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Suspension training: Put some suspense in your workout

Suspension training is a popular way to get a good workout wherever you are with very little equipment, using just your body weight for resistance.

Lugging around heavy weights and other exercise equipment while traveling or on deployment isn’t the most practical idea. Pack a couple of suspension-training straps, however, and you’ve got part of a well-rounded training routine covered. Suspension training has gained a lot of popularity among both civilians and service members alike, and more and more gyms are now offering suspension-training classes. Once the straps are securely anchored to something that won’t move and is sturdy enough to hold your weight, place your hands or feet into the loops, and your body weight enhances the effectiveness of exercises such as push-ups, lunges, core strengthening, and more. While there are various ways to adjust and adapt the exercises for less experienced exercisers, this type of workout requires some initial joint and core stability. There is also potential risk of injury, especially for beginners. Before you try this for the first time, it’s a good idea to get some advice and guidance from a suspension-training professional.

Performance Quote: Challenge yourself

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Tactics, Total Force Fitness
"Life is not a having and a getting, but a being and a becoming." -Matthew Arnold, 19th-century British writer and philosopher

"Life is not a having and a getting, but a being and a becoming." - Matthew Arnold, 19th-century British writer and philosopher

Optimized performance is an ongoing process of always becoming smarter, stronger, faster, and more resilient. Constantly redefine your goals; never be satisfied with “good enough.” Challenge yourself in all areas of your life. If you feel that you’ve reached your peak, find something new to conquer. Rest and charge again!

Caffeine and performance—limit your intake for best performance.

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Tactics, Total Force Fitness
Caffeine shouldn't be a replacement for sleep, and too much degrades your physical performance.

Caffeine in moderate doses can boost both physical and cognitive performance. It can help maintain alertness when you are doing long boring activities such as highway driving. It is especially effective for enhancing alertness and mental performance when individuals are sleep deprived. However, if you can, it is better to get the sleep your body needs. The suggested level of intake for enhancing cognitive performance is relatively low—one or two cups of coffee or one or two energy drinks (about 80-200 mg of caffeine). Larger doses can cause side effects (e.g. nervousness, irritability, shakiness, and trouble sleeping). It is very important not to consume large amounts of caffeine before trying to sleep. Blood levels of caffeine peak at about 60 minutes and are maintained for approximately two to three hours. Thus, although each person is different, another dose after four hours may confer additional benefits for activities of long duration or when alertness must be maintained.

The bottom line is, more caffeine will not improve performance—and may actually degrade it due to various negative side effects at higher doses.

Operation Supplement Safety (OPSS) has now been launched to answer many of your questions about Dietary Supplements. Visit the OPSS section of HPRC’s website now to learn more!

When it comes to performance—you booze, you lose

Going out for a drink to celebrate after a long race or a tough workout may be good for the soul, but it’s bad for performance.

Before you reach for a cold one, consider that drinking alcohol before, during, or after exercise can be detrimental to your performance, especially when consumed in excess. The effect of alcohol on skeletal muscles has been found to decrease strength output and can cause muscle cramps, pain, and loss of proprioception. Alcohol can also negatively affect your metabolism during exercise and contribute to dehydration. There is a shortage of data on the effects of alcohol on a recovering athlete, but some studies have shown that alcohol slows the recovery process by impacting muscle growth and repair systems. While current research has shown that alcohol in moderation can have other health benefits, it may be better to save that drink for when your physical performance is not on the line. There is also a growing body of research investigating the effects of combining alcohol with energy drinks. Many energy drinks contain substances and supplements that can interfere with normal alcohol metabolism and impair judgment. Be a conscious consumer and know what kinds of ingredients may be risky for your health.

Operation Supplement Safety (OPSS) has now been launched to answer many of your questions about Dietary Supplements. Visit the OPSS section of HPRC’s website now to learn more!

U.S. Army reinstates basic fitness requirement to take PME courses

If you want to earn credit for PME courses, first you must pass the APFT and meet weight requirements.

