This kind of test, used by the army to asses it’s candidates’ potential exertion is known as a “Physical fitness test”  (or APFT for short). It revolves around assessing a candidate’s physical strength, stamina, and respiratory and cardiovascular capabilities.

It has a long history of being used by the military with each branch having different requirements and with changing standards.

APFT is centered around providing a precise measure of both lower and upper muscular endurance that each soldier must-have.

It directly influences their position within the military.

Preparations before performing this test are of the utmost importance for every aspiring soldier alongside adequate information about how to achieve the best results.

The standards of the test are adjusted towards the differences in age and physiology between soldiers, alongside possible differentiation between them which is exhibited in the relative levels of flexibility displayed in the execution of each part of the test.

It consists of three events that have the goal to assess endurance and CR (cardiograms) physical condition, presenting a rather unique way to test a participant’s capability for pinpoint and effective usage of their bodies by using major muscle groups with the added benefit of being stalwartly linked to the general levels of the vigor that is strived at being improved or maintained at a respectable degree.

The APFT is present within every branch of the military, as well as other more specialized units with differentiations that apply to each branch in diverse forms of exercises, distances in swims and runs and standards.

Every Soldier is tested to ensure the maintenance of physical standards which are a must regardless of occupation specialties or each duty assignment.

Physical readiness test programs are highly recommended and serve a crucial role in ensuring overall physical readiness.

While the test itself is a necessity for control and observation of fitness of individual units and soldiers, the standards it enforces should be maintained at all times regardless of inclusion.

EVALUATION AND SCREENING

It falls onto the commanding body of the branch to ensure the continuation of the combat readiness of units within its operating structure, thus varied methods are employed with this particular goal in mind.

As the military must set high standards for its troops, the process through which the evaluation is carried out is as complex as the purpose it tries to accomplish.

  1. Testing – an effective way to determine both individual and collective physical readiness
  2. Observation – a commanding officer may spend their time observing the training and simulation sessions of each unit to determine core characteristics that are deemed vital. A less effective method when compared to the practical aspect of testing but still a worthwhile one
  3. Inspection – a general re-evaluation of training procedures, presents a useful tool in rooting out potential problems which may hinder performance.
  4. Medical examination – pretty much a crucial step to detect and treat individual hindrances, physical injuries, and problems related to the general health of a soldier.

Every soldier, regardless of their active or reserve status, is required to take the APFT with age not being a factor that could change that except for the prohibition by a medical profile.

With the potential issue of age in mind, individuals over 40 go through a specialized cardiovascular screening program (CVSP for short) for ensuring the safety of the soldiers in question, done through first and foremost by identifying soldiers at risk and providing guides and advice on how to manage a potential or present condition, with some cases enabling the use of treadmill testing In favor of cases where the soldier taking the test could jeopardize their health.

PREPARATIONS AND ADMINISTRATIVE REQUIREMENTS

Personnel conducting and participating in the test must be familiar with the protocols of the test. Supervision and screening of the soldiers and the area on which the test will be executed is a mandatory step.

Before the test can begin, the commander must ensure consistency with regards to the scoring, clothing, facilities, and supplies of equipment.

The procedures must follow regulations that allow the participants to show their maximum potential without any unforeseen obstacles that might hinder optimal performance.

Ensuring proper equipment for testing personnel is handed out it falls within the jurisdiction of the commander to oversee this part of the initial preparation

  • OIC/NCOIC – handed out a copy of an FM 21-20.
  • Supervisors – given out instructions for each event and the standards that must be respected at all times.
  • Timer and back-up timer – handed out two stopwatches that must be able to measure time in minutes and seconds.

Participants must wear clothing authorized and appropriate for this kind of run, which normally includes socks, shirts, shorts and BDU’s that are permitted but can be the cause of hindrance in some parts of the test.

Any sort of additional equipment (elastic bandages, weight belts) is prohibited unless specifically prescribed by a medical professional.

The only exception to this rule are gloves that may be authorized during cold weather by the local commander, ensuring proper forms and standardizations are followed up.

