William Kobbe, CPT
U.S. Army Ranger
A title like the one above usually produces immediate interest and often some skepticism, especially in the society of quick fixes but, at least in this case, isn’t misleading. A course pioneered in the 1950’s in support of leadership development does just that -- shreds body fat. To qualify for the program, a candidate needs to be a young, healthy male willing to undergo legendary hardships to graduate from the U.S Army Ranger School. The program assures weight loss and body fat reduction. The Ranger Tab, bestowed upon completion of the program and worn on the uniform, represents honor and a never quit attitude.
The U.S. Army’s Ranger School’s design induces the maximum stress on a Ranger student to exceed the hardships faced in battle. Such scenarios place more stress on an individual than combat. Primary stresses placed on students are sleep deprivation (1-3 hours nightly), caloric restriction (2,200 calories daily), and intense physical activity in extreme heat or cold conditions where students burn in excess of 5,000-6,000 calories a day.
Research shows that a typical Ranger student begins school at 15% body fat and a weight of 165 pounds. Two thirds of available body fat is for energy needs, representing 70,000 kcal of energy. Testing in the late 1990’s revealed that the majority of students graduate with 4-5% of body fat. Though sparing lean tissue occurs, students expect to drop 6-7% of lean mass or 10 pounds. This drop in lean mass reduces performance in lift capability, decreases testosterone and thyroid hormone production, and increases the susceptibility to soft tissue infections. A restricted caloric intake reduces body responses to extreme weather. Students’ bodies don’t react to cold by shivering or to heat with appropriate sweat levels. Lastly, sleep deprivation produces a drone-like effect, where the mind becomes completely inattentive while the student marches.
The Ranger Training Brigade responsible for such a demanding course suggests many ways to prepare to combat such hardships. Their website offers three exercise preparation plans: 30-day, 60-day, and 90-day. Recovery from these strenuous activities plays an important role in repairing muscles through fast digesting carbohydrates (simple sugars found in fruits) and lean proteins. Training for Ranger School is comparable to an endurance athlete training program. It aims to maintain lean muscle, the appropriate fat stores, and a weight that allows for strength, agility, and endurance. A Ranger student’s efforts can secure him a place among the elite in the military.
- "No Excuse Leadership: Lessons from the U.S. Army's Elite Rangers" by Brace E. Barber