Tough Combo Workout Straight Out of the ACFT

Taking part in the Army combat fitness test.
U.S. Army Reserve Spc. Daniel Bush, left, a civil affairs specialist with the 352st Civil Affairs Command, and Staff Sgt. Marco Campos, middle, a civil affairs specialist with the 410th Civil Affairs Battalion, participate in the Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT) during day one of the 2021 U.S. Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command (Airborne) Best Warrior Competition at Fort Jackson, S.C., April 8, 2021. (Sgt. Hubert Delany/U.S. Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command)

There are many reasons to like the changes found in recent tactical fitness. They assess some new skills when compared to the classic PT tests we have done for generations. To be a good tactical athlete (military, police, firefighter), you need to be good at all the elements of fitness, including strength, power, speed, agility, muscle stamina, cardio endurance, flexibility, mobility and grip.

The latest tactical fitness tests assess the above elements of fitness, whereas the older PT test versions measured only muscle stamina and cardio endurance. Training for the old tests was easy, as all you needed was a place to run and do calisthenics. The newer versions require some training logistics, but the soldier is better assessed as a tactical athlete through the latest changes in Combat Fitness Tests and other Tactical Fitness Test protocols.

Recently, we had minimal equipment after our local gym was closed. We had a few tires, sandbags and an outdoor pull-up bar in a park with a place to run. One of the biggest gripes about preparing for the new Army combat fitness test is a lack of training equipment to use on a regular basis.

Here is a fun and incredibly challenging workout that will prepare you for many of the toughest events of the ACFT with minimum equipment:

Exercises Used: pull-ups, leg tucks, tire flips, farmer walks or runs, tire drags, running.

Equipment Needed: pull-up bar (outdoor), car tire, tractor tire, water jugs, rope, place to run.

Consider this workout a Leg and Pull Day where you focus mainly on leg exercises, but also add in pulling exercises and running. Many workouts in the gym would mix pull-ups with deadlifts on this day.

Here is the minimum equipment version of the workout session:

ACFT Prep -- No Excuses

Run a one-mile warmup jog. Stretch legs, arms, hips and lower back.

Repeat 5 times

Pull-ups: 5-10 (or assisted)

Leg tucks: 5-10 (or do 10-15 90-degree hanging knee-ups if you need to work up to leg tucks)

Tire flips: 5-10 (or deadlift)

Farmer's carry: 2 x 25-meter shuttle using two five-gallon water jugs or 40 pounds

Sprint: 2 x 25 meters

Tire drag: 2 x 25 meters. Use a rope tied around the car tire, pull or drag over ground for 2 x 25 meters

Run 400 meters at your goal mile pace for two-mile timed run

Rest as needed before the next set.

Run a one-mile cooldown jog. Stretch legs, arms, hips and lower back well.

With minimal equipment, you can do some of the more challenging events of the ACFT and test your strength, power, speed/agility, muscle stamina and endurance. Your ability to do the leg tuck also will be a combination of grip strength, flexibility, arm and core strength.

NOTE: Practice pull-ups. Anyone who cannot do at least half pull-ups will have a hard time doing the leg tucks. Though you can replace the leg tuck with a plank pose, learning how to do the leg tuck will allow you to add pull-ups and knee-ups to your routine. Stretching the lower back well and building strong hip flexors will help the leg tuck improve as well. That is why we added the hanging knee-up to build up to leg tucks. Get Your First Pull-up Article.

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. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you're looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to

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