Extreme Conditioning Programs

Monday July 2, 2012

What are they?

Extreme Conditioning Programs (ECPs) are workout regimens that focus on high-intensity, high-volume exercises with short rest periods between sets. Examples of ECPs include CrossFit, P90X, Insanity and PT Pyramid. Many ECPs are commercially available, and some Army installations offer them through their fitness centers or other physical activity facilities. While ECPs are growing in popularity, they can carry unique risks, particularly for those just starting the programs.

What has the Army done?

The Army is working to prevent musculoskeletal injures in support of the U.S. Army Medical Command's (PDF). The Army recently developed a public health notice that outlines ways senior leaders can minimize injuries from ECPs. These tactics include tailoring programs to Soldiers based on their fitness level, training goals, and job-specific needs and demands.

What continued efforts does the Army have planned for the future?

Army injury prevention and health promotion professionals will continue to evaluate the effects of ECPs on physical fitness and injury risk, and educate Soldiers and senior leaders about ECPs. The goals of these efforts are to better understand risks and benefits of ECPs and maintain readiness of the Army.

Why is this important to the Army?

The risk for musculoskeletal injury from ECPs may be greater than from other types of conditioning programs. This is particularly so for Soldiers just starting an ECP because they may try to do too much too soon. Additionally, some of the exercises require a high degree of skill and coordination to safely execute. Risks associated with ECPs may include muscle strains, torn ligaments, stress fractures and exertional rhabdomyolysis (a potentially life-threatening condition resulting from breakdown of skeletal muscle following heavy physical activity). Conditions like these can result in lost duty time for medical treatment and extensive rehabilitation, which can adversely affect individual and unit readiness. It is important for Soldiers and leaders to understand the potential benefits and risks of ECPs and the actions they can take to minimize injuries, prior to their participation.

Resources:

What Army Leaders Should Know about Extreme Conditioning Programs (PDF)
Soldier Medical Readiness Campaign Plan, Line of Effort 3.0
Soldier Medical Readiness Campaign Plan (PDF)
U.S. Army Public Health Command
U.S. Army Medicine
Related article: Army Medicine focuses on medical readiness

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