CrossFit For Combat Fitness

By Brian Chontosh

In LEO/Mil, Videos

August 05, 2009

Video Article

“It’s frigging working,” CAPT Brian Chontosh, USMC says of his experience in using CrossFit-style workouts to prepare for the rigors of combat. CAPT Chontosh followed Coach Greg Glassman to the lectern at the American Society of Exercise Physiologists national conference held April 3, 2009 on the campus of Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls, Texas.

In part 1, CAPT Chontosh said he has seen Marines with perfect scores in conventional fitness tests fail in combat and cost lives. They couldn’t carry heavy loads for extended periods of time while under a variety of stressors. The enemy doesn’t fight while doing sit-ups, wearing shorts and running shoes. Combat fitness is nothing more than a natural extension of functional fitness. Anticipating and mimicking combat movements in training is essential. These movements should be refined and perfected at an individual level so they can be performed flawlessly and instinctively in combat. Workouts involving burpees can look a lot like jumping up into firing position and engaging the enemy while your buddy sprints 20-30 yards.

In part 2, CAPT Chontosh said Physical Fitness Test (PFT) scores for his Marines increased 10% over just five months. There was a temporary spike in minor injuries at the outset, but he was soon able to move from injury prevention to injury avoidance through increased work capacity. And his Marines had zero heat casualties and zero injuries in 4-5 hour hikes in full gear under simulated combat conditions in the 120 degree ambient temperature in Kuwait and Jordan. CrossFit is legit, and that’s why participation rates among military members and law enforcement officers are going through the roof.

Video 1 - 19min 40sec
Video 2 - 17min 19sec

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Part 1:
Part 2:

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37 Comments on “CrossFit For Combat Fitness”

1

wrote …

Great video. Capt Chontosh was the reason I started crossfit. I saw him in the gym in kuwait doing 135lb overhead squats and wondered what the heck that was all about? shortly thereafter i started crossfitting both on my own and with some other Marines. he definitely knows what he is talking about when it comes to fitness and combat. he is a little self depricating in this video, when he says he isn't that fit. He is a certified firebreather who has influenced countless Marines to change the way they look at fitness. He is also someone who Heroically proved himself in that critical moment of combat.
Crossfit and Functional fitness is keeping Marines alive, bottom line. Great speech Sir!

2

wrote …

Great energy and passion in his delivery. He hits the nail on the head by emphasizing the psychological and environmental benefits of CrossFit on physical performance.

3

wrote …

What an incredibly humble and remarkable human being. Changes my view of the marines.

4

wrote …

I have to disagree with you about your ability to speak to an audience. That was really well done and I was caught up in both sections of the lecture. Great job and great info.

5

wrote …

Correct me if I'm wrong, it appears to me the Marine Corps has studied, analyzed, practiced, and embraced CrossFit to the level where they have taken huge measures to incorporate CrossFit as their official means of physical fitness over the other branches. They are raising money to put CrossFit equipment in all their gyms for example. I know there are Special Forces and other military units practicing CrossFit, but I don't see the Army, Air Force or Navy as a whole talking about or wanting to incorporate CrossFit like the Marine Corp. Can someone prove me wrong?

CPT Chontosh, we need more leaders like you Sir!

6

Matt Charney wrote …

Semper Fi Sir!

Capt Chontosh is an absolute machine. I saw him at the Socal qualifiers and all I can say is WOW! I was really hoping to see him at the games. I heard he was deployed 2 weeks before the games.

Can't wait to see him next year.

7

wrote …

Skipper,

I wish that you hadn't been sent away, but I am pretty sure that is what happend. Nobody would try to qualify at the regionals just to be a no-show at the Games. I guess the Corps gets what it want as long as you belong to it and love it like I am sure that you do. I am sorry that you could not be at the Games to compete this year. I would have loved to watch an American Hero, as such that you are, in that arena. Next year maybe.

