Leading a group of men through the war and back requires a mindset that very few of us possess in our daily lives. And for most of his life, Erik Bartell has consistently demonstrated all the qualities of a leader who is fit and ready to take on any fight.

As a platoon leader in the army, the native of Chicago led a squadron of 30 men overseas into the war in Afghanistan. Even more impressive: every member returned home safe and sound. “This is my greatest achievement,” says Bartell modestly.

Today Bartell is on a new military mission, only this time the goal is to provide fitness and a chance to find again through FitOps’ latest military athlete outreach program.

As a participant in the Military Athlete program, Bartell and others like him will travel to the country’s military bases and help today’s squad leaders train their troops by going through fitness basics. Bartell’s role is the newest way to expand the reach of FitOps.

“I think leadership is about taking care of people,” says Bartell. “Someone who is much smarter than me coined the term ‘servant leader’. And that’s exactly what I wanted to embody. “

Bartell is a FitOps graduate, so he knows the value of the information he shares with these squad leaders. “I immediately liked everything the program was about,” says Bartell. “I saw so much potential for what this program could be.”

The goal, according to Bartell, is now to turn FitOps into a centralized, full-time training camp from a single source. A bit like a university, but at FitOps camp the fitness curriculum will be exclusively for the military veterinarians. “Right now, FitOps has camps across the country at campsites that have a lot to offer,” says Bartell. “The goal is to build a full-time facility where veterans can be helped all year round.”

This is where the Military Athlete program comes in. Bartell recently trained exercise techniques, fitness philosophy, and other mentoring ideals to 25 squad leaders at Fort Benning, Georgia.

The Military Athlete Program will help squad leaders share everything they have learned under the guidance of Military Athletes to each of their 120 or so soldiers.

“At the moment FitOps camps can serve 40 at the same time,” says Bartell. “This new program will help thousands and give veterans more opportunities.”

Bartell’s following training program – which he describes as “fundamental” – is a highlight of his experience as a certified trainer and strength and conditioning trainer. It consists of a prep day to prepare you for development day and a recovery day, which Bartell says to take seriously.

The Bartell Fit Brief

Erik Bartell on …

  • YOUR RIBS: The warm up is designed to expand your ribs from all angles. The sweater expands your ribs from the front; Bear breathing and the inchworm opens you up from behind, and the groin area widens your sides.
  • THE SLOUCH SOLUTION: You hear a lot about shrugging your shoulders because people are lazy these days. If this is what you want to fix, then your best bet is to focus on your lazio. Strengthening these will pull you back and down.
  • RIGHT TO DEADLIFT: Think of the deadlift in three parts: contract your abs, move your hips forward to lift the weight, and then push your quads to block the weight.
  • BOX-JUMP-FOOLERY: That should be fun. Let’s see if we can still perform after those sprints and heavy deadlifts.

The workout

DIRECTIONS: Movements marked with the same number and letter should be performed back to back without a break. Take a day off between each workout.

Day 1: priming

Amanda Suarez

Inchwurm
From a standing position, move your body towards the floor and keep your upper back arched. Now breathe into your stomach, which will expand your chest and give your lungs more room to expand.

WARM UP

A PRACTICE

SENTENCES

REPS

REST

1A. Inchwurm

1

5

1B. Groiner

1

5

1C. Push up

1

5

1 minute.

2. Squat with horse

3

3

1 minute.

3. Storm bike sprint

1

10 cal (to measure readiness)

1109-Military-Strong-Horse-Posture-SquatAmanda Suarez

Squat with horse
Stand one foot from a pole and grab it with both hands. Now spread your feet apart and spread your knees. From there, crouch down until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Actively pull the bar to keep your body taut and upright throughout the movement.

CONDITIONING

A PRACTICE

SENTENCES

REPS

REST

1A. Prowler relay

5

6-8 sec.

1B. Wall seat

5

60-90 sec.

2 minutes.

2. Deadlift with trap bar

3

8th

1 minute.

1109-Military-Strong-Trap-Bar-DeadliftAmanda Suarez

Deadlift with trap bar
Stand in the middle of a loaded trap bar and reach into the middle of the handles. (If possible, use the low grip option as this creates more range of motion.) Bend at your hips and bend forward, then move your hips forward to lift the weight.

