What is British Army Warrior Fitness?

by Benjamin Bunting BA(Hons) PGCert

ben bunting BA(Hons) PgCert Sport & Exercise Nutriton  Written by Ben Bunting: BA(Hons), PGCert. Sport & Exercise Nutrition. L2 Strength & Conditioning Coach.

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BAWF originated in the Royal Army Physical Training Corps, which overhauled how physical training was delivered to soldiers. Before, a soldier's training routine consisted of group or collective PT and involved long distance runs and tabs. A typical weekly PT timetable would include a run, a circuit session, and a loaded march.

BAWF Explained

The British Army Warrior Fitness competition is a national competition that celebrates the best in fitness. The competition is not about strength, but about all-round physical characteristics, including stamina, agility, and speed. It is an annual event that takes place in many different locations across the UK.

BAWF can stem its roots to around 10 years ago when the army started to change the way it delivered physical fitness training, but this year's finals are unique in that they are open to individuals. In previous years, regiments, corps, and units competed. The competition is hosted at the Army Training Regiment in Winchester and is open to anyone who wants to become a fit soldier.

More recently, British Army Warrior Fitness is launching an online competition, with the goal of encouraging its members to improve their overall fitness. Previously, the organisation has staged regular team events, but recent issues such as Covid-19 have made these a moot point. The competition is now focused on the individual, and entrants will be required to complete a set of workouts spread across ten weeks and upload them to two apps.

Influences from Project THOR

Project THOR is a program that is designed to build the physical capabilities of soldiers. This program uses professional sports trainers who specialize in strength and conditioning, nutrition, physical therapy, and cognitive enhancement. 

Project THOR aims to improve physical training for the British Army by promoting a more functional fitness approach. The programme reduces the risk of musculoskeletal injuries and increases overall unit fitness. It is part of the broader WGCC programme, which seeks to improve the Army's overall health and readiness.

APTS vs. PT

Project THOR is an initiative to change the way the British Army conducts its physical training and to reduce the number of musculoskeletal injuries suffered by its soldiers. The new model is scientifically developed and focuses on reducing 'junk mileage' and maintaining rigorous training. This will result in fewer MSKI (Musculoskeletal) incidents and a reduced rate of medical discharges.

APTS (Army Physical Training System) focuses on a science-based, holistic approach to conditioning and supports unit activity cycles. It also places more emphasis on PTI-supervised strength and conditioning work, which reduces the risk of MSKI and increases overall unit fitness. The program is also intended to increase the number of Exercise Rehabilitation Instructors in units, which has been shown to reduce the time spent recovering from injuries and regaining physical strength.

Seven Foundational Movement Patterns

The Army Physical Training System follows a periodisation model and accounts for rest and recovery to maximise physical and mental adaption. It develops around seven foundation movement patterns to enhance general fitness. These include:

  1. Squat
  2. Hinge
  3. Rotate
  4. Lunge
  5. Push
  6. Pull
  7. Brace

The Army Physical Training System emphasizes the importance of adherence to exercise.

APTS is a phased program that incorporates a mix of training. Training starts with the basics and gradually builds up to more complex levels. The training is progressive and geared towards the physical demands of a particular operation. The training may also differ among different personnel within the same unit.

The Project THOR physical training programme is a functional fitness-based approach to training that is intended to keep soldier athletes in peak physical condition and avoid musculoskeletal injuries. Project THOR aims to improve the physical fitness of British army warriors, reduce the number of medical discharges and improve soldiers' performance in combat.

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Practical Analysis

The Army conducts regular human performance studies, but these do not assess the impact of heavy loads on operational performance. Furthermore, these studies cannot replicate the rigor and stress of actual combat. Nevertheless, some conclusions can be drawn from these studies. Fortunately, there are several ways to train soldiers to optimize their performance.

One of the most effective ways to improve army fitness is to train soldiers for the physical demands of the role. For example, soldiers can simulate replenishing stores, building defensive positions, or loading vehicles. They can also simulate these tasks by performing a specific exercise.

In this exercise, soldiers pick up a 20kg sandbag from the ground and run 30 metres with it, placing it on a 1.49m platform marker. They must repeat this exercise until they have successfully completed 20 sandbags in fourteen minutes.

Soldiers also have to consider other factors when performing the load-carrying program. These factors include the impact of the load on other duties, such as marching on the parade ground. This could cause fatigue, increased risk of injury, and an increase in energy consumption. Moreover, soldiers may be required to complete basic weapon skill training with full loads.

BAWF similarities to Crossfit

The British Army Warrior Fitness competition is aimed at improving the physical fitness of the nation's military personnel. It is a multi-sport event with a wide range of exercises and the winner will be crowned as the British Army's fittest soldier. While previous years' competitions were open to entire regiments, corps and units, the new competition is open to individuals.

The competition has its roots in the Royal Army Physical Training Corps (RAPTC). The RAPTC reformed the way that troops were trained for combat by overhauling their physical training routine. Traditionally, a soldier's regimen consisted of group and collective PT, focusing on TABs (tactical advance to battle) and long distance runs. A typical weekly timetable included a circuit session, a run and a loaded march.

Tactical Athletes

The competition incorporates exercises that have a wide variety of applications, such as strength and agility training. The competition also includes a burpee workout and version of the annual physical fitness test.

The Warrior Fitness Team is made up of 10 people, and is expected to represent the Army at health and fitness expos and fitness competitions. The athletes also help recruits become more aware of the Army's fitness and health programs. 

BAWF Conclusion 

BAWF is a competition open to any British Army soldier, it is similar to multi-exercise competitions such as CrossFit which includes movements like the clean and jerk, rope climbing and other functional movement patterns. 

Its roots allign with the updated army physical fitness training system that were put in place to progessively train soldiers whilst minimising injury.

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