New Pushup Technique Makes Things Easier, Not Harder to Grade

A story that was posted on Military.com yesterday was intriguing as it will no doubt, affect many soldiers in the Army, but especially those attempting to go thru Selection in the Army’s Special Forces Assessment and Selection (SFAS) or Ranger Selection and Assessment (RASP). Beginning in 2020, the Army is going to change the Army PT Test from the 3-Event (Pushups, situps, 2-mile run) to the Combat Fitness Test where there will be six events (Strength deadlift, Standing Power Throw, Hand-release pushup, Sprint-drag carry, Leg Tuck, 2-mile run).

  • Strength deadlift: Soldiers will perform three repetitions of deadlift at the heaviest weight they are capable of between 120 and 420 pounds. The deadlift replicates picking up heavy equipment or a wounded comrade in combat.
  • Standing power throw: Soldiers will throw a 10-pound medicine ball backward as far as they can. The exercise tests muscular explosive power, replicating aiding a fellow soldier over an obstacle or moving rapidly across uneven terrain.
  • Hand-release push-up: Soldiers will perform as many hand-release push-ups as possible in two minutes. In a hand-release push-up, soldiers lift their hands and arms from the ground at the bottom of the push-up.
  • Sprint, drag, carry: Soldiers will twice sprint up and down a 25-meter lane, drag a 90-pound sled up and down the lane, and carry two 40-pound kettlebell weights up and down the lane. The exercises are meant to simulate pulling a soldier to safety, moving quickly to cover or carrying gear.
  • Leg tuck: Hanging from a pull-up bar, soldiers will lift their legs up and down touching their knees or thighs to their elbows as many times as possible during two minutes. The exercise strengthens core muscles, requiring more strength than traditional sit-ups
  • Two-mile run: Soldiers will complete the test with a two-mile run, as they must in the APFT. However, soldiers will have only five minutes of rest between the leg tuck and the run.

The piece yesterday stated that a cadre of mobile training teams is visiting 60 battalions of the National Guard and Reserve forces to ensure that the correct techniques for grading the new Combat Fitness Test are being taught. It also mentioned that one of the changes that are being tweaked on the test is the hand placement for the push-up event.

According to Whitfield East, the research physiologist for Center for Initial Military Training, the new method of conducting and grading pushups will be easier to grade.

“During the field test, we are refining the hand-release pushup,” East said, explaining that event will either have soldiers raise their hands straight up off the ground before coming back up or extend their hands out to the sides and bring them back in again before coming up again.

The arm-extension version may be easier to grade, East said.

“More or less, the point of it is to ensure that they are totally resting on the ground. We don’t want them in a low hover over the ground,” East said.

The arm-extension also “engages a little bit of the … muscles in the back,” East said, adding that “it is good to link movements together, so a pull-type movement and a push-type movement.”

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While the Army is saying that the new hand release pushups will increase the force on the body to lift the soldier by around 25 percent, it should be a welcome bit of news for Special Operations Forces candidates. Why? Because it now takes all of the worry and guesswork out of grading pushups.

How many troops have been to Basic Training, SFAS, SFQC, RASP, RIP or Ranger School et al, and have lamented about the grader who wasn’t counting their pushups? We’ve all fallen into that realm at one time or another. And as we have frequently written here, “pay strict attention to form in doing pushups.” The cadre of any Special Operations course will grade these very hard. Well thanks to the new way that the Army is grading these, it will quickly become the way that sit-ups (which will be dropped from the new Combat Fitness Test), are graded now. Either you’re doing them right or not at all. There will no longer be a gray area in what constitutes, or doesn’t… a pushup.

While the new pushups will be a bit harder to do, it is simply a need for all the soldiers to learn the new technique. Like anything else, it will require practice and plenty of it since it will be working different muscles in the shoulder and back region and the new exercise will work those muscles harder than the traditional pushup.

However, in the near future, there will no longer be the worry for the SOF candidate that the grader is being unfair, this new technique removes all of that. Whether the Army goes with the technique that only requires the soldier to raise his hands off the ground or extend them out, it will ultimately be strictly an exercise that a candidate can do or not. Just like the pull-ups that most SOF units are conducting now. In RASP, the Ranger cadre test for the candidates to perform a minimum of six pull-ups from a dead hang. Either you do them or not.

My personal trainer has long been a believer in the hand release pushup and we frequently use it in our workouts. Truth be told it is a bit more difficult as once your chest hits the ground you lose the momentum that we’re so used to having when conducting pushups. And by being flat on the ground or floor on your chest, the movement of your arms out to your sides and the force of pushing up from the floor is slightly more difficult.

Is it 25 percent more as the Army has stated? I don’t really buy that. In fact, I find doing the pushups that we more frequently use, the pushups using either a set of dumbbells or the handles of a machine that forces you to go deeper than a normal pushup, some people use boxes, as much more difficult.

Regardless, this new development, like anything else will require some more practice, but in the end will be a less worrisome exercise for SOF candidates, since the “human element” (read that as a cadre member that is looking to fail someone), will be removed from the equation.

That is good news, carry on… now go “elevate your feet and do pushups!”

Photos: Army.mil