The necessary items each soldier must be issued include a DA form 705, APFT scoreboard. Filling out their name, age, social security number, and grade is the next step before the unit the height and weight data processing before moving on the next step

Each one of the aforementioned personnel fulfills a selection of roles:

OIC/NCOIC

  1. Reading the instructions and conducting preparations for the push-up event.
  2. Timing and observing the recovery phase after the test.
  3. Handing out and requisition of necessary supplies and equipment.
  4. Training and supervision of the rest of the personnel, upholding test standards and scoring.
  5. Selection and arrangements for the selected test area.
  6. They are responsible for making sure the test is explained in detail, demonstrated and executed correctly.
  7. In case of a lack of personnel, they can take up the role that would otherwise be given to supervisors and timers.
  8. Reporting the results of the test.

Supervision personnel

  1. Administration of a single or more test event.
  2. Reading the APFT instructions and it’s the correct demonstration.
  3. In the case of a lack of personnel, they can take up the role given out to timers.
  4. Making sure the test is scored correctly and up to the standard.
  5. Informs the OIC/NCOIC of the progress of the test and answers any questions the candidates might have.

Scorers

  1. Enforcement of standards.
  2. They must count loudly every correctly performed repetition.
  3. Recording the score on each soldier’s scorecard.
  4. Performing additional duties when ordered by the officer in charge (alternatively NCOIC).

Demonstrators

  1. They are tasked with providing correct executions of two separate parts of the test (sit-ups and push-ups) in an ideal manner that corresponds to the requirements.
  2. Additional orders are given out by the commanding officer of this operation alongside getting trained to do these exercises precisely, they are harder to pull off than most would expect.

Additional support personnel

  1. Testing sites should have people in charge of securing a safe and controlled environment, as well as medical teams that can respond within a moment’s notice if the need arises.
  2. They do not have to be present on-site during the test but the officer in charge should always have a plan in case an injury or accident were to occur.

STANDARD PROCEDURE – RULES AND REGULATIONS

To achieve the objective of this test, properly ensuring that the rules are followed to the letter provides both better outcomes and a lesser chance of accidents occurring.

The staff charged with overseeing the test must carry out the standard protocol which regulates completion and safety.

Commander is tasked with strictly controlling all factors that relate to overall performance. Equipment, scoring, clothing, and events must be uniform, alongside several other responsibilities:

The soldier must NOT be tested when fatigued or possibly ill.

Tiring duties must not have been assigned to the soldier being tested beforehand.

The weather and the environment on which the test is being conducted must not hinder overall performance in any way.

Safety during this program is to be ensured at any given moment.

Soldiers who happen to get a hard time doing their assignment have the aid of nearby scorers who will intervene before the testee does their 10 in a row repetition and in which case they will be told where they made a mistake.

The procedure dictates that in such cases the participant will be directed towards the start of the formed line and instructed to do redo their part as demonstrated to them beforehand.

In case a participant happens to suffer from problems such as muscle cramps during the execution of an event they can be told to rest in a way the standard deems appropriate.

After the conclusion, they have the option of pressing on with their assignment and keeping the points for the correctly done exercises up until that point they were stopped with the use of the remaining allocated time for that event (2 minutes) or they can stop where they were and take points for what they did do right until they got stopped.

In case the participant already did at least 10 rightly executed repetitions, they cannot go back and retake that particular event, and the opposite applies if they have not completed at least 10 correct reps they will be sent back.

In case a soldier is physically unable to do at least 10 of them due to issues regarding their lack of adequate levels of fitness cannot retake an event.

Retesting is done by doing the entirety of the events from the beginning. In the case of a failure, commanders may allow the soldier in question to retake the test when they believe that they are ready.

Participants that lack a med. or perm. profiles are obliged for testing no later than three months.

CHOICE OF A GOOD SITE

The choice falls upon the officer in charge of the test and the criteria are as follows:

  1. Areas must be devoid of any sort of potential hazard.
  2. It must have no debris and it has to be as flat as possible.
  3. It must have a separate preparation area
  4. Places designated for the first two events have a mandatory rule to be flat and dry.
  5. It is recommended that the place be free of external factors such as traffic.

TESTING

Several agencies, units or service schools generally have different goal requirements that may extend above the minimum APFT standards in line with their specific mission.

The test itself is not the only measurement of readiness, nor can It be considered a substitute for a regular training program.

However, APFT gives a pretty solid picture of the state a unit is in, and thus working on achieving a higher score is encouraged through different ways both as individual and group goals of every unit.

That opens up the competitive side of this test, with candidates striving to outperform one another and forming friendly rivalries.

