The Army Physical Fitness Test: APFT Soldier Fitness Evaluation
Each branch of the military has its own unique fitness test. While each test is used to evaluate a soldier's level of physical fitness and test the strength and muscular endurance of major muscle groups including abdominals and hip flexors, legs, back, and arms, various branches of the military have different methods of testing these muscle groups. For example, the Air Force, Marines, and Army all use running events to test aerobic fitness while the Navy and Coast Guard generally use swimming (exceptions do occur). The Army's Physical Fitness Test (known as the APFT) consists of pushups, situps, and a two-mile run performed in that order.
Soldiers usually muster or organize for the test at a time popularly known as 0-Dark Thirty (generally, early in the morning). In a training environment or on Active Duty, the standards for the test are usually read to the soldiers the previous night, while Reservists and National Guardsmen typical receive the same instruction the morning of the P.T. test (typically the first morning of a weekend Battle Assembly). Active Duty soldiers are required to take the test twice per year, while other soldiers must take the test once or twice per year. In my term of military service, the literature for the P.T. test standards has not changed. Below are the standards for the run section of the P.T. test from FM 21-20, the field manual which regulates and outlines the events of the test. I have only included the run standards because the other two standards are a bit long-winded. If you want to know more, you can go to http://www.hooah4health.com/4you/FM2021-20.pdf and read the manual. Below the 2-mile run standards, you will find some brief highlights from the rules for the other two P.T. events.
"The two-mile run is used to assess your aerobic fitness and your leg muscles’ endurance. You must complete the run without any physical help. At the start, all soldiers will line up behind the starting line. On the command ‘go,’ the clock will start. You will begin running at your own pace. You are being tested on your ability to complete the 2-mile course in the shortest time possible. Although walking is authorized, it is strongly discouraged. If you are physically helped in any way (for example, pulled, pushed, picked up, and/or carried) or leave the designated running course for any reason, you will be disqualified. (it is legal to pace a soldier during the 2-mile run. As long as there is no physical contact with the paced soldier and it does not physically hinder other soldiers taking the test, the practice of running ahead of, alongside of, or behind the tested soldier, while serving as a pacer, is permitted. Cheering or calling out the elapsed time is also permitted.) The number on your chest is for identification. You must make sure it is visible at all times. Turn in your number when you finish the run. Then, go to the area designated for the cool-down and stretch."
Here are some key things soldiers must remember when performing the pushup event. The pushup is much more technical than the other two events and frequently frustrates soldiers whose muscles are not apt to performing the exercise.
- When performing the pushups, your body must start, remain in, and finish in a generally straight line. This means you cannot "do the worm" or push up only your upper body. Your body must "move as a unit."
- You must lower your body until you have at least reached a parellel point--that is, your upper arms (biceps) must be at least parallel to the ground. Despite explicit training in this regad, many individuals still struggle with understanding this performance point properly.
- You must push back up until you have completely straightened your arms.
- You must return back to the correct starting position after resting before continuing to complete more repetitions.
Some other common pitfalls encountered during the pushups include lifting up of the hands or feet (moving along the ground is authorized, however), and not performing the complete motion in some form or another. If the soldier does a repetition incorrectly, he or she will be allowed to continue the event, although that repetition will not count. If the soldier rests incorrectly or breaks the pushup position in some manner, however, the soldier's performance will be terminated.
The situps are simpler to perform. Crossing the arms in front of the chest is not authorized; the fingers must remain interlocked behind the head. If the soldier's hands slip out from behind the head or the soldier rests on the ground without a continuous effort, the soldier's performance will be terminated. Repetitions will not count if the soldier lifts their buttocks off of the ground or does not complete the motion of the situp (this means at a minimum touching the ground with the shoulder blades and sitting up to the point where the base of the neck is at least directly over the base of the spine). In both the situps and the pushups, soldiers have two minutes to complete as many repetitions as possible. In the 2-mile run, soldiers must complete the distance in the fastest time possible.
Soldiers have different performance goals based upon their age and gender. All the events are converted from a raw score to a point score (the point score roughly represents a percentage score). For example, for a 17-21 year old male, he must perform at least 42 pushups, 53 situps, and a 15:54 2-mile in order to achieve the bare minimum score of 180 points (60 points per event. If he wants to achieve the maximum score for the events, he must perform at least 71 pushups, 78 situps, and a 13:00 2-mile run. If you are curious about what the standards are for your age and gender, you can visit this site: http://usmilitary.about.com/od/army/a/afpt.htm Overall, the standards for men and women are identical on situps. The P.T. test is designed to account for average physical performance, which means that the female pushup requirements are much lower than a male's (a minimum of 19 in two minutes), as are the female 2-mile run standards (no slower than 18:54) for a woman of age 17-21.
Other than simply to measure physical performance, the P.T. test is considered a part of a Non-Commissioned Officer (NCO), officer, or soldier's professional development. If the soldier repeatedly fails the P.T. test, he or she may be separated from the military or at the very least prevented from advancing in rank or demoted. If the soldier excels at the P.T. test, they will receive bonus points toward promotion and be more likely to be promoted sooner.
There is an unofficial advanced scale referred to as the Extended Scale. This scale only applies to soldiers who achieve the maximum score or better on each event. After the maximum score of 300 is reached, soldiers may receive one unofficial bonus point for each additional pushup or situp, and one additional bonus point for each reduction of six seconds on the 2-mile run. The highest "extended scale" score that I have personally witnessed is 367 by both a male and a female. I have been unable to track down what the record in this test is, but any information submitted in the comments would be appreciated and added here. If you are curious, I have not yet reached the extended scale on the APFT. My highest score was a 296 in Basic Training, and I achieved a 278 this morning of April 17, 2010. My personal records for each event are 68 pushups, 104 situps, and 11:19 on the run. P.T. comments and anecdotes are welcomed and appreciated!
The P.T. test is one of the events that binds soldiers together. It is great for forming unit cohesion and encouraging friendly physical competition. An average P.T. test takes about 1-2 hours to complete depending upon the number of participants. The movie below shows some highlights of an average APFT.
Army Field Manual FM 21-20