When we visited Iraq with Andy McNab, we reported on what it was really like for the soldiers on the front line. What we also stumbled upon, however, was a small group of lads who'd fashioned an outdoor gym, and cultivated an unapologetically masochistic approach to cardio and weight-lifting. FHM reveals that routine in full...

1/ Exercise plan

The exercises to make sure you dominate the battlefield or your overpriced gym chain



Muscles worked: Front, rear and side shoulder


“Start with the bar touching your chest, then raise it up to just before your arms lock. Keep your spine straight and make sure the movement of the bar is controlled. Overload for bigger arms.” Aim to burn out around the 20th rep.




Muscles worked: Triceps, rear shoulders, chest

Method: “Wear a firmly fastened belt and put a chain through it. Attach a dumbbell to the chain. Approach the dip bars and place the weight between your legs. Start with your arms locked straight, then drop so your elbows are at 45º angles. Rise back up till just before your arms lock, then drop again, always making sure the movements are slow and controlled. Add more weight and do less reps for bigger muscles.”





Muscles worked: Abdominals and obliques (love handles)

Method: “Find your centre of gravity on a bench or suitable substitute. Put your fingertips to your temple, then raise your left knee to meet your right elbow and repeat on the other side. Aim for up to 20 reps.”




Muscles worked: Upper chest, triceps, trapezius (neck muscles)

Method: “Start in a press-up position, but with your feet and hands closer together so your body forms an ‘A’. Lower yourself down so your chest brushes the floor, then scoop through to form a ‘C’, like a seal. Then reverse it back to the ‘A’, by dropping your chest into the floor and flowing back.” Repeat 15 times.




Muscles worked: Quadriceps, hip flexors, obliques

Method: “Drop down to a press-up position. Move the outside of your left ankle so it meets the outside of your right wrist. Move it back and do the same with your opposite side. Then start a rhythmic bounce.” Bash out 30.

2/ Cardio

Running is the mainstay of their cardiovascular training

15min warm-up; 6x200m runs up shallow hills (jog back down between each)
Fartlek session for 40min
3x8min runs as hard as you can , with 2 minute recovery between each
Steady run for 30-40min
Steady run for 35-45min
Steady run for 40-45min
Fartlek – ‘speed play’ in Swedish – session (varying between jogging and sprinting) for 30mins
4x5min runs as hard as you can sustain, with 2min recovery between each
10min warm-up; 8-10x1min hard running, 1min jog recoveries; 5min cool-down
Slow, steady run for 45min
Slow, steady run for 55min
Steady, off-road run for one hour


1.5 Mile test
Everyone in the army has to do this run within 14 minutes and only 1% achieves 'Excellent' standard
PERFORMANCE UNDER 30 30 - 34 35 - 39 40 - 44
Excellent 8:15 8:30 9:00 9:15
Very Good 8:16 - 9:45 8:31 - 10:10 9:01 - 10:40 9:16 - 11:05
Good 9:46 - 10:30 10:11 - 11:00 10:41 - 11:30 11:06 - 12:00
Poor 11:16+ 11:51+ 12:21+ 12:56+

3/ Nutrition

How our boys survive 3,000 miles away from the nearest Dixie Fried Chicken

Ration Packs

‘Rat-packs’ are standard issue in every British squaddie’s kit and provide the staple diet when they’re away from the base on a mission. Created to provide a high-calorie injection after a tough day in the theatre of war, they come in easily stored foil packets, tins and sachets. “It’s designed to provide sustenance after a young soldier’s been on active operational duty,” says Major Mike Shearer, the MoD’s man on the ground. “You’ll not taste better milk chocolate biscuits anywhere.”


Milk chocolate biscuits: A BBC study recently showed that eating choccie increased brain activity and an individual’s heart rate more than sexual encounters, in turn keeping soldiers alert. Also, when eaten in moderation, studies show it actually reduces blood pressure and anxiety.


Can of tuna: Contains the nationally recognised ‘perfect daily intake’ of protein and organ-maintaining vitamin D for men. It also helps bolster the strength of a soldier’s bones.

Brown crackers: Flat, savoury biscuits ideal for the release of energy for the body during warfare.


Oatmeal block/Instant oats: Effectively works like a breakfast bar, taking advantage of numerous studies showing that daily consumption of oatmeal can actually lower cholesterol and risk of heart disease. Also contains vitamin B, which makes a soldier’s skin more tolerant of the blazing Iraqi sun.

Isotonic drink: Aids in rehydration, while replenishing sugar and electrolytes (salts critical for nerve and muscle function) lost during strenuous activity.

Fruit biscuits: They don’t go off during long trips and they’re rammed with altertness-activating sugars. Plus each biscuit contains around 100 calories, offering soldiers an instant hit of energy.

Chicken paste: Spreadable protein that also contains iron essential for making red blood cells that carry oxygen throughout the body, boosting the immune system.

Sweets: A quick blast of carbohydrates, loaded with sugar to hit the soldier’s bloodstream instantly.

Bacon and beans: Protein, energy-replacing carbs and extreme roughage to aid unappreciated bowel movements in the barracks.