By Kari Hemund
In 2011, the Marine Corps Aquatics Program recognized that non-combat-related injuries had increased over time, and something was needed to help Marines stay fit for duty.
In 2012, the Corps developed a solution—take it to the pool—in the form of Aquatics Maximum Power Intense Training (AMP-IT), a unique water-based, high-intensity, functional-fitness program. This unit-driven, leader-led, aquatic physical-fitness training program is comparable to the land-based physical training program, High Intensity Tactical Training (HITT). It is conducted vertically in deep water and shallow water, utilizing equipment such as resistance bells and fins, tethers, climbing ropes, and medicine balls. Participants are not required to swim, and their safety and correct location in the water are determined by the exercise. In deep water, body position is achieved by wearing a floatation belt.
In addition to providing an alternative to traditional land-based training, AMP-IT contributes to the resiliency of the Corps by allowing Marines of all fitness levels, including those in recovery, to train together. The program removes the isolation between the elite athlete and the injured Marine, fostering increased unit cohesion. Those who have participated in the program have experienced improved cardiovascular endurance and muscular strength. The program also reconditions the injured by speeding recovery, restoring function, and improving resiliency.
AMP-IT focuses on two primary components—deep-water interval running and muscular conditioning. An integral part of deep-water interval running is aquatic cadence, or pace count. Aquatic cadence involves counting one’s steps for a specific amount of time, and then trying to increase the pace count and maintain it throughout the interval. Muscular conditioning is conducted in shallow water and utilizes resistance equipment. This section of the training program provides a full-body workout by incorporating exercises, such as paddlewheels, chest flies, bicep curls, and karate punches for the upper extremities, and lateral leg raises, Frankensteins, diagonal kickbacks, and double-high knees for lower extremities. These exercises, which mimic exercises performed in a weight room, can be performed in intervals or as a set number of repetitions. Secondary components of AMP-IT include plyometrics, flexibility and balance, and core stability.
In an effort to make AMP-IT accessible to all Marines, instructors are not required to hold any specific aquatic certifications. They receive 16 hours of training to learn how to conduct program sessions before receiving a completion certificate. All Marine Corps installations have numerous civilian and active-duty instructors, with more than 300 individuals having completed the training course. Instructors are trained on modification and protocols for reconditioning musculoskeletal injuries while maintaining fitness. This training enables instructors to assist injured Marines in achieving rapid recovery and a return to full duty.
As the program continues to meet the needs of the Marine Corps, it has been expanded to the United States Navy and is being introduced to the other services and the Veterans Administration. To learn more about the benefits of AMP-IT, visit www.usmc-mccs.org.
Kari Hemund is an Aquatic Specialist for the Marine and Family Programs Division.