How to Pass Your Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT)

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After more than twenty years, the Army has modified its fitness evaluation. The new Army Physical Fitness and Combat Readiness Tests include updated whole body exercises as well as an obstacle course to challenge stability and stamina. The older versions of the tests are described below.

What Is the APFT?

Each branch of the US Military has a specific set of criteria used to assess the fitness of its candidates. The Army Physical Fitness Test helps determine the health status and physical fitness of prospective candidates as well as current soldiers. The standard Army fitness test consists of:

  • A two-mile run
  • Maximum sit-ups in 2 minutes
  • Maximum push-ups in 2 minutes

Each event is scored separately. A minimum score of 60 points on each event is required to pass (50 points per event is needed to graduate Army Basic Training). You can calculate your score using this APFT score calculator tool.

Before You Begin Training

The most important thing to recognize before you start training for the APFT is that the test is simply one measurement tool used to assess overall fitness. If you excel in these three disciplines (upper body strength and endurance, core strength and endurance and cardiovascular speed and endurance) it's likely that you have excellent overall fitness and are well-prepared for the rigors of combat.

If, however, your fitness goal is simply to pass the APFT, you are missing the point of the testing. Yes, you can train specifically to do well on the test, and this will generally mean you have good overall fitness, but it's important to have a solid base of total health as well. Total health includes:

Preparing for the APFT

Preparing for this fitness test can be simple or difficult, depending upon your current fitness level. If you are in excellent shape, simply focusing on the specific test exercises for a month or two should be sufficient to score well on the APFT.

If you are not currently fit or fit in only one discipline (swimming, cycling or weight lifting) or you have a good deal of extra body fat to lose, you will need to start training long before you take the Army fitness test. You'll want to improve your overall baseline fitness first, and then narrow in on the specific areas that will be measured during testing.

Build a Base of Cardiovascular Fitness

It's important to exercise consistently and include a variety of exercises in your program. You need to have strength, endurance, speed, and power. But building a solid fitness base using long, slow, steady exercise sessions is the starting point if you are just beginning a fitness program. Add cross training workouts to provide variety and improve your overall fitness as you build endurance.

Begin a Basic Strength Training Routine

If you haven't done much weight training in the past, you'll need to start with lighter weights, more reps, and build up gradually over time. A simplified strength training routine may be all you need for the first two months until you develop more overall strength.

Training to Pass the APFT

After you have a solid and wide-reaching base of fitness, the next step to acing your APFT is to build specific fitness in the areas tested. Adding push-ups, sit-ups, and other core strength and endurance training to your workout is essential.

Pass the Push-Up Test

To pass the push-up test, you need to master the push-up technique and then practice, practice, practice. You can add a variety of push-up styles into your routine, such as decline push-ups, diamond push-ups, plyometric push-ups, etc. Near the end of your push-up workout, finish with easier push-ups on your knees and continue until you can't do any more.

Pass the Sit-Up Test

In order to pass your sit-up test, you need excellent abdominal and hip flexor strength and endurance. Doing lots of sit-ups is your goal, but to get there, you may want to add a variety of ab and core exercises into your sit-up training routine. This will help you to develop good overall core strength and endurance. Practice sit-ups following the APFT protocol, as well as planks, knee raise, and oblique exercises.

Pass the Run Test

If you are new to running, start with this program for new runners program to get your body accustomed to the activity. Once you are able to jog for 30 minutes, you are ready to build more speed and power. Do this workout at a 400 meter (m) track twice a week, with at least three days between workouts.

  • Warm up by jogging for two laps (800m)
  • Run 1 lap (400m) at your goal pace
  • Jog 2 laps (800m)
  • Run 1 lap at goal pace
  • Jog 2 laps for a total of 8 laps (two miles)

Over time (every two weeks) increase the goal-pace laps and decrease the jogging laps until you can maintain your goal pace for the entire two miles. To improve your two-mile run time, you can also incorporate sprint work, interval training, or ladders.

A Word From Verywell

As you are preparing for your APFT, the last thing you need is an injury. The first step to preventing training injuries is to pay attention to your body and any aches and pains that come on quickly or slowly. By following these tips and suggestions, you'll be better prepared to pass your next APFT, safely and without injury.

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