Though I have never served in the military myself, I have always had the utmost respect for the fine men and women that bravely serve the United States of America. With an uncle and aunt that served in WWII in Europe and the Pacific in the Army and Marine Corps, a father and wife who both belonged to the Army National Guard, and older brothers that are veterans of the US Army and Navy, let’s just say I am somewhat familiar with our armed forces. And as someone that makes his living helping people reach their physique goals, I thought it was high time that I geared some advice toward our soldiers. Your situation is certainly different from a civilian’s when it comes to areas like training facilities, food and supplements, and rest; but all can be adapted to suit your needs and availability. You may know that two of the top pro bodybuilders in the world today – Leo Ingram and David Henry – have been serving active duty in the US Navy and Air Force for over a decade each. Thousands of others have managed to craft impressive physiques even while based in hot spots like Iraq and Afghanistan. It all comes down to two critical factors: determination and ingenuity. If you are determined to live the bodybuilding lifestyle of hard training and clean eating with the goal of getting bigger and stronger, nothing can stop you. The ingenuity comes into play as you find ways to adapt and seek out opportunities rather than give up on your goals. So at ease soldier, but pay attention as we put a sound strategy together.
Training Facilities and Equipment
This is the variable that will differ wildly depending on where you are currently stationed. If you are at a base in the USA, your situation is close to ideal. Most bases have excellent gyms stocked with plenty of free weights and machines. Or, if you prefer, you can travel off-base to a nearby gym in a neighboring community. Bases in Europe are often similar in this regard, and there are even some bases in Iraq and Afghanistan with very decent weight-training facilities. For all others, equipment can vary from a simple bench and set of free weights like most us had in the basement or garage as kids, to improvised and home-made equipment fashioned from scrap metal and wood, sand bags, fuel canisters and water jugs, etc. Exercises like push-ups can be turned into an effective bench press by having a weighted object or another soldier on your back for added resistance. Chin-ups can be done hanging from any horizontal object that can be grasped (I have seen soldiers do them off tank guns or brick walls). Dips can be done in between chairs or boxes. Squats can be done on one leg if you have no extra weight, or with a buddy on your shoulders. Obviously the most convenient way to train your muscles is in a ‘real’ gym, but the bottom line is that weight is weight. Your biceps don’t know whether they are curling a 100-pound barbell, or a broomstick with a 50-pound sandbag hanging from each end. And the fact of the matter is, you will probably get better results in some ways using improvised equipment. It’s less stable and forces you to work harder to keep it balanced and use proper form. That also means that in most cases, your form will be stricter, with a slow, controlled rep speed – and that equates to better muscle growth. Something that at first seems like a disadvantage can actually be an advantage – who would have thought?
Another factor that will vary from one soldier to another is training frequency. IFBB Pro Leo Ingram explains how he had to adapt his training schedule over his years as the engineer of the USS Vandegrift: “On some of the missions we were on, I may have had just three hours in a twenty-four-hour period for myself. It was either sleep for three hours a day, or go work out and not sleep at all. Since I couldn’t do my job on no sleep, I had to miss a lot of training.” He trained when he could, and still managed to maintain his muscle mass. Once he was stationed in Hawaii, Leo was able to eat, sleep, and train on a more regular schedule and went on to earn his pro card as a bodybuilder with a resounding overall victory at the IFBB North American Championships. How often should you train? Ideally, you would hit the weights four or five times a week. Here are a couple ways to arrange this:
|Day||4X Week||5X Week|
|Chest and triceps||Chest|
|Legs||Shoulders and Biceps|
Of course, you may only have three days a week when you can train. In that case, you could do split your body up this way:
|Chest, shoulders and triceps||Legs||Back and biceps|
For still more of you, workouts can’t really be planned on any particular day. There may be times when you can train a few times a week, while at other times a week or two may go by when you simply don’t have the time. That’s just part of your job and the way it is. So you train when you can. If you know your schedule is erratic and the chances of getting to your workout often aren’t likely, your best bet is to work the biggest muscle groups with compound movements like deadlifts, bench presses, military presses, rows, dips, and chins. These will cover not only the larger muscle groups like the back, chest, legs and shoulders, but the arms and calves are definitely going to be working as they assist in all those exercises. Unless you are stationed on base with a regular shift and know you are able to train on a consistent schedule, you should always choose those exercises that deliver the most ‘bang for your buck.’ I would suggest one exercise to hit each major muscle group, like so:
|Bench press||3 x 8-12|
|Deadlift||3 x 8-12|
|Dip||3 x 8-12|
|Chin-up||3 x 8-12|
|Overhead press||3 x 8-12|
|Row||3 x 8-12|
|Squat||3 x 15-20|
|Crunches||3 x 20|
That way, if you aren’t able to train again for a few days, you can at least know that you got a good, productive workout in that will take your body at least two or three days to recover from anyway. The bottom line is that while it’s wonderful to be able to train on a regular schedule in a perfect world, life in the military often calls for more demanding duties. Just know that you are always better off doing some training when you can than none at all. Each workout will stimulate gains in size and strength.
