08.10.2018

Physiological demands of military field training; what kind of physical training is most effective for soldiers?

Tommi Ojanen1, Keijo Häkkinen2, Heikki Kyröläinen2,3 1Finnish Defence Research Agency, Tuusula, Finland, 2University of Jyväskylä, Jyväskylä, Finland, 3National Defence University, Helsinki, Finland

Introduction: Soldiers are exposed to physical and mental stressors during military operations. These stressors include factors such as physical and cognitive fatigue caused as a consequence of prolonged physical exertion, sleep deprivation and insufficient energy and fluid intake. When designing a training plan for soldiers, it is important to take into account the factors emphasizing the task requirements or performance goals.

Methods: First, we measured neuromuscular and hormonal serum concentration changes during a 21 - day Military Field Training (MFT). Forty-nine subjects completed the study. Then, we did a 12-week training study that was implemented during the latter part of conscript service. Sixty-one subjects, divided into four different training groups, completed all the measurements during the 12-week study time. Training programs were designed to be easy to perform during normal weekly physical training.

Results: During the MFT there were decrements in physical performance and serum hormone concentrations. In the training study, the main findings indicated that both task specific and strength training programs seemed to improve physical performance more than endurance or normal military physical training.

Conclusion: Physically higher requirements combined with the decrease in physical fitness have led to a situation where physical training has to be carefully and systematically tailored to meet the needs of the basic military training. When designing a training plan for soldiers, it is important to take into account the factors emphasizing the task requirements or performance goals. A need for variation in training stimulus is the most important factor when considering the development of maximal or explosive strength and maximal aerobic capacity. Military training can be too monotonous and may not improve physical performance in an optimal way. For soldiers, it is important to have training programs that helps them to first reach and then to maintain the needed level for physical performance.