Year

2015

Degree Name

Master of Science (Research)

Department

Centre of Human and Applied Physiology

Abstract

It is well known that aerobic capacity, muscle strength and anaerobic endurance are important elements of physical fitness (Shephard., 1997 Aasa et al., 2003). Military duties are recognised as being physically demanding, requiring both physical and mental resilience (Rayson., 2000; Kaufman et al., 2000). Despite considerable technological advancement and increased mechanization of military operations, loads have increased significantly for the modern soldier (Knapik et al., 2014), thus requiring significant physical capacity to perform the allocated military tasks effectively. For that reason, the emphasis of the Australian Army basic military training regimen is for new recruits to develop such attributes. The regimen consists of exercises that target the upper and lower body regions. Exercises include, push ups, sit ups, running, marching with and without load, circuit training, swimming, plus the introduction to lift and carry, functional tasks and battle training.

One hundred and seventy seven recruits commenced the twelve weeks of basic training, with 128 completing the regimen. Of this selected group, forty recruits were assigned to perform physiological testing sessions. Three testing sessions in weeks one, eight and twelve were performed over the twelve week duration. These sessions would last between 40-80 minutes.

Following the twelve weeks of basic training, four key findings were observed; i) a 12-week basic military training regimen was effective in significantly increasing cardiorespiratory endurance. Recruits had a 7.5% increase in estimated peak oxygen consumption as measured by the 20m-shuttle run (Ramsbottom et al., 1988 )., however, ii) gains in muscle strength and power were considerably smaller than changes observed in cardiorespiratory fitness, iii) the time course of adaptation was not linear; the greatest improvements in physical performance observed in the first eight weeks of training. In contrast, within the final four weeks of basic military training a maintenance of physical performance was generally observed, and, iv) a poor relationship was observed between existing generic assessment of military performance and task that were functionally relevant to military duties.

It is concluded that basic training in the Australian Army produces some favourable adaptations in recruits, especially in terms of aerobic fitness. However, the poor development of strength and material handling ability during training fails to improve the ability of soldiers to perform simulated military tasks, and it does little to reduce future injury risk while performing these tasks.

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