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Training The Military For Strength | Starting Strength Radio #4

Mark Rippetoe | May 17, 2019 | Convert video-to-text with Sonix

Mark Rippetoe:
When do we get laser weapons? What the hell are they talking about. Have we got laser weapons yet?

Mark Wulfe:
From the global headquarters of The Aasgaard Company in beautiful downtown Wichita Falls, Texas. From the finest mind in the modern fitness industry. The one true voice of the Strength and Conditioning profession. The most important podcast on the Internet. Ladies and gentlemen. Starting Strength Radio.

Mark Rippetoe:
Welcome to Starting Strength Radio. Welcome back ladies and gentlemen. We are here with our regular Friday podcast today. Hope you enjoyed the first few. We're going to talk about just a couple of things we touched on last time and get into it a new topic entirely today. But first we wanted to update you on on some Starting Strength news.

Our seminar schedule is currently filling up rather rapidly. Denver is actually sold out at 25 so we opened it up for an additional five people to sign up. That's May 17th through 19th in Denver. And you can look the locations up on the website and all the sign up information's available at We're here in Wichita Falls, in beautiful downtown Wichita Falls, in June. The 7th through 9...through 9th here at the Wichita Falls Athletic Club. In July we move up to Inna Koppel's Woodmere Fitness Club on Long Island. That's July 26-28. And we just added the L.A. date -- August 16th to 18th at Paul Horn's Gym in Inglewood and there in Los Angeles. Very close to the airport.

And I'm pleased to announce that I will be present at that at that seminar despite threats to the contrary whenever I'm asked about it. I don't really like to go to Los Angeles, but I've been told that I'm expected to be in Los Angeles so I'll be there. We'll make the most of the situation. The best thing about that is is there is a Trader Joe's just about two blocks away. You go down to Trader Joe's. Trader Joe's is always fun. The Thai place is good, right down the street, right down on the corner. The Thai place. Isn't there a Whole Foods too? NO I'm thinking of the Whole Foods, not the Trader Joe's. Whole Foods. There's also a Trader Joe's? And a Whole Foods? It's Paradise.

Paradise. Now how do you do better than that, right? Strip club in the gym? It's not that much room, but you know...I'll just talk to Paul about it. Maybe you know...figure out a way to get it. If he's not nearly busy enough. That' might help. I don't know.

Let's see those...That's the schedule with the now...Starting Strength Gym franchise gym updates -- Houston's launched the presale, Dallas is in the middle of the presale they're cruising right along, Starting Strength Austin is open. Doing very well. If you're in the Austin market you need to stop by and see Joyce Luke at Starting Strength Austin and you know give some serious thought to moving your training over there.

We've got two new affiliates coming on board very soon. We've got a well Grant Broggi in Orange County he's got his second location up and running as Starting Strength Gym affiliate. Jordan Stanton up in Portland, Oregon. What's the name of his gym? Next Level Barbell is a Starting Strength Gym affiliate and they're online. And I'm proud to announce that our friend Robert Santana in Phoenix has got a Starting Strength Affiliate Gym in the final stages of his build-out. And all of these things you can locate them on our on our website at Just look for the gyms tab and you'll see the affiliate gyms and the franchise locations as well.

This is good news. We are moving right along. More and more people are beginning to understand that we are not full of shit and that we are the next wave in the health club industry in addition to the strength and conditioning industry.

Now moving right along...I wanted to I wanted to revisit very, very briefly the the the previous topic that we were on transgender athletes in the Women's divisions in sports and I think we beat that to death. So all I'm going to say here is that every time that topic comes up Caster Semenya's name is thrown into the discussion for reasons that are beyond my ability to comprehend. Caster Semenya is not a transgender athlete, she's an intersex athlete. And she is one of these interesting people who is congenitally female, but she is XY. She has an XY chromosomes. This is omitted from every discussion of this situation in the mainstream media. It's almost as if it's intentional. Now could that be? Could it be that they're intentionally mischaracterizing her situation?