I agree with your remarks 100 percent, but you will never get Devil Dogs to completely give up those gyms with mirrors in them. Devil Dogs love to look in the mirror while doing curls and just about everything else for that matter. Except eat. No Marine can stand to watch himself eat. Hoo-Rah! Semper Fidelis.

8

wrote …

The Navy Cross is not awarded often; here's an excerpt from Captain Chontosh's award citation:

"... First Lieutenant Chontosh's platoon moved into a coordinated ambush of mortars, rocket propelled grenades, and automatic weapons fire. With coalition tanks blocking the road ahead, he realized his platoon was caught in a kill zone. He had his driver move the vehicle through a breach along his flank, where he was immediately taken under fire from an entrenched machine gun. Without hesitation, First Lieutenant Chontosh ordered the driver to advance directly at the enemy position enabling his .50 caliber machine gunner to silence the enemy. He then directed his driver into the enemy trench, where he exited his vehicle and began to clear the trench with an M16A2 service rifle and 9 millimeter pistol. His ammunition depleted, First Lieutenant Chontosh, with complete disregard for his safety, twice picked up discarded enemy rifles and continued his ferocious attack. When a Marine following him found an enemy rocket propelled grenade launcher, First Lieutenant Chontosh used it to destroy yet another group of enemy soldiers. When his audacious attack ended, he had cleared over 200 meters of the enemy trench, killing more than 20 enemy soldiers and wounding several others.>>"

9

Kirez Reynolds wrote …

Fantastic video, thank you Capt Chontosh. It is an honor to have you as an advocate and representative.

I apologize for my somewhat off-topic question, but I need practical guidance for the training of aspiring spec ops soldiers, and I don't know a better audience to float this question to.

I understand the need to train in combat boots, to be properly prepared to operate in boots. But I'm somewhat skeptical that 100% of physical training should be conducted in combat boots. I do not prefer running shoes. I suspect that uncushioned flats should be worn at least 30% of the time (something like vibram fivefingers or puma kstreets), and some training should be done barefoot as well. Do you believe spec ops soldiers should train in combat boots consistently? Is performing CrossFit workouts and running in boots and utes a wise preparation for BUD/S, Force Recon, the Q course or Ranger school?

I would really appreciate any experienced insight, or seeing this question treated in the future. I had about 12 years experience running mountains, with and without loads, in Asolo hiking boots, before I switched to running and hiking in sandals and flats. I also found it beneficial to train barefoot in preparation for expeditions, trail marathons and ultramarathons.

10

wrote …

Outstanding sir! That was a phenomenal presentation and I am proud to be a part of a community with people like you in it.
Semper Fi!

11

wrote …

A lot of his initial comments were just dead wrong.
Said he wasn't that smart: WRONG.
Said he wasn't that articulate: WRONG.
Implied that maybe he didn't belong up there in front of a bunch of distinguished academics: WRONG.
Well done, Mr. Chontosh. I would put my sons in your hands any time.

12

wrote …

Outstanding presentation Sir! Your examples of how the movements of CrossFit emulate combat were outstanding. It's very encouraging to see how CrossFit is being implemented in the Marines, but how long is it going to take for the other military branches to get a clue? Once again, great presentation and thanks so much for the sacrifices that you've made and continue to make for our country.

13

wrote …

Hoorah Sir!

I can atest to what the Captain is saying the the fact that the Marine Corps is starting to incorportate CrossFit within the Corps. Now I went through boot camp this past January, and most, if not all of our pt was very similar to CrossFit. Even our company GySgt, during one of our first pt sessions while at Parris Island, said, "The type of PT were doing today is CrossFit, has anyone heard of it?" Between 3 other platoons, roughly 200 recruits, I raised my hand with a big smile on my face and said, "I have". (Having done CrossFit for about 6 months prior to boot camp, i knew we were in for a treat) Then the GySgt said, "Well atleast one recruit knows this is going to suck." But it just goes to show you that, Yes the Marine Corps is starting to utilize CrossFit as much as possible. Currently I am at my MOS training school and for PT we do the normal, warm up, run 3-5 miles, pullups crunches, maybe a farlik(sp) run all in tennis shoes and call it a day. So in the afternoon I log onto CrossFit.com to see what the WOD for the day is. Every Friday we have been doing a CrossFit style workout, but this is only a once a week thing. More and more bases are building gyms and utilizing CrossFit. If you ask any Marine at our detachment, they will probably tell you that i preach CrossFit to them day in and day out. One of my roomates did a workout with me the other day, we did 5 rounds for time of 275lb deadlift at 5 reps and 10 burpees. He about died and told other Marines not to workout with me because the workouts will kill you.

