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WWII Workout Week: Log Exercises

log

Editor’s note: This week we’re publishing excerpts from FM 21-20, an Army field manual from 1946 that includes the physical training program used by GIs during WWII. You can read the story behind FM 21-20 here. This series may offer you practical suggestions on exercises to incorporate into your own workouts, or simply inspire you to get in shape and embody the kind of strength and fitness that would make your grandpa proud!

For today’s workout, you’ll need a few friends, a pair of gloves, and a big ol’ log. It’s kind of amazing to see the numerous, wide-ranging exercises that are possible with a tree trunk as your only equipment. 

fm

FM 20-21: War Department Field Manual, 1946

Log Exercises

GENERAL. Log exercises are excellent activities for developing strength and muscular endurance because they require the muscles to contract under maximum loads. The set of log exercises in this section may be used in lieu of the basic conditioning exercises. Using them two or three times a week in 15 to 20 minute periods, provides a welcome change in the physical training program. However, log exercises should not be introduced until the men have become well-conditioned.

SPECIFICATIONS OF LOGS. The logs should be from 6 to 8 inches in diameter. They may vary in length from 14 feet (for 6 men) to 18 feet (for 8 men). They should be skinned, smoothed, and dried. The 14 foot logs should weigh approximately 300 pounds; and the 18 foot ones, 400 pounds. Rings should be painted on the log to indicate each man’s position.

STARTING POSITIONS AND COMMANDS. The men fall in, facing the log and about 4 inches from it. All men assigned to the same log should be approximately the same height. The basic starting positions and commands are as follows:

log starting position

a. 1. Starting Position. 2. MOVE. At the command MOVE, move the left foot smartly 12 inches to the left and lower the body into a flat-foot squat. Keep the back flat, head up, and arms between the legs. Encircle the far side of the log with the left hand. Keep the right hand underneath the log. This position is standard unless ordered otherwise.

log 57b

b. 1. Left Hand Starting Position. 2. MOVE. This command is executed in the same manner as a above except that the left hand is underneath the log and the right hand encircles the far side of the log.

log 57c

c. 1. Right Shoulder Position. 2. MOVE. At the command pull the log upward in one continuous motion to the right shoulder. At the same time move the left foot to the rear and stand up facing left. Balance the log on the right shoulder with both hands.

log 57d

d. 1. Left Shoulder Position. 2. MOVE. This command should be given from the Left Hand Starting Position. At the command MOVE, pull the log upward in one continuous motion to the left shoulder. At the same time move the right foot to the rear and stand up facing right. Balance the log on the left shoulder with both hands.

log 57e

e. 1. Waist Position. 2. MOVE. From the standard starting position pull the log waist high. Keep the arms straight and fingers laced underneath the log. The body is inclined slightly to the rear, and the chest is lifted and arched.

log 57f

f. 1. Chest Position. 2. MOVE. This command should be given after the waist position has been assumed. At the command MOVE, shift the log to a position high on the chest, bring the left arm under the log and hold it in the bend of the arms. Keep the upper arms parallel to the ground.

g. To move the log from the right shoulder to the left shoulder the command is: 1. Left Shoulder Position. 2. MOVE. Upon this command push the log overhead and lower it to the opposite shoulder.

log 57h

h. 1. Supine Position. 2. MOVE. This command is given after the waist position has been assumed. Upon this command cross the legs and sit upon the ground. Assume the supine position with the log resting upon chest and hands. Feet are apart.

i. 1. Starting Position. 2. MOVE. This command is given to return the log to the ground from any of the above positions. Upon this command slowly lower the log to the ground. The hands and fingers must be kept from under the log.

a. Log Exercises.

(Where ground conditions make a regular exercise impracticable, the substitute exercise is indicated by addition of “A.”)

EXERCISE 1: TWO ARM PUSH UP

log two arm push up 2

Starting Position. Right or left shoulder position. Feet apart.
Cadence. Moderate.
Movement:

(1) Push log overhead.

(2) Lower the log to opposite shoulder.

(3) Repeat count (1).

(4) Recover to starting position.

EXERCISE 2: FOUR COUNT KNEE BEND

log knee bend

Starting Position. Right or left shoulder position. Feet apart.
Cadence. Slow.
Movement:

(1) Lower the body to a quarter squat position.

(2) Lower the body to a half squat position.

(3) Lower the body to full squat position.

(4) Recover to starting position.

EXERCISE 3: FORWARD BENDER

log forward bender

Starting Position. Chest position. Feet apart.
Cadence. Moderate.
Movement:

(1) Bend forward at the hips, keeping the back and legs straight.

(2) Recover to starting position.

(3) Repeat count (1).

(4) Recover to starting position.

EXERCISE 4: OVERHEAD TOSS

log overhead toss

Starting Position. Right or left shoulder position, feet apart. The knees are bent to a position of a quarter squat.
Cadence. Moderate.
Movement:

(1) Extend knees and toss log into the air. Catch log with both hands and lower it toward the opposite shoulder. As the log is caught lower the body into a quarter squat.

(2) Toss the log into the air again and return it to the original shoulder. Lower body to a quarter squat position.

(3) Repeat count (1).

(4) Recover to starting position.

EXERCISE 5: SIDE BENDER

log side bender

Starting Position. Right shoulder position, feet 24 inches apart.
Cadence. Moderate.
Movement:

(1) Bend sideward to the left, bending left knee.

(2) Recover to starting position.

(3) Repeat count (1).

(4) Recover to starting position.

After completing the required number of repetitions, change shoulders and execute an equal number of repetitions to the other side.

