CPT Kevin Richard, MS, LAT, ATC, TB12 Foxboro Body Coach
For service members, preventing musculoskeletal injuries should be a top priority. Musculoskeletal injuries accounted for 65% of all medically non deployable soldiers as of March 2019, and since 2003, the United States has spent approximately $434 million on musculoskeletal patient care costs. And with the harsh demands on service members’ bodies and minds, those numbers continue to climb.
From their first day of training, service members are exposed to physical (and emotional) stressors that they might encounter in real combat situations. They’re constantly at an increased risk for either acute or overuse injuries. Not only does this affect their ability to perform their job, but it has a serious impact on each units’ overall readiness.
Service members are constantly dealing with structured physical training, the physical demands of field exercises, increased load on their bodies from equipment, and often their own workout routines. They experience the same strain as athletes. So, to properly rest, recover and maintain their bodies they should learn to train and recover like professional athletes.
That's where pliability for service members comes in. Each aspect of pliability, from functional training, to recovery, to nutrition, is equally important as the others. With the constant “go, go go!” mentality and demand, it’s crucial for service members to train functionally, recover properly, and fuel and hydrate efficiently.
Functional Resistance Training
Functional training with resistance bands allows service members to maintain physical readiness, and be able to efficiently execute the demands of their specific occupation. For example, an infantryman needs to be able to maneuver and change firing positions quickly and efficiently. By having these individuals undergo training with the added resistance, they forge a stronger mind-muscle connection, increasing their efficiency in the field.
Physical and Mental Recovery
Physical and mental recovery is often forgotten in tactical settings. But, it’s one of the most crucial steps for achieving and maintaining full-body pliability.
Rolling out with a pliability device, such as a roller or sphere, after intense movement helps increase tissue pliability, reducing density and tension in the muscles and decreasing the risk of injury. On the mental side of things, taking the time each day to reset through methods like meditation, reflection, or spiritual practice helps ease anxiety and stress. Don’t forget: The mental aspect of recovery is just as important as the physical one.
Nutrition and Hydration Basics
It can be difficult for service members to get the right nutritional balance, especially out in the field. But properly fueling up with a well-balanced, mostly-plant based diet when possible helps reduce the amount of inflammation in the body, helping with overall pliability.
Additionally, consuming at least half of one’s body weight in ounces of water per day, and increasing hydration to match sweat loss during physical activity like training or a workout, helps keep muscles hydrated and pliable. At TB12, we call this reaching the hydration baseline.
The Bottom Line
Service members practice and perform with the same exertion as pro athletes. That’s why caring for their bodies by training, recovering, and fueling like athletes is key. By treating the body holistically and incorporating all aspects of pliability, service members can sustain their performance and continue to serve and recover healthily.