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3 months ago
The Exercises That Helped This Man Become the Country's Fittest Marine

To ensure that they’re the strongest, toughest guys in combat, the U.S. Marine Corps established the High Intensity Tactical Training program, a series of strength and conditioning exercises designed to prepare Marines for the physical demands of active duty. The program hits on all aspects of fitness, such as movement, strength and power, speed, endurance, mobility, and nutrition.

Since 2015, the best athletes have put their fitness to the test during the Ultimate Tactical Athlete competition, an intense, three-day competition that not only challenges their physical strength and endurance, but also their mental toughness.

For the second year in a row, Pittsburgh native Sgt. Ethan Mawhinney–a Marine Air-Ground Task Force planner with Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command–snagged the first place spot against 16 competitors, according to a news release from the U.S. Department of Defense.

Mawhinney first competed back in 2015, finishing in sixth place. He returned the following year with more preparation under his belt, including thrice-daily workouts, which incorporated lots of sprints, distance running, and HITT workouts. He clinched his first win in 2016.

For the past year, Mawhinny has worked with trainers to further fine-tune his training. “I worked a lot on explosiveness–little things like short, 15-yard sprints, for training take-off speed,” he explained in the press release.

Mawhinney didn’t really want to pace himself throughout the competition, since the scoring system is based on how long it takes to complete an event. To build his stamina, he did longer, harder, and more intense workouts.

“I’ve heard it said that we should work out for two reasons: to make ourselves better at killing the enemy and to make ourselves harder for the enemy to kill,” Mawhinney says. “I think that really matches with what the HITT program does in having that tactical athlete mindset.”

He focused all of his effort into one daily workout instead of multiple for the past year to minimize injuries. Just before this year's competition, he added a second daily workout. “The biggest thing we changed with this year’s workouts was increasing his speed and power versus volume,” Alli Clauss, a MARSOC (Marine Corps Special Operations Command) PERRES (Performance Resiliency) strength and conditioning coach, said in the press release. “Every workout we did had a point behind it.”

In addition to the exercises included in the HITT program, like planks, squats, lunges, battle rope and sandbag training, and agility drills, here are a few exercises that were incorporated into Mawhinney’s routine:

Box Jumps

Box jumps build your athleticism, explosive power, and train your fast twitch muscle fibers. Check out the video below to see how to do them right.

How to Do Box Jumps:

Explosive Pushups

Requiring your body weight only, this move builds endurance, allowing you to work harder for longer. Learn how to do the explosive pushup here. (Looking to build strength without ever stepping foot into the gym? Check out Metashred Extreme from Men's Health, a series of high-intensity metabolic workouts designed to help you burn fat and build muscle.)

Olympic-style Weightlifting

Olympic lifts, like the barbell snatch and the clean and jerk, can help you develop speed, total-body power, and boost your performance. These moves can be difficult to master, so find out if you should incorporate them into your routine here.

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