“What’s the point in `prepping’ when you’re so out of shape that you can’t run away from the jackboots breaking down the door of your bunker?” asks certified personal trainer Sean Covell. “A true believer in self-reliance should walk the walk when it comes to preparing and the best way to prepare for anything is to be in the best physical and mental shape possible.”
It isn’t enough to be well-informed, Covell insists, or having a suitable cache of emergency supplies and a well-stocked emergency arsenal. Being physically able to endure the hardships associated with an emergency – which may include the rigors involved in evading hostile people who intend to do harm – is the single most important dimension of preparedness.
Covell’s advice is very similar to the wisdom dispensed by physical culture guru Earle E. Liederman decades ago in his book Endurance.
“Every man should be able to save his own life,” who Liederman in 1926. “He should be able to swim far enough, run fast and long enough to save his life in case of emergency and necessity. He also should be able to chin himself a reasonable number of times, as well as to dip a number of times, and he should be able to jump a reasonable height and distance. If he is of the fat, porpoise type, naturally he cannot do all, if any, of these things; and he has nobody to blame but himself, and his way of living that has brought his body into its condition of obesity.”
Liederman, who was born in Brooklyn to poor Swedish immigrants, began was an indifferently successful amateur fighter and circus strongman before his natural entrepreneurial gifts blossomed into a hugely successful career as a mail-order fitness instructor. His business thrived during the 1920s, before being wiped out in the man-made disaster called the Great Depression. Like millions of others, Liederman was left with nothing – except, in his case, with indomitable will and a formidable gift for communication. During the 1930s, Liederman found a profitable niche in the then-infant medium of radio. After World War II he became a columnist for Joe Wieder’s bodybuilding publications.
Clearly, Liederman was a man of considerable determination and great resiliency who surmounted disasters that might have left lesser men mired in incurable despair. Keeping this in mind, it’s worth reviewing some of his advice regarding practical physical conditioning:
Suppose-and it has happened many times-there should be a fire at sea or on lake or river; should one be half a mile or more from the shore, he would be mighty thankful to realize, were he compelled to jump for his life from the fire, that he could swim that distance and reach the shore in safety. Suppose one were in a burning building and he had to lower himself hand under hand down a rope or down an improvised rope of bed clothing tied together to reach the ground in safety; he again would be thankful a thousand times that he possessed the strength and endurance in his arms and coordinate muscles that would enable him to save himself. Such things never may happen, and let us hope they do not; but what has happened always is possible to occur again-and, in fact, always is happening to someone.
In a similar vein, Sean Covell’s approach to prepper fitness focuses on upper-body strength, cardio-vascular endurance, and – most importantly – the ability to move one’s body through space on demand in an efficient way. He recommends a prepper fitness regimen based on six exercises, none of which involves weight training and can be done without access to a gym or a health club:
*Kinetic Rope Training – also known as “battling the ropes.” Taking the ends of a large length of heavy rope that is belayed around a pole or other object, the person performing the exercise performs short, intense bursts by moving the rope up and down – alternating hands, moving both strands of the rope in tandem, or slamming it to the ground rhythmically. The objective is to make the rope “rise and fall like waves” – and doing so will quickly leave the person performing this exercise exhausted. It is a very efficient way to build cardio endurance, as well as to develop the upper body, core, and grip strength.
*Pushups – a staple of practically every PT approach known to man, the common pushup, when performed properly, will build cardio-pulmonary capacity, add strength and muscle mass to the chest, arms, and shoulders, and work the abdominal core. Covell, who once one a bet that he could do 200 consecutive pushups, says that “A good prepper can do 50 in a row.”
*Box Jumps — This is an explosive movement that will work the entire body and “develop powerful legs that can send any foe through a fence with just one kick.” Covell suggests beginning with ten box jumps, working up to three sets of ten – and eventually building to five sets of 20.
*Compound Pushup/Dumbbell Row – This combined exercise, which can be done with light weights available at Wal Mart or any sporting goods store, will work the entire body very quickly – hitting the upper and lower back, biceps, and abdominal stabilizer muscles.
*Hanging leg raise – The most efficient and effective abdominal exercise, this can be performed using playground monkey bars or a similar structure.
*Suspended row/Pull-up – Pull-ups are the single best (and most difficult) bodyweight exercise most people will attempt to perform (unless they’re competitive gymnasts). People who can’t do pull-ups can do suspended rows using a TRX suspension trainer (a handled strap that can be attached to a door, a tree, a window, etc. and used to perform bodyweight resistance movements) or even inverted rows (which are similar to pull-ups but are performed from a position flat on the ground). “Don’t be one of those who can’t pull themselves up from a ledge to save your life,” Covell urges.
Whether using Covell’s guidelines or an approach adapted from the time-honored methods taught by old-school fitness instructors like Earle Liederman, Eugen Sandow, or Charles Atlas, preppers should “realize they own and are responsible for their own bodies,” Covell observes. “When SHTF, insurance will not save you. Your doctor will not save you. Speed and strength will save you. If you are truly a responsible prepper and you care about the lives of yourself and your family, make exercise and healthy eating a priority before stocking up on guns and canned meat.”
You can read – or download – Liederman’s entire 1924 book Muscle Building here.