Every year, Memorial Day is a time for Americans — especially members of the United States Military — to remember the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice while defending their country.

And for many active military and veterans, Memorial Day is also a time to honor the fallen soldiers by training just a little (or a lot) harder than normal.

So, it only made sense that this past Memorial Day the Army’s 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) would challenge Erik Bartell to a fitness competition like no other.

Bartell is a former 101st Airborne soldier turned celebrity trainer, and one of the founding members of Bravo Sierra and Echelon. The 101st invited Bartell to field a team of fitness icons to join them in validating exercises from the new Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT), while honoring our nation’s fallen heroes.

Higher Standards, Fitter Soldiers

The 101st airborne military force showing a case a Echelon Energy drink
Courtesy of Echelon

The ACFT introduces a new set of exercises and standards to replace the Army’s antiquated Basic Training Physical Fitness Test of pushups, situps, and a 2-mile run. The ACFT includes six distinct events created to enhance the “combat readiness of all Soldiers”: a 3-rep max deadlift (MDL); a standing power throw for distance with a medicine ball (SPT); hand-release pushups (HRP); a weighted sprint-drag-carry (SDC); leg tuck (LTK) or plank (PLK); and a 2-mile run (2MR).

(For further explanations of the events and their specific purposes, visit the U.S. Army’s ACFT web page.)

The 101st Airborne competition consisted of several five-person teams — Bartell’s team, plus others made up of some of the Army’s fittest soldiers. The teams did the same workout simultaneously, “racing” to see who could finish all reps and distances first. The workout, designed by Bartell, was a hybrid of the popular (and grueling) “Murph” Memorial Day WOD and variations of the aforementioned ACFT events.

“I took those [ACFT] exercises and I turned them into a Murph format for Memorial Day,” says Bartell. “This made it conducive to having a team competition in a ‘relay’-style fashion. But it’s also a workout that any fit person, military or civilian, can do on their own if they have some basic equipment.”

The Upper Echelon of Energy Drinks

The 101st Airborne Memorial Day Workout also introduced Bravo Sierra’s brand-new Echelon energy drink, with Bartell’s squad competing as “Team Echelon.” Though Bravo Sierra specializes in men’s grooming products, Bartell and company were receiving so many requests to create a “clean” energy drink specifically for hard-training soldiers that they couldn’t ignore the demand any longer.

Echelon comes in a small 8.4 oz can, but it packs a huge performance-enhancing punch with efficacious doses of proven ingredients like caffeine and aminos acid, l-theanine, beta-alanine, citrulline and arginine to provide both a mental and physical boost.

Creating this formula was no easy task, though. “For the last two years we’ve been developing this clean energy drink,” says Bartell, “and it’s gone through at least 15 iterations. We’ve tested Echelon with thousands of military members to deliver a type of performance energy drink that before now didn’t exist.”

Fueled by passion, grit, and Echelon’s innovative formula of performance-boosting ingredients, the Memorial Day workout was a success — despite some minor precipitation.

“The day was meant to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice, and a moment of silence was taken before the workout,” says Bartell. “In true Army fashion, it started pouring rain as soon as the workout started. We have a saying in the military: ‘If ain’t raining, we ain’t training!’”

Your New Pre-Workout Performance Drink

Echelon Energy Drink for the 101st Airborne Memorial Day Workout
Courtesy of Echelon Energy Drink

The brand-new Echelon energy drink was designed by and for members of the United States Military to deliver sustained energy, better focus, and improved performance for any demanding physical endeavor or workout.

Want to prime yourself for a great workout today? Down an Echelon before your training session. The ingredients create a sensorial effect so when you taste the heat and your skin starts tingling, you know the drink is activated.

Ready to take on the below 101st Airborne Workout? Muscle & Fitness readers will receive a limited-time 15% off promo code, “MUSCLE15” to order Echelon for this workout.

A portion of every sale of Echelon is donated directly to the Green Beret Foundation. The Green Beret Foundation is a 501(c)3 nonprofit that provides relief and aid to members of the Special Forces community and their families.

Echelon officially launches June 22nd, 2021. Learn more about the new Echelon energy drink and their mission to provide aid to members of the Green Beret community at drinkechelon.com.

101st Airborne Memorial Day Workout

Workout originally performed May 31, 2021, and brought to you by @Echelon_USA and @greenberetfoundation

The following “Murph”-style workout was performed by several teams of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) competing against one another, as well as a team of fitness elite, in the first annual 2021 Memorial Day military competition. Teams consisted of five members each from across the military division and Team Echelon, led by former Army Officer Erik Bartell and also consisting of Demi Bagby, Michael Eckert, Robert Killian, and Austen Alexander.

The competition was set up as a relay, where every member had to perform all reps of all exercises (shown below). The only benefit to the team was that team members could do reps for other team members, allowing certain strengths to shine. For instance, Mike Eckert (world pull-up record holder) did extra pullups for others who were struggling. 

If you’re doing the routine on your own and are an experienced trainee, do all reps yourself as prescribed in as little time as possible, resting as needed.

Warmup: Do five to 10 minutes of light movement, followed by full-body dynamic mobility work, before completing the following routine.

  • 1 Mile Run
  • 50 Pullups
  • 100-meter Farmer’s Carry
  • 50 Deadlifts
  • 100-meter Wind Sprints
  • 100-meter Medicine Ball Throw Relay
  • 50 Hand-Release Pushups
  • 1 Mile Run

Exercise Notes

  • 1 Mile Run – Do both of these runs at a manageable yet challenging pace.
  • Pullups – These can be done either kipping or strict. If you need assistance, use a loop-style resistance band. Rest as needed to reach 50 reps.
  • Farmer’s Carry – These can be performed holding two heavy dumbbells or a weight hex/trap bar. Walk fast with short, choppy steps, dropping the weight and resting if needed, until you’ve walked 100 meters (or yards).
  • Deadlifts – These can be done either with an Olympic barbell or a hex/trap bar. Use a moderate weight – somewhere around 50%-70% of your estimated 1RM – and rest as needed to reach 50 reps. “We did 135 pounds across the board for both males and females as an equalizer to the body weight movements for the heavier participants, allowing them to make up some pace,” says Erik Bartell, referring to the Memorial Day Workout. 
  • Wind Sprints – Mark off 25 meters. Sprint to the 25-meter mark and back two times (100 meters total), touching the ground every time you change direction.
  • Medicine Ball Throw Relay – Throw a medicine ball underhand as far ahead of you as possible (throwing with maximum power), then sprint to it, pick it up, and repeat. Do this until you reach the goal distance (100 meters).
  • Hand-Release Pushups – At the bottom of each rep, lift both hands off the ground for a moment with your chest on the ground. Take rest as needed on your way to 50 reps.

If you don’t have all the prescribed equipment, this workout can be altered to be completed with just two kettlebells. Farmer’s carry and deadlifts will be done with kettlebells and medicine ball throws will be replaced with 50 kettlebell swings.

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