EXERCISE 6: STRADDLE JUMP

log straddle jump 2

Starting Position. Right or left shoulder position, feet together.
Cadence. Moderate.
Movement:

(1) Jump to side straddle position. Pull down on log with both hands to keep it from bouncing on the shoulder.

(2) Recover to the starting position.

(3) Repeat count (1).

(4) Recover to starting position.

EXERCISE 7: TWELVE COUNT PUSH UP

log 12 push up 1

log 12 push up 2

Starting Position. Starting position.
Cadence. Moderate.
Movement:

(1) Lift the log to the right shoulder.

(2) Push it overhead with both hands.

(3) Lower it to left shoulder.

(4) Repeat count (2).

(5) Lower to right shoulder.

(6) Recover to starting position.

(7) Change to left hand starting position without command and lift log to left shoulder.

(8) Repeat count (2).

(9) Repeat count (5).

(10) Repeat count (2).

(11) Repeat count (3).

(12) Recover to starting position.

EXERCISE 8: FLAT FOOT SQUAT

log flat foot squat

Starting Position. Right or left hand starting position with fingers under log as far as possible, arms straight.
Cadence. Moderate.
Movement:

(1) Rise to erect position and lift log waist high. Keep back straight. Lift with the legs.

(2) Recover to starting position.

(3) Repeat count (1).

(4) Recover to starting position.

EXERCISE 9: TEAM TOSS

log team toss

Starting Position. Two teams of six men stand facing each other three to six paces apart. From the waist position Team A holds the log with an underhand grip in the bend of both arms. Back is straight, knees are bent slightly.
Cadence. Slow.
Movement:

At the preparatory command ready, Team A sinks into a quarter squat position. At the command TOSS, Team A tosses the log out and up by a combined drive of the arms and legs. The log is caught by Team B which in turn tosses it back. The distance between teams may be gradually increased and then diminished again.

EXERCISE 10: SITUP

log situp

Starting Position. Team A in supine position, holding log in bend of arms above chest. Team B squats and holds ankles of Team A.
Cadence. Moderate.
Movement:

(1) Team A sits up holding log.

(2) Team A recovers to starting position.

(3) Repeat count (1).

(4) Team A recovers to starting position.

After completing required number of repetitions, Teams A and B exchange positions.

EXERCISE 10A: DEAD LIFT

log deadlift 3

Starting Position. Waist position, feet apart.
Cadence. Moderate.
Movement:

(1) Lower the log until it is 6 inches above the ground. Keep the knees straight. Exhale.

(2) Recover to starting position. Inhale.

(3) Repeat count (1).

(4) Recover to starting position.

EXERCISE 11: SUPINE PUSH UP

log supine pushup

Starting Position. Supine position with log resting on chest, hands underneath the log.
Cadence. Moderate.
Movement:

(1) Push log straight up.

(2) Recover to starting position.

(3) Repeat count (1).

(4) Recover to starting position.

EXERCISE 11A: CHEST PULL

log chest pull

Starting Position. Feet apart, body inclined forward at a tight angle from the hips. Log held with both hands which are hanging straight down from the shoulders. Knees straight.
Cadence. Moderate.
Movement:

(1) Pull the log up until it touches the chest. Inhale.

(2) Lower the log to hanging position. Do not move the body. Exhale.

(3) Repeat count (1).

(4) Recover to starting position.

b. Log Contests.

log pivot circle

(1) PIVOT CIRCLE. The log is held in the bend of the arms in front of the chest. At the command, 1. Circle Right, 2. MOVE, the left flank man holds the pivot and the log is carried around 360º back to original position. This movement may also be performed to the left and at double time. Commands may be given rapidly such as, Circle Right, Circle Half-Right, Circle Half-Left, etc. Competition is keen if the teams attempt to beat each other in performing these various movements.

log rolling race

(2) ROLLING RACE. Each team tries to roll its log a measured distance by pushing log with hands and driving forward with the legs. The first team to get the entire length of the log across the finish line wins.

log push contest

(3) PRONE PUSH CONTEST. Two teams lie prone, facing each other with a log between them. Both teams place their hands against the log, keeping their arms straight. Then by driving with the legs, each team attempts to push the other a measured distance to the rear.

log shuttle race

(4) SHUTTLE RELAY RACE. This relay race is run by pairs of teams, each pair consisting of a Team A and a Team B. Team A members run 50 yards with the log held under their right arms. At the distance line they give the log to Team B whose members bring it back to the starting line. The pair of teams finishing first are the winners.

(5) RAT RACE. The logs are spaced about 10 feet apart. The men number off on each log. The odd-numbered men hold the logs in the prescribed positions, while the even numbered men negotiate the logs. Then the even numbered men hold the logs for the odd-numbered men. They change positions at double time. The men holding the logs, in each case, are grouped at the two ends of the log, not distributed over its length. The logs are held in four different positions.

log rat race a1

(a) The odd-numbered men hold the log knee high by resting it on the forward thigh while kneeling on one knee. The two men on each end of the log face in opposite directions. The other men run and jump over all of the logs. This can be varied by jumping over the first log and crawling under the second, and so on.

log rat race a2

(b) The odd-numbered men hold the log waist high under one arm. The other men run and vault over each log.

log rat race c

(c) The odd-numbered men hold the log waist high under one arm. The other men run and vault over each log. The log holders make the race more difficult by moving the log up and down rapidly.

log rat race d

(d) The logs are held on the shoulders of the odd-numbered men. The logs are spaced only about 3 to 4 feet apart. The other men crawl over all of the logs on their bellies without descending between the logs. The log holders can make the race more difficult, if logs are about 3 feet apart, by moving them up and down and by bending and straightening their knees slightly. This movement should not be over a range of more than six inches.

Read the Entire Series

The Importance of Physical Fitness
Conditioning Exercises



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