Get In Shape With This 11-Minute Fighter Pilots’ Workout

Get In Shape With This 11-Minute Fighter Pilots’ Workout

It may be Canada’s best-kept exercise secret: an 11-minute, no-equipment workout program designed to keep pilots and other Air Force members in top shape even when they were posted to remote areas without gym facilities.

The program, called 5BX for “Five Basic Exercises”, was invented in the 1950s but has aged fairly well. (When Runner’s World writer Alex Hutchinson started looking into the program, he found out his uncle had been doing it for almost 50 years.) The old-school sit-ups in the program should probably be replaced with crunches or other ab exercises, but otherwise it’s still solid.

There are six levels, or charts, with progressively harder variations of each exercise. Chart 6 requires clapping push-ups, for example, where Chart 1 just had knee pushups. For each chart, there’s a corresponding set of benchmarks according to how many reps you can do. When you hit A+ level on a given chart, it’s time to move up to the next one.

You can download the original booklet here, or check out the full article at Runner’s World for more background on the program.

The Fighter Pilot Fitness Program [Runner’s World]


  • A fighter pilot once told me it is better to be slightly out of shape and the higher blood pressure helps with high-G turns. Not sure if it was true or whether he was just trying to justify his smoking habit.

    • Extremely fit people tolerate high G less well than fit people, but fit people tolerate it better than unfit. If you have a resting heart rate of, say, 35, like a Tour de France rider or Special Forces PTI, you will not handle as much G as someone who is just what ordianry people would call “Fit”. But if your idea of exercise is hitting the “jump” button you are out of luck.

  • A common affliction of fighter pilots, the one that never got mentioned in Top Gun, is haemorrhoids. All those high-g turns, and there are places that a g-suit just doesn’t reach…

  • I wonder how this compares to the popular 7 minute workout?
    Ive tried it a few times and it really gets you sweating.

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