How to Pass The Service Academy CFA

by Stew Smith

The Service Academy CFA - Candidate Fitness Assessment

Every week there are several young people seeking my advice as to how to prepare for the country's service academies fitness assessments. The CFA - or Candidate Fitness Assessment - is a test that not only evaluates strength and endurance, but also measures potential for athleticism. The history behind the CFA is decades old; it actually used to be called the PAE (Physical Aptitude Exam). The major difference between this fitness test and other PRTs in the military is the use of the shuttle run and the kneeling basketball throw. This article will assist Naval Academy, Air Force Academy and Military Academy (West Point) candidates with this universal fitness exam.

The fitness test is a 40 minute exam that requires the candidates to perform a list of exercises in order, and in accordance to strict time regulations.

In summary, the test is the following:

1) Kneeling Basketball Throw
2) Cadence Pull-Ups
3) 120 ft. Shuttle Run
4) Crunches 1:00
5) Push-Ups 1:00
6) 1-Mile Run

See the USNA link for more specific information on the CFA.

Helpful Tips for the CFA

Basketball Throw

Practice throwing the ball from your knees at a 45 degree angle using your entire torso and arm. By using a twisting motion of your torso you will be able to generate more throwing power than if you just threw with your arm. Exercises to assist with this test:

- Lightweight Shoulder Workout
- Pull-ups
- Abdominal Exercises
- Lower Back Exercises
- Upper Back Exercises

Cadence Pull-ups

The best way to get better at pull-ups, or flexed arm hang, is simply to practice pullups/ FAH. However, the following exercises will assist:

- Pull-ups
- Negative Pull-ups
- Pull-downs
- Assisted Pull-ups
- Bicep Curls

120 ft Shuttle Run

The shuttle run is a full out sprint that requires you to stop and change direction as fast as you can. To get better at this agility drill, practice the shuttle run turn-around as well as the following exercises for speed and strength:

- Run and Leg PT
- Squats
- Lunges
- Leg Exercises on Weight Machines
- Sprints

Pushups

The pushup is a military standard. You should be able to do pushups continuously without much effort. The best way to be able to increase this upper body exercise is to do pushups 3-4 times a week. I have a quick way to add significant numbers in a short period of time - read the "Push-up Push Workout" article. 

Exercises to assist with pushups are the following:

- Pushups
- Bench Press - High Reps - Light Weight
- Light Weight Shoulder Workout
- Triceps Extensions
- Dips or Bench Dips

Crunches in 1:00

You should get to the point where you can perform 1:00 of crunches at a fast pace for the entire minute. When you have to do 2:00 worth of crunches, you will want to pace yourself and break up the 2:00 time into 4 x 30 seconds quarters. Find your goal and pace it out every 30 seconds. For example, if your goal is to do 80 crunches in 2:00, then at every 30 seconds mark you want to be at 20 crunches.

Compare the crunches to the run. If you sprint too fast in the mile run on the first 1/4 mile, you will have a tough time maintaining your pace. The same goes for crunches in 2:00 period.

Sit-ups, Curl-ups or Crunch Tests

1 Mile Timed Run

Learn your mile pace by practicing mile runs as fast as you can for testing purposes as well as at a maintainable pace for long runs. For example, running a mile in 6:00 is not that tough to do, but maintaining that 6:00 pace for 3-4 miles is very tough. You should have two speeds. One for the mile sprint test in the CFA and one for distance runs of 3-5 miles. Find your pace and push yourself with sprints and interval training drills as in this workout plan.

For more info see:

- Faster Pace
- Run Faster

These tips will assist the candidate seeking to serve our country as an officer in the military. Getting into one of the service academies is tough and requires extreme effort in academics, college entrance exams, athletics, community service and leadership. So stay busy in high school doing as much as you can to improve your chances of getting accepted. The CFA is just one of many ways the admission board will evaluate you. Good luck. Any questions?

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 stew@stewsmith.com.


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