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Infantry Physical Training & the Much Maligned Push-Up

September 26, 2003 10:13 AM

To many Party members the push-up is often persona non grata. Pavel doesn't like them, and if you read the posts on, neither does the Party. I should clarify Pavel's opinion on push-ups. Pavel loves an evil variant of the push-up called the one arm push-up. Pavel's one-arm push-up makes the Rocky Balboa's one-arm push-ups look like something out of a Richard Simmons workout video. In my humble opinion, the push-up is unfairly maligned, and actually has infantry physical training applications.

The first thing we must ask is, "Why does the military, and especially the Army, put such an emphasis on the push-up?" In my opinion there are three reasons for the military's love of the push-up.

The first reason is male ego. The push-up is ingrained in our culture as the upper body resistance exercise of choice. If you walk into a bar and try to impress the ladies, you're not going to say "I can snatch a 1.5 pood kettle bell for 50 reps!" Chances are, she will look at you like you have a third eye growing out of your forehead. On the other hand, if you tell some cutie, "I can knock out 100 push-ups in two minutes!," she will be impressed. Although if you are in the Air force, she will never believe you. The point I am trying to get across is that the push-up is a universal fitness standard that almost everyone knows about. The push-up is the mini-me version of the bench press. American men of the mullet kind just can help doing them.

The second reason for the push-up's popularity is logistics. Trust me, as a former Ranger team leader it's easier and takes less time for a platoon or company to test push-ups than test such superior upper body exercises like pull-ups and kettlebell lifts. All you need for a push up test is some dirt and you're in business. If you want to run a test consisting of pull-ups or KB snatches, you're going to need kettlebells, pull-up stations, and time.

The third reason is that the military is sometimes is just down right stupid. They have been doing push-ups for so long, the powers that be cannot image not having them as part of the Army Physical Fitness Test. Remember, this is the bunch that brought you the $100 hammer.

Please note, that even though I believe that the push-up has a place in infantry training, I still believe that it is a poor upper body strength test. The pull up is a better test of upper body strength.

Nevertheless, push-ups have a place in infantry physical training. Anyone who has had to IMT (individual movement technique, i.e. shoot'n and scoot'n) will know that push-ups do carry over. Push-up training comes in handy when you're loaded down with your LCE, body armor, water, and ammo you are constantly pushing yourself off of the ground and moving. When some foreign a-hole is shooting at you, you're not going to run around standing up like Rambo.

Imagine you're on a patrol, and all of a sudden an explosion rocks your squad, and the guy in front becomes a red misty sack of goo. Guess what? Your squad has just been ambushed (a close in ambush, i.e. they're right on top of you), and that explosion you felt, was a claymore or RPG going off! Welcome to infantry combat, sucker! Now if you want to live, you're not going to run around shooting from the hip like you see in the movies. Actually, your going to have to assault the bad guys, and get the hell out of the kill zone if you want to live. You're going to have to use the Individual Movement techniques (IMT) that you learned in basic. Hopefully your unit continued to emphasis this type of training. Remember; leave the hip shooting while standing up to third world idiots with a death wish!

Now back to the action. If you want to live you're going to do 2 to 3 second rushes. If things are really bad you're going to be low crawling, i.e. you hug the ground and inch your way to cover and concealment. By the way, if you're low crawling at this point, I hope you paid for SGLI (military life insurance), because things aren't looking to good. You're going to have to do 2 to 3 second rushes from cover and concealment and engage the enemy until you've killed the bastards. Sounds hard? Well don't blame me, you idiots should have been paying attention. I know, I know, it's the stupid PL fault. Stupid West Pointer!

The 2 to 3 second rush is a technique that all American infantry soldiers know. It's the meat and potatoes of the Individual Movement Techniques taught to new infantry privates. The 2 to 3 second rush consists of the following.
  1. You're on the ground, in the prone, hopefully shooting bad guys.
  2. Quickly you push yourself up (push-up) and run (like a bat out of hell) while saying, "I'm up, he sees me, I'm down!" The idea is to be up just long enough to move forward and without some bad guy shooting you.
  3. At the "down" part you dive to the ground, hopefully behind some cover. If you're still out in the open you'll roll right or left and repeat the 2 to 3 second rush. You alternate the role so the a-hole Commie (apologies to Pavel) or Islamo terrorist trying to kill you won't get a good bead on you and blow your brains out. It should be noted that you would probably be mixing in other movement techniques while moving. You'll repeat the 2 to 3 second rush until you get behind some cover or assaulted through the objective. Also, your going to still have to engage the enemy while doing all of this running and crawling around.
If this sounds easy to you, it isn't. My first Platoon Sgt., SFC Inman, could reduce anyone to sweating, puking, pile of agony using just this one technique. 2 to 3 second rushes, if done fast enough, are downright evil.

