By Jyremy Reid
ARLINGTON, Va. – When it comes to maintaining balance, good posture and stability, a strong core is essential to everyday functionality. For this reason, the Fort Bliss Soldier Recovery Unit in El Paso, Texas recently incorporated a challenging core training class that’s become very popular among recovering Soldiers.
Usually when someone thinks of core training, the image of sit-ups, crunches and planks immediately comes to mind. However, this is only the tip of the iceberg because the core is involved in every major movement. The exercises in the class focus heavily on the abdominal muscles in addition to other muscles of the trunk that are helpful for balance and stabilization.
Alan Cooksey, adaptive reconditioning program specialist, leads some of the weekly sessions. He noted the importance of helping the Soldiers prioritize full-body functional exercises to strengthen their abs, such as squats, deadlifts and shoulder presses.
A majority of the activities involve compound exercises that engage multiple muscle groups and have little impact on areas of common injuries, such as the knees, shoulders or back. Cooksey encourages well-roundedness in his participants’ workouts with the use of various weights, bodyweight exercises and sometimes cardio.
“It can be pretty intense,” Cooksey said, “but we tell them to do what they feel is comfortable. If they need anything modified, then that’s an option as well.”
Although the exercises are challenging, this prime aspect only further motivates the Soldiers to get stronger. The SRU offers some classes three to five times weekly, so it’s no wonder that their discipline has consistently grown over time.
“This is a great class that challenges the fit and the unfit,” Staff Sgt. Tabious Cole said about the class. “It has good intensity, great exercises and is a wonderful experience.”
Every Soldier enters recovery in different phases, and their general goal is to regain strength after an injury. Cooksey emphasized how the routine helps Soldiers build a strong base to prevent future injuries, protect the spine and prepare the individual for higher levels of activities, such as running, lifting and jumping. This is especially helpful whenever Soldiers are out on deployment during long and vigorous missions.
“They’re doing the class and realizing it’s possible,” Cooksey said. “They’re improving, getting in shape and, in some cases, certain participants have noticed less physical pain.”
From its beginning, Cooksey never imagined how popular these sessions would become among the Soldiers. This pleasantly surprised him because abs are usually not the first muscle most people are excited to train. Nevertheless, he boasted that the class has become so popular it’s been difficult to fit everyone in the room.
“It’s a good workout,” Sgt. Ashton Jerry said. “My abs hurt afterward, but in a good way.”
Cpt. Theodore Donahue joined the SRU in early March 2022 and found the sessions to be very helpful – not only in the recovery process, but also in developing close bonds with other participants.
“I have been an active participant in the morning core training classes,” he stated. “Though the class lasts only 45 minutes, [the Soldiers feel the impact] throughout the SRU process. Core training classes impact the recovery of Soldiers in the program and the building of bonds between Soldiers in the SRU.
“Outside of being in the Army and some injuries, there is very little in common for Soldiers at the SRU,” he continued. “Core training classes tend to be where many Soldiers start making connections with each other. The joint experience of challenging exercise…nothing builds bonds faster than joint experience.”
The Army Warrior Care and Transition Program is now the Army Recovery Care Program. Although the name has changed, the mission remains the same: to provide quality complex case management to the Army's wounded, ill and injured Soldiers. Visit our website at https://arcp.army.mil.