Army's Big PT Test Changes
For the first time in more than 20 years, the Army is gearing up to change its fitness test for every Soldier. Gone is the simple pushup, sit up, and run routine, and in its place comes a battery of sprints, jumps and rows.
And the service is also introducing a grueling series of slalom runs, balance beam walks, casualty drags, and ammo carries it calls the Army Combat Readiness Test -- a totally new evaluation that simulates the kind of body crush Joes experience on deployment.
"The key difference is between 'readiness' and fitness," said Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling, the Army's deputy commanding general for initial training. "It's one thing to be fit
it's quite another thing to be ready for the things we are being asked to do. And in our case, it's becoming a 'tactical athlete.' "
For the next six months, the Army will be administering the new Army Physical Readiness Test and the ACRT to almost 10,000 Soldiers at nearly 10 Army commands, including Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.; Fort Benning, Ga., and Fort Sill, Okla. Soldiers there will help Army fitness experts determine how best to structure the tests and how often to do them.
Army officials are also looking into how to grade the new tests, with a simple "excellent," "good" or "poor" potentially replacing a pass-fail or a point score.
The Army hopes to have both tests in place servicewide by the fall.
The new assessments are intended to essentially force a Soldier into actually staying fit rather than just getting in shape for the test day. Now with a timed minute of "rowers" (a hybrid crunch that uses a combination of arm and leg motion), best of three standing long jumps, and a 60-yard combination of wind sprints, Soldiers will have to demonstrate they're ready for the long haul.
"The current [test] is a snapshot in time of the physical readiness of a Soldier," said Frank Palkoska, the Army's top fitness instructor. "The same is true for this new test but
if you're training to the [Army] standard, then the assessment will be the easiest training day you have."
As if that wasn't enough, the new Combat Readiness Test takes the stress up a level, forcing Soldiers through a barrage of obstacles that show commanders whether the trooper can perform in the heat of battle. It isn't exactly the "O Course," but it's close.
Soldiers will be required to hurdle over gates, negotiate barricades, drag a casualty, balance with weighted ammo cans, maneuver through a simulated shooting course, do 100 yards of wind sprints and weave through a slalom course.
And it's all timed.
"We need to establish physical training and physical readiness testing the way we do fighting," Hertling said. "When you're training for combat, you're training for the test."
Army fitness gurus argue the new PRT and CRT -- and the training program that prepares Soldiers for them -- will actually help reduce injuries such as stress fractures and neck strains. Hertling said that since the new fitness program was launched in July, the service has only had a handful of injuries related to workouts.
So switch out those dumbbells for ammo cans, and think tractor tires rather than leg curls -- it's time to start working out like a Spartan, not a gym rat.
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