Military fitness standards are one unit of measure for a person’s ability to continue serving in uniform. This is required along with performance, military discipline, and the ability to adapt to the military lifestyle.
What does a potential new military recruit need to know about military fitness testing? What do current first-term military members need to know?
These are important questions that can, believe it or not, seriously affect a military career.
General Military Fitness Test Facts You Should Know
Military fitness testing is under regular review. It is subject to change based on mission needs, current military objectives, and even recruiting goals can affect how fitness standards are measured and implemented.
The information you receive today may change in a year, five years, or may not change for a long time. It all depends on what military leadership decides as fitness tests and when standards are reviewed again.
Military fitness standards often come under review or changed based on research, experimental programs, and study of previous fitness programs with their effectiveness.
Military Fitness Tests Are Not Standardized for All Services
Military fitness standards and testing are not standardized for all services. The Army regulations may not be the same as Air Force fitness requirements, etc. Each branch of the service sets its own fitness goals, creates their own testing, and deals with the outcomes of those tests in their own way.
“Body Composition” Standards
Each branch of the service also factors in body fat standards. They may adjust certain requirements based on age, gender, height, or other variables. These standards will vary depending on the branch of service.
Fitness Tests and Professional Military Education
Some branches of the military won’t allow troops to attend professional military education without passing the fitness test. Those hoping to attend a non-commissioned officer training school, cross-train into a new career field, or attend other military education classes may be required to successfully pass a fitness test prior to attendance or show that they have passed the test already in the current year.
The Army Fitness Test (Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT))
Of all the branches of military service, the United States Army likely has the most complex set of issues, at present, dealing with how it measures and verifies that soldiers can measure up to Army standards. Since the 1980s, the Army’s fitness standards have been modified approximately six times, but the fitness test itself is said to have stayed the same for nearly forty years.
It remains complicated. Army fitness testing received a big overhaul that rolled out officially in October 2020.
The new Army standards and test represent a serious overhaul and culture change according to some Army officials. The new Army fitness program will require the following of all soldiers:
- Deadlift a specified weight (starting at 120 and as much as 420 pounds based on the individual) three times in five minutes
- Standing power throw of a 10 pound ball three times
- Three minutes of hand-release push-ups
- “Sprint-drag-carry” five repetitions at 25 meters out and back in four minutes with variations including weights
- Leg tuck exercises for two minutes
- Two-mile run on a track or a paved, level road, with a 20-minute time limit.
These are designed to be carried out in sequence with rest periods and a 50 minute time limit for the entire test. This new test is said to determine with as high as 80% accuracy whether an individual soldier is physically fit for Army duty.
The performance requirement for each portion of the fitness test may be adjusted for age, height, weight, and other factors. Some of these factors may or may not be used as variables for the final version of the new Army fitness standard that will be known as the Army Combat Fitness Test.
By comparison, the 2018 Army fitness test consisted of pushups, sit-ups, and a two-mile run.
The Air Force Fitness Test (Basic Military Training (BMT))
Much like the Army, the Air Force is reviewing its fitness standards. They are considering important changes to its requirements. One concept under review at the time of writing this article is separate fitness standards based on career field requirements. Rather than one type of fitness standards for all Airmen, the standards under this concept would vary depending on the physical demands of the career field.
At the time of this writing, such career-field-specific fitness standards are expected to be rolled out for three career fields and is not a service-wide initiative. Current Air Force Fitness Test requirements are as follows:
- Timed push-ups
- Timed sit-ups
- One-and-half-mile run
- Height, weight, and “Abdominal circumference” measurement
The performance requirement for each portion of the fitness test may be adjusted for age, height, weight, and other factors. Air Force fitness standards rank Airmen by performance. That ranking system is as follows according to the Air Force official site:
- Excellent: Composite score equal to or greater than 90, with all minimum components met.
- Satisfactory: Composite score of 75 – 89.99, with all minimum components met.
- Unsatisfactory: Composite score less than 75 and/or one or more minimum components not met.
These labels are not just a way to rate the fitness levels of the participants. Those who do not score in the “Excellent” category may be required to take their fitness test again later in the year. Depending on circumstances, unit-level fitness tests may be directed above and beyond the yearly requirement.
Those who do not pass the fitness test cannot be mandated to re-take the test sooner than 90 days, but the Airman may volunteer to do so at any time.
The Navy Fitness Test (Navy Physical Readiness Test (PRT))
In January 2018, the U.S. Navy began requiring a run test for all new recruits entering basic training. This test requires the recruit to successfully complete a 1.5 mile run upon initial arrival to boot camp as a condition of being allowed to begin basic training.
All new recruits are expected to arrive to boot camp ready and able to pass this run test which requires:
- 1.5 mile run for men completed in under 16 minutes and 10 seconds
- 1.5 mile run for women completed in under 18 minutes and 7 seconds.
Those who do not pass this initial test are required to try again within 48 hours. Failure to pass this test will result in an entry-level separation. The recruit may apply for a waiver at a later date to return to boot camp and try again.
The Navy fitness requirement for all permanent party members includes the following:
- “Curl-ups” (sit-ups)
- Cardio fitness evaluation (running, swimming, treadmill, stationary bike, or elliptical)
No more than 15 minutes must elapse between each event in the test. The performance requirement for each portion of the fitness test may be adjusted for age, height, weight, and other factors.
The Marine Corps Fitness Test (Marine Corps Combat Fitness Test (CFT))
The United States Marines fitness standards include a requirement to pass a typical fitness test known as the Physical Fitness Test (PFT) and the Combat Fitness Test (CFT). These two tests are required annually. The requirements for each are as follows:
Marine Corps Physical Fitness Test
- Pull-ups/Push-ups: Marines can opt to do either pushups or pullups, but pushups can only earn the Marine 70 out of 100 points. The rationale is that pull-ups require the Marine to lift 100% of their body weight, while push-ups only require approximately 70%.
- Crunches: Marines must complete as many crunches as possible within two minutes.
- Three-mile timed run: 28 minutes or less for men, 31 minutes or less for women.
Marine Corps Combat Fitness Test
This fitness test consists of the following:
- “Movement to Contact”: a timed 880 yard sprint.
- Ammunition Lift: requires the Marine to lift and carry a 30-pound ammo can overhead as many times in a row as possible in a given time limit.
- “Maneuver under Fire”: a 300-yard obstacle course challenge that includes crawling, ammunition resupply, grenade throwing, “agility running”, and a drag-n-carry portion that requires transporting another Marine without assistance.
Marines may also be scored on body composition as part of these tests. Other fitness events may be substituted depending on circumstances. Those who take the test at certain altitudes may be subject to different PT standards depending on location and other factors.
Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter for Air Force Television News
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