What is Combat Fitness?

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  • Written By: J. Stuchlik
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 01 February 2020
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Combat fitness is a form of exercise that is derived from military training programs, most notably the United States Marines. The program focuses on both aerobic and strength training with minimal specialized equipment and no need for a set exercise location. Combat fitness revolves around four core tenets: "train like an athlete," "strive for a harder core," "take pride in exercise technique" and "don't allow for any weak spots." In the Marines, combat conditioning is tested using a Combat Fitness Test.

In 2003, after seeing a significant increase in the number of non-combat injuries, the Marines decided to update their training methods, using the latest exercise-science studies and techniques. It soon was copied by other military programs around the world and in the private sector. Combat conditioning quickly became a popular method for achieving all-around conditioning.

The four tenets of combat conditioning focus on making combat workouts effective, engaging and simple. The first tenet, "train like an athlete," focuses on power exercises that both strengthen and build impact resistance in order to prevent injuries. The second tenet, "strive for a harder core," eliminates excess weight from the middle and builds stamina. "Take pride in exercise technique" is the third tenet, and it involves focusing on exercises that improve posture and body alignment in order to prevent injury and maximize workout effectiveness. The final tenet, "do not allow for any weak spots," emphasizes a balanced conditioning in strength, stamina, speed and agility.


Combat conditioning rapidly grew in popularity because of it comparative effectiveness versus older conditioning techniques. After spreading throughout the world to elite military programs, combat fitness exploded in the private sector. Numerous fitness gurus, military veterans and martial art instructors each developed their own brand of combat conditioning. Despite numerous philosophical differences, these various versions of combat fitness regimens share a focus on the four tenets of combat conditioning and stress the unimportance of specialized training equipment.

Despite all of the exercise science behind combat fitness, the Marines would not be satisfied with the conditioning if it did not yield quantitative results. In order to do this, the Combat Fitness Test was developed. The Combat Fitness Test has three events that measure a soldier's endurance, strength, agility and speed. It begins with a "Movement to Contact" run of 880 yards in military boots and pants followed by a two-minute drill that awards points for the number of times a 30-pound weight can be lifted over head. The final event of the Combat Fitness Test is "Movement Under Fire," which simulates various combat conditions.


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Post 3

@umbra21 - I have a friend who used a workout based on combat fitness training to get into shape for his martial arts class and it worked pretty well. The only thing that he really had to change was that some of the legwork was too hard on his knees, but he had a previous injury to take care of.

Post 2

@Fa5t3r - Most people aren't going to have the time or the knowledge to craft their own fitness regimen so they could definitely do worse than follow one made up of combat fitness exercises.

Personally I think it sounds a little bit too hardcore for the average person, but I suspect all you'd have to do is half all the numbers or something like that to make it less difficult.

Post 1

It's cool that they updated this recently, since I know a lot of people assume that military training is the be all and end all of fitness regimes.

And developing a decent core really is one of the things that pretty much everyone should be striving for. But I would imagine that they don't do much flexibility work in combat fitness workouts and I also wonder how gender specific it is. Women tend to have different strengths and weakness in exercise than men and need a different routine to capitalize on the strengths and shore up the weaknesses.

I guess what I'm trying to say is not to take it for granted that this is the absolute best fitness regime out there, because it is all relative to what you hope to achieve.

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