Nutrition and Supplementation
Of course, to support muscle gain, the body does need a steady stream of nutrients, mainly protein, carbohydrates, and fats. You always hear the phrase ‘You are what you eat,’ but nowhere is this as true as in bodybuilding. A guy can train like a maniac, but won’t see really good results unless he combines that training with a solid nutritional approach. Ideally, you want to eat every two to three hours. This keeps the body in an anabolic, or building, state. When you allow too much time to elapse between meals, the body slips into a catabolic, or wasting state. Because we evolved from hunter-gatherers, our bodies are designed to burn muscle before fat in this situation – since fat stores are what would keep you alive for long stretches when no food was available back in the Ice Age.
Again, some of you will be able to eat on a regular schedule every day, while others won’t due to your individual missions and duties. Just as with the training, eat well when you are able to. Make high-quality protein your first priority every time. Look for chicken, fish, beef, eggs, turkey, and milk to fill that need. When you can’t eat, a very high-quality whey protein isolate supplement like IsoFusion from Gaspari Nutrition can be of great value. You can drink one of these delicious shakes in less than a minute, making it an easy way to boost your overall protein intake, which should be about 1.5 grams per pound of bodyweight a day total. Depending on your activity levels, you also want varying amounts of complex carbs like rice, potatoes, oatmeal, cream of wheat, and whole-wheat pasta or bread. If you are extremely active, you probably want to consume roughly 2-3 grams of complex carbs every day per pound of bodyweight. Essential fats are also important for good health and to support muscle growth. These can be found in whole eggs, coldwater fish like salmon, and raw nuts like cashews and almonds. If you have access to a fully-stocked mess hall for breakfast, lunch, and dinner; you could supplement those solid meals with two or three IntraPro shakes and have all the nutrients you need to build muscle fast.
There are also several other Gaspari products that can aid you on your quest to get bigger and stronger. Vasotropin is the newest in the line, a nitric oxide maximizer guaranteed to deliver the most intense pumps of your life while training. If you like feeling swollen and seeing your veins pop like they’re about ready to jump out of your skin, you’ll love PlasmaJet. And to really crank up your workout intensity, try SuperPump MAX!. This stuff will have you ready to blast weights like an uncaged beast. You will literally feel like there’s nothing you can’t lift, and getting more reps than last time is a breeze. That would be particularly helpful to those of you that may have to train without being properly rested beforehand and in need of a strong ‘boost.’ Finally, we all know that supplementing with creatine has been helping bodybuilders and all types of athletes perform better for decades. No creatine on the market today is as advanced and effective as Gaspari’s SizeOn. Stacking all three of those powerhouse products together would amplify your gains like never before.
Rest and Recovery
At last we come to the third side of the triangle, rest and recovery. You should know that even though we can stimulate muscle gains with our training, actual muscle repair and growth only happens if the muscles are both provided ample nutrients (which we just covered), and also given adequate rest between workouts. In that perfect world we keep talking about, you would get a solid eight hours of sleep every night and maybe even sneak in a little power nap every afternoon. That’s not the reality for most of you serving in the Armed Forces. Sometimes you get your rest, and other times sleep is just a fond memory as you steal a few minutes here and there when you can. As with the other two major factors, sleep when you can. If you have the choice between watching TV, going out drinking, or getting a good night’s sleep, those of you serious about improving your physique will choose to rest and let your body build new muscle tissue.
Another factor that can really hamper your muscle gains is stress. The life of a soldier can often be stressful, with pressures the average civilian can’t even comprehend. Stress causes the body to release cortisol, a catabolic hormone. Adrenaline, the ‘fight or flight’ hormone, is the body’s response to traumatic situations. While it can be your friend in times where fast action is required, it is also a catabolic hormone. To battle those catabolic hormones, you would want to tip the balance the other way, toward anabolism. The best way to do that would be with Anatropin by Gaspari. By raising your body’s testosterone levels and keeping estrogen levels in check, you are in a prime metabolic state for muscle growth.
To all of you out there in the United States Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps, we salute you as a fellow American and would like to express our gratitude for the fine job you are so nobly doing. Many of you are also fellow bodybuilders or would like to be, so we hope you have picked up some valuable tips on how to improve your physique while defending our great nation.Written by Ron Harris with Rich Gaspari, Owner, Gaspari Nutrition