Why would they be motivated to do that? Gosh I don't know. Maybe it's just a mistake. Anyway, you get you keep seeing this over and over and you know just the reporting on all this. This whole topic that completely omits the facts of in utero testosterone on the fetus and that extremely important discussion completely gets omitted because we're supposed to focus on just the current testosterone level within the athlete. I mean after all the IOC why their the experts that control sports throughout the Universe and they have said that if testosterone levels are low enough for one year then anybody do anything they want to do.

As it turns out I owe an apology to the bottom 3 percent that I said composed everybody that commented on YouTube. You guys I owe you an apology. The...every one of you is smarter than everyone who writes for the New York Times and please accept my apology. It's quite sincere. OK.

So now I thought we would talk today about strength and the military. Back in December of last year an interesting article appeared in Popular Mechanics. And Popular Mechanics as a respected publication. Our friend Glenn Reynolds writes for them occasionally and links to them all the time, in fact I saw this on on Instapundit. And it was it was just an interesting article that I pulled off there, in fact I wrote a response to it on, on PJ Media that appeared on, I believe January 4th, was my response to this, this article. It's just absolutely fascinating.

The title of the piece is "The Overloaded Soldier: Why U.S. Infantry Now Carry More Weight Than Ever." And they're lamenting the fact that technology was supposed to be the solution to this the problem of a huge hundred pounds worth of kit, but that in fact it has added weight to the kit. And they go on and on and on here and some of this is quite interesting.

But in the first sentence of the of the piece it says "In this era of computerized conflict, dominated by cyberwarfare, laser weapons, and piloting drones from halfway around the world, it could be easy to overlook the importance of a soldier's own muscle power."

When did we get laser weapons? What the hell are they talking about? Have we got laser weapons yet? Hand-held laser weapons? But they're talking about people carrying a shit around. I mean, is there a laser rifle? Does anybody know what...laser tagging devices, but that's not a weapon. Is it? I mean that would be a way to identify something for the smart bomb to find. That's been around for quite some time. But I mean the damn thing says laser weapons. Three-percenters will will write a New York Times piece about that.

Is this just classified information is now on this podcast. But it preceded us in Popular Mechanics.

I think that that those of you that have been in combat are acutely aware of the fact that everything's real heavy. I now, in full disclosure here I've never been in combat, never been in the military. When I graduated high school in 1974 at the conclusion of the Vietnam War military service was not fashionable. And you know how fashionable I am so I followed the trend and I didn't sign up. I think my father would probably have excommunicated me had I done that. He had been in World War Two. He knew all about heavy kit. He jumped at Normandy. Battle Of The Bulge, Market Garden. All this stuff that the hundred and first airborne did.

He was at Bastogne, Christmas Eve, 1944. Quite an interesting experience, I'm told. And he not one time suggested that I even think about doing that. He didn't think it was a good idea.

So circumstances added up and I was never in the military. But subsequent professional involvement with people in the military has educated me quite a bit. I don't have to have been in the military to understand that 100 hundred pound kit is a heavy thing to carry around because I know what a hundred pounds weighs. I handle it all the time and I I don't need to have it strapped on my back to understand that it's a hell of a thing to walk around with on a battlefield. I'm convinced that's true. OK so I this is one of these things that first hand knowledge of is not necessary. I've never murdered anyone, but I know it's not good to do that, right. I don't think you have to have done everything that you're informed about in order to be informed.

So this has been a problem for quite some time. Ever since armies have been in the field marching, they've had to carry things with them. They have to carry things with them they're going to need in combat. They're going to have they carry things with them they're going to need to lay down and sleep at night, heat and water and resupply and all this other stuff. And although supply trains behind them carried that kind of thing for them, soldiers have always been responsible for carrying his own gear and the article here indicates that the problem's getting worse, not better. In fact technology is not making it any better. It's making it worse because it's adding valuable things to a soldier's kit that he needs to carry. The situation is... primarily starts with with armor.

Now we've got we've got high tech armor and helmets and things and apparently this this kit weighs about -- just the armor component of it -- weighs 20 pounds. It says "Why of the weight starts with body armor. Standard Interceptor Body body armor plus helmet weighs more than 20 pounds, and the total rises if additional elements are added to protect the neck, arms, groin, and shoulders." And I'd like to have my neck, arms, groin, and shoulders protected so I would probably add that other in if given the option.

