Army member doing PFT situps



Military equipment is built to last. Unfortunately, that means it’s often very heavy! Lifting, shifting, and carrying all this gear requires more than just big arms or strong legs; you need a strong core too. 

Core is the collective term for the muscles of your midsection. Lack of core strength means the force generated by your arms and legs can get lost somewhere in the middle. You are only as strong as your weakest link, and if your core is weak, your midsection may collapse under load. Just like trying to shoot a cannon out of a canoe! 

Develop a combat-ready core with these challenging but effective exercises. 

Single-arm farmer’s walk 

This exercise is not just good for your core, it’s also a tactical grip builder, and a great way to develop grit and determination too. 

Grab a heavy dumbbell or kettlebell in one hand and hold it down by your side. With your core braced and your torso perfectly upright, take a walk around your training area. Walk as far as you can and only stop when your grip starts to fail. Swap sides and repeat. Work up to carrying around 50% of your bodyweight. 

Barbell rollout 

Rollouts are a popular core exercise, but those light plastic ab wheels aren’t challenging enough for intermediate or advanced exercisers. Make rollouts tougher and more effective by using a barbell. 

Load your bar with two evenly-sized weight plates. Ten pounders are a good place to start. Secure the plates using collars; otherwise, the plates may come off the end of the bar.

Place the bar on the floor, kneel behind it, and hold it using an overhand, shoulder-width grip. Tense your abs and, with straight arms, roll the barbell away from you. Extend your arms as far as you can and lower your body down toward the floor. Do not let your lower back sag; that’s a good way to get injured. Use your abs to pull you back up into the starting position and repeat. 

If you can do ten reps with relative ease, add weight to the bar or do this exercise from standing. Be warned, the standing version is brutal! 

Cable woodchop 

Rotational core strength is very important, especially for movements like punching, throwing and kicking. The main muscles responsible for rotation is your obliques. Cable woodchops are one of the few exercises that allow you to really load up your obliques and work them hard.  

Set the handle on an adjustable pulley machine to about head-height. Grab the handle with both hands. Stand sideways on to the pulley with your arms straight, your feet roughly shoulder-width apart, and knees slightly bent for stability.  

Without bending your arms or twisting your hips, turn your upper body through about 180 degrees. Your hands should follow a diagonal line, from about head height down to your hips. Return to the starting position and repeat.