Welcome back, American Partisans! In the last post, we covered some theory about the importance of having a conceptual fitness framework for good workout programming, and I also introduced the American Partisan Workout Fundamentals Concept #1 and Concept #2.

Today, we’ll get into American Partisan Workout Fundamentals Concept #3 and Concept #4:

  • Concept #3: The Integrated Workout Formula

  • Concept #4: Strength Training Exercise Selection Quality

Once again, just putting out this disclaimer… you’re getting MY experience-based and personal angle on exercise and fitness. There are certainly many other viewpoints on fitness out there, and I’m not saying mine is the only correct or the best one. I am just attempting to use my own lengthy experience in exercise and fitness to provide some fitness skill-building support in plain English on behalf of our awesome AP community to help interested men get into the best shape they can.

Let’s get to the next two concepts.



Now that you have a general understanding of the type of workout you’ll be doing (Full-Body), as well as the specific muscular systems your workout will center around (PUSH-PULL-LEGS + CORE-GRIP-NECK), we need to look at the specific exercise pathways to include in your workout. The word “pathway” (my own term), for our purposes here, refers to the end goal of a specific type of training. For example, the Strength Training “pathway” focuses on increasing the muscle’s immediate force of contraction capabilities; the Cardiovascular Training “pathway” focuses on building up lung capacity for certain sustained low- to medium-intensity physical activity; and the Conditioning Training “pathway” focuses on building up both your muscles’ and lungs’ capacity to engage in bursts of intense physical action repeatedly over short periods of time (more details on these pathways right below).

Remember, the goal here is to build not just brute physical strength or the ability to run long distances; the APO needs to be versatile and capable of delivering on multiple physical fronts (“pathways”), each of which needs its own dedicated development. To effectively cover each pathway of relevant physical training during your workout, use the following formula:

The APO Integrated Workout Formula:

Warm-Up and Stretch / Mobilizations + Strength Training +
Strength Endurance (Conditioning) + Cardiovascular + Mobilization and Stretch

Here’s an in-depth look at each exercise pathway of the APO Workout Formula:

  • Warm-Up and Stretch / Mobilizations: Performing some type of low-intensity exercise to raise the body temperature, break a sweat, and generally prepare the body for rigorous physical work. The Warm-Up should be followed by some brief Stretching and/or “Mobilizations”, which are light-duty engagement(s) of a selected joint(s) in preparation for heavier work to come. Mobilization exercises are a big part of physical therapy and rehabilitation, but also make an excellent addition to the Warm-Up (and Cool-Down; more on this below) of your workout. Mobilizations are just that – they mobilize the target joint, moving it around with either very light or no resistance in order to increase local joint movement efficiency; think of mobilization exercises as a “lube” and “ignition” of sorts for your joints. Together with stretching, Mobilization Exercises serve to increase suppleness of your joints, which is important for when you’re really in action later in the workout. Don’t spend too long on the post-Warm-Up Stretching and Mobilizations, since we want to avoid cooling down before the real work starts. Extended stretch / mobilization sessions, if desired, should be saved for the end of the workout.

    [Quick Side Note: Multiple Layers to Get and Stay Warm – I like to work out in multiple layers of clothing even during the summer, because I like to stay warm and sweat a lot when I work out. It just feels better, and staying warm throughout my workout is of great help in feeling prepared to tear into my next working set. Obviously, the APO should take care to stay properly hydrated during the workout, and also be careful not to overheat. I’ll sometimes remove layers if needed, because overheating can lead to bad workout results, like flaming out too quickly during an exercise, or worse – a heat injury. Tune into what’s going on with your hydration and heat situation at all times, and take proper care.]