This has been a focus of the armed forces' attention for quite some time: "Since 1945, the military has carried out at least five major surveys of the soldier's load. All of them agreed that soldiers were overburdened and looked for ways to decrease the weight" of this kit. "All of them failed" because loads are now heavier much heavier than they've ever been.

"In 2016" here's an interesting sentence that Nick and I were talking about a minute ago..."in 2016, the Marine Corps Times" media arm of the Marine Corps "reported a new standard for strength and endurance. An average Marine Corps infantry officer should be physically able to carry one hundred and fifty two pounds for nine miles."

Now I don't know if that means that this is a standard that's been adopted or that the Marine Corps Times just found somebody willing to say that out loud and let them write it down, but think about that. A hundred and fifty two pounds for nine miles.

Now that's a that's a hell of a job. You know. That'd use a guy up, right? And the body armor is a big part of it. Ammo, weapons, all of this stuff. You can imagine how much mortar rounds weigh. Rocket rounds weigh. Belt ammunition for an M249 weighs six pounds, for example. All this has to be carried. Batteries and I never thought about this, but "Almost everything a soldier carries today requires batteries" and the batteries for a platoon level "AN/PRC-117 radio weigh four pounds" apiece "and the radio burns through them rapidly."

"Average soldier goes into action with [] 20 pounds of batteries." Well now that's interesting. And it talks on and on and on here about how heavy things are and why we should be making them lighter and there's a bunch of very interesting stuff here about why everything is heavy.

Do you know what was completely absent from this entire discussion in this article? This is a 12 page 11 page article on this topic. At no point in this discussion is the idea of making the soldier stronger even mentioned. Not one clause in this entire manuscript mentions the idea that it's quite possible to make soldiers stronger, in fact, much stronger than they are when they come in OK.

This is...I mean it really honestly boggles the mind to think that this whole thing right here has omitted the most obvious concept that could possibly be written down in a in a report of this type. How do you how do you have a discussion about "heavy" and not also have a discussion about "strong?"

I mean it doesn't that strike you people as a bit of an oversight by the by the writing staff of the of Popular Mechanics one David Hambling. I don't understand it, Dave. What's what's what's hard about this? If the shit's heavier you know if the kit's going away one hundred and twenty five who has an easier time carrying one hundred and twenty five pounds worth of kit? A one hundred sixty five pound kid who's never trained his deadlift or his squat but by god can run five miles or a two hundred and twenty five pound kid who's squatting 450, deadlifting 500, pressing one fifty over his head. Certainly not impossible numbers for any two hundred and twenty five pound kid. It's certainly not impossible numbers for any young man unless something is physically wrong with him that would prevent him from from doing these numbers. And as you know I would argue that such a such a handicap would prevent him from serving in the military or should anyway.

Their argument is that that we should be able to lighten this kit. Should be able to build exoskeletons to help us carry this thing, you know, to make us stronger.

It is just so damn strange that that this thing could be...the whole idea here that PT in the military is being done incorrectly. Just right over the guy's head. You know what does running 5 miles have... in shorts and your and your training shoes...have to do with a hundred and fifty two pound kit being carried for nine miles? Do you not understand that those not those are not even any overlap really at all. Although I will tell you this, if you've got a guy that's strong enough to carry a hundred and fifty two pound kit for nine miles and you know he's of of you know military age 20s, 30s there's not a single guy that's capable of carrying a 152 pound kit for nine miles that can't also run five miles. Running five miles is not that big a deal. But if you are not strong enough to carry a heavy kit for any distance then that is something that cannot be addressed by more running.

