The Army Combat Fitness Test: Everything A Soldier Needs to Know

The United States Army introduced its current Physical Fitness Test (PFT) in 1980. The Army requires Soldiers to pass the PFT to graduate boot camp. This simple fitness test consists of two minutes of push-ups, two minutes of sit-ups, and a two-mile timed run.

PFT scoring adjusts for age and gender. Army officials tend to view Soldiers who meet but do not exceed the basic standards as poor performers. Baseline requirements become more difficult for Soldiers who move on to Advance Infantry Training. Soldiers who continue with military service are expected to pass the PFT test twice a year.

In 2020, The Army will introduce a brand new combat readiness physical test for Soldiers. The test comes after six years of research on improving Soldier combat readiness. Outside of Army ranks and military blogs, few people are aware of this momentous change to U.S. Army fitness standards.

The Army Combat Fitness Test Is Coming

No later than October 2020, The U.S. Army will require all Soldiers to complete the new, six-event Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT). The ACFT has been designed to resemble common combat tasks and to build a fitness regimen that supports such field activities.

Research by The Army indicates that this more specific physical testing will help focus the fitness training of Soldiers. This will lead to a lower rate of occupational injuries. Soldiers will now be training for athletic routines more aligned with the physical demands of their work.

“The Army Combat Fitness Test will ignite a generational, cultural change in Army fitness and become a cornerstone of individual Soldier combat readiness. It will reduce attrition and it will reduce musculoskeletal injuries and actually save, in the long run, the Army a heck of a lot of money.”

Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel A. Dailey

The Army Combat Fitness Test is designed to be gender- and age-neutral. Specific scoring requirements have yet to be revealed. The test will provide a more comprehensive assessment of Soldier physical readiness for combat readiness.

With such a major change comes apprehension. Ranks of current Soldiers are already practice-testing the new Army Combat Fitness Test. Present and future Soldiers are naturally curious about the new testing components.

The Six Tests of the Army Combat Fitness Test

The six tests of the ACFT are completed in precise order by each Soldier (in the graphic below from left to right across one row, followed by row two). The entire physical fitness test should take less than an hour to complete.

The six-element ACFT is completed in order, from left to right, upper row followed by lower row.

3 REPeTITION MAXIMUM DEADLIFT (MDL)

Soldiers will perform a deadlift of a weight in their pre-established target range. Soldiers will be given up to three attempts to lift the weight from the ground into a standing and stable hold. Soldiers can request additional weight be added with each successful attempts to maximize their score.

Deadlifts require proper form and practice, both to maximize performance
and to avoid injuries especially to the back if lifted improperly
.

The Deadlift is intended to mimic the combat soldier lifting a wounded fellow Soldier from the battlefield. The Deadlift also mimics the physical exertion required by moving heavy boxes of ammunition or other combat equipment.

Standing Power Throw (SPT)

Soldiers hurl a ten-pound ball up over their heads and behind their bodies to a maximum distance. This two-handed toss measures the Soldier’s raw throwing power in a typical field situation.

The lane markers indicate the area in which a ball should land.
Army scorers will mark and measure the throw.

Combat terrain is often uneven in surface or littered with man-made obstacles. The test approximates the ability of a Soldier to lift themselves and their fellow Soldiers up and over obstacles in combat.

HAND-RELEASE PUSH-UP (HRP)

To perform a hand-release push-up, the Soldier completely lowers their body until resting on the ground and lifts their hands clearly in the air. In this exercise you focus entirely on the “push” in push-up.

Such pushups have become common in modern CrossFit competitions as they take the subjectivity out of a complete traditional pushup count. In addition, hand-release pushups negate the ability to “spring” up and down at rapid speed during testing. As a result of the hand lifting gesture with each repetition, HRP’s do require some measure of posterior or back muscle groups.

The hand-release push-up is a different beast from traditional push-ups.
It’s highly recommended you practice this element even if you’re solid at traditional push-ups.

Hand-release pushups measure full-range of “pushup motion”, even if the traditional “constant arm and shoulder tension” of traditional pushups is removed. They may require less total strength each, but they are counted accurately and require additional muscle sets.

Sprint-Drag-Carry (SDC)

Each Soldier will sprint five laps of a 25-meter lane. The first lap is an unencumbered sprint. The second lap is performed while dragging a 90-pound weighted sled. The third lap is a lateral shuffle step, one segment to the right and one segment back to the left. The fourth lap is performed toting a 40-pound kettle bell in each hand. The fifth and final lap is another unencumbered sprint.

The Sprint-Drag-Carry element combines speed, strength, and endurance
across 250 meters of total distance.

This combination of speed and carry-strength tests the Soldier’s ability to drag a disabled fellow Soldier to safety. It also tests a Soldier’s ability to carry heavy supplies or equipment across a short terrain in a combat situation.

Leg Tuck (LTK)

This core muscle test requires the Soldier to lift their knees (or thighs) to their elbows while hanging from a bar. Soldiers hold the bar with an alternating left-right grip. The core strength required to perform such a routine is estimated to be twice that of a normal sit-up.

The Leg Tuck is the type of element that becomes far more difficult when
performed with correct precision, without bouncing, jerking or shimmying.

The test evaluates a Soldier’s general core strength and conditioning. Core strength is applicable to a great number of physical tasks on the field of combat. Examples include rope or wall climbing where rigorous abdominal and back muscle strength is tested.

Two-Mile Run (2MR)

The Two Mile Run is the sole surviving element from the current Physical Fitness Test. Soldiers are timed in a two-mile, level-ground run. New timing standards are more lenient than the former PFT standards, as the run now comes after the conclusion of five other challenging tests.

Soldiers are compelled to complete a rest period after
the Leg Tuck element, prior to the 2-Mile Run

This final event measures the general cardio endurance of the Soldier after approximately 45-50 minutes of Army Combat Fitness Testing. The best training for the 2MR is simple but intense cardio workouts.

How Army Combat Fitness Training Applies To Soldier and Civilian

Current and future Soldiers will want to prepare mentally and physically for the changes coming to the Army’s combat fitness requirements. While the ACFT measures general strength and conditioning, each individual test has specific preferred training routines.

Prospective test takers should practice each element to understand the muscle groups and body motions specific to each one. General conditioning will help scores across the board, as this nearly one-hour test is far more aerobically challenging than its predecessor.

Training for the ACFT is similar to training for the ten-event, single day competition put on by The D10. While overall fitness is required, each single event can be practiced and trained for to learn proper technique and maximize scores.

Aspiring Soldiers should already be incorporating the ACFT into their training regimen. The six-element test makes for a relevant and focused general strength and conditioning structure.

If you’re an Army veteran, can you measure up to the physical standards? If you’re a civilian, are you up to American Soldier standards in your own workouts and training? If you’re a high school student considering enlistment — are you preparing yourself for this physical fitness test? You ought be.

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