Some examples of Warm-Up and Stretch / Mobilizations (see description of Cool-Down below for more Mobilization and Stretching examples):

      • 1-mile jog + Lower Back and Shoulder Stretch

      • Stairmaster for 10 minutes + External Rotation mobilization of the shoulders

      • 3-mile bike ride + ITB (iliotibial band) + Quadriceps Stretch and “scapulations” (multi-directional mobilizations of the shoulder blade bones for increased shoulder movement efficiency)

      • Jump Rope for 10 minutes + Hip Mobilizations with a stretch band around the ankles


  • Strength Training Exercise: Performing specific movements at the appropriate intensity to build raw strength in the Primary and Secondary Movement types of the body. Generally speaking, Strength Training with the Primary Movement types should be with high intensity. Importantly, for APO Workout purposes, the term “high intensity” specifically means “heavy”. Real raw strength is not built using high repetitions of light weights; brute strength is built lifting heavy loads that don’t permit many repetitions. High intensity work is very straightforward with barbells and dumbbells because the weight can be increased nearly infinitely with these valuable tools, but for more minimalist workout setups that don’t contain iron weights, there are alternative work-arounds too, which I’ll discuss in a later post.

    On the other hand, some key Primary Movement exercises – usually the ones involving body weight, don’t work well or at all for super heavy lifting, but are still 100% relevant to good Strength Training, and have much additional use for Conditioning training (more on this below). A perfect example of this is Push-Ups. Finally, Secondary Movement exercises for Core-Grip-Neck work are not typically meant to be done with high intensity either, and need to be done with a low- to medium- intensity of loading so as to maximize the value of these types of training.

    Some examples of Strength Training Exercise (both high and lower intensity, as appropriate):

Primary Movements: Varied Intensity

    • Heavy Barbell Squat, for heavy triples and doubles (Iron = high intensity)

    • Weighted Chin-Ups, for fives sets of six repetitions (Iron = high intensity)

    • Barbell Power Cleans, for four sets of two repetitions (Iron = high intensity)

    • Body Weight Dips, for 2 sets of 15 repetitions (minimalist; Body weight = low- to medium intensity)

    • Slow 10-Second Push-Ups for 4 sets of 8 repetitions (minimalist; body weight = low- to medium intensity)

    • 100 lb. Sandbag Lift and Press for 5 sets of 5 repetitions (minimalist; high intensity)

    • 50-gallon Blue Water Barrel Bear Hug + Lift with 30 gallons of water in barrel (minimalist; high intensity)

Secondary Movements: Low- to Medium Intensity

    • Hang from the Bar with no loading, for 120 seconds

    • Multi-Direction Neck Rollers on the mat – Front, for 6 repetitions in each direction: right, left, middle

    • Slow Sit-Ups, 2 sets of 20 repetitions

    • Heavy Duty Grippers for 3 sets of 2 repetitions

    • Traditional Plank, for 2 sets of 60 seconds each

  • Strength Endurance (Conditioning) Exercise: One of my favorite expressions of all time is by a Roman military historian named Vegetius (late 4th / early 5th century AD), who wrote: “What can a soldier do who charges when out of breath?” The ancient Romans knew a thing or two about the ugly realities of warfare, and that expression about says it all, wouldn’t you agree? Simply put: the American Partisan Operator needs to be able to charge uphill carrying his combat load and then wage battle at peak output for however long, thus making Strength Endurance training one of the key pathways of exercise for the serious APO. Strength Endurance, aka Conditioning (these terms will be used interchangeably here), can be summed up in one word: punishment.

    Conditioning as exercise involves extended periods (sometimes even several minutes) of powerfully performing repetitive physical movements while also being short of breath. Conditioning is the stuff everyone hates and typically avoids, but Conditioning… is what separates the men from the boys, and what separates the winners who could carry on the fight from the losers who fatigued and got killed. And, as a great added bonus, Conditioning training burns body fat like nothing else! Great waist trimmer, in my experience. So, the moral of the story: DO NOT SKIP CONDITIONING WORK!!! 

    [Quick side story here: I used to co-instruct a physical fitness class at a community college for students interested in a career in law enforcement and firefighting. Early on each semester, I would expressly tell the students about how Conditioning was synonymous with punishment and that we’d be doing a lot of it, which always made them a bit squirmy. Well, what do ya know? After the first few classes with me doing Conditioning training (along with the usual vomiting, dizziness, and ill feeling that happens to a deconditioned person merely doing serious Conditioning training… imagine what happens in a real-life fight to the death?), many of the weak-in-the-knees students would typically stop showing up to class altogether whenever I was instructing that day LOL!!! Not funny for the future of law enforcement or firefighting, though.]

