet together and squat to a full knee bend, swinging your arms side to side and downward. Place your hands in front of your feet on the ground.

(2) Jump to side straddle and swing arms sideward over head to return to starting position.

(3) Count again (1).

(4) Return to your original location.

LUNGER EXERCISE 2

Army physical training Lunger.

Position to begin. Attention. Moderate cadence. Movement:

(1) Lunge diagonally forward, palms up, with arms sideways.

(2) Bend forcefully forward and downward, wrapping arms around the left leg above the knee and “folding” them around the thigh.

(3) Return to the starting location.

(4) Return to your original location. Counts (5), (6), (7), and (8) are repeated on the right side (8).

DIAGONAL SQUAT THRUST (EXERCISE 3)

Army physical training diagonal squat thrust.

Position to begin. Attention. Moderate cadence. Movement:

(1) Squat with your hands shoulder width apart on the ground. Keep your elbows tucked into your knees.

(2) In a front leaning rest posture, thrust feet and legs diagonally backward to the left. Maintain a 45° angle between the hands and the body from head to heels.

(3) Get back into a squatting stance.

(4) Return to your original location.

Rep by pushing your legs diagonally to the right. Half of the reps should be done to the left and half to the right. Switch sides halfway through.

V-UP (EXERCISE 4)

Army physical training v-up.

Position to begin. On your back, place your arms 45 degrees from the sides on the ground, palms down. Cadence. Moderate. Movement:

 

(1) Raise your legs with your knees straight and sit up until your torso and legs create a V shape. Then take a deep breath and relax somewhat. (This is referred to as a “bounce” movement.)

(2) Pull strongly to the V position one more, then relax.

(3) Count again (2).

(4) Return to your original location.

BACK BENDER (EXERCISE 4A)

Army physical training back bender.

Position to begin. Standing with your feet 12 inches apart and your fingers linked behind your head. Cadence. Slow. Movement:

(1) Raise chest high, draw elbows back, and gaze skyward while bending upper trunk backward. Knees should be straight.

(2) Return to your original position.

(3) Count again (1).

(4) Return to your original location.

SQUAT STRETCH (EXERCISE 5)

Army physical training squat stretch.

Position to begin. Attention. Cadence. Moderate. Movement:

(1) Squat down with hands approximately 1 foot in front of feet on the ground.

(2) Raise hips and straighten knees fully while keeping hands on the ground.

(3) Return to the starting location.

(4) Return to your original location.

EXERCISE 6: PUSH UP WITH ONE LEGGED

Army physical training one leg push up 3.

Position to begin. Left leg lifted backward, knee straight, and foot approximately 2 feet above ground in front leaning rest. Cadence. Moderate or at your discretion. Movement:

(1) Keep your body straight while bending your elbows and touching your chest to the ground. Lower your left foot to the ground at the same moment.

(2) Push up to a straight arm posture by straightening elbows. Raise your right leg at the same moment.

(3) Bend elbows and drop right foot to the ground, touching chest to ground.

(4) Return to your original location.

EXERCISE 7: BEND AND LUNGE

Army physical training lunge and bend.

Position to begin. Attention. Moderate cadence. Movement:

(1) Lunge to the left, arms swinging sideways and upward.

(2) Bend your trunk to the side while maintaining your arms parallel.

(3) Return to the starting location.

(4) Return to your original location. Counts (5), (6), (7), and (8) are repeated on the right side (8).

EXERCISE NUMBER EIGHT: LEG CIRCLER

Army physical training leg circler.

Position to begin. On your back, extend your arms sideways, palms down, elevate your feet approximately a foot off the ground, and keep your knees straight. Cadence. Slow. Movement:

(1) Swing your legs to the left as far as you can while maintaining your knees straight and your legs together.

(2) Swing your legs in front of your chest, flexing your thighs as near to your trunk as feasible.

(3) Swing your legs as far to the right as possible.

(4) Return to your original location.

The orientation of the leg circles should be reversed after completing half the amount of repetitions. The cadence should be counted in order to achieve a constant circular motion of the legs.

EXERCISE 8A: THRUST IN THE ARCH

Army physical training Arch thrust.

Position to begin. Hands on the ground in front of feet in a squatting stance. Cadence. Slow. Movement:

(1) Push both legs backwards, landing with the right foot on the ground and the left leg lifted backwards with knee straight. The hips should not be raised. The head should be elevated and directed forward.

(2) Return to your original position.

(3) Raise your right leg and count to three.

(4) Return to your original location.

DOUBLE HIGH JUMPER (EXERCISE 9)

Army physical training DBL high jumper 3.

Position to begin. Feet roughly 12 inches apart, knees slightly bent, arms lifted backward, and torso bowed forward at the waist. Cadence. Moderate. Movement:

(1) Jump up and forth with your arms swinging forward and upward.

(2) Jump upward slightly while swinging arms downward and backward.

(3) Count again (1).

(4) Count again (2).

EXERCISE 10: BEND AND TURN

Army physical training turn and bend 3.

Position to begin. Arms above, side straddle. Cadence. Moderate. Movement:

(1) Bend forward over the left thigh, trying to touch hands to the ground outside of the left foot. Maintain a straight left knee. Attempt to touch more and farther to the side with each repetition.

 

(2) Return to your original position. Arms should stretch forcefully upward and chest should be high.

(3) Rotate the trunk to the right and bend forward over the right thigh, striving to contact the ground with the hands outside the right foot. Maintain a straight right knee.

(4) Return to your original location.

STATIONARY RUN (EXERCISE 11)

Army physical training stationary run 2.

Position to begin. Standing in a loose thrust stance with arms outstretched. Cadence. Sluggish at first, then rapid, then slow again. Movement:

Begin by running gently, then gradually increase your pace while elevating your knees over your hips. Gradually increase to maximum speed, elevating knees high, and then slow down. This exercise should be continued for 1 to 1.5 minutes for men in excellent shape, with the middle half minute being performed at peak speed.

EXERCISE 12: DIP AND THRUST IN THE LEG

Army physical training leg thrust and dip.

Position to begin. Squatting is a standing stance. Cadence. Moderate. Movement:

(1) Return to the front leaning rest by thrusting your legs backward.

(2) Keep your body straight while bending your elbows and touching your chest to the ground.

(3) Raise the body in a straight line by straightening the elbows.

(4) Return to your original location.

Complete the Series

Physical Fitness and Its Importance

 

 

The “gym exercise name” is a type of conditioning exercise that has been used by men for centuries. These exercises are designed to increase muscle strength and endurance, build muscle mass, and improve overall health.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best exercise for conditioning?

A: The best exercise for conditioning is a variety of exercises that use resistance, such as weighted squats and lunges.

What are conditioning exercises?

A: Conditioning exercises are a type of exercise that focuses on improving joint mobility, such as stretching and strengthening your muscles. These types of exercises will help to prevent injuries in the long term but can also improve performance during an event by reducing what is known as joint-impairment.

When should you do conditioning exercise?

A: Conditioning is an exercise that strengthens the body. It should be done in order to increase muscular endurance, joint mobility and reduce risk of injury. The next time you do strength training exercises, its important to add a few sets of conditioning before your set so that you can get more out of the session.

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