SINGAPORE: Soldiers in the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) will soon have customised training programmes to match the unique physical demands of each vocation and each individual's ability.
This was announced by the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) on Friday (Dec 1) at the launch of the Centre of Excellence for Soldier Performance (CESP).
The newly opened centre is supported by a range of deep domain experts such as sport scientists, nutritionists, physiotherapists, human factors engineers and psychologists to help optimise soldiers’ fitness and performance.
Under the new vocation-specific training, new fitness regimes like high intensity interval training (HIIT) will be introduced to increase the efficiency of soldiers.
HIIT is characterised by brief bursts of very intense exercise interspersed with longer periods of easy recovery.
A typical HIIT workout lasts less than 15 minutes, including a warm-up and cool-down, but has been shown in multiple studies to provide health and fitness benefits that are the same as or greater than an hour or more of continuous and relatively moderate exercise.
Rope battling, kettleball swings, sprint intervals and tyre flips, among others, are some examples of HIIT.
"We have brought together the Army Fitness Centre, the Soldier Performance Centre and the Soldier Systems Integration Laboratory to form the CESP," said Second Minister for Defence Ong Ye Kung.
"They will make training more targeted and customised to each soldier's abilities, and will allow us to integrate technology, sports science and nutrition to bring out the best in our soldiers."
Mr Ong also added that the SAF will introduce fitness programmes that focus on injury prevention.
"We will implement “pre-habilitation” programmes to reduce the risks of common injuries. For example, for Infantry soldiers who are often required to bear heavy loads that may place more strain on their back muscles," he said.
"So lower back strengthening exercises will be included in their fitness programmes to reduce the risk of such injuries."
MORE “RESILIENCE-BUILDING CONCEPTS” FOR BMT
Basic Military Training (BMT) will also undergo changes to focus more on "resilience-building concepts" and skills to combat stress and anxiety.
Even after soldiers have completed their BMT, they will continue to practice resilience-building exercises by being exposed to "stressors typically encountered in combat operational settings".
Dietary habits of soldiers will also be targeted with a revised Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) to help soldiers consume healthy snacks, like oat bars and bananas, between meals and before training exercises.
According to MINDEF, "nutritious snacks which are correctly timed" will aid in soldiers' recovery after physical exercise.
Operationally Ready National Servicemen (NSmen) and non-combat NSmen will also have programmes catered to them to ensure that they remain "engaged in healthy lifestyle".
"This will maximise participation and promote a strong fitness culture for our soldiers," said MINDEF.
Other aspects like injury management and psychological well-being are also set to be enhanced.
However, Commander of the 9th Division and Chief Infantry Officer Colonel Andrew Lim added that they were not purely focusing on scientific methods.
"Essentially we are not just looking at the physical aspect of adopting the best scientific methods,” he said.
"We are also talking about nutrition, the psychology of sports, how we can better motivate our soldiers, as well as prehabilitation and rehabilitation in the event they get injured, and how we can better get them back up to speed in terms of training requirements," he added.
The SAF is getting help from external organisations in their pursuit of maximising a soldier's potential, having signed a Memorandum of Understanding with SportSG and the Health Promotion Board earlier this year to leverage on their expertise.
(Additional reporting by Ahmad Khan)