- Military-style training can build a strong, healthy body, says ex-military trainer Mark Lauren.
- Lauren says he was pushed to workout until he passed out when he trained in the military decades ago.
- But he realized less is more, and you can get in shape in just nine minutes a day, he told Insider.
Training for survival like you’re in the military could transform your body and keep you fit for life, according to a former US special-operations forces trainer.
“You achieve your best body through training the movements most important to your survival,” Mark Lauren told Insider.
Lauren joined the US Air Force, undergoing tough training, then the special-operations community in the nineties, and ultimately became the physical trainer of nearly 1,000 elite special-operations warriors, including SEALs, Rangers, Green Berets, Force Reconnaissance teams, and Air Force commandos around the time of 9/11. His job was to train recruits to be prepared for anything.
Lauren still holds the U.S. military record for swimming underwater for the longest distance (133 meters (436 feet), which took two minutes, 23 seconds), before blacking out underwater.
However, Lauren realized that long, grueling workouts didn’t necessarily lead to better results because they were an inefficient use of energy, prolonged recovery, and increased the risk of injury and burnout. This led Lauren to develop his own bodyweight program for his squadrons.
“In the military, it’s about general preparedness,” he told Insider. “How do we train these young special-ops guys so they can jump out of airplanes, do road marches, slide down ropes, scuba dive, etc.?”
This meant training to improve posture and joint function by developing mobility and transferring weight around the body in different ways, with the aim of being ready for anything. Functional exercises in Lauren’s workouts include push-ups and glute bridges.
“When you gain muscle through highly functional training, your body displays your self-mastery, which leads to mastery of your environment, and that is exactly what we need to survive and reproduce,” Lauren said.
Some military training pushes recruits to the extreme
Historically, the military mindset — and in the special-operations community particularly — is “you just suck it up and you go balls to the wall and that’s how it’s done,” Lauren said.
In training to be a Navy SEAL, for example, recruits have to undergo what’s known as “Hell Week.”
“For us in the Air Force, it was just a massive amount of exercise,” Lauren said. “They used to break us down, and then at the end of each day they would take us to the pool and torture us in the water.”
It wasn’t uncommon for people to pass out underwater while attempting to complete tasks, as Lauren says he did.
“Your choice was either you do it, quit, or pass out trying,” he said. “And if you pass out, they’d pull you out, wake you up and say, ‘Are you okay?’ and if you were, ‘Get your ass back in the pool, do it again.'”
First lieutenant Joseph Liu, the public affairs officer for the special warfare training wing in the US Air Force, told Insider that training has evolved since Lauren’s time, and physical fitness aims to “build candidates up to meet operational requirements,” not quit. The wing provides support including nutrition and hydration recommendations, body composition testing, physical therapy, and psychological support for trainees.
More is not necessarily better
When Lauren became a special forces instructor around the time of 9/11, the military decided to reorganize training of the special forces as very few people were graduating, he said.
Most special operations courses were designed to “drive candidates into the floor,” Lauren wrote in his new book “Strong and Lean.”
Learning from his own experience, when Lauren designed his exercise programs he made them more efficient and found his recruits got better results.
The programs were designed with “general preparedness” as an aim, focusing on fundamental skills that carry over to all aspects of life.
‘The most functional program produces the best body’
Lauren’s ethos and military experience inspired the workouts in his new book, which are designed to be completed in nine minutes, to help people achieve their fitness goals with the least amount of effort, and require no equipment.
Each workout is nine minutes long and consists of three sections: floor work, standing work, and mobility exercises, as Insider previously reported.
Moves that Lauren uses in his workout include glute bridges, starfish twists, and bottom squats.
Not only will they create a fit, healthy body in just 0.3% of a person’s week, the workouts will also create a strong, lean, “beautiful” physique, Lauren said.
“The most functional program produces the best body,” he said.
Lauren’s workouts improve posture and joint functions while also building muscle by improving fundamental athletic skills that are always being used, with limited effort, he said. Research suggests that functional training can improve speed, muscular strength, power, balance, and agility.
“To me, fitness is about your ability to survive,” Lauren said.