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Corps Strength – Hump Day


Here at the International School house we run different PT programs for almost every level of fitness. From BUDS, Dive school and Marine TBS prep to simple (easy) programs just to teach our students how to set up and run a basic PT program, and keep (try to) themselves in shape. From my observation of 100’s of these students over the last five years they have the biggest problem improving in two areas: swimming and humping a pack. Now I don’t teach swimming, we have a former Navy SEAL and a Dive Master that handle that training, and they can take a guy that can barley swim to what ever standard they need to pass (if the guy is motivated) pretty quickly. However, I oversee the 16 week PT program to prepare foreign officers to attend the Marine Officers Basic School in Quantico, Va. As you might guess the program is heavy on the basics: running, UBD, O course, and other combat fitness related tasks, but from all that the thing (as a group) they have the hardest time with is humping a pack, and we do a lot of it, as it’s a big thing at TBS. At least once a week we gear up and hit the trail, starting with about a 20lbs load for a mile or so and ending with a no shit 20 mile forced march with 50 plus lbs. The student’s hate it and it does suck, but humping always has.

Going back over many years of doing it, my experience tells me the only way to prepare for carrying a heavy combat load (especially up and down hills and/or in the heat) is to do it. While general PT programs and weight lifting does help, nothing will get you ready for a humping a pack, but humping pack. I have another TBS prep class starting this summer and I know I have to just grab my pack and get after it once a week to prepare myself. All the other PT I do won’t be enough. The upside is that when I add this weekly hike to my routine I always notice my running improves and so does my overall strength, which people like to call “Core” nowadays. It’s not really what you’d call fun, but I’m convinced that it has benefit for almost any PT program, especially if you’re in a job that bearing weight is a requirement, like a Firemen, SWAT cop or even a construction worker. In my book Corps Strength, I outline how to add these workouts into an overall fitness program. You don’t need actual combat gear. A good weight vest or military/civilian pack will do, and it’s pretty much mindless once you get out there. Good boots are must and you need to start out light, slow and short, gradually adding weight and distance to prevent injury. Plus it’s something that will get your ass outside of the gym for a change. Good luck.

Be Safe always, Good when you can.

Semper Fi



8 Responses to “Corps Strength – Hump Day”

  1. Adam says:

    Interesting to hear that they run a prep course for the IOs. None of the ones in my company last year ever mentioned being in it. Some could hump, some couldn’t.

  2. redbeard33 says:

    Having done my share of rucks and still an avid hiker, I am amazed at what a difference carrying a quality backpack makes. After years of carrying an ALICE, switching to a good pack built by those that knew how was a huge revelation for me. Feet, back and knees all felt better.

    • JohnC says:

      Yes. (Although, do grunts have much choice?) And, for Heaven’s sake, learn to fit and pack your bag properly. Backpacks are designed to distribute weight evenly across the strongest muscles of the body when fitted and loaded properly; but not when everything’s tossed in, with molle pouches all higgledy-piggledy. Small adjustments can equal significant change in force vectors.

      Also, boots. Especially in military populations, foot health/morphology is pretty predictive of injuries, and poor footwear plays a key role.* To the extent you’ve options, custom footwear (from fit to tread pattern to laces) is the best money you’ll spend. (Though avoid cushioned/stabilizing footwear, which exacerbates joint instability, redirects forces up the kinetic chain, and increases microtrauma and metabolic cost.**) Failing that, at least get boots that fit *each* foot, and learn to tie your boots properly. (Insisting on uniform conformity when it comes to footwear is nonsensically stupid.)

      *As, for example, when the Army realized that a significant etiology in non-contact, lower limb injuries in female recruits was the fact that their feet aren’t just tiny versions of men’s: That, in fact, there are morphological differences that necessitate something besides a smaller size.

      **See, if you really care, “Sports Biomechanics: Reducing Injury Risk and Improving Sports Performance,” Benno Nigg’s “Biomechanical Aspects of Playing Surfaces” and “Biomechanics of Running Shoes,” and “Athletic Footwear and Orthoses in Sports Medicine” for more.

  3. Raf says:

    Is there a website or link to this international school house? I searched google and nothing came up. Would be interested. Thanks

    • JohnC says:

      He may mean NETSAFA.

    • MGunz says:

      To all, here is a link to our schoolhouse.
      On the main page click on Training Documents, and then on the right click on NETSAFA International Training Center (NITC). That will take you to a flyer that lists our prep courses, and other courses we do for internationals in Pensacola. They’re all are gtg, especially the Terrorism/Piracy (IATP) and Leadership courses (IPAL and GForce)

      Keep in mind not all Internationals come to us for prep, we are the Navy/Marine side of International training, the Army, Air Force and Coast Guard have their own prep schools. Its up to their country if they go, and to be frank that is more about $$ than anything else. However the attrition rate for those who do attend one of our prep courses is much better than if they attend a U.S. course straight away. Especially the courses that are tied to high physical requirements such as BUDS, Dive school and TBS. I never knew that this huge organization even existed when I was on active duty. Training Internationals (allies) is a big part of the U.S. State Dept effort to strengthen allied skills and relationships.

  4. dev says:

    Thanks, appreciate your insights. This column is brilliant, just like your book. Hope to read more in the foreseeable future.

  5. patruje says:

    Every Friday I put on my ruck and hit the trails in the local park. I am one of those sgm’s I used to make fun of for rucking after they retired.