Every member of the United States Army is expected to be physically fit and combat ready regardless of age, grade or duty assignment. Regular weekly physical training is required of service members, and many of them exceed this training with additional workouts on their own time. The Army physical fitness test is used to assess physical fitness. The following information can help you better understand the test and how to prepare for it.
The Army physical fitness test is given to evaluate the strength and endurance of the upper, middle and lower sections of the body, as well as the cardiovascular system.
The Army physical fitness test is an important tool in determining the physical readiness of individual soldiers. Army active service members take the test at least twice a year. Reserve service members take the test at least once each calendar year.
Pregnant service members are medically excused from taking the Army physical fitness test, but must pass the test within six months of returning to full duty. Service members over age sixty and those prohibited by medical profiles may be exempted from the test. Service members over age fifty-five and with certain medical profiles may participate in alternative events for the test, including swimming, biking or walking.
Army physical fitness test requirements
Here is information about the specific test requirements for both men and women:
• Push-ups - During this test event, service members perform as many correct push-ups as possible during a two-minute period. The push-up event measures the endurance of the chest, shoulder and triceps muscles.
• Sit-ups - The object of this event is to perform as many accurate sit-ups as possible in a two-minute time period. This measures the endurance of the abdominal and hip-flexor muscles.
• Two-mile run - This event tests your aerobic and leg-muscle endurance. During this event, service members perform a two-mile run in the shortest time possible. The run has a minimum acceptable performance requirement based on the service member's gender and age.
Here are some ways to help prepare your body for the Army physical fitness test:
• Be well prepared with a physical fitness program and training plan. About six to eight weeks before the test, it is a good idea to have a specific training plan in place. Try keeping written records as you train for each event, marking your progress and taking note of areas in which you need improvement. Develop a contingency plan for temporary duty or other interruptions of your program.
• Train with a buddy. For support and encouragement, train with a friend who's at your approximate training level. It's a good idea to evaluate each other on the test events and help each other perform the events correctly. If you and your buddy have different strengths and weaknesses, you can use that as a way to encourage one another.
• Pre-test yourself. To see exactly where you stand on the test, try pre-testing yourself once a week. Time yourself on the push-ups, sit-ups, and run. Use these results to work on improving your score.
• Maintain a proper diet and healthy lifestyle. Staying fit enough to pass the test comes down to two simple rules: eat better and exercise more. Try to cut down on fast food, drink more water and get enough sleep.
• Train and test in the same way. Test day is not the day to try a new energy bar or protein drink or to wear a new pair of shoes. Find out ahead of time which foods, shoes and stretches work best for you and use them on test day.
These tips can help you prepare for test day:
• Relax up to two days before the test. Tired, sore muscles will do nothing to improve your score, and just two days of intense exercise won't make your score better either. In addition, the older you are, the more time your muscles will need to relax before the test. If you're over forty, try giving your body four or five days of relaxation before the test.
• Choose meals wisely. The night before the test, you can benefit from drinking water and eating fruits, vegetables and lean proteins. Runners also prefer the carbohydrate-boosting energy of pasta the night before a race. On the day of your test, it's a good idea to eat just one light meal before the stopwatch starts. This could consist of a half bagel with light cream cheese or a piece of whole-wheat toast with peanut butter. In addition, apples, bananas or carrots can boost your blood sugar for immediate energy. It's especially important to avoid overeating before the test so you don't feel sluggish.
• Wear proper clothing. Wear clothing for the test that is appropriate for physical training, such as a t-shirt, shorts and running shoes. No other shoes are permitted.
• Get adequate hydration. Generally, it's a good idea to drink two to three cups of water approximately two to three hours before exercise, and then drink another cup immediately before you start exercising. During breaks in the test, drink small amounts of water slowly to replenish fluids lost during sweating. During the first two hours following exercise or the test, try to drink another two to three cups of water.
• Always warm up and cool down. The warm-up should include a lighter version of your exercise activity, such as jogging before running. The cool down process allows your heart rate and breathing to return to their resting rates.
The Army physical fitness test scoring system requires that a service member's raw score for each event be converted into a point score. Using point scores allows commanders to interpret an individual's fitness level, as well as his or her unit's fitness level as a whole. Commanders can also see where individuals and entire units need further fitness training.
Army special physical training programs
Soldiers who fail a record Army physical fitness test for the first time or fail to take the test within the required period will be flagged according to Army Regulation 600-8-2. The commander is responsible for establishing special physical training programs for soldiers who fail to meet test standards. Following test failure, commanders may allow individuals to retest as soon as the soldier is ready.
Army remedial programs are wellness programs that are not punitive, but instead designed to provide challenging conditioning sessions intended to improve a service member's overall health and fitness.
Army Weight Control Program
The Army Weight Control Program (Army Regulation 600-9) is designed to establish healthy eating and exercise habits. Its goal is to make all participants capable of performing their duties in combat conditions. Service members who have either excess body-fat indexes or fail the Army physical fitness test could be placed in the program. The nutritional element of the program focuses on proper eating habits, supplement use, menu planning and behavior modification.
Possible administrative actions
Initial administrative actions can include mandatory participation in special physical training programs or the Army Weight Control Program. Initial actions can also include promotion ineligibility and denial of re-enlistment, entrance to special schools and promotion recommendation.
Any service member without a medical profile who repeatedly fails the Army physical fitness test can be prevented from re-enlisting in the service or can be eligible for administrative separation from the Army.