Is High-Intensity Functional Training Safe for Military Fitness Training?

Written by Ben Bunting: BA(Hons), PGCert. Sport & Exercise Nutrition. British Army Physical Training Instructor.  


High-Intensity Functional Training (HIFT) is an excellent way to increase muscular strength and power.

This type of training has been shown to have similar injury rates to running and other physical activities. It has been proven that it can improve performance and readiness in the military.

For example, military personnel are required to perform various types of physical tasks, and HIFT has been shown to enhance their physical performance.

Strength and power training for the military

Soldiers are a tough bunch, but they're also underrated athletes. If you're wondering if you're ready to join the ranks, you may want to try a strength and power training program.

It's important to remember that strength and power training isn't just about building huge muscles; it's also about increasing muscular endurance.

The British Army for instance have moved away from focussing on aerobic endurance training which encompassed lots of running and miles of marching (now consideed junk mileage) to a program that also helps increase soldiers strength and power.

This helps prevent musculoskeletal injuries and provide the strength for the masses of kit soldiers carry on patrol. Lessons learnt from combat in the Middle East.

This 360 degree aproach to training can help prevent injury in the early stages of recruit training and throughout a soldiers career.

This is especially useful in the case of fast tasks with heavy loads. 

Physical training instructors are also provided the tools and knowledge to periodize and place training into phases to help develop fitness over time and avoid overreaching which can lead to inury. 

One way to achieve these goals is by following a HITT (High Intensity Tactical Training) program.

It's a three-level training system that uses high-intensity, low-intensity, and rest periods to help your body recover.

Injury incidence rates are similar to those reported for running

A study compared the injuries associated with high-intensity functional training (HIFT) to those associated with conventional running.

In a multivariate logistic regression model, the relative contributions of predicted risk factors were evaluated.

They found that injury incidence rates for HIFT were similar to those reported for traditional running.

Injury rates were estimated from data collected in 17 running clinics. The data were analysed using IBM SPSS software.

For the most part, the injuries were related to the lower leg. This area is comprised of hamstrings, calf, tibialis anterior, and quadriceps femoris.

Approximately half of the participants experienced only one injury, whereas others had two or more.

The most common injury locations were the lower back, knee, wrist, and shoulder. Some of these injuries were mild, while others were more severe. Overall, injury rates were comparable for men and women.

While running is a great sport, the benefits can be outweighed by the negative effects. For this reason, some running training clinics have designed programmes to reduce injury incidence.

One such programme involves a brief presentation followed by a questionnaire. It consists of 19 questions, divided into four categories.

The first question asks for the location of the injury. Next, the participant is asked to tell which is the most important aspect of the injury.

The questionnaire contains a foot imprint diagram. This aids the participant in self-diagnosing his arch height.

Finally, it asks about his previous activity level. There were two groups: a novice group and an intermediate one.

There were eight hundred and forty-four participants registered in these clinics. Three trials were conducted during the course of the 13-week program.

The Importance of Strength and Conditioning to Avoid Musculoskeletal Injuries

In the military world, musculoskeletal injuries during basic training can result in dropout and injury. The benefits of strength and conditioning programs include increased muscular strength and overall fitness.

Musculoskeletal injuries are very common, and they are preventable if proper training is performed.

Strength and conditioning is a program designed to improve performance, speed, and agility. It involves lifting weights, incorporating a variety of exercises, and utilizing techniques.

Strength and conditioning is the practice of improving muscular strength and endurance, as well as the mind-muscle connection.

There are many different types of exercises to choose from, including resistance machines, dumbbells, and barbells. Each can be tailored to the needs of the individual.

Among the benefits of strength and conditioning are increased lean mass, improved tensile strength, and muscle hypertrophy.

These positive changes increase the ability to lift weight for longer periods of time. They also improve cardiovascular capacity.

However, overtraining can lead to injuries, such as shin splints, stress fractures, and tendonitis

If you are interested in starting a new strength and conditioning program, it is important to consult with your physical training instructor.

You should always wear appropriate clothing and use proper equipment. Start slowly and gradually increase the amount of weight you lift over the course of your workout.

When lifting weights, it is important to perform full range of motion.

This ensures that the working muscles are activated and that you are not putting unnecessary strain on the joints. In addition, it will help you become more flexible. 

Many acute muscle strain injuries are thought to occur during the eccentric phase of sudden forceful muscle actions.

Therefore, a gradual increase in the weight of the weights you lift can help reduce your risk of injury.

Using lighter weights also allows you to maintain proper form, which can reduce the risk of injury.

Lifting weights can also be done in conjunction with other forms of resistance, such as using resistance bands and Thera-Bands.

Diversifying stimuli is also important to avoid overuse. 

To prevent musculoskeletal injuries, it is essential to perform a warm-up set prior to any serious exercise.

Warm-up sets are also a great way to develop a feel for the target muscle group. By warming up, you can enhance your mind-muscle connection, and you will be able to focus on the correct form when performing the actual lifting.

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Strengthening muscles with high-intensity functional training

High intensity functional training (HIFT) is a fitness program that incorporates both muscular and cardiorespiratory exercises.

Its objectives are to improve muscular strength, endurance and overall physical readiness. A growing body of research supports its use. And thus, it is probably considered ideal for military training.

HIFT programs provide a wide variety of health benefits, including reduced injury risk, enhanced muscle strength, improved muscle endurance, reduced body fat, and increased metabolic conditioning.

Compared with traditional fitness approaches, HIFT is scalable to meet the individual needs of military and law enforcement personnel.

