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A few good bodyweight exercises (give or take) are all it takes to build the muscle, strength, and grit of a Marine. USMC Veteran Aaron Marks is back for his third Military Monday installment with a quick and effective full-body workout that combines traditional calisthenics with modern intensity-boosting techniques.
Featured Trainer: Aaron Marks is a Marine Corps veteran who served four years as a machine gunner with 2nd BN, 8th Marines in Camp Lejeune, NC. Now living in Portland, OR, he’s also a programming adviser and athlete for Hard to Kill Fitness and a full-time member of the Bravo Sierra team.
Equipment Needed: Your body weight, and a pullup bar
Time Commitment: 45 minutes or less
Workout Overview: Marks’ routine is broken down into three exercise blocks utilizing different training techniques: (1) Ladders, (2) 30/30s, and (3) Accumulate-style training.
Block 1 – Ladders: Do 1 rep, pause, then do 2 reps, pause again, then 3 reps, and so on until you reach the highest prescribed rep count. Each pause should be a short rest period, taking only as long as necessary to be able to complete the next rep count. However, as the reps increase, you may need to take more rest to be able to complete the next rep count.
For example, a 1-4 ladder would look like this: 1 rep, pause; 2 reps, pause; 3 reps, pause; final set of 4 reps, then rest. When finished, you’ll have completed 10 total reps.
Block 2 – 30/30s: This refers to the time spent exercising (working) and resting – 30 seconds of work (reps) followed by 30 seconds of full rest. You’ll alternate between work and rest for the prescribed time. The below workout calls for 3 minutes of 30/30s per exercise, which will end up being three working sets each.
Block 3 – Accumulate: Here, you’ll accumulate a certain number of reps or time on a given exercise. It doesn’t matter how many sets you break it up into — just get it done in as little time as possible.
For example, to get to 60 seconds of an L-Sit Hold, you may need to hold it for 30 seconds, rest, hold for another 20 seconds, rest, then hold for 10 more seconds. (Advanced individuals may be able to hold for 60 seconds straight — so only one set.) For heel taps, you may need to rest multiple times to reach 100 reps.
“With the above exercise explanations in mind, this workout is very simple, fulfilling, and if done with a partner, can be fun and competitive as well,” says Marks. “As an infantry sergeant in the Marine Corps, this is the kind of explosive and fun workout my platoon would do to have a little fun and build team camaraderie, all while getting in an intense full-body workout.”
Warmup: Do five to 10 minutes of light cardio, followed by full-body dynamic stretching, before completing the following routine.
See above descriptions for how to perform Ladders, 30/30s, and Accumulate techniques.
Block 1 – Ladders
Block 2 – 30/30s
Block 3 – Accumulate
Narrow Pushup: This is a standard pushup, only with your hands closer together than normal (just inside shoulder-width).
Pullup: Do any variation of pullups you want: wide overhand grip, narrow overhand, neutral (palms facing each other), supinated grip (chin-up), etc. If you don’t have a pull-up bar but are able to do bodyweight rows with a suspension trainer (i.e., TRX), a barbell inside a power rack, or other contraption, do that. If bodyweight pull-ups are too difficult to get all reps, use a resistance band for assistance. If you have no way to do pullups or rows, Marks recommends wide pushups (hands shoulder-width or wider).
Diamond Pushups: This is a triceps-focused pushup with your index fingers and thumbs touching to form a diamond shape.
Walking Lunge: If bodyweight lunges aren’t challenging enough, add resistance via dumbbells, a kettlebell, weighted vest, sandbag, barbell, or other weighted object.
Mountain Climber: Keep the intensity high on these by moving your legs quickly back and forth. Make sure your core stays tight throughout.
Crunch: Do your reps under control (and relatively slow), but keep constant tension on the abs by not letting your shoulder blades touch down at the bottom.
L-Sit Hold: With only your hands in contact with the ground and arms extended, hold a body position where your torso is vertical and your legs are fully extended hovering just above the ground (torso and legs forming a 90-degree angle), core engaged throughout. This is an advanced exercise, so you may need to rest several times on your way to 60 seconds accumulated.
Heel Taps: Holding the top position of a crunch with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor, and arms extended just above the floor, contract your abs and obliques to touch one heel with the same side hand. Come back to the middle, then repeat to the other side. That’s one rep. Keep your shoulder blades off the floor as you alternate sides continuously. When you need to rest, drop your shoulders down.