Physical training considerations for optimizing performance in essential military tasks

Publication Name

European Journal of Sport Science


Physically demanding essential military tasks include load carriage, manual material handling and casualty evacuation. This narrative review characterizes the main physical attributes related to performance of these occupational tasks and reviews physical training intervention studies in military settings to improve performance in these military tasks. Load carriage performance requires both aerobic and neuromuscular fitness with greater emphasis on maximal strength and absolute maximal oxygen uptake, especially when carrying heavier loads. In manual material handling, maximal strength and power are strongly associated with discrete lifting, while muscular strength, muscular endurance and aerobic fitness are also associated with repetitive lifting performance. Maximal strength including grip strength, muscular endurance, absolute maximal oxygen uptake and anaerobic capacity are associated with casualty evacuation performance. The results of the present review particularly emphasize the role of muscular fitness in successful performance of the reviewed military occupational tasks. Training intervention studies indicate that load carriage performance can be effectively improved by combining strength, aerobic and specific load carriage training. Improvement in maximal lifting capacity can be achieved by strength training or combined strength and aerobic training, while strength and aerobic training alone, or their combination are effective in improving repetitive lifting, and carry tasks. Only a few studies are available for casualty evacuation and the results are inconclusive but may indicate benefits of strength or combined training. Moreover, emphasis on lower volume but higher intensity in combined training may be a feasible and effective mode to improve military occupational performance in recruits and active-duty soldiers.

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