Now. I know that's that that sounds rather pandering. I don't mean to insult your intelligence but this is the disconnect here, isn't it? You've got an opportunity to take these kids that come into the military and in basic training, every one of them goes through basic training, and instead of making basic training about sit-ups and push-ups and running which don't really accomplish anything except, you know, we get to yell and scream and shit while they're doing all that. Why don't you make basic training about getting stronger. Sit-ups don't make you stronger. Push-ups don't make you stronger. Running doesn't make you stronger. What makes you stronger? Strength training makes you stronger. Squats, deadlifts, presses, bench presses, make you stronger. I'd say that for military applications you'd probably quite easily do away with the bench press, but you need to be able to pick heavy things up off the ground. That's the deadlift. You need to push heavy things around over your head and at various elevations with your arms. That's the press. You need to tie the whole thing together with a strong back and legs and hips and that's the squat. You don't want to bench, that's fine don't bench. You can make an argument for safety and basic training it's fine. You know people in the service quite often train by themselves, but I'm talking about a policy. I'm talking about a national policy for basic training where we stop all this running and we start lifting heavy weights to make ourselves stronger because in six months an average young man coming into the military could go from no squat at all to 365. An average young man coming into the military with no deadlift at all could go to four hundred, four-oh-five in six months. An average kid who's never pressed a barbell over his head could go to one hundred and fifty pound press in six months.

And if he can't do this then get him out of there get rid of him. Soldiering is a physical profession right. There's no construction of the job description that doesn't have it be a physical profession and physical strength is the most basic component of a human being's relationship with his external environment. The production of force against the external resistance is strength and that describes everything we do physically with our bodies. It involves the production of force against an external resistance. Whether it's running or picking things up off of the ground or putting things where they need to be that are heavy. All of this involves physical strength.

And I think it's also important to note that we are not fighting World War One now. We don't forced march everywhere we go. And we're mechanized. We show up in machinery. We kill people and break things. We load up on that machinery and we leave. We we don't have to march 20 miles a day anymore.

Now here's the interesting thing about this discussion. And as in any discussion of this of this nature as with the previous discussion we were having about transgender people in sports. It is convenient to leave things out. Now here's the thing that is left out of an argument for strength training in the military.

People forget. Or maybe people don't know. Maybe people do know and they know what to talk about it. Maybe they don't like to talk about it because it fucks up their argument.

The process of going from no squat to 365 and no deadlift to 405 gets you in shape. It gets you in shape. There isn't a kid on the surface of the earth, a 22 year old kid on the surface of the planet, who can squat 365 and deadlift 405 and press 150 over his head who can't also run 5 miles. It doesn't occur and yet what we keep being subjected to is the idea that we have to run if we're gonna run.

No you don't. No you don't. We get people through the test, the running test, all the time by running three times before the test. They go pass the test and they quit running again and start back with their training. And the running tests is a major interruption in their training, but they recover from that in a couple weeks and then they're back to getting stronger. Being strong allows you to run. Being strong allows you to run. Running does not make you stronger.

Now think about this. This isn't complicated. If being stronger allows you to run, but running does not make you stronger, and you know you need to be stronger. Then what do you do? Do you run or do you get stronger? Well you get stronger is what you do because that accomplishes both objectives. And you don't run because running doesn't accomplish the objective of making you stronger.

Now this isn't complicated. This is simple arithmetic. This is just basic reasoning, right? I mean I know lots of guys in rather elite military units and every one of them trains for strength. Those guys do. Why is it hard for the Pentagon to understand that everybody would benefit from the same thing that special forces people voluntarily do?

Those guys are all training for strength and it seems rather odd to me that you have got to you've got a bunch of old people in charge of the military who seem to think that they're still fighting World War One. If you get these kids stronger and you get them stronger institutionally. I mean, from the minute they walk onto the base and for the next six months their primary physical task is to become stronger. Look what you do to an entire generation of kids. Everybody that joined the military ends up stronger, their bones are denser, their muscles are bigger, their heart's in better shape, they're more resilient, they're harder to injure, they're harder to kill, and that's what you'd want your soldiers to be, right?

Whereas if you just have them go run they're they're runners. Running doesn't make you stronger. You know. What makes you stronger? Lifting five more pounds every time you train. That's what makes you stronger.

So yes I'm suggesting that basic training be replaced with with barbell strength training. And then if at after the kid graduates from basic training then his unit commander to his to his assignment decides that he needs to run. Well you've got a kid that can already run because he's strong and he can humor the the the unit commander with some level of some level of running if the you know MOS requires for some reason that running be done.

