The Army Pistol Teams Daily Dozen Workout By: Travis Pike

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I like to stumble around old Army and Marine Corps publications and field manuals. Some contain a lot of interesting information that helps put the training, technology, and threat matrix of the past into perspective. I found the Army’s Pistol Team Training Guide from the 1970s, and it was full of interesting information from the era. Toward the back, there is an entire section dedicated to physical health as a shooter, including The Pistol Team Daily Dozen Exercises.

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According to the introduction, the Pistol Team Daily Dozen Exercises were developed to target the muscles used in shooting a pistol. If you are familiar with the Daily Dozen workout concept, you can skip ahead. If not, let me break it down. The Daily Dozen is a calisthenic workout developed by Walter Camp and put in use during World War 2 with the military. 

This is not a break-your-body workout. It’s supposed to be somewhat easy and refreshing, with an emphasis on movement. You do 10 reps of each movement once a day. It can be done in about 15 minutes. The Army Pistol Team Dail Dozen Exercises are different than the original Daily Dozen. 

Army pistol team shooting

The Pistol Team Daily Dozen — Forgotten Exercises 

Sadly the manual doesn’t have any form of illustrations to show some of these exercises, and the descriptions were written by someone under the influence of something. Most of the names have minimal results in Google to illustrate some of the bizarrely described exercises. I had very little luck. I grabbed Field Manual 21-20. In fact, I grabbed copies on Arhcive.org from 1941 to the 1990s and couldn’t find most of these exercises. 

When I could, the exercises were often much different than what was described. The manual states you should really limit alcohol consumption, and the writer of the manual should have taken that advice before describing these exercises. I plan to copy them verbatim for your enjoyment. 

With that in mind, I did find it interesting to see which muscles were focused on. It’s more or less a full-body workout or stretch session that is supposed to help you become a better shooter. Also, keep in mind this wasn’t action shooting. While the manual encourages good health and running, they weren’t sprinting between targets or driving the gun from one target to another repeatedly. 

Out of curiosity, I still gave it a go. I’m debating whether or not to post pictures of me doing it because they are just embarrassing, but anyway, here are the exercises as written. I’ll also describe the exercises based on how I did them and how other sources, including FM 21-20, describe them. 

The Count System

If you’ve never been in the military, you might not be familiar with the count system. A lot of these exercises are described as X-Count Exercises. For example, a push-up is a four-count exercise. These counts are used by a unit leader to keep everyone moving at the same speed and at the same time. 

Consider the count as counting the positions assumed during the exercise. Sometimes you’ll recover to count one, other times to two, etc. 

The Pistol Team Daily Dozen 

So we are clear, these are copied and pasted from the manual, and I’ll add any necessary commentary underneath the exercise. 

Warm Up

A four-count exercise done in moderate cadence. This exercise is designed to get you ready for the forthcoming exercises. Starting position is standing with feet spread approximately 12 inches apart, hands extended overhead. 

At the count of one, bend at the waist and knees, reach down between the legs, and place hands on ground. On the count of two, straighten body up, extending the hands over the head; at the count of three, perform same as number one; at the count of four, repeat number two.

My Take: This is fairly simple and understandable. It feels nice when you’ve been sitting all day. 

Cat Stretch

The starting position is a modified leaning rest, the buttocks being higher. This is a four count exercise. Count of 1 is upward, pushing the buttocks higher. Count of 2, back to starting position. The count of 3 upward, and on the count of 4, back to the starting position. This exercise uses the back and shoulder muscles.

My Take: This is not the Yoga version of the cat stretch. Front leaning rest is the up position in a pushup. Start there and follow the exercise as instructed. It’s a more or less downward and upward dog without going lower than the forward-leaning rest position. 

Body Twister

The starting position is standing with arms extended parallel with ground, feet spread approximately twelve inches apart. This is a four count exercise. At the count of one, swing the arms to the right, keep the shoulders and arms rigid so the twisting movement is from the waist. On the count of two, swing to the right and front. At count of three, repeat count one to the left. At count of four, face to front. This uses the muscles along the sides and back of the trunk of the body.

body twist exercise
Twist it out!

My Take: It’s self-explanatory, except for count two. Swing to the right and front? What does that mean? Well, I take it as a misprint, and it means a return to the front, much like count four. 

Push-Up

The starting position is standing. This is a four count exercise. At the count of one, squat with hands on ground; count two, extend legs. Count three, cause the body to move downward; keep the body straight at all times. At the count of four recover to the raised position. Continue counts three and four as desired. End exercise by recovering to standing position. This uses the arms and shoulder muscles.

My Take: It’s just a push-up. 

