Circuit Training and Exercise Drills - Safety Factors

While injury is always possible in any vigorous physical activity, few calisthenic exercises are really unsafe or dangerous. The keys to avoiding injury while gaining training benefits are using correct form and intensity. Also, soldiers with low fitness levels, such as trainees, should not do the advanced exercises highly fit soldiers can do. For example, with the lower back properly supported, flutter kicks are an excellent way to condition the hip flexor muscles. However, without support, the possibility of straining the lower back increases. It is not sensible to have recruits do multiple sets of flutter kicks because they probably are not conditioned for them. On the other hand, a conditioned Ranger company may use multiple sets of flutter’ kicks with good results.
The key to doing calisthenic exercises safely is to use common sense. Also, ballistic (that is, quick-moving) exercises that combine rotation and bending of the spine increase the risk of back injury and should be avoided. This is especially true if someone has had a previous injury to the back. If this type of action is performed, slow stretching exercises, not conditioning drills done to cadence, should be used.
Some soldiers complain of shoulder problems resulting from rope climbing, horizontal ladder, wheelbarrow, and crab-walk exercises. These exercises are beneficial when the soldier is fit and he does them in a regular, progressive manner. However, a certain level of muscular strength is needed to do them safely. Therefore, soldiers should progressively train to build up to these exercises. Using such exercises for unconditioned soldiers increases the risk of injury and accident.

Progression and Recovery
Other important principles for avoiding injury are progression and recovery. Programs that try to do too much too soon invite problems. The day after a “hard” training day, if soldiers are working the same muscle groups and/or fitness components, they should work them at a reduced intensity to minimize stress and permit recovery.
The best technique is to train alternate muscle groups and/or fitness components on different days. For example, if the Monday-Wednesday- Friday (M-W-F) training objective is CR fitness, soldiers can do ability group running at THR with some light calisthenics and stretching. If the Tuesday-Thursday (T-Th) objective is muscular endurance and strength, soldiers can benefit from doing partner-resisted exercises followed by a slow run. To ensure balance and
regularity in the program, the next week should have muscle endurance and strength development on M-W-F and training for CR endurance on T-Th. Such a program has variety, develops all the fitness components, and follows the seven principles of exercise while, at the same time, it minimizes injuries caused by overuse.
Leaders should plan PT sessions to get a positive training effect, not to conduct “gut checks.” They should know how to correctly do all the exercises in their program and teach their soldiers to train using good form to help avoid injuries.

Key Points for Safety
Doing safe exercises correctly improves a soldier’s fitness with a minimum risk of injury.
The following are key points for ensuring safety during stretching and calisthenic exercises:
• Stretch slowly and without pain and unnatural stress to a joint. Use static (slow and sustained) stretching for warming up, cooling down, ballistic (bouncy or jerky) stretching movements.
• Do not allow the angle formed by the upper and lower legs to become less than 90 degrees when the legs are bearing weight.
• A combination of spinal rotation and bending should generally be avoided. However, if done, use only slow, controlled movements with little or no extra weight.
Leaders must be aware of the variety of methods they may use to attain their physical training goals. The unit’s Master Fitness Trainer is schooled to provide safe, effective training methods and answer questions about training techniques.