But a lot of time's been wasted, a lot of kids have gotten hurt that didn't need to get hurt. A lot of people have been placed in a situation where stronger would have saved their ass. But the military didn't prepare them by getting them stronger when it should have, OK.

And I think this is a rather large problem and it's just sitting there waiting to be solved. This isn't complicated. Barbells are cheap. This may be one of the problems with them. Barbells are cheap and they don't require special contract for a barbell. As you can get barbells from lots and lots of different manufacturers. In fact all of the bases already have barbells on them anyway.

But this recent development of the new test for the Army that I keep hearing about with the trap bar deadlifts and all that nonsense. The trap bar deadlifts is an excellent way to hurt somebody's back. I see no application for it at all. It is completely unstable in the locked out position. A barbell deadlift -- the bar is locked against your thighs at the top of the lockout and your upper body is leaned back locking it into position and a position that is completely stable at the top. A trap bar deadlift is never stable at lockout. It swings around at the end of your arms. If you just do it once and you'll see what I'm talking about.

But such things allow 1) the military to say that it's addressing the problem of strength and 2) the guys that make the trap bar deadlifts to get a big fat government contract. Don't think that hadn't got something to do with this because it does. And that is you know, that is a terrible thing to place in front of a soldier's welfare but hell, you guys you're used to that aren't you? You've had that done to you for millennia, right?

Well along the same lines I was I did an interview with the guys at Ranger Up several years ago and they asked me about this. They were in basic agreement with me and they asked me to come up with what I thought would be an alternative to the normal PT that is being done right now. And I of course told them strength training and they said well how do you test that? How do you test to see basic competence? How do you how do you test out of basic training to make sure that everyone has achieved a baseline level of strength? And I said it's very easy and here's the test I gave them.

And I want you to think carefully about this because this this test solves lots and lots of problems. The first component of it would be a two times bodyweight deadlift for everybody in the service that goes through basic training. A two times bodyweight deadlift. Now I'm talking about baseline level strength and two times body weight deadlift is not a particularly astonishing, strong deadlift. It's not a strong deadlift at all, but it's baseline. And if we can instill some habits into these kids as they're coming into basic training and lifting weights is how you get strong. Two times body weight deadlift is going to be a starting place for most people that are worth a damn coming into the military.

But if we can get him to a two times body weight deadlift, now just think of this: one hundred and sixty five pound kid coming into the into the military knows that he has to deadlift 330. Now that's that's not particularly heavy for him, but the process of him going from no deadlift to 330, if that's the goal he has in his mind at a body weight at 165, what do you think his bodyweight's going to be at the end of six months of basic training? It'll be two hundred won't it? Which is a much more useful bodyweight for a soldier. And that's a 400 deadlift for a kid involved in the process if you feed him good and you make him train he's going to get stronger. But a two times bodyweight deadlift is going to require that the kids in this position are trained for strength, that they are shown what to do, coached adequately, and that they are prepared to do the double bodyweight deadlift with other exercises besides just the ones on this test. OK.

I did not include in this test the squat because the squat is technically complicated and I didn't want there to be a component of this test that could be misjudged. Squat depth must be judged. A deadlift starts on the floor and it locks out at the top. There's not really much of a judgment call in terms of what constituted a complete deadlift whereas there might be on a squat. So we just we're I don't intend for them to not train the squat, I intend for them to train the squat, but I don't think it's necessary to test it if we can test the deadlift. This is just baseline testing.

Second component would be a 75 percent body weight press. All right. Now for a 200 pound kid that's one hundred and fifty pound press. That's not ridiculous. That's not an impressive amount of strength, but it's a it's a certainly within the reach of every 22 year old kid, 20 year old kid, 18 year old kid coming into the military. One hundred and fifty pound press at a bodyweight of 200 pounds makes him useful, doesn't it? It would mean it same bench press would be 225 probably. But that balance between lower body and upper body strength in terms of these two tests is a is I feel a real balanced way to make sure that nothing is getting left out. Okay.

