This Week We Return To The Fighter Pilot Workout

This Week We Return To The Fighter Pilot Workout
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We began this month’s fitness challenge—revisiting classic home workouts—with the scientific seven-minute workout. This week we go back a bit further in history to the Canadian institution 5BX, originally invented for military pilots stationed in places without a gym or much space to exercise. I bet a lot of us can relate.

The workout became popular outside of the military, and it’s a classic for a reason. Here’s a PDF of the full booklet explaining the routine. Not only is the introduction full of great (if dated) explanations of why you should bother to exercise in the first place, the booklet delivers a full workout program. There are six charts; the idea is that you start on the easiest one and graduate to the next as you get fitter. Each chart also gives you a grade, so you have a score for how fit you are and a goal to work towards. There are recommended scores for civilians and for flying crew, according to your age.

Rather than following instructions, I jumped right in to Chart 3. The exercises are a bit weird, so read the instructions carefully. I swapped crunches in for sit-ups, since those are considered potentially unsafe these days (although I don’t know how big of a concern it really is). This chart also has a move that looks like a downward dog, but it’s actually a push-up where you tap your chin and forehead on the ground before sticking your butt in the air. I am not 100% sure I did it right.

To complete the workout, you do each exercise for the allotted number of minutes and count your reps. That meant two minutes for toe-touch stretches; one minute each for sit-ups, back extensions and the weird pushups; and six minutes of running in place interspersed with half knee bends.

My results: A+ on the toe touches, back extensions and running… but a solid D on the pushups. Am I bad at these or doing them wrong? Possibly a bit of both.

Overall I found this workout more balanced than the seven-minute workout, although it spends less time on strength moves. I complained that one wasn’t very challenging in the leg department, and this one isn’t at all. (You’re running, yes, but there’s nothing like a squat or a lunge until you get to the jumps on chart 4.) The workout wasn’t originally designed to make you more fit, just to help you maintain fitness when you don’t have a better option, so I suppose it does the job on that score.

Bottom line, I kinda like this one. If you’re looking for something to do at home, I think it’s better choice than the seven-minute workout. It scales according to your fitness level and always gives you a goal to look forward to. Chart 6 is for “champion athletes.” Godspeed.


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