The new Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT) which recently replaced the Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT) is a gruelling six-event test that contains the following exercises:
- Repetition Strength Deadlift;
- Standing Power Throw;
- Arm Extension Push-Up;
- 250-Meter Sprint, Drag, Carry;
- Leg Tuck; and.
- The 2-mile Run.
Currently, there is a lot of fear and, in some cases, anger over the new ACFT. Many complain that the six-event test is too difficult. The ACFT no longer makes allowances based on age or gender; all Soldiers must pass to the same standard depending on their MOS (job). The three standards are Moderate, Significant, and Heavy. Admittedly, my MOS only needs to meet the Moderate standard, but with the only exceptions being my run (which I missed by 16 seconds) and my pull-ups (I did 4), I met the Heavy standard across all events on my second APFT.
How was I able to do what so many Soldiers are having difficulty with? Some explanations come to mind. First, we all knew this test was coming over a year in advance. I started weightlifting over a year ago. I followed my weightlifting sessions with a run. At first, it was difficult because weightlifting is a strength exercise while running is cardio, and the two are at odds with each other. However, to survive the battlefield, you have to be good at both, so I trained hard to be good at both. A year later, it turned out I was right. My legs weren’t nearly as “Smoked,” or tired as many other Soldiers. I remember one Soldier saying to me after the first five events, “My legs are so tired; how am I going to run 2 miles?” In my mind, I was thinking, “The hard part is over; now it’s time for an easy run.”
Second, the weightlifting I do is nothing crazy, special, or hard. I started with the StrongLifts 5×5 program, and I started by lifting an empty Olympic bar (45 lbs). A year later, I’m benching 135 lbs, my squats are at 150 lbs, and my deadlift is at 230 lbs. I also added pull-ups, but that was about a month before my first ACFT. I was unable to do the required leg tucks due to bad form, but with more work on pull-ups and learning proper form, I was able to do 4 on my second ACFT. On the first, I was able to successfully complete the temporary alternate event for the leg-tuck which is a 2-minute plank.
The higher standards are definitely harder to achieve and require even more work and effort, but the Significant and Heavy standards are generally reserved for combat arms MOS’s. Were I to remain a 13J (Fire Direction NCO), I would have to meet the Heavy standard. Fortunately, as I’m currently training towards becoming a 131A (Targeting Officer), the Moderate standard is what I need to achieve.
Why do I bring this up? Because I keep seeing people posting online about how difficult the ACFT is, and how hard it is to prepare for it. For the record, I disagree with one caveat: it can definitely be difficult for those in the Reserves or the National Guard because access to free weights or a gym is an added expense and takes up more time. Active Duty Soldiers can typically use some of their work day for time in the gym, and access to the on-base gyms are free. This is a differentiation that should not be overlooked. I have my own gym with free weights in my home which make this much easier for me than for the average Guardsman.
With the proper training, the ACFT is still a challenge to meet, but is not impossible. To the contrary, if a Soldier meets the levels of fitness they should be at, the ACFT should be nothing more than an easy day outside with a nice run at the end. I’m 53 and I can do it.
For reference, here is the six-event matrix with points and their corresponding values.
MDL: Maximum Deadlift
SPT: Standing Power Throw
HRP: Hand-Release Push-ups
LTK: Leg Tuck
2MR: 2-mile Run
|70||200||8.0||30||2:10||5||18:00||Minimum for “heavy” jobs.|
|65||180||6.5||20||2:30||3||19:00||Minimum for “significant” jobs.|
|60||140||4.5||10||3:00||1||21:00||Minimum for “moderate” jobs.|