It uses exercises that simulate combat tasks and provide a broad spectrum of health benefits. 

Traditional approaches focus on a single domain, often with a focus on aerobic fitness.

However, tactical athletes need to be able to meet the demands of their jobs, which can involve performing a variety of tasks. 

Exercises that simulate movement can improve performance

A number of studies have shown that exercises that simulate a real world movement are more likely to yield a result. This is the case whether the activity is performed indoors or outdoors.

For example, performing multiple push ups is less likely to yield the same result as lifting a field pack. Similarly, running on a treadmill is a far cry from actually carrying a 75lb field pack whilst under fire.

The same can be said for fitness training for tactical athletes. While traditional fitness programs are typically focused on a single goal, such as improved running times or distances, a more balanced approach may be in order.

This could be considered 'functional fitness', ie train in a similar fashion to how we would fight in combat.

This means replicating those movements and demands such as patroling with heavy kit, lifting ammunition, carrying stretchers and lifting ourselves over walled compounds.

One study found that heavier leg strength training improved scores on the fitness test.

Another reported that the most effective fitness training program involved intertwining multiple modalities to produce the most benefit.

Although the research was relatively small, the findings suggest that exercise programs for military personnel may need to be diverse to meet the demands of the role, the need to perfrom many push-ups may not be as important as being able to heave an injured soldier from a wrecked vehicle.

Among its findings, the study also revealed that a random selection of participants experienced the most notable changes.

These changes included greater improvements in the vertical jump and peak power output tests.

Despite these results, further studies are needed to fully understand the benefits of exercises that simulate a real world movement.

In fact, there are a number of aficionados who would argue that an optimal approach should incorporate both aerobic and anaerobic components.

It should be noted that this study was based on a sample of two hundred and three US Marines.

To determine which exercises were the most effective, the study randomly assigned workouts using a variety of different modalities.

Some of the modalities included cardiovascular training, strength training, and cross-training.

Is Crossfit Safe For Military Finess Training?

If you're serving in the military, you may be wondering whether crossfit can be used in military finess training.

Crossfit is a workout system that focuses on strength, endurance, and flexibility, and is designed to suit the needs of the military.

However, this style of workout and competition does have its risks, as such, the British Military have made changes to the elements that they consider a higher injury risk to personnel and have estalished their own take on CrossFit which is called British Army Warrior Fitness (BAWF).

The US Military do also have a similar take on CrossFit and have a team called the US Army Warrior Fitness Team.

Crossfit injuries compared to traditional military PT

Some researchers have conducted experimental approaches to study the impact of CrossFit on injury rates.

One study found that men are more likely to suffer an injury than women. Another found that musculoskeletal injuries were the most common.

But no large-scale study has compared CrossFit to traditional weightlifting.

A recent study, by Meyer et al, compiled a systematic review of CrossFit injuries. It was found that the rate of injury varies between 19 and 74%.

They found that the most common injury sites were the shoulder, lower back, and arm/elbow.

One may argue that performing fairly complex movements with weight at speed would increase the risk of injury through poor form and unsafe practice.

The NSCA examined injury rates

The National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the fitness of people around the world. It offers certifications and training services for personal trainers and strength and conditioning professionals.

One of its most recent publications is a study on the CrossFit dropout rate. Researchers examined 54 CrossFit participants.

According to the study, nine of them dropped out of the 10-week challenge due to injury or overuse. Another nine dropped out of the challenge for other reasons.

Does HIFT improve military personnel fitness?

CrossFit or variation of HIFT is an increasingly popular fitness program among military personnel.

According to research, the workouts can improve mental readiness and overall physical health. However, the military remains skeptical about the fitness program. A new study may help change that.

The Army has been conducting a study of its physical readiness training to see if CrossFit could benefit the military.

Participants were recruited from Fort Leavenworth's Command and General Staff College and Combined Arms Center.

For eight weeks, participants underwent CrossFit and regular PT sessions. They also took fitness tests including a run and pushups.

By the end of the study, all participants demonstrated significant gains on fitness metrics. 

Therefore, the military needs to weigh up the fitness benefit versus the injury risk and see whether it is worth pursuing, or make amendments to certain areas to ensure the best possible safety for military personnel.

Is High-Intensity Functional Training Safe for Military Fitness Training Conclusion

High-Intensity Functional Training (HIFT) programs are designed to improve the fitness of military and tactical personnel.

These approaches combine different training modalities into a single program. However, some concern has been expressed over the safety of these approaches for these populations.

Military fitness training is a critical component of maintaining readiness for missions.

Injuries are the leading cause of outpatient medical visits and discharges, and lead to 25 million limited duty days each year. PT-related injuries are considered a leading threat to health and readiness.

While the risk of injury for HIFT and other physical training approaches has been evaluated in recent studies, it has not been clear whether these approaches are safer than more common sports and activities.

To answer this question, the scientific literature has required the evaluation of specific metrics that would allow comparisons of injury rates among these training programs.

The most commonly reported injuries among Army trainees were sprains, strains, stress fractures, and low back pain.

Stress fractures, which result in lost training days and medical visits, cost the military about $100 million a year.

Injury incidence rates for HIFT approaches are comparable to other fitness programs used by military and tactical personnel.

Recent studies have evaluated HIFT-related fitness programs, including CrossFit. Several investigators have recommended that tactical professionals engage in regular fitness training.

HIFT approaches are likely to improve job performance, as well as to decrease the risk of role related injury.

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