Back Bender

The starting position is standing with the feet spread twelve inches apart, hands on back of neck. On the count of one, bend back at the waist. On the count of two, recover. Count of three, bend backward at the waist; count of four, recover. This uses the back and stomach muscles.

back bender exercise
This just feels nice.

My Take: This feels great…right? 

Hip and Leg Spreader

The starting position is with the hands and toes on the ground. This is a four count exercise. At the count of one bend the elbows and touch the chin to the ground at the same time extending the left leg back and up. Count two, recover. The counts of three and four are repetitions using the right leg. This uses the arm and leg muscles.

one legged pushup
I guess this one might be a one legged pushup.

My Take: Uhm, well, this one is tricky, and I’m not sure if I’m doing it right. The starting position is what exactly? It sounds like a push-up position, but they don’t call it a front-leaning rest position. If I had a better idea of what the starting position is, I could better figure this one out. It sounds like a push-up with a leg fit, but it’s being described by a drunk person. 

Shoulder Exerciser

Starting position is standing with the feet spread and hands and arms at the sides. This is a four count exercise. At the count of one, extend the arms sideward, parallel to the ground. Count of two, rotate arms. Count of three, touch shoulder with hands. Count of four, recover. This exercise is to be done with dumbbells if available. This uses the muscles of the arm and the shoulder muscles. 

Shoulder exercise
Now push it out.

My Take: At count one, your palms are down, count two, you rotate the palms up, then bend at the elbow towards your shoulders, then repeat. 

Abdominal Kick

The starting position is lying flat with the arms extended to the side; at the count of one, raise your body with the weight on the buttocks and hands, legs straight together, about 15 degrees off the ground. At the count of two raise the legs toward the chest. Count of three, extend the legs outward, keeping the feet off the ground. Count of four, recover to starting position. This uses the stomach and leg muscles. 

My Take: This is a simple ab kick outward. The writer must have sobered up a bit. 

Side Bender

The starting position is standing with the feet together, arms at sides. At count of one, extend arms overhead, shift weight to bended left leg. On the count of two, bend at the waist to the side, count of three, recover to count one. Count of four, recover to starting position. Count 5, 6, 7, and 8 are a repetition, only bend to right. This uses the muscles along the sides of the body.

My Take: Still sober, still easy to follow, and it feels good, at least to me. 

Body Kick

The starting position is flat on the back, arms behind head. At the count of one raise the body at the waist. Count two, resume flat position. At the count of three raise body and lift the right leg upward. Count of four, drop the right leg and lift the left leg. Count of five, drop left leg and lift right leg. Count of six, resume flat position. This uses the stomach and leg muscles.

My Take: This is an ultra-complicated way to do flutter kicks. I’m not sure why count one has you lift the legs and body just to resume a flat position on count two. Anyway, it’s flutter kicks. Not hard to describe. 

Triceps Exerciser

The starting position is standing, arms at sides. At count of one, bend forward at the waist, arms hanging down. Count of two, raise arms parallel with the body. At the count of three, extend the arms to the left foot. Count of four, recover to count two. Count of five, extend the arms to the right foot. Count of six, recover to starting position. This exercise is to be done with dumbbells if available. This uses the triceps muscles.

Tricep kickback
I guess this might be a tricep kickback. (Adresator)

My Take: Oh no, he’s drinking again! What am I even doing here? Is this a windmill-like move? I’ve tried this with my arms out to the side and out to the front and can’t figure out how this is supposed to work my triceps. 

With the mention of dumbbells being used, the closest I could think of is to use a tricep kickback-like move. However, that begs the question, why am I extending to my left and right feet? This exercise has zero results online or in FM 21-20. Just do tricep kickbacks, I guess 

Leg Spreader

The starting position is lying flat for count one. At the count of two, throw the legs back over the head, legs spread; extend the arms parallel with the ground. At the count of three, recover and reach for ankles. At count of four, resume lying flat. Count of five, spread legs and arms. Count of six, recover to count one. This uses the leg and stomach muscles.

My Take: Oh, he’s certainly drunk. I found plenty of results for the leg spreader, including in FM 21-20. None of them include throwing your legs over your head with the legs spread….A leg spreader, according to the Army, is done like so: 

Lie on your back. Lift your legs off the ground, spread them open, then close them, repeat. It works the abs. 

There We Have It 

There, you now know the Army Pistol Team Daily Dozen. Or maybe we know like eight of the twelve, really. It’s interesting, but I don’t think it’s effective. It’s certainly a neat idea to develop a workout based around shooting, but this seems to be put together by a team that didn’t want to do real PT, so they made this up. What do I know? 

Let us know what you think!