Every week there are several young people seeking my advice as to how to prepare for the country's service academies fitness assessments.
The most common fitness test used is one you can find in a majority of the military branches and most law enforcement departments. The Standard Physical Fitness Test (PFT) is pushups, situps, sit and reach, and 1.5 mile run.Here is just a few of the groups who use this test as not only an entrance test to be hired but also a maintenance test performed every six months in order to remain employed:
Navy - Pushups 2:00, Situps, 2:00, 1.5 mile run
Air Force - Pushups 1:00, Situps 1:00, 1.5 mile run
Army - Pushups 2:00, Situps 1:00, 2 mile run (add .5 miles = same way to train)
Coast Guard - Pushups 1:00, Situps 1:00, 1.5 mile run
Many Law Enforcement Agencies use this test as well for an fitness assessment entrance exam such as Maryland State Police, Delaware, New Jersey, West Virgina, New York, Alaska, Iowa, North Dakota, Utah, New Mexico, Maine, Montana, Alabama and other federal, state, and local police departments.
The PFT Bible: Physical Fitness Test Exercises (Tips and Sample Workouts):
a) Pace, breathing, arm swing, stride - Learn to regular your breathing by timing INHALES for 2-3 steps and EXHALES for 2-3 steps in a regular breathing rhythm to keep heart rate lower and running potential faster in the last 1/4 mile.
b) Arm swing and stride - arms should be slightly bent but relaxed and swing in a straight line not crossing your body. Stride and foot strike should be efficient enough so you are not running on your toes or too wide where you land on your heels. Foot strike should be closer to the balls of the feet but not flat footed.
c) Injury prevention / stretch properly - Warmup well and stretch by jogging or jumping jacks and a few squats.
Learn how to pace your 1.5 mile run by breaking the run down into 1/4 and 1/2 mile interval workouts like this:
Repeat 6-8 times
- Run 1/4 mile at goal pace (ie if your goal is to run a 10:30 1.5 mile run then your 1/4 mile should be at 1:45 each lap of the quarter mile.
- Rest with 100m walk
- Add in squats or lunges to build endurance in legs as well as jumping skills.
Check out Take 2:00 Off Your PFT Mile
Sit and reach
Not many people fail this test. Basically, it is a toe touch test. If you can sit on the floor with your knees straight in front of you and touch your toes - you pass. However a few people do not pass this one. It does require to add a stretching routine into your life daily to help pass this test. A good stretching plan can only take 5-10 minutes of your life and can be split up through the day even. If you hamstrings and lower back are somewhat flexible you can pass this test. See lower back plan for more ideas on properly stretching your legs, hips, and lower back.
The pushup is the most commonly used exercise in military, law enforcement, and fire fighter training programs. Learning how to ace a fitness test is required for most groups BUT being able to do multiple sets of countless pushups is usually required in most indoctrination training programs (Boot Camps, Basic Training, Military and Law Enforcement and Fire Fighting Academies). Here are some tips for the exercise that has been around for 1000's of years.
a) Proper hand placement - Keep hands just greater than shoulder width apart and placed lower than your shoulders as if you were doing a bench press. This will place an equal amount of force on the chest, shoulders and triceps.
b) Up / Down movement - Pushups in this test is a 1 minute sprint. Building your endurance to do non-stop pushups for one minute is not as difficult as it may first appear. To score your best, you should focus on doing pushups as fast as you can, however exert on the UP motion and relax your arms when coming DOWN. Let gravity take you down.
The workouts used to build a foundation for your pushup scores by using super set or pyramid workouts like the ones below:
Sample Super Set
Repeat 5-10 times
Pushups - 10
Situps - 10-20 on pace with goal 1 minute test
Pushups Pyramid - do 1 pushup and build up to 25 pushups and back down to 1 in as little time as possible. If you need to, "rest" by doing a timed set of situps of 15-30 situps.
This exercise requires some stomach and lower back strength as well as hip flexor / psoas strength and flexibility. For some ideas to stretch / build lower back areas check out the Lower Back Plan.
a) This is a pacing exercise as with running. If your goal is 50-60 in 1 minute, you have to build up to withstand a pace of up to 1 situp per second for 60 seconds.
b) Touch elbows to knees / shoulders to floor - This is a full repetition for the situp and the best way to master this is to exert on the UP movement and relax on DOWN and let gravity take you to the floor. Just as with the pushup test. c)Paced Sets - Focus on learning the pace to reach your goal. If you goal is 50 situps in 1 minute, then get 25 in 30 seconds, 12-13 in 15 seconds and develop your situp workouts with timed sets throughout your workout.
Once you are in the military, you will have an option to either run or swim the PFT in the Navy or Coast Guard. A 500m swim or a 12 minute swim is a tough event IF you are not an efficient swimmer. This is one of those tests that may require some special training from someone who knows how to swim well. Another way to learn is to watch a swim team practice freestyle / crawl stroke. Otherwise, build up your swimming endurance and speed by swimming for 12 minute intervals.
For best results see The PFT Bible Handbook.
Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. If you are interested in starting a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle - check out the Military.com Fitness eBook store and the Stew Smith article archive at Military.com. To contact Stew with your comments and questions, e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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