MTI Initiatives Which Never Gained Traction, Part 2: Grunt PT


By Rob Shaul


Our effort with Grunt PT was to bring professionally designed, mission-direct, functional fitness programming to line unit soldiers in the Army and Marines. The onus for Grunt PT grew out of several experiences I had working with line unit soldiers attempting to implement functional fitness programming. These teaching and other experience confirmed for me that active duty soldiers in general, and line unit soldiers in particular, simply didn’t have the time or experience to do this high-level programming.

One Fall I began talking to an entire line unit Brigade about implementing a functional fitness program, was honest and upfront about my suggested approach, and initially it seemed the Command was open and wanted also to have a long-term impact. I was super excited.

But, in the end, it didn’t work out, and from my perspective, reasons included several unit mistakes – investing in equipment before people, not being willing to think outside the box in terms of unit-wide coaching, multiple PT times, setting aside Army PRT, centralized programming, etc.

This experience, and several others like it, caused me to grow weary of command-driven “functional fitness” efforts.

Grunt PT was my attempt to jump over the “Big Army” bureaucracy and offer mission-direct MTI programming right to the guys in the trenches. I designed equipment list and the programming around a company-sized unit. Individual soldiers, and teams smaller than a company could also deploy the programming, but I wanted innovative, forward thinking company commanders to have a programming resource. 

And I made it cheap … $1/month/soldier. The idea was that even a brand new platoon commander could spend $40/month out of his own pocket, if his command wouldn’t pay for it – and bring this high level programming to his or her soldiers.

I called Grunt P a “fitness insurgency.” Clever, huh? 

We invested in a new website, graphic design, and spent hours designing the programming. 

The programming itself was high level – not necessary because of complexity, but because for an entire company to train at the same time each day, we actually had to design 3 different training sessions – one each for strength, work capacity/chassis integrity, and endurance. This allowed the required equipment list – which included free weights and sandbags, to be minimized.

We launched the effort and waited for it to take off. It never did.

Even after a few months of effort and advertising, praise, and the cheap cost, we only had a few dozen subscribers. I couldn’t justify the time and effort Grunt PT took to designed and decided to pull the plug. It was heartbreaking… 

In hindsight, I underestimated military inertia and tradition. The obstacles to implementing true, widespread functional fitness programming in the Army and Marines include everything from limited equipment, to limited training times, to “safety Nazi” PT’s and medical officers, to performance reports which evaluate squad leader and platoon officer’s ability to design programming. 

Grunt PT could not overcome this – despite what I consider its incredible value.



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