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How to Train Before OCS to Minimize Your Injury Risk

How can you prevent injuries and stay out of medical while at OCS?

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One of the many questions that you might have before stepping onto Brown Field is in regards to injury prevention and staying out of medical during your time at OCS. My name is 2ndLt Aegerter and I graduated from OCS in the summer of 2019. In addition to going through OCS myself, I studied Exercise Science/Athletic Training while in college. I played soccer my whole life and even through college, so I have a lot of personal experience in dealing with an array of injuries. Learning both from those experiences and in the classroom, here are some of my biggest take-aways/advice for those looking to excel at OCS.

By far the most important factor in how you perform physically at OCS is the amount of preparation you put in.

There is no time to play catch up, try and make gains, or rehab an injury at OCS – even if you are one of those individuals that can roll off the couch after months of not doing anything and run an 18:00 minute 3-mile, the rigors and demand of OCS will catch up to you and your body will break down.

OCS is a Marathon

OCS is a marathon not a sprint, a marathon that you might even have to sprint at times. If you do not train hard prior to showing up, you’ll have an increased chance of developing shin splints (read how to prevent and how to treat shin splints), experiencing musculoskeletal injuries, or just be flat out not in shape for OCS.

Build up Cardio Endurance Over Time

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Cardiovascular training needs to start months prior to your report date. If you slowly build up to a high level of endurance training, your body will have proper time to adapt and you won’t have to play that dangerous game of “catch-up” that often results in injury. Cardiovascular requirements at OCS surprised me as it was much more focused on HIIT type training as opposed to long slower endurance intervals. Ultimately, do a little more CFT training than you think, it will pay off on those Fartlek runs and circle PT sessions.

Muscular Endurance will be far more important than strength at OCS.

Approach Pullup Training Scientifically

Make sure you put in the work so that you can max out pullups when you take your PFT’s. A common trend I see is that people do not do pullups often enough to see significant gains (you can train pullups as often as every other day). Another problem I often see in regards to maxing out pullups is when people train them, they only perform max sets of pullups. Building strength is more complicated, you need to change the load (add weight), the angle (train chin ups and wide grip), and finally time under tension (negative reps). Have a day where you do some weighted pullups as opposed to just body weight; this will help you gain a lot of strength. Surprising your muscles and hitting them from different angles will also help your count increase, have a day in your routine dedicated to chin ups or wide grip pullups.

Finally, what I found to help me increase my pullup count the most is focusing on time under tension and good quality reps as opposed to rep count.

The only time I ever do a true max-out set of pullups is when I am taking a PFT, that is when I am trying to fly through the reps as fast as possible. Other than that, when I am training back at the gym I am going through the range of motion at a controlled pace, also making sure I am controlling my body on the way down (negative work).

Never Skip Leg Day

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Leg strength is also going to be vital but more importantly endurance. Everyone likes to focus on squatting and deadlifting as much as possible which is great, but they neglect more functional movements. In addition to squatting and deadlifting, I perform a lot of weighted lunges – this will help you on all movements and hikes at OCS. Hiking is made astronomically easier with a strong back and strong legs. If you are not used to hiking I would recommend once a week putting some weight on your back and moving for 5 or 6 miles. The hikes are not very challenging at OCS so you do not need to be too worried and hike yourself into the ground prior to arriving but there is something to be said for specific training.

Core Training

Training your core is also something that is going to be very important prior to arriving to OCS. Good strength in your hips and through your core is going to give your body the balance it needs to stay safe during all activity – Not to mention they are going to slay your core anyway so it is good to be very condition in that area.

Training your core is pretty simple; make sure you are doing flexion movements and stability movements. I personally start every core workout with a max set of crunches, and then finish the workout with planks.

Flexibility

Flexibility and Range of motion is very important for injury prevention.

If my hamstring has to work twice as hard to flex my knee while running because my quads are tight, then there is that much more of a chance I pull my hamstring.

If you have better flexibility, your body will not have to work as hard when moving. Stretching, while boring, can take as little as 10 minutes after a run. After that cardiovascular workout is when you want to stretch and try and make improvements in your range of motion. Ensure that you are hitting all major muscle groups (quadriceps, hip flexors, glutes, hamstrings, groin area, and even calves). I remember leading up to OCS I was worried and wanted to know all the little ins and outs as much as possible, show up physically and mentally prepared (and maybe bring a pair of broken in boots) and you’ll be fine, Rah?

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