All in all, CrossFit is the best fitness program out there to prepare you for life, combat, and anything else. I have not been to combat yet but probably will deploy within the next year and I want my body to be in the best physical shape so while in combat that is the last thing to worry about is if i can make it over that wall or not.

Sorry for the long post but I am passionate about CrossFit and the Marine Corps and how much it will help Marines prepare for deployment.

Semper Fi Sir!

PFC Lauver

14

wrote …

What are the odds that next year, one of the event/workouts at the games is a buddy carry for time involving uneven terrain, a 300 pound "buddy" and some sort of dynamic obstacle?

15

wrote …

Man, am I glad he's on our side!
Thank you, Captain Chontosh, for doing what you do for our country and for CrossFit.

16

wrote …

Great job Tosh!

17

wrote …

Awesome speech! Semper Fi

18

Karl Eagleman wrote …

Fantastic job Captain Chontosh!

19

wrote …

Solid, Tosh. Well done, bro.

20

Jeb Smith wrote …

Well said........Great speech.

21

replied to comment from ROGER FRACKER

Bragg has put in a CrossFit box. took away a basketball court for it. check out Fort Bragg MWR Tucker. It is not complete yet but still nice.

22

wrote …

In addition to Fort Bragg, there have been several level I certs at different Army Posts. I just left Fort Leavenworth where we had a non-profit affiliate on post and Coach Glassman came out to speak to us. The Big Army is getting on board slowly......

and Bryan I just took the Manager for Tucker Gym a list of things from Rouge Fitness that would be a great benefit for the gym. The most important being a pullup bar system instead of the pipe contraption we currently have (better than nothing of course)

23

wrote …

All seriousness aside, I just have to say I was mesmerized by how good this man looked in the usually boring button down and dress pants. Relaxed, but with that intense stare, it's probably a good thing he picked pink and soft grey for colors, or he would have intimidated the crap out of the audience. Probably did anyway.

Okay. Back to the regular programming of serious discussion and Crossfit!

24

wrote …

To build off of Brandon's comment: the Army isn't totally blind to the benefits of Crossft. During my time at Leavenworth two Level 1 Certifications were held with a cumulative of about 40 or so officers, NCOs and Soldiers earning their certification. At the one in May, Brigadier General Cardone, the Commandant of the Command and General Staff College, attended. BG Cardone, Major General Caldwell (who commands Leavenworth) and the gym staff have fully supported the growth of Crossfit on post. Gruber Gym on Leavenworth is the ONLY Army gym I've ever been to where 20 people could be using bumper plates for Olympic lifts at the same time... and regularly do (heck, most military gyms have zero bumper plates). As small as they are, the city of Leavenworth and the base itself still manage to support two affiliates: Crossfit Results which holds a 6am class in the base gym and caters to early-risers and military spouses (as well as a 5:30 pm class off-post for civlians) and the not for profit Ironmajor Crossfit which runs foundations classes and a smaller group for WODS for CGSC students interested in learning more before striking out on their own.

That being said... the rest of the Army isn't totally on board yet. The biggest difference between the Army and the Marine Corps in this regard is size. The Army is WAY too big to change very quickly. And lets face it, the Marine Corps hasn't totally embraced the program yet either (as evidenced by PFC Lauver's description of PT at his current detachment). The good news is that as long as the military's learning institutions start embracing Crossfit it will spread. Leavenworth, West Point (which is home to Black and Gold Crossfit) and various Captain's Career Courses all have a cadre of people who are "spreading the message." I believe there are several affiliates with the shirt saying, "Guerilla Fitness:" it didn't earn that name for nothing.

