Posted by Alex King on 8/9/2010
A critical review of MGySgt. Paul J. Roarke Jr. USMC (ret.) book "Corps Strength: A Marine Master Gunnery Sergeant's Program for Elite Fitness."
Master Gunz Roarke contacted me awhile back and asked me to review his book "Corps Strength."
Even though I admit to being rather "burnt out" on reading fitness manuals, Paul's e-mail was polite and contained no spelling errors which made an immediate impression on me. We get solicited all the time for endorsements, donations etc, and honestly I hit "delete" almost every time, but not this time.
Of course Kettlebells USA™ has always supported the military and security services and we have a soft spot for the "sharp edge," the Marines
that is. Why? Because they don't complain. Fitness takes discipline and resolve, not whining, and I've never seen US Marines being carried off in wambulances because their callouses ripped off from too many high rep ballistic kettlebell moves.
is 120 pages, softcover, published by Ulysses Press. It has three parts and appendices containing photos and descriptions of the exercises detailed in the book.
Master Gunz lays out his philosophy of training that he calls "working fitness
." This means it has to be simple, achievable and useful in the real, working world that some of us still live in. If you need help with your finger flexion to increase your Wii scores, then do NOT buy this book, and get the hell off this page please.
I was pleasantly surprised with how many points of agreement there are between this book and with my own philosophy of training. Paul describes how he came to formulate his training system:
- Long personal experience.
- First hand observations.
- The input of trusted people.
Long personal experience, I believe, is invaluable in many things and certainly a fitness & conditioning system requires the anvil of a full and hardy life in order to truly draw any substantial conclusions about its effectiveness. Paul Roarke didn't sit on a fluffy couch watching P90X infomercials and make a few sly "mods" to come up with Corps Strength. He forged it on the anvil of hard living and I like that, a lot. His term "working athlete" to define firefighters, military operators, police, construction workers etc. is perfect.
Fitness systems must be applicable to your
particular life circumstances. Flexibility in training is key to success. I train elite athletes, but if you are an elite athlete then you are not an average American. Ditto for movie stars, rock stars and heiresses. In the real
world of actual working people, fitness has to be affordable and understandable.
Rigid, dogmatic systems with no room for error or modification, will not save America from its greatest internal challenge; reversing the obesity epidemic that is ravaging the population of this country like a wildfire. Physical culture has vanished from public schools, replaced with liability waivers, soft drinks and donuts.
I like the Gunz no nonsense, shoot from the hip writing style. He quite rightly lambastes a well known TV personality for her absurd reliance on "celebrity trainers," private doctors and "spiritual advisors." As I was reading that chapter it was as if Gunz had read my mind and put them down on paper...are you wire-tapping my brain Paul?
You don't need a team of overpaid pseudo-intellectuals to get into shape. You only need, as the Gunz says, "half a brain." Half a brain and some initiative + the right type of exercises and here we go:
Roarke recommends 3-5 hours a week of PT.
A. SAT (Stand Alone Training)
C. Active RestStand Alone Training
, a combination of endurance, strength & flexibility movements, is the core of the system. Roughly half of the 3-5 hour/week PT time is allocated to SAT. The real meat of SAT are the "missions." 7 sample missions are given in the book and they consist of varying cycles of such things as pull-ups, push-ups, squat presses, rows, farmers walks and other good exercises. I'm a kettlebell instructor so naturally I wanted to know what the kettlebell section was about.
Kettlebell Exercises in "Corps Strength."
14 kettlebell exercises are detailed. The nomenclature is different on some of these exercises from what I would call them but who cares what you call them as long as they work.
- Deadlift Curl. This is a 1/2 double bottoms up clean from the dead position. In other words instead of bottoms-up cleaning two kettlebells all the way to the rack position, you bring the kettlebells up to chest level with the base pointing straight out. This is a nice variation. Remember to fully extend your hips as you explode up.
- Squat Press. This is a single bottoms-up squat press. Once again remember to fully extend your hips as you explode up.
- Step-Up Shrug. A great cardio blaster. Step up onto a platform and shrug two kettlebells at the top.
- Lateral Swing. A variation of the Hand to Hand, or H2H, swing with the handle of the bell aligned down the midline of the body. Great for cardio & strength, but also very good for mental focus. Don't drop that bell!
- Rowing (One Arm). A basic 1 arm side row.
- Rowing (Two Arm). A basic 2 arm bent over row.
- Overhead Press. Basic overhead press with 2 kettlebells. Paul's description is somewhat inadequate as he first instructs the student to "clean" the kettlebells to the shoulder, without explaining what a "clean" is and how to do one. A minor oversight.
- Curls. I can hear Pavel and his boys screaming "Comrades we don't curl kettlebells!" Well I don't curl kettlebells either but you can if you want to. I don't call people comrade and invoke the iconography of the Soviet Union to sell my products so curl away. This is the point with curling ketttlebells, they are a weight and can be curled if you want to. Paul wrote this book so if you don't have kettlebells, you can substitute dumbbells. My objection to curls is that a lot of people, men mostly, get fixated on curling in order to enlarge their biceps as if having huge pipes = strength. Of course anyone with real life combatives experience will tell you big pipes don't necessarily make you any stronger or invincible. I practice Russian Martial Arts and I LOVE striking guys with huge biceps in the biceps; the bigger the biceps, the bigger the target but I digress. Paul wants you to curl for grip strength & pulling power so pay attention and don't look in the mirror. I prefer kettlebell cleans to work the biceps in a unified motion with the entire body and they build much stronger connective tissue strength than curls ever will.
- Hammer Curls. Similar to the first exercise, the "Deadlift Curl," this variation really works the grip and forearms.
- Upright Row. A basic standing upright single kettlebell row.
- Front Raise. A double handed bottoms up press, and a favorite of strongman Arthur Saxon.
- Triceps Press. I love this one because it is actually very close to Arthur Saxon's "Forearm Exercise." Check it out in "The Text Book of Weight-lifting by Arthur Saxon" page 70.
- Neck Curls. They don't call em "jarheads" for nothing. What can I say except that thick necks and guys like Paul Roarke seem to go together.
- Neck Harness. Another Classic! Master Gunz I ask you again, are you wire-tapping my
brain?! Seriously this is Sig Kleins "Exercise #4." Blast from the past
from a true strongman.
There is a lot in this book but I genuinely suggest you read it. It's good, no-nonsense, sensible training. I would like to see more detail on kettlebell technique, particularly mastering the swing, and I would include the kettlebell clean & the Turkish get-up as essential exercises. Of course there are hundreds of kettlebell exercises, movements and variations and this is not specifically a kettlebell training book.
Please visit Paul's website
and show your support. We need more men like him on the front lines of fitness if we are ever going to stop & reverse the precipitous and dangerous decline in the health of Americans. Physical Culture needs to be restored to its rightful place in the educational system of this country. Corps Strength is not just for Marines, or SEALS or soldiers, police etc, it is for everyone. Thanks Paul.
What a great group of core exercises that we will emplament at Psycho Gym in Dallas. Visit us at http://www.psychogymdallas.com/training-tools/kettlebells/ and thank you for the good information.
I don't mean any disrespect but you have a spelling error in paragraph 2 (wambulance). I wouldn't have mentioned it but in paragraph 1 you talk about spelling errors. Have a great day!
Wasn't a spelling error, it was a typo. If you look on the keypad, the W and the A are right next to each other, slight slip of the hand. A spelling error would be one where the word is actually spelled wrong, not just a typo. We all knew he was spelling ambulance.
Actually it was neither, the word was used just as intended to be... combining whining and ambulance into a singular word. It's just a cultural terminology for the whiner mobile.