Everything You Need to Know About the Army's New PFT

Soldiers from 1st Engineer Brigade complete the leg tuck event Oct. 17 while testing the Army Combat Readiness Test at Fort Leonard Wood. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo by Dawn M Arden).

If you are considering joining the Army this year or are currently employed by the Army, you will see a new fitness test by the end of the fiscal year (October 2019). In fact, many units have been testing it out this past year already.

Here's everything you need to know to excel at the new fitness test. If you are not used to lifting weights, you will. You will not have to do sit-ups, but the hanging knee ups are no joke on the core and the grip. If you thought you might not have to run 2 miles -- well, you still have to do that too. But there are some fun new exercises too:

The new Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT) will replace the older Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT) Pushups, Situps, 2 mile run test done since the early 1980's. The new test is a result of the Army identifying specific warrior tasks and battle drills (WTBD) that enhance a Soldier's readiness on the battlefield. The comparison of the two tests are night and day as the tactical fitness elements tested with the ACFT will be muscular strength / power, cardiovascular endurance, muscle stamina, core strength / stamina, and speed / agility.

The New ACFT

By October 2020, the ACFT will become fully implemented and will replace the APFT. The events are the following list:

1. Leg Tuck - This is also known at the hanging knee up. Hang from a pullup bar using an alternating grip and bring your knees up to touch your elbows. No time limit -- just push yourself until you fail. You get max points if you can do 25. Minimum passing is 3.

2. Standing Power Throw -- This is a backward toss with a 10 lbs. medicine ball measured by how far your throw it behind you. The toss is measured in centimeters. Minimum standard is 450 cm (14.5 ft) and maxing the points requires a 1400cm throw (45.9 ft).

3. Trap Bar Deadlift -- Lift as much weight off the ground as you can three times using the trap bar vs. a straight bar dead lift. Minimum lift is 170 lbs. and max points requires a 400 lbs dead lift three times.

4. Hand Release Push-Up -- This is a completely different style of pushup. In fact, it is also called a 4-count pushup but the counts go like this: 1) up pushup, 2) down pushup, 3) extend arms to your side to form a T with the body, 4) bring arms back to down position of the pushup. Repeat for two minutes.

5. Shuttle Sprint-Drag-Carry -- This is essentially a shuttle run drill testing speed, agility, aerobic capacity while carrying a load a variety of ways:

  • From the prone position -- get up and sprint 25m and back to start with no weight.
  • Pull 90lbs. sled 25m and back.
  • Lateral Run Sprint 25m and back with no weight.
  • Grab two 45lbs. kettlebells and runs 25m and back.
  • Forward Run Sprint 25m and back with no weight.

Total distance of 250m shuttlerun is timed with a minimum standard of 2:40 and to receive maximum points you must get 1:3.

6. 2-Mile Run -- The two mile run is the same however the standards are the following: Minimum standards 19:30 and to max the points you need to run 11:30.

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Ideas to Implement These New Exercises

Upper Body Workout Days -- On your upper body workout days, you should mix in Leg Tucks, Power Throws, and HR Pushups into your programming. Some Ideas:

  • Warmup with HR Pushups:
  • Repeat 5 times
  • Jumping jacks 10
  • HR Pushups 5-10

During a workout when working upper back and chest, mix in T Pushups for a 1-minute set. Similar Exercises: Reverse Flies, Birds, Arm Haulers

Consider the PT Reset with HR Pushups in place of Arm Haulers as a cooldown cycle.

When doing pullups or pulldowns or an abdominal set, a logical place to add in Leg Tucks would be before a set of pulling exercises to challenge the grip as two things will fail you with the Leg Tuck test: Grip and Abs / Hips (core). If Leg Tucks are too tough, you can build up doing horizontal leg levers, bicycle crunches, vertical knee raises, until you can work your way to hanging knees ups on the pullup bar.

Blend the New Exercises into a Classic PT Protocol:

New PT Pyramid Workout: If you do not do pullups, you should practice mainly to get used to building your grip to hanging on the pullup bar. Consider more Commando Grip (alternating grip) Pullups too.

  • Pullups x 1
  • HR Pushups x 2
  • Leg Tucks x 2

How far can you work up the pyramid and then repeat in reverse order? You can always end the workout with a 2-mile run. Or mix intervals of ½ mile tempo / paced runs every 5th set of the pyramid to maintain your 2-mile run times. Check out the new Army CFT PT Pyramid Workout.

Leg Day Additions

Your leg days will be a great day to add in the following new exercises such as the Shuttle Run Drag and Carry test as well as the med ball throw and of course the dead lift. If you are used to doing leg days, dead lifts will likely not be new to you, but adding in farmer walks, sled pulls, and shuttle runs could be. A way to mix in them all into a challenging leg circuit would be the following:

  • Repeat 3-4 times
  • Cardio of choice 5 minutes (replace with shuttle/drag/carry 1-2 times during workout)
  • Dead lift 5 reps
  • Thrusters 5 reps (replace with Med ball toss* -- 5 reps 1-2 times during workout)

*note -- the med ball toss focuses its initial power from the legs when performing a squat to generate momentum followed by a back extension and explosive arm to overhead movement. This blends well with most leg days but it is essentially a full body day.

Top It Off With Cardio

Two Mile Runs -- The Two Mile Timed Run is here to stay. It is up to you how you want to improve or maintain your 2-mile runs. You can follow the above workouts with a cooldown run of 2 or more miles or have cardio days in between your lifting and PT days to solely focus on your running and/or rucking pace. If you need a non-impact day replace your runs with bike, elliptical, rowing, or swimming for safe but effective ways to work cardio vascular endurance.

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