Unfortunately, I am in a Crossfit "dead zone" on Fort Campbell. While there are two affiliates in the surrounding communities, neither offers classes that support my work schedule and the multiple on-post gyms are safe refuge to thousands of practitioners of the bench, curl, skip-squats-cause-my-knees-hurt-so-I'll-grunt-my-way-through-leg-presses, do tricep-kickbacks routine.

Not a bumper plate in sight...

Oh yeah, almost forgot: great videos!

Cheers!

25

wrote …

Excellent lecture brother, Semper Fi.

26

replied to comment from ronald willis

Incredible. I'm glad you shared that with us.

SFC Roger Fracker
Rival CrossFit

27

wrote …

I recently graduated from the Naval War College where many of my classmates were Marine Corps officers like Captain Chontosh with recent combat experience. To a man they were fierce: fiercely loyal to the Corps and their Marines, fiercely committed to improving their mental and physical fitness, and fiercely devoted to this country.

To help answer Roger's question, beyond the SEALS, the Navy, in general, has not embraced Crossfit. In fact, some base gym staffers will tell you "Crossfit is dangerous." These are fine people with "Globogym" fitness credentials. In short, they are ignorant of Crossfit. However, I'm guardedly optimistic that the Navy will consider Crossfit as more combat veterans speak, as Captain Chontosh so eloquently and powerfully did, about how Crossfit prepared them to perform in war. I'll bet if you ask Captain Chontosh he'll tell you he owes it to his Marines and his country to do nothing less than Crossfit.

I salute you, sir.

28

wrote …

This is by no means an "official" statment of the U.S. Navy, it is solely my personal opinions and experiences.

From the Navy stand-point (stationed on a Submarine, so blue-water, yet still kind of in a our own world): CrossFit is "too taxing" and "too demanding" from what I have been told. I have only been able to bring 8 people, out of close to 160 to do CrossFit with me and only 5 of us has lasted longer than a few weeks. Some simply do not want to pay the stiff $75/mo. (includes ALL classes and personal training and every single visit, twice a day & 7 days a week if you so choose) for military members. Recently, my boat participated in "Personal Trainer" lead work-outs that included (please, try not to laugh too hard): Group Step Aerobics, Spinning and every-once-in-a-while Calisthenic Circuits. This was done 3 days a week (MWF) and most weeks individuals would only been able to make it once or twice due to duty restrictions. Everything was designed to "burn fat." Several people on my ship (myself included, at one point) were over-weight or very at-risk of being over-weight for the Navy, which limits enlisted males to 22%. I have no idea what the female standard is, they're not yet allowed to be stationed onboard U.S. Submarines, thus I have no interest.

I have heard a couple of people trying to modify CrossFit work-outs around the base Gym, but realistically our "need" for "Combat Fitness" and even "Fitness" overall is somewhat sub-moderate. The most taxing activty I could imagine doing underway on a submarine is running a CO2 Extinguisher from one end of the boat to the other, in a casualty. And "running" is a very limited term, due to the trip would involve passing through at least 2 short/small water-tight hatches and Up or Down a few ladder-wells in most cases.

1 of the 2 Naval gyms in the area have bumper plates and they do not even have enough to support a lift beyond 325 Lbs. Dropping weights are not allowed, moving equipment is frowned upon and the weight rooms are usually crowded by the same class and mentality as occupants of every other gym. Isolation, heavy is good with looks usually driving what to exercise (duh, chest, arms and core). Except we probably have a lot more people in them, at any given time. There are frequently lines to do a lot of exercises or to use particular dumb-bells.

I already know that Navy SEALs (the SEALs have already taken CrossFit to a whole new level at SEALfit.com - something like "Fran" was simply in the middle of a work-out one day), Navy Divers, EOD Technicians, Rescue Swimmers and what-ever-else that has a higher standard of fitness have already started migrating towards CrossFit. Regular old "Shore detachments" and "Ships" will probably never, ever, support this style of work-out. I often post my work-outs on a few Bulkheads for people to view and many people feel that it is "just too much." I explained intensity and modifications, but stances often stay the same.

