Quick fact about the IDF: its soldiers are mostly 18-to-21-year-olds who have the skills of veteran warriors. Why? Because they’re trained from day one to be in top shape, both physically and mentally. Here are some tips from the sports instructor of the Egoz Unit, one of the army’s most elite commando forces, specializing in classified operations in a forested environment.
1. Combine both aerobic and anaerobic exercise
To increase your stamina and develop your lower body muscles, combine both aerobic and anaerobic exercises. Our soldiers, for example, do interval training, going from crouched ambush positions to high-energy sprints into the “field” in split seconds.
2. Work on your strength as well as your cardiovascular fitness
Work on your strength as well as your cardiovascular fitness, to improve your posture and your physical condition. Do this by lifting weights which you can lift 10 times straight, and then another two times after a brief rest. In order to achieve this goal, our soldiers use their personal weapons to ‘bull up’, staying in one constant position while holding the weapon – usually around seven pounds – up in the air for several minutes. Decide how much your ideal weight would be and start lifting.
3. If you’re running, do it on uneven surfaces
It helps prevent orthopedic injuries and strengthens more muscles in your body. IDF soldiers, for example, train at the beach and run for miles on sand, which builds their lower body strength and helps improve balance and posture. Plus, going out provides a much needed break from a monotonous exercise routine. Remember to switch around your exercise schedule and practice in different places.
4. Track your progress
Our soldiers undergo the “Bar-Or” test every few months, which measures their aerobic ability and strength. Soldiers are required to do 86 sit-ups and 75 push-ups straight, then complete a 2km run in 7 minutes. To become an officer, combat soldiers undergo a “Loren Test”, which follows a nightly navigation and includes scaling a two-meter wall, climbing a three-meter wall, completing an obstacle course, running two miles, and then target-shooting — all in under 22 minutes. Oh, and they do it with full battle gear, of course. Figure out what works for you and make sure to test yourself regularly.
5. Though it may be a cliché, sports and fitness truly are a mental stimulant
IDF commanders are trained to motivate and urge their soldiers to achieve excellence and precision. By believing you can complete the goal you set for yourself, you’ll truly be able to do it!