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Going Beyond the Simulation

During simulator training events, pilots will continue developing aeronautical decision making, single/crew-resource management skills, task management, and other aspects of airmanship. However, these simulator sorties are limited in scope as pilots will not necessarily develop their kinesthetic senses or physiological proficiency (G-tolerance, motion sickness, AGSM, spatial awareness, flying by the seat of the pants).


Many studies suggest that the best way to retain and improve G-tolerance is through G-exposure. Many pilots are not able to fly for extended periods of time as a result of training requirements or other operational limitations. The lack of airtime can make it difficult for pilots to retain or develop their physiological conditioning for flight. Since the AGSM is a powerful tool for preventing GLOC, pilots may want to understand how they can train the maneuver outside the flying environment and build a strong “mind-muscle” connection before advancing or returning to flight in the actual jet.


This article suggests relevant and evidence based static and dynamic training modalities, which (when performed correctly) improve the neuromuscular connections involved in effectively performing the AGSM.


The Air Force’s procedural execution of the AGSM calls for feet shoulder width apart, with alignment of the feet, knees, and hips. Before G-onset, the pilot will dig their heels into the ground and allow their pelvis to roll upwards as the glutes tighten. Abdominal muscles should contract and create an outward push against the G-suit bladder. This should be performed in conjunction with Positive Pressure Breathing. Common AGSM errors include failing to tense the lower body musculature with adequate intensity, and/or failing to maintain the lower body strain throughout the duration of the maneuver (for more on the procedure for properly executing the AGSM, please see your squadron flight surgeon). Having a strong glute contraction prevents blood from pooling in the lower extremities and pumps blood back towards the brain and the heart.


Understanding how to contract your glutes comes from specialized anaerobic training. Some fundamental exercises that train glute contraction include, glute bridges and donkey kicks. The glute bridge closely mimics the execution performed in the cockpit when the pilot squeezes their glutes against the harness. The donkey kick can be used as a tool to isolate the left or right glute and correct any pelvic imbalance.


Glute Bridge: Lie face up on the floor with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Keep arms at your side with palms down. Lift your hips off the ground and squeeze your glutes so that your knees, hips, and shoulders form a straight line. Hold for a few seconds before lowering your hips back down.


Donkey Kick: Start on the floor in a kneeling push-up position with arms shoulder-width apart. Lift your right leg until your hamstrings are in line with your back, contracting your glutes through the movement. Hold at the top for a few seconds before returning to the starting position. Alternate legs.


Training the mind-muscle connection for abdominal contraction is discussed at length in our post: “Abdominal Bracing: What Is It and Why Should We Do It?” Besides providing spinal protection, outward abdominal contraction prevents the G-suit from forcing air out of the lungs during rapid onset Gs. Please reference this post for specific exercises on increasing intra-abdominal pressure.


Consistent and deliberate practice of the AGSM at the gym or in the simulator will transfer directly to the flying environment. Incorporating static and dynamic AGSM training during the simulator blocks of pilot training will develop a student pilot’s instinctive behavior, or retain an experienced pilot’s proficiency. As pilots learn or practice scaling the strength and duration of their AGSM to the resultant load factor, they will avoid overly aggressive or inadequate strains. Effectively scaling physical exertion during the AGSM directly benefits fatigue management and reduces the likelihood of human-error in the cockpit.


Without exercises to simulate the physiological stressors of a dynamic flight environment, pilots will miss out on excellent opportunities to develop instinctual and habitual mind-muscle connections needed to effectively perform the AGSM. A pilot that incorporates these exercises during simulator or non-flying training events will prepare their mind and body for the conditions in the actual jet; as they transition to flight, their AGSM proficiency will improve or remain at a high-level.


Developing modalities to train the mind and body for the dynamic flight environment, regardless of the limitations or constraints, is our team’s mission. For additional exercises, or to learn more about how Grind to Fly is helping pilots achieve peak performance, please contact our team at www.grindtofly.com/contact.


Video Demonstrations of Exercises:

  1. Glute Bridge- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YRqoIM0u0PY

  2. Donkey Kick- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rfEXOQfl60g

Sources:

  1. https://static.e-publishing.af.mil/production/1/af_a3_5/publication/afpam11-419/afpam11-419.pdf

  2. Garcia S, To B, Riley T. 23d Fighter Group Pre-Flight Manual for Human Performance. 2021.


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