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Strength training 101: HAWC classes help improve fitness

Senior Airman George Gonzales, 8th Maintenance Squadron electronics warfare technician, leg presses 200 pounds at the Kunsan Fitness Center, Republic of Korea, June 12, 2015. The 8th Medical Operations Squadron health promotions office offers strength training 101, a class that teaches Airmen the basics of incorporating effective strength training exercises in their personal fitness program. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Katrina Heikkinen/Released)

Senior Airman George Gonzales, 8th Maintenance Squadron electronics warfare technician, leg presses 200 pounds at the Kunsan Fitness Center, Republic of Korea, June 12, 2015. The 8th Medical Operations Squadron health promotions office offers strength training 101, a class that teaches Airmen the basics of incorporating effective strength training exercises in their personal fitness program. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Katrina Heikkinen/Released)

Senior Airman Stephen Caseman, 8th Maintenance Group weapons standardization technician, demonstrates a barbell squat at the Kunsan Fitness Center, Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea, June 12, 2015. According to Bill Goins, 8th Medical Operations Squadron health promotions coordinator, Airmen should strength train two to three days a week per muscle group; with two to three sets of eight to 12 repetitions [regardless of gender or fitness level], starting with the largest muscles first. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Katrina Heikkinen/Released)

Senior Airman Stephen Caseman, 8th Maintenance Group weapons standardization technician, demonstrates a barbell squat at the Kunsan Fitness Center, Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea, June 12, 2015. According to Bill Goins, 8th Medical Operations Squadron health promotions coordinator, Airmen should strength train two to three days a week per muscle group; with two to three sets of eight to 12 repetitions [regardless of gender or fitness level], starting with the largest muscles first. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Katrina Heikkinen/Released)

KUNSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- Being ready to "fight tonight" is a message that resonates with every Airman at the 8th Fighter Wing. For decades, Kunsan AB has upheld a long tradition of excellence; one key aspect to the Wolf Pack's mission readiness is being fit to fight.

The 8th Medical Operations Squadron's health promotions office supports the Wolf Pack's combat-ready Airmen by providing a spectrum of services and educational classes aimed at improving health and fitness.

"We support Airmen by providing outreach, services and educational classes to help improve overall lifestyle - specifically nutrition and fitness," said Bill Goins, 8th MDOS health promotions coordinator.

The strength training 101 class is one avenue offered by health promotions that teaches Airmen the basics of incorporating effective strength training exercise in their personal fitness program. As muscular strength and aerobic fitness are the two major components the Air Force uses to measure overall fitness, strength 101 is geared toward Airmen who want to improve the push-up or sit-up portion of the Air Force fitness test assessment.

"Agility and endurance are two types of muscular strength a person develops when they start weight lifting," Goins said. "Endurance is the ability to produce and maintain force over prolonged periods of time; this pertains to both the sit-ups and push-ups. Agility is the ability of the neuromuscular system to switch quickly and efficiently between contractions; this is reactive strength. The idea behind the whole concept of the physical test is for Airmen to be able to perform in a combat scenario, and agility strength is the key factor."

According to Goins, the frequency of strength training should be two to three days a week per muscle group. Each exercise should include two to three sets of eight to 12 repetitions [regardless of gender or fitness level], starting with the largest muscles first, with a 60 to 90-second rest in-between sets of the same exercise/muscle group.

"Ideally, the largest muscles should be worked first, starting with leg, chest, back, triceps, bicep and core exercises," Goins said. "The important thing to remember is that, depending on the weight used, after completing every set, muscles should feel fatigued without compromising form."

Airmen new to strength training should set a goal three to four months out to see maximal results, Goins said.

"Those new to weight lifting should start out with select machines, followed by barbells then dumbbells or kettlebells," he said. "It is important that Airmen remember to rest at least 24 hours in between exercising the same muscle groups."

While strength training and cardiovascular fitness go hand-in-hand in the Air Force culture of 365 days of fitness, a strength training program should be approached with a well-formulated plan to prevent injury, said Capt. Jacqueline Astrero, 8th MDOS physical therapist and health promotions flight chief.

"Unfortunately, the majority of the [injured] patients I see do not know the proper form when they are strength training," Astrero said. "Another factor that can lead to an injury is omitting a warm-up and a cool down after strength training. At Kunsan, our mission is being fit to fight tonight. Anywhere in the Air Force we have to be able to be ready to support the mission 24/7 and at Kunsan - we have to be fit to fight."

Strength training 101 classes are offered on a monthly basis. For more information or to sign up for the next class, contact your unit physical fitness monitor.