Extreme Conditioning Programs (ECPs), like CrossFit®, P90X®, and Insanity® are workout programs that combine high-intensity exercises with short rest periods between sets. They are also known as high intensity circuit training or high intensity interval training (HIIT). ECP workouts are often popular and can help improve physical performance in a shorter period of time.
ECPs and HIIT can help Soldiers burn calories, build muscle, decrease body fat, increase strength and stamina, and improve coordination and agility. However, like any new training activity, if done improperly they can lead to injuries such as muscle strains, torn ligaments, stress fractures, tendinitis, or other serious conditions.
Here are some general rules of thumb before engaging in an ECP. Study the movements and exercises if they are new to you. Focus on movement and correct form before you increase the intensity or weight – just like principles of PRT! Look through
FM 7-22 for proper technique on body weight movements and kettlebell training. If you are not familiar with certain movements, ask a Master Fitness Trainer, Physical Therapist or other professional.
Benefits of ECPs:
- Burns calories quickly with a continued caloric “after-burn”
- Improves aerobic conditioning in a shorter duration of time than traditional endurance activities
- Builds tolerance for high intensity exercise
- Improves coordination, agility, and athleticism
- Often includes functional movements
- Combines cardio and resistance training in one workout
- Some require little equipment and can be done almost anywhere
Risks of ECPs:
ECPs, when done well, can provide an exciting new exercise regimen that many Soldiers can participate in together. However, it’s important to remember that if they are done poorly without appropriate coaching and supervision, they can push Soldiers beyond their limits and can lead to injuries. Don’t be overzealous and push Soldiers beyond their capabilities. Remember it’s about improving fitness and having fun. Also, if your Soldiers do ECPS in addition to PRT, they could be at risk for overtraining.
Many ECP workouts have a short duration of rest or recovery, which can cause early fatigue and may increase the risk of injury.
- Overtraining can cause fatigue, sickness, a decrease in performance, and injury.
- Avoid training the same muscles groups in consecutive workouts. Require at least 48 hours before retraining that muscle group.
- Consider avoiding back-to-back training days or alternating between high and low intensity training days.
Some exercises or lifts are challenging and require training from a certified professional to do safely. These include olympic weightlifting exercises (snatch, clean, jerk and related explosive barbell movements).
Injuries may include:
- Muscle strains
- Torn ligaments
- Other serious or life threatening conditions
How to incorporate ECPs and minimize Injury risk
Engage your Master Fitness Trainer and ask them to include ECP workouts in your regular PRT cycle. You can also ask experienced Soldiers in your unit to help others with coaching, correcting form, and watching for overexertion.
ECPs are individual fitness programs and do not replace prescribed Army PRT as described in
FM 7-22. They have not been validated to improve warrior task and battle drill performance and are not tied to warfighter functions such as Army PRT. The Army’s PRT Program is designed to help Soldiers achieve physical fitness and prepare them for the challenges of combat operations. ECPs can be a fun addition to a fitness program when done safely.
For more information on ECPs see
What Army Leaders Should Know about Extreme Conditioning Programs.
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