Words by Richard Feloni
- Jocko Willink developed an intense daily morning-workout routine based on exercises that helped him as a Navy SEAL.
- Willink recommends everyone begin their morning with exercise.
- He broke down his four-day approach to working out.
Regardless of when you read this, Jocko Willink woke up today before dawn to get in a hard workout.
As a Navy SEAL, Willink learned the extent to which the human body and mind can be pushed. And after he retired in 2010, after commanding the most decorated US special-operations unit of the Iraq War, he decided to share with the public some of the lessons he learned about discipline.
His new book, “Discipline Equals Freedom: Field Manual,” is a practical collection of the leadership philosophy he has taught with his former platoon leader, Leif Babin, through their leadership consulting firm Echelon Front, as well as exercise and diet routines he’s discussed on his hit podcast.
The book contains three detailed sets of four-day exercise routines for beginner, intermediate, and advanced skill levels. Willink, who has a decked-out home gym in his garage and a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, typically will stick with the advanced exercises, but he’ll work in some lighter basics when he’s traveling or recovering from a string of heavy workouts.
Business Insider recently asked Willink about his overall workout philosophy and broke down his approach into components that could be adapted for any fitness level.
Get out of bed while everyone else sleeps.
Willink shares an image of his digital wristwatch with his thousands of Twitter followers every morning, and it always reads about 4:30 a.m. It’s a habit he picked up in the SEALs after noticing that the highest performers woke up the earliest.
As a civilian, it can be easy to have your entire day filled, and exercise usually doesn’t get top priority. Willink’s advice is simple: Start going to bed earlier, get your gym clothes ready before you go to sleep, get up while the rest of your coworkers are sleeping, and jump into your gym shorts.
You need to get your blood flowing and your muscles loosened up before you begin working out. Willink’s typical warm-up is as follows:
• Hang on a pull-up bar or equivalent for 10 to 15 seconds.
• Hold a push-up position for 10 to 15 seconds.
• Get on the ground, face down, and stretch your hips, arching your head to ceiling to stretch abs.
• Raise hips to the sky and stretch your back (aka the downward dog pose in yoga).
• Do a slow squat and hold at bottom for 10 to 15 seconds.
• Do a burpee.
• Do a few jumping jacks.
• Do a pull-up, do a push-up, do a “dive-bomber push-up” (aka “chaturanga dandasana” in yoga), do a slow squat to the ground and up, do a burpee. End this cycle with five jumping jacks; repeat the cycle, now doing two repetitions of each exercise, each set followed by 10 jumping jacks; repeat the cycle, now doing three repetitions of each exercise, each set followed by 15 jumping jacks; repeat the cycle with this pattern until reaching five repetitions and 25 jumping jacks.
After warming up, consider doing very light movements of the exercises you’re about to do, for the purpose of loosening up while also working on muscle memory.