29

wrote …

Great stuff. It figures I am in the Air Force and they are in the process of trying to ban crossfit. We are always behind the power curve when it comes to anything usefull.

30

wrote …

This gentleman is much better spoken and has a much greater knowledge of exercise science and application than he gives himself credit for. This is a great video!

31

wrote …

Wow, that was one of the most impressive lectures I have seen regarding Crossfit's application in our military!

I was originally "turned on" to Crossfit from my younger brother, who just finished his plebe year at the Naval Academy, approximately 1 year ago. Since then I have committed 100% of my fitness to the Crossfit WODs and Crossfit Endurance WODs. My level of fitness has blown through the roof, coupled with my overall health, lifestyle, and attitude towards the important things in life.

I am now 26 years old, and am seeking to attend USMC OCS in January of 2010, in hopes of being commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Marine Corps. CAPT Chontosh, you are truly an inspiration to every American, and the quintessential ambassador of Crossfit.

Many thanks to Coach Glassman and the entire Crossfit community for always seeking to push the envelope in the name of "forging elite fitness".

Respectively Submitted

32

wrote …

Wow, that was one of the most impressive lectures I have seen regarding Crossfit's application in our military!

I was originally "turned on" to Crossfit from my younger brother, who just finished his plebe year at the Naval Academy, approximately 1 year ago. Since then I have committed 100% of my fitness to the Crossfit WODs and Crossfit Endurance WODs. My level of fitness has blown through the roof, coupled with my overall health, lifestyle, and attitude towards the important things in life.

I am now 26 years old, and am seeking to attend USMC OCS in January of 2010, in hopes of being commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Marine Corps. CAPT Chontosh, you are truly an inspiration to every American, and the quintessential ambassador of Crossfit.

Many thanks to Coach Glassman and the entire Crossfit community for always seeking to push the envelope in the name of "forging elite fitness".

Respectively Submitted

33

wrote …

As a whole, the AF may be trying to "Ban" Crossfit, but I seriously doubt that they will be sucessful. In speaking with the SNCO's that I work and work out with, it has come to my knowledge that Andrews AFB now has a full blown Crossfit gym and program for those who want to participate... Ramstien AB also does.

I don't see the AF making it "Mandatory", (too many Chairforce individuals in our branch)but I don't see them getting in the way of those who volunteer and persue it on our own...

I personally love Crossfit and have seen fantastic gains across the board in my fitness level over the past two monthst that I have been following the program. I am sold... my troops are sold... our Unit CC is sold..., 'nuf said.

Capt "Deuce" Bigelow
52 SFS, Spangdahlem AB Germany

34

Adam Kruppa wrote …

Carrying a fellow shipmate out of a burning space, up multiple decks
or
recovering a man-overboard
or
handling a breast mooring line
or
bringing ammo and gear on-station quickly
or
conducting a compliant (let alone non-compliant) boarding of a merchant or pirate vessel

all are just a few examples of why the blue water navy needs functional fitness.

It can be done on ship's and it is being done on ships with creativity and motivation.

The more the fleet understands the results the our brethren in USMC and what we stand to gain, the more CF will become a USN fundamental.

Keep steaming ahead.
AJ
CrossFit SWFFT
www.swfft.com (Surface Warfare Functional Fitness Training)

35

wrote …

I believe that CrossFit and the USMC are going to make a semi-offical relationship for more practical PT. Check out this link for more info
http://operationphoenix.myshopify.com/
Semper Fi Captain Chontosh!

PD Hudson
USMC 0311

36

wrote …

Outstanding Lecture. You have convinced me. I am a former Marine who is going to give crossfit a serious go! Thanks Capt. Stay safe and kick some ass. Jay

37

wrote …

Where can I get this video so that I can watch it on my phone when I need a swift kick in the ass...?

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