A New Era for U.S. Army Fitness

Soldiers doing training exercises

U.S. Army; Sgt Scott Kim

Beginning in 2018, the U.S. Army began to field-test a new Army Combat Fitness Test. The components will become the core of the service's fitness program. If approved, it will replace a regimen that has been used since 1980 when running shoes were just being introduced and soldiers did their workouts in boots.

A New Approach

The program, which entered its test phase in October 2018, has been brought up to date with changes in physical fitness training methods. It also better addresses the modern Army's needs: This test is gender-neutral and age-neutral.

The Combat Fitness Test test is designed to be a predictor of performance in combat. Many of the exercises mimic the skills and strength needed to perform critical tasks under fire, such as carrying a wounded soldier off the field.

The revamped version is expected to be fully implemented by October 2020, possibly with changes based on feedback from the soldiers involved in the test phase.

The only component that remains the same is the last exercise: a two-mile run.

The New Tasks

The new test consists of six tasks of "events," rather than the three in the previous test.

  • The strength deadlift, with a proposed weight range of 120 to 420 pounds, to test lower-body strength
  • The standing power throw, which requires the soldier to toss a 10-pound ball backward in order to demonstrate muscular explosive power
  • Hand-release pushups, which are similar to traditional pushups but require the test subjects to release their hands from contact with the ground and reset for each consecutive pushup
  • The sprint/drag/carry event, in which a soldier sprints while first dragging a 90-pound sled and then carrying two 40-pound weights
  • The leg tuck, which involves touching the knees to the elbows
  • The two-mile run

Pass or Fail

The test scoring system is still preliminary, but for the test 100 points is the maximum score, and 60 points are the minimum passing score.

The standards may vary, however, depending on the occupational specialty or unit of the test subject. Currently, the Army is considering classifying the physical demands of its various occupations as "heavy," "significant," or "moderate."

Thus, an infantryman would be in the "heavy" physical demand category, while a helicopter pilot would have a "significant" physical challenge.

At least during the test phase, the minimum requirement for a soldier in a "heavy" demand category would involve a 180-pound deadlift, an 8.5-meter power throw, and 30 pushups. But a soldier whose job is considered only moderately physically challenging would have to lift only 140 pounds, demonstrate a 4.6-meter power throw and finish 10 release push-ups.

Lt. Col. Jeffrey Pray, a spokesman for the Center for Initial Military Training, told The Army Times that the test in its current form is just a first step. "These will be used for testing 60 battalions throughout the Army over the next year," he said. "Final standards are not expected to be approved until October of 2019, and can be adjusted up until the test is approved for the record on or about 1 October 2020."