    Some examples of Strength Endurance (Conditioning) Exercise:

    • Running uphill for bursts, for either distance (ex., 100m) or time (ex., 20 second each burst), with short rest periods between bursts

    • Performing 3 or more Strength Training exercises back-to-back in a nonstop circuit

    • Conditioning Circuit, consisting of 3 – 6 body weight exercises back-to-back for 30 seconds each movement

    • Working a punching bag with continuous striking techniques for a set period of time

    • …and many more possibilities for good Conditioning work!

  • Cardiovascular Exercise: Typical Cardiovascular exercise is a bit unrealistic as far as real-life application is concerned (you’re not going to be running or bicycling at a predictable, steady pace during a gun battle or when fighting for dear life). Cardiovascular exercise is also given way too much attention by most people because it is generally the most user-friendly pathway of exercise and has an overestimated benefit of fat loss; pedaling mindlessly on a stationary bike while watching the built-in television, or trotting leisurely on a treadmill or elliptical machine lends itself well to chatting with a friend on the next machine over, while at the same time convincing one’s self that the they are somehow “getting fit”. Even still, some amount of “cardio” is a good idea in order to sweat a bit, train the lungs in dedicated fashion, and wind down the workout’s intensity. Cardiovascular exercise can also be functionally useful to the APO for potential physical engagements that are above-average exertion, but of a non-fighting type. In my experiences, nothing beats outdoor running for the best Cardiovascular exercise option. It requires nothing but a pair of sneakers, is easily changed up (ex., hills vs. flat terrain, etc.), and gives you the best “bang for your buck”, as well as being the most applicable Cardiovascular exercise to the APO’s fitness regimen. I’ll point out that the distinct difference between the Conditioning and Cardiovascular exercise pathways of the APO Workout Formula is that Conditioning exercise trains both the lungs and muscles for an intense, but relatively brief burst of activity (very real world and functional), whereas Cardiovascular Exercise specifically works the lungs in low- to mid-intensity fashion, without too big of a drain on the muscles involved. For example, a 15-minute jog at a rather relaxed 7 mph pace (Cardiovascular exercise) will make you breath a bit heavier and make the heart beat faster, but won’t really tax the legs much. Conversely, running uphill for anything over a few seconds (Conditioning exercise) will set fire to both your lungs and legs, AND make your heart almost pop out of your chest (which is what you want).

    Some examples of Cardiovascular Exercise:

    • 15-minute jog at a 7 mph pace

    • A 30-minute bicycle ride around the local lake

    • Speed Walking with a 20 lb. (or more) pack


  • Cool-Down: Mobilization and Stretch: When you’re finally done with the session’s hard work components, it is best not to just pack up and leave, but to take at least a few minutes to stretch just-worked areas and to perform some more Mobilizations of the body.  Some more examples of Mobilization Exercises and Stretching:

    • Three-Way Toe Touch (Left / Right / Center): both mobilizes and stretches the lower back and hamstrings

    • Trunk Twists w/ Hands on Hips: both mobilizes and stretches the sides of the Core

    • External Rotation of the Shoulder Joint: mobilizes the scapula and generally weak, underdeveloped small muscles that stabilize the shoulder joint

    • Calf Stretch: stretches an often-used and neglected muscle

    • Ankle rotations: mobilizes the ankles for pivoting-type work and lateral movement drills




For the new trainee, one of the most intimidating aspects of working out is knowing exactly what exercises to perform. In my nearly 26 years skulking around many different gyms, by far the most common thing I see is the average gym-goer doing a random grab-bag of mostly useless exercise movements. I alternate between getting annoyed and feeling sorry for these people, but the truth is that it’s not their fault; they just don’t know what they’re doing nor where to get proper workout advice. Hitting up a certified personal trainer for workout advice is no guarantee of quality, either – most personal trainers, in my 22 years of experience, don’t have a pot to piss in when it comes to the exercises they find worthwhile. It’s sad, and well-meaning trainees suffer for lack of knowledge or access to good advice on what exercises are even worth doing at all, so they fumble on uselessly. And workout advice from magazines? Give me a break! The publishers of these rags churn out whatever senseless nonsense they can conceive of to fill the scant few magazine pages not already dedicated towards advertisements for snake oil supplements and “latest n’ greatest” workout gimmicks, so forget about magazines for good exercise advice – it’s a needle in a haystack.