Beginning on November 1st the U.S. Army will bring back the requirement to pass the Army Physical Fitness Test, including weight standards, in order to enroll in professional military education courses. Initially this requirement was waived due to the great demand for soldiers during OIF and OEF. Sgt. Todd McCaffrey states, "Reestablishing the Army physical fitness test and height/weight standards into our professional military education programs reinforces the efforts the Army's senior leaders have been emphasizing on standards based training and education." For information on how to meet these requirements, visit HPRC’s Fighting Weight Strategies, service-specific Physical Fitness Guides, and Policies, Standards, Reports, and Guidelines.

Breathe out stress; breathe in relaxation or energy

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Tactics, Total Force Fitness
Check out HPRC’s instructional videos on breathing tactics you can use to relax or energize you mind and body!

HPRC shows you how to perform three basic breathing exercises in the HPRC Breathing Exercises for Optimized Performance video. Three basic techniques are covered:

  1. Deep Breathing. Use this method whenever you need to release tension and relax. This is a very effective strategy to de-stress quickly.
  2. Alternate Nostril Breathing can help stimulate both sides of your brain, which encourages optimal cognitive performance. So if you are feeling mentally fatigued, try this technique.
  3. Breath of Fire. Commonly used in some yoga practices, fast-paced breathing encourages increased brain activity and can confer feelings of energy in mind and body. Also known as “bellows breath, this is a powerful method to be used carefully according to instructions.

Using any of these strategies in the right situation can provide you with the edge you need to reach optimal performance. Instructions for these techniques are also available in an annotated transcript of the video.

Use self-talk to boost your performance

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Tactics, Total Force Fitness
Learn new skills, reinforce old skills, and stay motivated with self-talk strategies.


Talking to yourself (called “self-talk”) is a commonly used sports practice that can boost performance by training you to pay attention to the details of an activity or encourage yourself to keep going.

There are two types of self-talk that can help boost performance: instructional and motivational. Visit HPRC’s Performance Strategies on optimizing self-talk to learn more about these types and how they can benefit your performance.

If you’ve ever choked under pressure, read on.

Emerging research suggests that activating the right side of your brain may decrease likelihood of choking under pressure.

When your body simply refuses to perform a well-learned skill, it’s called “choking.” For Warfighters, the results could be disastrous. Recent research focused on the theory that it involves a disconnection—or loss of focus—between the muscles and the part of the brain responsible for motor skills (for most people, the right side of the brain).

The study tested a small group of athletes to see if better physical performance would result from stimulating the right brain. They found that those who did so—by squeezing a ball with the left hand to stimulate the right brain before a high-pressure situation—performed better than those who squeezed a ball with the right hand or not at all and almost as well as in a low-pressure situation. Although more work is needed to verify the concept, it is something you can try on your own.

A new approach to prevent non-combat injuries

The heavy loads that active duty service men and women have to carry during deployments and training are taking a toll. Extensive research continues on how to reduce body armor weight and decrease the risk of associated non-combat injuries.

Body armor, in addition to necessary equipment and supplies, well exceeds the recommended carrying maximum of 50 pounds. The DoD was asked by Congress to conduct a research project to explore the possibility of lightening body armor without sacrificing protection. Currently, the research shows it does not seem possible to make body armor out of a lighter material while still adequately protecting the individual. However, leaders are taking a more preventative approach to reducing injuries on the battlefield. These include changes in pre-deployment training, as well as an increased number of deployed physical and occupational therapists and improvements in forward-deployed care centers.

Performance Quote: No garbage in

“Garbage in, garbage out.” - George Fuechsel, IBM programmer and instructor

“Garbage in, garbage out.” - George Fuechsel, IBM Programmer and Instructor

What you put in your mind and body has an impact on your performance. Surround yourself with positive people who can encourage you to build the motivation you need to maintain high performance during hard times. Replace negative thoughts and conversations with “I can…” statements. Nutrition also has an impact on your performance. Fueling yourself with high-performance foods can help you perform at your best consistently. Like a car, you cannot run on empty nor fuel yourself with empty calories. The Warfighter Nutrition Guide is an excellent resource for information about performance nutrition. For even more information on fueling performance, explore HPRC’s Nutrition domain.

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