Burn the Ships: September Edition
September’s Burn the Ships is designed to improve your strength endurance in a way that transfers to the real world—and help you not break Rule 2. Do the workout every Friday.
Why it matters: Doing one challenging workout a week has physical and mental upsides. And doing it on Friday (or over the weekend) is a great way to wipe the work week off the books.
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It’s the first Friday of the month. Which means it’s time to Burn the Ships.
If you’re a regular participant in Burn the Ships and know why we do this workout, scroll down to “This Month’s Workout” to get the details.
If you’re new (or want a refresher), start here so you understand the origins of Burn the Ships and the case for doing one tough workout a week.
The Case for One Tough Weekly Workout
I started doing one tough workout every Friday after my time reporting inside Gym Jones roughly 12 years ago. I’ve maintained the practice.
That’s because there’s an upside to pushing it once a week. Specifically, it makes me less insane.
Scientists at King’s College in London analyzed 53 studies on how intense exercise impacts mental health. They found that it led to “improvements in mental wellbeing, depression severity, and perceived stress compared to non-active controls, and small improvements in mental wellbeing compared to active controls.”
But it also—obviously!—comes with physical upsides.
Intense exercise also seems to have a slight edge over less intense exercise for increasing VO2 max, which is associated with all sorts of good physical outcomes. A rule of thumb: the higher your VO2 max, the farther you are from death and disease.
In other words, all exercise helps. But it makes sense to go hard sometimes.
The smartest trainers I regularly speak with suggest that one tough workout a week is the sweet spot for health and performance. More than that, and we tend to get burned out and beat down. Less than that, and we miss out on some health and performance upsides.
Enter Burn the Ships.
Burn the Ships: How it works
On the first Friday of every month, we publish a new workout for Members only on 2%.
Our task is to do the workout every Friday for the rest of the month. (Don’t sweat if you can’t do it Friday—just try to do it sometime each week.)
These workouts are safe and effective. They improve your strength, cardio, movement quality, and—in turn—your life.
We’ve provided scaled versions and exercise swaps, so anyone and everyone can do them.
In other words, we’re pushing edges and improving safely. It’s easy to be hard but hard to be smart.
This Month’s Workout: Big Hug Mug
Why the name?
You hug a sand medicine ball, sandbag, or ruck for most of the workout, putting it down only a few times.
Ok, fine, but why “Big Hug Mug”? Why not just “Big Hug”?
Every September, I rewatch True Detective Season 1, which is my favorite single season of television ever. Every time I hear the word “hug,” I think of the infamous Big Hug Mug from the show.
Why it works
July’s Burn the Ships Workout included a front-loaded sandbag carry done for 200 yards every round.
Those front carries gave people the most trouble. Probably for two reasons:
We rarely carry heavier things in the front position for longer distances, so we’re not used to the movement.
Holding the weight in the “hug” position makes breathing harder.
This is why carrying items in the front position has many legit benefits.
By doing a movement you rarely do, you fill a lot of fitness gaps. That transfers over to better performance in all kinds of different activities.
Carrying weight at your front works your core harder, which can help you perform better all around and reduce your risk of various pains.
It works your back, glutes, and hamstrings harder than rucking.
It teaches you to breathe under load. You have to learn to consciously control your breathing, which carries over to other activities.
One of the following:
Best: A heavy medicine ball (like GORUCK’s Sand Medicine Ball). See below for how to get one for cheap.
Better: A heavy sandbag.
Good: a ruck, or anything else heavy-ish you can carry in a “hug” position.
Because I recommend GORUCK’s Sand Medicine Ball for this, I partnered with the brand to get you the biggest discount possible. Use code: EASTERMB20 … (I cede the affiliate fee I get from GORUCK and pass that savings on to 2% Members).
Please use a weight that feels challenging and allows you to complete the workout—but doesn’t crush your soul. For most of you, using a weight equal to between 20 to 60 percent of your body weight is probably right. I realize that’s a wide range. Base your decision off your fitness level. Start light and work up.
I’d recommend using a weight that you can do at least 20 to 30 squats with if you’re holding it in a “hug” position,
This should take you between 30 and 60 minutes.
Song I’m listening to while doing this workout
Keeping with the True Detective influence, here’s a ~hour-long Spotify playlist of the best songs from the show (which, BTW, has an *epic* soundtrack).
How to do the workout
We have substitutions and videos below if you have trouble with any gear or exercises.
I’ve included a barebones description of the workout below. You can copy/paste this into Notes on your phone or print it so you have a simple guide as you do the workout.
Enough with the throat clearing. Here’s the workout:
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