This part of the test is done through a three-part program course that consists of push-ups, sit-ups, and a 2-mile long run.

It is important to note that the military thought of everything and joined up alternatives in the form of an aerobic event. The rule that is done in practice dictates an orderly fashion that is not to be broken.

Soldiers need to take a break from such exertion and this need is respected with breaks being included in between testing, lasting at the very least 10 minutes before going back to testing. If a soldier cannot complete the event in two hours the test is considered invalid.

Now, it is necessary to observe the importance of keeping the body in an adequate position to avoid injury and maximize reps, as the requirements vary.

Following instructions to the letter, the only part of the body that is allowed to follow the personal preference of comfort are the hands.

The way to do a push-up correctly – Elbows should be bent, the lower part body positioned as a single unit up until the point of the upper part of the arms being in line with the ground and afterward going back to the initial position as the arms become fully extended.

The perfect way to rest – The participant can sag or flex their back before returning to the initial position and continuing with this part of the event.

DUTIES OF THE PERSONNEL ASSIGNED TO THE EVENT:

  • The allocated supervisor’s job includes reading the given out sheet of instructions before the event and giving the testee’s the luxury of asking questions any questions.
  • Test groups are given a designated training area with 15 soldiers in a group.

Now, it also falls upon the group’s supervisor to watch the time and inform the group of their progress and how much more minutes or (in most cases) seconds they have, the last few precious moments are followed up by loud shouting to encourage better results.

After the appointed time passes they conclude the program by shouting ” Halt ”

The role of the scorers is arguably one of the most important ones.

They are tasked with correcting the soldiers during the events and showing them their mistakes (in case they make any) and the ideal way to push themselves well beyond their usual capabilities to do as many excellent repetitions as possible.

It is common practice for scorers to inform the testee of what is expected of them and what can they do to boost their score, followed up by giving first-hand tips and comments by observing the warm-up session and correcting any flaws the soldier might make before getting down to test.

The scorer is usually positioned close to the participants, usually for about three feet away from each participant’s shoulder.

During the test, the scorer will comment on any flaws the soldier makes and loudly shout for every well-done repetition and, as a signal that a mistake was made, will yell out the number of rightly done reps a mistake.

Following the conclusion of a single part of the program, they will speak their mind about the participant’s performance and give them an overall review, alongside writing the exact number of repetitions done correctly and giving it out to the participant.

SIT-UPS

A crucial upcoming phase of the training that is the second in the composition of the test with requirements varied in regards to personal data of the participant.

As it is sometimes hard for soldiers to perform well in, adequate preparations must be set in place to increase the score each soldier earns.

Initial starting position – The participant is always instructed to lie on their back while bending the knees at a 90 – degree angle. The participant’s feet can be held together or (again) be put at 12 inches away from each other.

This is where the support personnel comes into play and holds the feet of the participant while they are performing this particular event.

The correct up position –  to perform the sit-up correctly, participants raise the body to the exact point where the base of their neck is just above the base of their spine.

Resting position –  the authorized stance is being in the up position with no lying on the back allowed.

IMPORTANT NOTE: The fingers are required to be interlocked during the entirety of the event. The soldier is not allowed to bow their back, lift their buttocks nor let their knees exceed the positioned 90 – degree angle at which they were set.

2-MILE RUN

And finally, arguably the most competitive and exciting component of this test.

Despite the relative popularity, the aforementioned part of the test gets from eager candidates, it is important to set in additional preparation before the event itself. Instructions laid out before the soldiers can be viewed by clicking on this.

Soldiers competing in this test are required to perform without any sort of help, with activities such as being pulled, pushed, carried resulting in immediate disqualification (this also applies in case of leave of the appointed area).

Soldiers have the option of walking during this event but it is likely to leave the soldier with a negative score hence it is discouraged as it impairs the number of points the soldier earns at the end, directly influencing their score.

The crucial aspect that constitutes to this very important event is avoiding any sort of direct or indirect physical contact between the runners.

Soldiers can run ahead, behind or alongside one another as long as it does not hinder the performance of the other soldiers it is allowed.

The spectators are allowed to verbally animate the contestants and proclaim the remaining time.

Scoring is done through the following basis

IMPORTANT NOTE:  It is extremely important that the participant has an ID number on them (usually on the chest) and must make sure that it is visible in any given moment. At the end of the run, the participant turns in their number and proceeds to the stretch and cool-down area.

