I talked to a few of you on XBox about strength training, and thought I would post what I have found to be the best for all around strength increases. I have been training for the Tough Mudder in December, and have made great strides in my overall conditioning with a mix of weights, running and diet.
The main thing is to constantly mix it up and not let your muscles get used to the same exercises all the time. I do a lot of free weights, but I also do a lot of body weight exercises.
Wide grip pull-ups with palms facing away are by far the absolute best exercise you can do to strengthen your back. Use as wide a grip as possible on the bar, and make sure you come to a complete dead hang with arms locked at the bottom of each repetition. You won't be able to do as many, but proper form is the best way to increase back strength. I could do maybe 2 or 3 reps when I started, and now I do sets of 10 with a 25lb plate strapped to my waist. It just takes time and determination. Probably the hardest part is feeling like everyone is laughing at you when you first start out and can't do many reps. Get over it and push on in true Airborne fashion.
Another good body weight exercise for back, and easier to do if you are just starting out, is to use a bar on a Smith machine, set it to a height that lets your back hang just off the floor with arms extended, feet resting on the floor, and do pullups so your chest touches the bar, then lower yourself slowly back to the starting position. Again, put your hands well more than shoulder width apart on the bar.
For chest bodyweight exercise, nothing beats the pushup with a twist. Do a set of pushups the normal way until you reach muscle failure. Next elevate your feet and do another set until failure. I use the Smith machine bar because you can kick the bar up a notch or two after each set. The point is to get your feet up higher and higher each set to work your chest from different angles, which will give you more overall chest strength and keep your chest from getting used to the "standard" pushup.
One thing many people fail to understand is that a lot of your chest strength is tied in to your triceps strength. Stronger triceps help both your bench press and, more practically for military people, your pushups.
For triceps, do either normal dips on a dip bar or bench dips. Use two benches, put your feet up on one and your hands on the other so your body is suspended between the two benches. Keep your legs and back straight, lower and raise yourself using only your triceps. When you can do 25 or more reps without reaching muscle failure, hold a dumbbell between your knees and do the reps. If you don't have weight benches, you can use 3 chairs. Set them up in a triangle, feet on one, one hand on each of the other two. It works just as well and you can do them at home that way.
For cardio endurance, I have mixed interval sprints and incline running/walking. Sprints increase your lung capacity and heart output, and incline running/walking does both of those plus strengthens your calf muscles for any hills you come across.
Honestly, without a decent diet, the strength training and cardio will not yield great results. Until March of this year, I did all strength training, virtually no cardio and an off and on diet plan. Since adding cardio and a strict diet, I have lost about 15 lbs of fat and replaced it with about 10 lbs of lean muscle mass. Chicken breast (not fried), broccoli, lean ground beef, and eggs. I cheat once a week with one meal and have pizza or ice cream, because if you don't ever cheat, you will end up binging at some point and breaking your diet completely.
I'm 46, and in the best shape of my life. I can't do better than a 13:50 2 miles, but I have only been doing solid cardio for 3 months, and will probably never break 12:00 like I did in the 80s. I'm fine with that.
The point is to set a goal and work to attain that goal for yourself. I started taking pictures of myself once a week back in March, and while it is hard to see the difference when you look in the mirror, putting before and after pictures side by side lets you know how much your work has paid off.
I put up a before and after picture in my Family and Me album, not to brag, but because I am proud of what I have accomplished in 4 months. I was soft in March, and now I am not. I'm 46. I've been out of the military for over 20 years. Being a paratrooper gave me the discipline and focus to accomplish any goal I set. That is probably the single greatest thing I got from being Airborne.
Note: I started with the Jack Daniels and Diet Dr. Pepper early tonight (just ask Mike and Fred), so some or all of this may sound corny. Sue me, bwahahaha.