The Army is expected to make some final changes to how they’ll grade the new physical training (PT) test. Having been stuck with the same three-event PT test since 1980, the Army spent six years developing a new six-event test that better measures muscular strength, endurance, power, pliability, coordination, speed, agility, cardiovascular endurance, balance, and reaction time. This new PT test will be given to all soldiers, regardless of age or gender.
Starting this fall, soldiers will begin taking what is to be known as the new Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT), but they’ll have plenty of time to familiarize themselves with it, as the Army has stated they won’t begin using it as the standard until October 2020.
For the past eight months, the Army has been testing the new ACFT with Reserve and National Guard soldiers. They’re finishing compiling their data and are already coming out with some tweaks in the grading system.
In an interview with Military.com, Michael McGurk, the director of research for the Center for Initial Military Training, said the newest standards will be released this fall. He said the standards are right about where they need to be. “There will be some very minor adjustments,” he said. “We will look at where we set the initial levels and determine, based on the results of the field test, ‘Hey, did we aim too high, or too low, or about right?'”
“If I say, ‘Hey, look, it’s not 180, it is 185; it’s not 30 pushups, it is 27,’ it’s going to be minor changes, but I think they are all very close to where we need them,” McGurk added.
The new ACFT is made up of six events, five of which are new:
- Strength Deadlift – This is a three-repetition maximum deadlift to test muscular strength. It mimics movement to safety and effectively lifting and carrying heavy loads.
- Standing Power Throw – This event consists of throwing a 10-pound medicine ball as far as possible over the head and to the rear. It measures upper and lower body power, balance, and pliability.
- Hand-Raised Push-ups – This event forces the soldier to go all the way to the ground and raise their hands before coming back up again, measuring upper-body strength and endurance. By going all the way to the ground, this should simplify the age-old question of what qualifies as a legitimate push-up.
- 250-Meter Sprint, Drag and Carry – This compound event consists of five different events within the one event: a 50-meter sprint, a backward 50-meter drag of a 90-pound sled, a 50-meter movement, a 50-meter carry of two 40-pound kettlebells, and a final 50-meter sprint. It measures muscular strength, power, speed, and reaction time.
- Leg Tuck – A soldier hangs perpendicular to the pull-up bar and brings their knees up to their elbows and back down again for one repetition. It measures muscular strength, endurance, and grip.
- Two-Mile Run – The ACFT retains the same two-mile run that soldiers are already doing, which is designed to measure aerobic and muscular endurance.
The entire ACFT must be completed in 50 minutes. Soldiers are allowed two minutes of rest between events and five minutes between the last exercise and the two-mile run.
The Army posted the minimum standards for the three types of units: black for troops in “heavy” physically demanding units or jobs (read combat arms), gray for soldiers in “significant” physically demanding units or jobs, and gold for soldiers in “moderate” physically demanding units or jobs.
Author’s note: If you are aspiring to serve in a special operations unit, you can just ignore the following minimum standards and skip down to the maximum scores. If you’re not preparing to max these standards out, you’re preparing to fail.
Black: 70 points. 180 pounds on the strength deadlift; 8.5 meters for the power throw; 30 release push-ups; 2 minutes, 9 seconds for the sprint, drag and carry; 5 leg tucks; and 18 minutes for the two-mile run.
Gray: 65 points. 160 pounds on the strength deadlift; 6.5 meters for the power throw; 20 release push-ups; 2 minutes, 45 seconds for the sprint, drag and carry; 3 leg tucks; and 19 minutes for the two-mile run.
Gold: The Army minimum standard, for 60 points. 140 pounds for the strength deadlift; 4.6 meters for the power throw; 10 release push-ups; 3 minutes, 35 seconds for the sprint, drag and carry; 1 leg tuck; and 21 minutes, 7 seconds for the two-mile run.
Maximum score: To get 100 points on the ACFT, the proposed standard is
- 340 pounds for the strength deadlift
- 13.5 meters for the power throw
- 70 release push-ups
- one minute, 40 seconds for the sprint, drag, and carry
- 20 leg tucks
- 12 minutes, 45 seconds on the two-mile run
With the final adjustments on the standards for the new fitness test being released sometime in October, that will give unit commanders an entire year to get the troops and the test administrators ready to conduct it. As long as units have the required equipment, there should be no excuses for anyone not being prepared to take it.
We’d expect that many smart commanders of combat arms units and special operations forces are already preparing for this by incorporating different parts of the test in their own physical training now.
This will be the first new physical fitness test in 40 years for the Army, and it is about time for the change. It is long overdue and has made big strides in the better testing of physical fitness for soldiers.
One area that is bound to create some heartburn is the differing standards for the different type of units. However, as long as the maximum score doesn’t change, it shouldn’t become a major issue.
Featured image of a 50-meter drag event courtesy of U.S. Army