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How to Add Lifting to Calisthenics and Cardio Workouts

As you prepare for and complete your military service, you will experience both calisthenics and cardio training in large groups. Group PT can be a logistical nightmare, especially when that group has to share a limited amount of equipment.

For that reason, your typical group PT routines are usually runs, rucks or a series of calisthenics. With some creativity, you make the workout tougher by adding weight to the ruck or individual sandbags to calisthenics.

How can you add weight training to calisthenics, cardio programs or mandatory group PT? Here are several options, as well as a few things to avoid.

1. Balance Your Workouts

If you are on your own and focusing on the elements needed to master most fitness tests (muscle stamina, endurance, run and swim), you add weight but only if you are trying to maintain strength.

You will find it difficult to improve in strength, high-rep calisthenics and timed run pace at the same time. Consider the following balance for a more effective workout.

Add Lifts in the Second Workout of the Day

In a second daily workout a few days a week (not every day), consider adding lifts you need to maintain and match those lifts to the muscles worked earlier in the day.

Whether you’re working out on your own or adding to your command’s group PT, add the upper body lifts you need to maintain (bench, military press, rows, pulldowns, etc.) and some auxiliary exercises that calisthenics do not engage to your upper-body workout days.

The same goes for your run and-or leg PT days. Add in squats, deadlifts, leg presses or lunges with weight to a secondary workout if you have the energy and ability.

Take a Calisthenics and Cardio Deload Week and Add a Strength Week

Using Block Periodization, you can simply do three weeks of calisthenics and cardio with a running and rucking progression each week. During week 4, pull back on the reps and miles and add a lifting week.

This lifting week will enable your joints and bones to recover from the higher repetitions of calisthenics and the increased miles of running and rucking. Consider this both a deload for calisthenics and cardio and a strength-building week. This option will not be possible if you are following a mandatory group PT program.

Full-Body Options

If your group PT is a ruck or a run mixed with a wide range of calisthenics every other day, you may want to add in more dynamic lifts like power cleans, hang cleans, thrusters and farmer walks.

Depending on your weaknesses, consider making this a focus when adding secondary workouts to any program. These lifts are typically very taxing on the body and require recovery, so you may only want to attempt these lifts 1-2 days a week at the most.

2. Not All Secondary Workouts Need to Be Hard

Consider doing more mobility day training, especially if the group PT of the day makes you sore for more than 24 hours. Easy non-impact cardio and stretching can go a long way in aiding in your performance for the next group PT.

Less is more most often when it comes to group PT, physically demanding day jobs and secondary workouts. These additional activities need to be carefully planned, since the typical outcome tends to be burnout, injury or a wide variety of overtraining symptoms.

3. Consider Using the Second Workout to Focus on Weaknesses

Focus on your weakness when you are adding secondary workouts, but also address recovery. You will only fully recover when you rest, eat and sleep well.

If you come from a strength background, you likely have a calisthenics and cardio weakness. If you come from an endurance background, you likely have a strength, speed and agility weakness.

Depending on your athletic history, you should consider the second workout of the day one designed to decrease your weaknesses and make them more of a tactical strength.

When you add more to your physical stress level, the most important factor is your ability to recover enough so you can do your job effectively. When your workouts start to have a negative effect on your sleep, mood and performance, you are doing too much.

Be smart when adding these workouts to your day, as you may not see the improvements you want if you do not actively pursue the recovery your mind and body needs.

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you’re looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to [email protected]

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