Training large groups with varying fitness levels is one of the most challenging things to do well. Success will be defined by increasing the group's fitness levels and doing so without injuring people, especially those who maybe ill-prepared for new and challenging exercises. A PT coordinator concerned with adding new ways to test the group in exercises and events not common to the standard PFT can utilize many of the group activities from the following list.
There are many tests that are used by a variety of military, police, SWAT Team, and Special Ops units – some are actual fitness tests, selection evaluations, and general and advanced fitness events done during actual boot camps, academies, and even selection and assessments.
If your test is what I call the PFT Bible, the standard pushups, sit-ups, 1.5 mile run which is used by most of the military and half of the police departments in the nation, you need to change the routine a little bit. Some classic additions on military bases is to run local obstacle courses several times and hold special instruction for individual obstacle trouble for the group as you see struggles occurring. Running, walking, or rucking an Endurance Course (trail run) is a great way to get off of the pavement and experience nature while training.
These exercises are easy to add as you can "rest" with running, situps and crunches, plank poses, and pushups in between a circuit of many of the following list of other testable exercises.
Running / Other Cardio Additions:
- 120 yd. shuttle run (4 x30yd) – Used by DEA 120 ft. shuttle run (4 x 30ft) – Used by Service Academies
- 300m sprint – Used by FBI
- Longer runs – 2 mile run (Army), 3 mile run (USMC)
- Beep Test – A version of the shuttle run done on "beeps" at decreasing intervals each lap – Various Police departments
- 12 minute Swim Test – (USCG) How far can you swim in 12 minutes
- 500m or 500yd swim test – Used by AFPJ / Navy SEAL, EOD, Divers
- Step Test – Step up on a box (up and down) or use stair stepper for 3-5 minutes for (60 steps per minute) with full gear (various Federal Police and Fire Fighters)
- 40yd sprint – From prone position carrying weapon and gearl, used by FBI SWAT
- Rucking – 40-50+lbs backpack at a minimum pace of 15 minutes per mile. (Army, USMC, Special Ops)
Calisthenics / Weights / Core Additions:
- Pullups / Flexed Army Hangs – Used by USMC, various Special Operations / Police Depts.
- Pullups with body armor – Used by Special Ops / FBI SWAT
- Bench Press – Bodyweight percentage for max reps (Used by FLETC, Various Spec Ops)
- Dead lift / tire flips / log lifts – Dead lifts are actual tests in many special ops group's selection courses often from bodyweight to 1.5-2 times body weight lifts.
- Fireman carry / body drag / stretcher drills – Some units have timed / pass-fail fireman carry for a 100-200m distance. Drag a partner or use a stretcher with 2 or more carriers to lighten the load for a short distance.
- KB Snatch Test – 5 or 10 min (Used by US Secret Service)
- Ammo Can Lifts and Farmer Walk – Using weights or ammo cans. Carry weight 50-100m and lift overhead as many times in a period of time. (USMC and Firefighters)
- Vertical Jump / Broad Jump – Jump as high as you can from stationary position (various police)
Adding many of these exercises into a fun circuit or a group of upper body and lower body day supersets will create some variety for your PT programs. These exercises are related to the standard PFT in some way and will actually help your team continue to improve on the PFT and add new life to the same old PT exercises.
Some other ideas can be found in the book Tactical Fitness with many of the above elements and others are organized into a twelve exercise testing program called the Dirty Dozen.
Stew Smith works as a presenter / editorial board with the Tactical Strength and Conditioning program of the National Strength and Conditioning Association and is Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS). There are also over 800 articles on Military.com Fitness Forum focusing on a variety of fitness, nutritional, and tactical issues military members face throughout their career.