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September 18th, 2009
09:40 AM ET

New training promises a 'stronger, faster' soldier

By Stephen Samaniego

Introducing new concepts in the Army is never easy. The Army is deeply rooted in tradition and is typically resistant to change. While that mindset does have its benefits it can also hinder the military from moving forward. That has been the case for its physical training. For decades it has gone unchanged but now things are moving in another direction.

When Jason Carroll and I arrived at Fort Campbell we were introduced to Eagle Tactical Athletic Program or ETAP for short. This new training program was born out of a realization by the Army that soldiers were suffering a 40 to 60 percent injury rate during training.

They brought in Dr. Scott Lephart of the University of Pittsburgh's Department of Sports Medicine and Nutrition who has had success with reducing injury in professional sports teams. Lephart and his team spent 3 years compiling data on soldiers looking at what puts the most stress on soldiers physically and how to train them so their bodies can best withstand that stress.

The result is the ETAP program.

ETAP is a big step away from the traditional calisthenics that the Army has put its soldiers through. Through 45 second interval circuit training, it focuses on boosting a soldier's speed, agility, flexibility and balance. When we spoke to the soldiers going through this program their enthusiasm for it was clear.

"I was kind of skeptical," says Sgt. Brad Ohlman. "After the first three days I noticed that I was actually working some muscles... I think that if everybody gives it a chance and tries it they, will come around to actually liking the program."

The program isn't just popular with the soldiers going through it, their leaders are also on board. The division surgeon for the 101st Airborne, Lt. Col. Brian Smalley has seen soldiers with all types of muscular skeletal injuries due to training. "We've kind of neglected things like core strength and dynamic strength," according to Smalley. "This program focuses on that... and the end result will be a stronger, faster, soldier that'll be less prone to injury."

One of the main selling points for this training is that it is adaptable to any situation. Depending on where are soldier is being deployed it can be specifically tweaked for a certain type of environment. The commanding generals had been complaining that their soldiers in Afghanistan had been suffering from unusually high amounts of ankle injuries to due to the rough terrain there. So, the program was modified. "We were able to integrate new exercises that would specifically focus on the soldier's agility and balance," says Lephart. "[This would] likely reduce the amounts of ankle sprains."

While researchers are still gathering data on injury rates to soldiers enrolled in this program, their efforts have already proven to be effective in other ways. ETAP soldiers have been tested to be 30 percent more fit than soldiers that go through traditional physical training.

Filed under: Military
soundoff (5 Responses)
  1. SSG Hector Rivera

    Where to find instructional manuals and other documentation on this progra?


    SSG Hector Rivera
    KCIA, Kuwait

    October 26, 2009 at 3:27 pm |
  2. Adam

    Wade thank you for your post that had nothing to do with this totpic. P.S.
    "War is job security for those who know the color of their enemies' eyes"

    September 28, 2009 at 11:41 am |
  3. wade

    The U.S.A. probably has the best trained forces in the world as it is, however the war in afghanistan is going to end the same way as vietnam ended. We say the mission is to get al qaeda and bin laden and even if that mission is eventually accomplished, there will be another bin laden ready to take his place. Personally, I,m tired of seeing young Americans, Canadians, and other allies come home blown to pieces or dead. It,s time to cut our losses as was done in Vietnam and get the hell out of there. There will be no winners in this, only losers!

    September 21, 2009 at 8:30 am |
  4. ronvan

    And the times are a changing. As a 23yr Ret. Army vet. I can remember the many changes the military, mainly the Army, has gone through in regards to physical training. Remember the old signs "NO PAIN, NO GAIN", "ONLY THE WEAK QUIT"? We all learn through experience, and hopefully, this new system will only improve our soldiers!

    September 19, 2009 at 8:04 am |
  5. Adam

    I was in this class and I noticed an increase in flexiblity the first day. The whole program is run VERY professionally!! Its about time the Army has started looking into a better way of doing business.

    September 18, 2009 at 2:37 pm |