ALTERNATE EVENTS

As the title says, the aforementioned acts are reserved in occasional cases in which the soldier cannot take the regular APFT test either because of medical reasons (in this case a permanent medical profile) or in instances where a soldier has a long term temporary profile  (in a timespan longer than 3 months).

The aerobic component of the APFT includes:

  • A swimming test consisted of 800- yards
  • 5 – mile long walking event
  • 2 – mile long bicycle test that is conducted on a regular bicycle with the use of only one speed
  • 2- mile long test on a stationary bicycle ergometer with the resistance setting set to two kilograms

THE SWIMMING EVENT

An important segment that highlight’s the army’s awareness for both intense and beneficial training, It starts simple. The requirements for the pool in question are laid out as follows:

It has to be at least 3 feet deep and 25 yards long is used for this part of the test with one event supervisor and medical and control personnel at the ready in case an accident occurs.

The beginning is marked with the supervisor reading the instructions and giving answers to questions related to the event. Each testee sees a free.

They are given a short period to acclimate to the temperature of the water and warm up. Event supervisors must take special care to avoid any sort of accident in this alternate event.

Scorers must observe the soldier assigned to them and must be sure that at every turn each one of them touches the bulkhead. If the length of the pool is measured in meters it is their job to convert it to yards.

STATIONARY BICYCLE TEST

The bicycles in this test have ergometers that measure resistance in newtons. The handlebars and seats are adjustable to allow participants to fully extend their legs while pedaling.

Alongside the aforementioned, it should have an odometer and adjustable tension settings (it is a great promotion for home cardio)

For this event, the protocol regulates the requirements of both personnel charged with observation and scoring for every three testee’s assigned to the event. As with the previous event, two stopwatches are provided and the time limit is two minutes.

The resistance meter on the bicycle might go off from time to time and the scorers are usually the ones to re-adjust them to give out exactly 20 newtons of force.

At the end of the event, scorers fill out the time in the score-card that was reserved for the 2-mile run, noting that the time was for the alternative event so it can be marked out.

6.2 – mile long bicycle event

Pretty much the same requisitions are needed for this part of the test (clipboard, pen, stopwatches, instructions, and standards)

Both multispeed and one-speed bicycles can be used, in the case of the former, it must be ensured that only one gear is used during the duration of the test.

The area for the test should be clear, allowing scorers to never lose the participants out of their sight. There should be no bystanders nor near a road out of safety precautions. One scorer and supervisor are to be appointed for every 10 participants.

The supervisor has the timer and gives out the command when the participants will start. As the participants are approaching the end of the event, they will be notified of the remaining time from minutes to seconds.

The 2.5 – mile long walk

The same location that was used for the 2-mile run can be used for this event as well.

Standards procedures apply with medical and control teams should be on standby in case their intervention is need alongside one supervisor and scorer for every 3 soldiers taking this event.

This event is straightforward and pretty chill, soldiers maintain a walking stride with any attempt of running resulting in disqualification from the event (can’t cheat on walking buddy).

The biggest difference that sets this part of the test apart from the rest is the addition of a “go“ and “no go“ section that revolves around the scorer’s perception if the participant tried to cheat on the test by trying to sneak in a few quick points.

SCORING

The scoring is determined on age, gender and the number of repetitions done on the appointed events by each soldier.

The score range goes from 0 to 100 on each event with 60 in each being required for a pass.

The minimum to maximum scoring of the soldier can go from 180 – 300, with more rigorous standards being required to join more specialized units (for example a minimum of 70 and sometimes higher is required to be able to join the branch of special operations soldiers)

For those who do exceptionally well and manage to get over 270 points with 90 or more points in every event, they will be awarded a special reward called the “Physical Fitness Badge” that can be put on and worn on the training uniform.

A big motivator for soldiers to score as high as possible is the fact that the score they achieve directly correlates to their eligibility for promotion – a soldier’s wet dream of finally being a sergeant might come true!

CONCLUSION

With everything said so far, the APFT is a necessity that keeps soldier’s on their toes and allows commanders to be aware of the state of a unit as well as serving as a useful tool to indicate overall combat readiness.

For those who are in top shape and with great dedication to the choice of loyal service, it is a great way to climb up the ladder and impress the higher-ups at the same time!

U.S. Army Physical Fitness Test

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