Mark Maspero Training 310119 CREDIT Mark Maspero
Health and Fitness

How A Fitness Coach Turns Regular People Into Army Recruits

A former soldier is coaching young people ahead of Army recruitment tests.

Mark Maspero Training 310119 CREDIT Mark Maspero

Former REME soldier Mark Maspero trains young people who wish to get in the Army (Picture: Mark Maspero).

It is no secret that the British Army could be facing a potential shortage of troops.

In this financial year alone, the Ministry of Defence (MOD) admitted that the Army is set to receive just 5,600 new recruits - less than 60% of the target.

While for some the issue lays with Capita, the recruitment company outsourced by the MOD which takes around 300 days to complete the application process, for other applicants the problem is their level of fitness.

"Today’s generation isn’t as physically fit and robust as previous generations," explain personal trainer Mark Maspero. "Though no fault of their own, they require extra tuition and motivation to reach the required Army standards."

Mr Maspero spent 22 years in the Army as part of the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME), but "mostly working in the gym and playing sports". During his time serving, he qualified as a Personal Trainer Instructor (PTI).

Upon leaving the forces in 2014, he used his skills to train civilians, working with Olympic athletes, coaching for councils and professional football academies.

More recently, he decided to become a military trainer and use his experience to help young people pass the entrance tests for the Army:

"I had an amazing career in the Army and I want to help young people join the military with the best possible chance of success."

Who does he train?

Mostly teenage boys from "working class families". "It's largely white males aged 16 to 19," he explains, "and occasional females."

Usually sessions are one-on-one, but on some occasions a small group of friends will enrol together.

Sporadically, Mr Maspero helps out with larger groups from colleges or cadet forces.

What is training like?

Ahead of deciding on a training routine, Mr Maspero puts wannabe-Army recruits through a basic fitness test to see where their physical abilities stand.

"I then compare them [the results] to the required results necessary to pass military selection," he explains.

Most of the initial training, he says, revolves around exercises aimed at improving muscular endurance with body weight. Once that is up to standard, he then focuses on working on the person's robustness and resilience.

Mark Maspero's Training Kit 310119 CREDIT Mark Maspero
Some of the kit used during training (Picture: Mark Maspero).

Exercises range from lifting to carrying items over different terrains and obstacles.

"The most popular sessions involve tyre flipping, partner exercises," he explains, as well as "lifting and carrying exercises involving the power bags and jerrycans."

"I find the individual's quitting point and push it a little further each time."

Depending on when the person's scheduled date to take the three-day selection exam, the number of sessions and their duration varies.

However, Mr Maspero tries to schedule at least three to four hours physical training a week plus recommended two to three hours of running or team sports.

What makes a good Army recruit?

Mr Maspero believes a new Army recruit needs to have good all-round fitness:

"They don’t have to be the fastest or the strongest, but have the mental ability to keep pushing themselves through adversity."

"They need to be resilient and robust to overcome injury, fatigue, and setbacks. The basic training will make recruits fitter and stronger, the recruits need to be open-minded and willing to learn," he continues.

Mark Maspero Trains Youngsters In Yorkshire 310119 CREDIT Mark Maspero
Mark Maspero trains youngsters in Yorkshire (Picture: Mark Maspero).

His training has so far resulted in three people being recruited in the Army.