STRENGTH

A PRACTICE

SENTENCES

REPS

REST

1. Front kettlebell squat

3

5 (difficult)

1-3 min.

2. Split squat in the back of the foot

3

10

1-3 min.

FINISHER

A PRACTICE

SENTENCES

REPS

REST

1A. Sandbag Bear Crawl and Drag

3

100 feet

1B. Medicine ball hang and burpee

3

10

1 minute.

COOLING DOWN

A PRACTICE

2-3 min. Low-intensity strength training to reduce the heart rate to below 100 beats per minute.

2-3 min. In the recovery position, lengthening the exhalation to lower the heart rate to rest.

Foam rolls, theragun, stretch.

Day 2: development

1109 Military Strong Kettlebell SwingAmanda Suarez

Kettlebell cleaning
Grab a kettlebell set in front of you with one hand and walk it back behind you. Move your hips forward, and when the bell reaches chest level, rotate the bell over your wrist and catch the kettlebell in the front rack position. Make sure the bell moves up and down in a straight line throughout the movement.

WARM UP

A PRACTICE

SENTENCES

REPS

REST

1A. Inchwurm

1

5

1B. Groiner

1

5

1C. Push up

1

5

1 minute.

2. Split stance tape PNF

1

6th

1 minute.

3. Ski VERY sprint

1

10 cal (use as a measure for training)

1 minute.

CONDITIONING

A PRACTICE

SENTENCES

REPS

REST

1A. Med ball hip shoot

3

30 seconds.

1B. Wall breathing

3

60 sec.

2. Treadmill sprint

6th

6 sec.

1 minute.

STRENGTH

A PRACTICE

SENTENCES

REPS

REST

1A. Kettlebell swing

3

3

1B. Kettlebell cleaning

3

3

1C. Kettlebell snatch

3

3

2 minutes.

2. One-armed soil press

3

6th

2 minutes.

FINISHER

A PRACTICE

SENTENCES

REPS

REST

1A. Sandbag Sprawl and Squat

3

10

1B. Long jump to vertical jump

3

1

2 minutes.

1109-Military-Strong-Sandbag-Sprawl-SquatAmanda Suarez

Sandbag Sprawl & Squat
Hold a sandbag and drop into a burpee. Quickly explode your feet behind you and then back in again. Stand up and clean the sandbag above your head so that it is on your back. Now crouch down. This is a repetition.

COOLING DOWN

A PRACTICE

2-3 min. Low-intensity rowing training to reduce the heart rate to below 100 beats per minute.

2-3 min. In a recovery position with controlled breathing (extend on the back and exhale to lower the heart rate at rest).

Foam rolls, theragun, stretch.

Day 3: recovery

1109 military strong box jumpAmanda Suarez

Box jump
Bartell likes to end his workout with a fun challenge. Here he starts with a run-up, jumps over the first box and then explodes onto the second. If you can’t jump the hurdle, just do box jumps at a reasonable height.

WARM UP

A PRACTICE

SENTENCES

REPS

1A. Inchwurm

1

5

1B. Groiner

1

5

2. Bear breathing

3

5

3. Kettlebell sweater

3

5

4. Plate squat

3

5

CONDITIONING

A PRACTICE

SENTENCES

REPS

1A. Battle ropes (50% effort)

4th

30 seconds.

1B. Focused breathing

4th

1 minute.

2nd row (50% effort)

8 min.

STRENGTH

A PRACTICE

SENTENCES

REPS

1. One-legged deadlift with kettlebell

3

3

2. Box jump

3

6th

COOLING DOWN

A PRACTICE

2-3 min. Walk

90/90 wall breathing

Foam rolls, theragun, stretch.

Crush with cena

Bartell shares what it’s like to train with WWE Superstar and FitOps Ambassador John Cena.

It’s intense. You just have to do your best around him. I always set a personal record when we train together.

I remember this one workout was just an absolute blast. We started with cleans and worked our way up to a weight we couldn’t hold. Then we did the same thing with front squats, then back squats, and finally deadlifts.

I think I kept up with him on the front squats, I got my best time at 335, but he definitely knocked me out on the deadlift. We just have the upper hand, no straps. He calls it a “gentleman’s grip”. I got up to 405 and couldn’t go on. He’s put on up to 500 pounds and I’m watching him like, man, you’re crazy.

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