The truth is that, within the universe of hundreds (or more?) existing exercises one can do, there are maybe 25 – 30 specific Strength Training exercises (in both Primary and Secondary Movement categories) worth doing regularly; the list of worthy Conditioning exercises are considerably more numerous, and permit for more creativity too. But the vast majority of exercises out there (especially anything on a machine) are either of much lesser value and not worth your precious workout time, or are absolutely worthless. Additionally, some exercises may even be a one-way ticket to injury, which is worse than being worthless. Now, those exercises actually worth performing at all are typically time-tested classics, many of which any man with even minor interest or experience in fitness has probably already heard of and/or done.

Below is a quick overview of what, in my humble opinion and based on my experiences, I consider to be the very best exercises in each Strength Training movement category; this list is not comprehensive (there will be other exercises or productive variations of these exercises to select, depending on the chosen pathway of your exercise; your needs; and the situation – more details in upcoming posts), but it should give an idea of what the quality go-to movements are, as well as form the core of what you’ll be doing in your workout time. Truth be told, I’ve been doing most of these movements in plain vanilla form for my entire workout career of almost 26 years, and they never get old – they’re evergreen.


Conan’s List of Best Strength Training Exercises

Top “Push” Exercises

  • Barbell / Dumbbell Bench Press: Incline / Flat / Decline

  • Standing Barbell / Dumbbell Overhead Press

  • Push-Ups: Varied Types – Normal; Handstand; Elevated Feet; etc.

  • Dips: Loaded or Unloaded

Top “Pull” Exercises

  • Bent-Over Barbell / Dumbbell Rows

  • Upright Barbell / Dumbbell Rows

  • Barbell / Dumbbell Power Cleans

  • Chin-Ups / Pull-Ups: Loaded or Unloaded

  • Dumbbell Pull-Overs

Top Leg Exercises (for Front and Back of the Leg)

  • Barbell Back / Front Squats (Front)

  • Barbell Deadlifts (Back; many upper body benefits as well)

  • Hex Bar Deadlifts (Back and Front; many upper body benefits as well)

  • Dumbbell Squats (Front)

  • Dumbbell Deadlifts (Back)

  • Barbell / Dumbbell Step-Ups (Front)

  • Barbell / Dumbbell Lunges or Split Squats (Front)

Top Core Exercises

  • Sit-Ups: Varied types

  • Leg Lifts: Varied types

  • Russian Twists

  • Planks: Varied types

  • Roll-Outs with the Wheel

Top Grip Exercises

  • Hangers (Hanging from an Overhead Bar or other overhead surface), with or without loading

  • Dumbbell Farmer’s Walk (Ammo cans and other items can be used for this too)

  • Barbell / Dumbbell Holds

  • Heavy Duty Grippers

  • Barbell / Dumbbell Wrist Curls

  • Barbell / Dumbbell Wrist Extensions

Top Neck Exercises

  • Neck Bridges – Front and Back, for repetitions or for time: Varied types

  • Neck Loading (with head gear and chain): Front and Back

The above list should give a pretty good idea of what specific things you’ll be doing to build your strength. In future AP posts covering American Partisan Workouts, I’ll provide additional exercise options and ideas, especially for other pathways (like Conditioning) that are relevant to the posting.


That’s all for American Partisan Workout Fundamentals, Part 2. Please stay tuned for Part 3, which will get into other important Concepts of the workout to consider. But don’t worry! There will be a summary at the end of all of this theory, a boil-down which will serve as a “cheat sheet” for readers. Thanks for reading!

Next Post:
American Partisan Workout Fundamentals, Part 3

Previous Post: American Partisan Workout Fundamentals, Part 1


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