Now the other two components of the test are interesting in that I want the kid to be able to do 12 chin-ups. Twelve bodyweight chin-ups. Now, this is also a pretty good test of upper body strength. 12 chin-ups is not a ridiculous number of chin-ups, but from a full dead hang, twelve chins represents an excellent way to measure adjunct upper body strength that kind of works in the opposite direction from a press. Right. It's pulling strength with the upper body. Quite useful. Between the two, the press and the chin-up test, pretty thoroughly assess your upper body strength.

And the last test is a 75 second 400 meter run. Now this isn't five miles, but it gives the test some teeth in terms of...this and the chin-up test give the tests some terms of favoring a proper body composition. Okay. I currently there's a there's a there's a bodyfat assessment or something. If you're fat you've got to have a ridiculous BMI or something like that. Some services use the waist-to-neck ratio and there's several different ways it's been done. I'm not familiar with the current standards in any of the branches because they change about every four years. But what I'm proposing is that if the kid can do 12 chin-ups and he can run 400 meters in 75 seconds then we don't care what his body composition is.

We could care less what his body composition is because if he can do all of this stuff he's physically effective. And he's not, god almighty, he's not going to look terrible in his uniform. When did the goddamn Marine Corps become a beauty contest? I don't understand this. I've...I know for a fact that one of the one of the criteria for a Marine...Marine's got to look like a Marine is uniform! Well guys that's Miss America shit. OK you know that will, of course, get me death threats, but I'm just telling you this is stupid.

Why are we here? To look good in our uniforms or to be effective soldiers? If the kid can do a double bodyweight deadlift, if at at a 200 pound body weight if he can pull 400 pounds, press 150, do 12 chin ups at a bodyweight of 200 and run 400 meters in seventy-five seconds, then he's an effective physical specimen. And remember this is just baseline. This is what he has to do to get out of basic training.

And I know that that this is a this is a pass/fail test. All four of these criteria should be satisfied. You know by the time they got through with it it'd be a gigantic mess. But but if you if you treat this as just baseline pass/fail and you make basic training head in that direction it's going to be more effective in turning out combat- ready personnel than it is right now. And I just, my god, I don't see how there is a logical argument against this. And if there is a logical argument against my proposal I'd like to hear what it might be.

It saves time. It's an inexpensive. It's the best use of time for people coming in, for young men coming into the service. And this is'll notice that I've said nothing about a women's test. If women can do this, and they ought to be able to do it, then they can do anything post basic training that men can do. If they can't do this, well they need to get where they can. And if you've got to make special concessions for them to get them in then I think you've got to...we're talking at that point about a completely different problem, aren't we? OK.

So this, this this thing is not, is not physical sex dependent. This is what a person ought to be able to do. And you know it's not going to exclude anybody that doesn't actually need to be excluded. You know if a guy can't do this at the end of six months he doesn't get to play. If a girl doesn't do this at the end of six months she doesn't get to play. We're not discriminating against anybody who cannot meet the standard. And the standards are there for a reason.

This is a baseline amount of strength. It's easy to obtain with the proper training. If the military need some help designing the proper training for this thing, I'm available. I'll do it free because this is important. This needs to be. This needs to be addressed. This is a...we're sending people into combat that are not physically ready to be in combat. And that has to stop.

So. You guys want to talk about it, let me know. I think that we've got a solvable problem here. A very solvable problem. And I think we need to start paying some attention to it.

As usual your comments and suggestions for podcast topics are welcome. You give those to us through the link for the podcast at If you got comments about this podcast, you can comment about that on my Q and A at And maybe we'll hear from you about something interesting you want to talk about at some point in the future.

Thanks for joining us, and we'll see you next Friday, here at Starting Strength Radio.

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Rip talks about the benefits of making soldiers stronger for military applications.

  • 00:00 Greetings
  • 00:57 Starting Strength News
  • 05:24 A brief note on Caster Semenya and an apology to the 3%
  • 08:02 Strength & the Military
  • 32:14 Baseline strength testing for basic training


The Overloaded Soldier: Why U.S. Infantry Now Carry More Weight Than Ever

Training The Military For Strength

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