Five Core & Upper Body Exercises for Soldiers

Body weight exercises that can be done anytime, anywhere.

Coaching active duty soldiers requires out-of-the-box thinking. Many are pilots, nurses, and infantry soldiers who are frequently away from traditional strength training facilities. Mini resistance bands are compact and versatile, easy to stash in a GO bag when duty calls.

Here is a list of my favorite core and upper body exercises for soldiers, no gym required.

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EMOM Workouts: Versatile & Challenging

EMOM means “every minute on the minute”, and are fantastic workouts when time is limited.

The structure of EMOM workouts are pretty straightforward, and can be scaled to suit every fitness level, from beginners to elite athletes.

Most EMOM workouts last between 10 to 30 minutes, but there are variations.

One of the benefits of EMOM is that they can be designed to challenge and develop a wide range of different aspects of your fitness. They can be programmed to train:

  • Strength
  • Endurance
  • Coordination
  • Technique under fatigue
  • Conditioning
  • Pacing
  • Mental toughness

How to EMOM

Using a timer or WOD app, on each minute, perform the exercise(s). You then rest the remainder of each minute. When the next minute starts, you begin the next exercise(s). Repeat this process until the workout is complete.

The structure of EMOM’s makes the workouts intense and time efficient. Due to the time pressure, form can suffer. Always complete each rep correctly and modify if necessary.

EMOM for Runners

You can involve any exercise you want, especially the ones you are weak at to improve them. But you should change the routine regularly.

EMOM Workout For Runners

20 minute EMOM: 20 second isometric hold + 10 reps

Forearm Plank, then Dolphin Plank

Side Plank, then Lateral Leg Lift

Banded Glute Bridge, then Abductor Pulse

Superman, then Banded Reverse Hyper

Stephanie Harboe is a RRCA-certified running coach and NASM-certified personal trainer.

Plank Combinations

Mater the basic plank – elbow or hand – then start having fun creating combinations of exercises based on the Plank.

Today’s workout involved mountain climbers, single-arm rows, and push-ups. Play around with the foot placement to maximize core stability, especially with the single-arm row.

Plank combination – mountain climber, single arm row, then push up.

How to perform this plank combination:

  1. Assume Plank position, hands placed directly under your shoulder. Hold your body in a tight, straight line from ears through the hips to the ankles.
  2. Drive the left knee toward the right elbow. Return to Plank.
  3. Lift left hand and pull upward in a row. Return to Plank.
  4. Lower into a full push-up, elbows away from the body at a 45* angle. Return to Plank.
  5. Repeat steps 2-4 for the opposite side of the body. Continue to switch sides for 10-16 reps.

Really want a challenge? Try this combination with your feet in TRX stirrups or with hands on a BOSU ball.

Need modifications to maintain form? Drive knee to same side elbow. Perform a shoulder touch, rather than row. Drop to the knees for the push-up.


What plank combinations do you love?

Stephanie Harboe is a RRCA-certified running coach and NASM-certified personal trainer.

Plank Extensions

There are so many great Plank variations! It’s fun to mix things up, but I also have a few favorites. Plank extensions are at the top of my go-to list.


  • They work everything between your nipples and your knees, all of the muscles of your core.
  • They work your abs AND glutes.
  • They promote shoulder stability.
  • They can be easily modified or advanced for any level.
  • They force you to learn to engage your core as you extend.
Plank Extensions

How to perform Plank Extensions:

  1. Set up in an elbow Plank position with your feet close together. Your elbows should be right under your shoulders, forearms facing forward (no clasping hands), and your body should be in a nice straight line from your head to your heels.
  2. Begin to walk your feet backward, taking small steps. Maintain your body in a nice straight line and don’t let your hips sag. Lengthen through your triceps and lats as you extend backward. Walk back as far as you can while maintaining form.
  3. Then walk your feet back forward until you are back to the starting position.
  4. Repeat, walking your feet back out. Only walk out as far as you can without your low back engaging. Start with only a few steps and gradually progress the length of extension.
Stephanie Harboe is a RRCA-certified running coach and NASM-certified personal trainer.

Hip Hikes

Healthy Hips = Heathly Runners

Hip Hikes are a great exercise to improve the strength of the hips. This exercise strengthens the gluteus medius muscle located in the side of your hips and buttocks.

Weakness or muscle imbalance in the hip complex can lead to a variety of issues:

  • low back pain
  • hip pain, including IT and TFL issues
  • knee pain
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Kang Squats

By now you know that a strong runner regularly strengthens their posterior chain muscles – calf muscles, hamstrings, gluteus maximus and medius, latissimus dorsi and the erector spinae muscles – essentially all the backside muscles from your head to your heels.

A Kang Squat is a combination movement – a good morning and a squat. 

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Foam Rolling Variations

Grab your foam roller to add challenging variations to standard exercises.

Glute Bridge Hamstring Curls
Foam Roller Crunches

Stephanie Harboe is a RRCA-certified running coach and NASM-certified personal trainer.

Prone Snow Angels

Most runners focus on lower-body strength exercises, but we need upper body strength and mobility too!

Prone Snow Angels are versatile, challenging, and can be done anywhere. No special equipment required. The primary focus is the posterior muscles of the shoulder, specifically the mid/lower trapezius and rhomboids.

Lay prone on a mat and tuck the chin. Squeeze the glutes, hamstrings, and calves and engage the core to stabilize the spine. With arms at your sides and palms facing down, retract the shoulder blades to lift the arms off the ground. Slowly abduct the shoulder, attempting to keep arms as far off the floor as possible. As the arms reach the 90* abduction, rotate the palms to face upward. Do NOT shrug the shoulders in an attempt to keep arms off the floor, especially in the “overhead” position.

Progressions: extension of arms at the elbow (wider reach)higher repetitions

Stephanie Harboe is a RRCA-certified running coach and NASM-certified personal trainer.