As you can read, all of these 2 to 3 second rushes involves allot of push-up like movements. Plus, if you remember, you're carrying an LCE, maybe body armor, and your individual weapon, and that's a lot of gear. Hopefully this gives you an idea of why I believe that the push-up does carry over to actual infantry training and combat.

So how do you plug push-ups into your infantry training? Well let's define a push-up. To me there is more to the push-up than the old garden-variety standard push-up. There is the push-up, the elevated push-up, the Hindu push-up, the dive-bomber push-up, the one-leg push-up, the one-arm push up, the push-up with a weighted vest on, and variations that combine all of those I have listed.

Below is my idea of how push-ups can and should be incorporated into infantry fitness training.

"Burpees" or the "5 point body builder"

Starting position: Standing or jogging in place
  1. Squat down (think Hindu squat, but with your hands planted on the ground).
  2. Kick your legs back so that you're in the front leaning rest push-up position.
  3. Do a push-up variation
  4. Kick your legs back under your body so that you're back in the first position.
  5. Stand up back up.

Repeat until you puke. As someone who has been tortured with this exercise, I can attest, that if done fast enough, you'll feel like puking.

Also, when you're in the first position, your rib cage will feel constricted, kind of like when you're in the bottom part of a kettlebell swing or snatch. I maybe crazy, but kettlebells may actually help with all of this infantry stuff.

If you want to be more "authentic", perform this exercise while wearing BDUs, boots, Body armor, LCE, and a rubber duck (fake M-16)

Remember to mix things up. Pavel had a great idea when he responded to my original post on this subject. He made the suggestion that the one-arm push-up would be better than the standard one. As usual, Pavel is dead on target. When you're IMTing you're going to be off balance, mainly because you're carrying a weapon, you will rarely have a chance to use both arms equally.

If you're feeling full of pep, you can try a truly evil variation of the burpee, which was described to me by a fellow poster RMONTI01.

"When doing 5 point bodybuilders, do them beneath a high hanging (above your reach when standing flat foot) pull-up bar. Perform the bodybuilder and after you return to the starting position, jump up and do a pull-up. This drill is called the 'Maxercist', as Com. Steve Maxwell devised it."

Just for fun, here are some other body weight exercises that you can plug into your infantry training.

Bear crawl: Just like the name implies, you get on all fours, knees off the ground and start crawling as fast as you can like a bear. This exercise isn't fun for long.

Mountain climbers: Get on all fours like in the Bear crawl. Instead of crawling around you're going to stay stationary and kick your legs back and forth like you are trying to run. Your knees should be touching your chest when forward and should be fully extended when back. This exercise, if done correctly, sucks big time.

Duck walk: squat down and walk like a duck. This seemingly harmless exercise gets really cruel after a couple of minutes of constant fast movement.

MA walk: Don't know the name for these, but I'll describe them. Get on your knees with your butt resting on your legs and feet. Now stick one leg out and start walking, alternating the legs from kneeling to walking. This is an Aikido exercise one of my squad leaders used to make my squad do. When you get good at these try it with a couple of kettlebells.

These exercises should provide hours of evil enjoyment. Feel free to mix them kettlebell snatches, kettlebell C&Js, pull-ups, pistols, sandbag carries, farmer's walks, and buddy carries. There're loads of other exercises that carry over to infantry physical fitness, just plug them in and have fun. Not!!!

I know some other evil body weight exercises, but they're just for torturing newbie ranger privates. I'd have to kill you, if I told you!

If you're interested in body weight exercises that cross over to Infantry Physical Fitness, check out Scrapper's Body By Fish website,

Comrade Batboy2/75 is a former Airborne Ranger who spent almost 4 years serving with Aco, 3rd platoon (Earth-pigs), 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment. In his spare time he tortures himself with Pavel's evil exercise theories and Kettlebells. Comrade Batboy2/75 makes his living selling over priced, high speed, digital imaging devices to unsuspecting and dimwitted US government employees. Batboy2/75 currently resides in the Soviet Socialist Republic of California, San Diego province, with his wife and three children and is constantly plotting his future escape.