Ace the Army Combat Fitness Test

In July 2018, the U.S. Army announced the rollout of its new Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT) to replace the APFT. The Army is currently piloting the ACFT with “not-for-record” tests in certain units through September 2019. Starting in October 2019, all Army personnel will be required to take two not-for-record ACFTs 6 months apart, and ACFT will become the test of record in October 2020.

So what does this mean for you? Unless you’re in one of the units piloting the new test, you have about 3 more months to prepare for your first not-for-record test. ACFT is also gender-neutral, so men and women will need to meet the same scoring standards. Now’s the perfect time to get ready for the new events. Here’s how.

  • 3-rep max (3RM) deadlift. This deadlift measures lower-body muscular strength. The 60-point minimum passing score means you’re currently lifting 140 lb 3 times, and the 100-point maximum score is 340 lb. You’ll perform the test with a 60-lb “trap bar”—a hexagon-shaped barbell—as opposed to a standard straight barbell. To excel, you’ll need to train your deadlift technique for several weeks leading up to your test. You’ll only have two attempts at this test, and it will be important to know roughly what your 3RM is, so you can maximize your score. Watch HPRC’s deadlift instructional videos for tips on how to perfect your technique. Even though it’s demonstrated with a straight bar in both videos, remember the same technique applies.
  • Standing power throw. This event measures both upper- and lower-body muscular power. You’ll need to throw a 10-lb medicine ball over your head backwards 4 m for a 60-point score, and at least 13 m for a 100-point score. You’ll get one practice throw and 2 recorded test throws, and the longest test throw will count as your score. Training for the standing power throw requires full-body movements. The clean and overhead-press videos in HPRC’s series on foundational movements will be the most helpful to train for this event, so be sure to watch them.
  • Hand-release push-up. This test is the same as the old push-up, but with one new twist. After the downward motion of the push-up, you go all the way down to lie your chest and pick your hands up off the ground. For this test of muscular endurance, you’ll need to perform 10 push-ups in 2 minutes to score the 60-point minimum, or at least 70 push-ups in 2 minutes to hit the 100-point max. There are two techniques you can use to lift your hands: 1) While lying on the ground, straighten your arms straight out to the sides, so your arms are at a 90-degree angle with your body; and 2) While lying on the ground, pick your hands up off the ground. The best training for this test will be a combination of core-stability and pushing exercises.
  • Sprint-drag-carry. This test consists of five 50-m shuttles. The 60-point minimum passing time is 3:35, and 100-point max is 1:40 or faster. The 5 shuttles require different strengths. Here’s how to excel at each event.
    1. The sprint is a measure of straight-line running speed. Read HPRC’s article on the need for speed for some training ideas.
    2. The 90-lb sled drag is designed to simulate a casualty drag. You’ll perform one shuttle by dragging a 90-lb sled backwards. This event will really burn your quads, so try to add squat, lunge, and deadlift foundational movements to your training plan.
    3. Lateral shuffle: Perform one as described in Military Movement Drill 1 of the Army's field manual on physical readiness training.
    4. The 2 × 40-lb kettlebell carry: You’ll carry a 40-pound kettlebell in each hand through the 50 m shuttle, similar to carrying ammo and jerry cans. See HPRC’s article on carry foundational movements, and be sure to watch the farmer’s carry video for tips.
    5. Repeat the first sprint.
  • Leg tuck. This is possibly the toughest new event. You’ll be required to hang from a pull-up bar using an alternating grip, and on the “go,” bend your elbows, hips, and knees, pulling your knees up to your elbows, then return to a “dead-hang” position where your body is hanging straight down and not swinging. In addition, you’ll need to touch your left and right knees to your left and right elbows once in 2 minutes for the minimum 60-point score, and at least 20 times for the maximum 100-point score. Training for this event will require a combination of core stability, muscular strength, and muscular endurance. HPRC’s pulling exercises will also be helpful for this one.
  • 2-mile run. Also known as the good, old-fashioned 2-mile “fun,” the only thing that’s changed is the standard: You’ll need to complete the run in 21 minutes for 60 points, and in 12:45 or faster for the 100-point max. Read part 1 of HPRC’s PFT/PRT series of articles for cardiovascular-fitness tips on training for the 2-mile run.

With only 3 months left until the ACFT rollout, start planning some new routines. Since the new events emphasize strength and power, try putting together a block-periodized workout plan to help you hit those max scores. As you’re preparing, keep in mind the Army is still piloting the new test, so there’s always a chance the standards might change before it becomes the PT test of record in 2020. Visit the Army’s ACFT website for a complete list of events, how-to videos, safety tips, program updates, and more.

Resources

Hibbs, A. E., Thompson, K. G., French, D., Wrigley, A., & Spears, I. (2008). Optimizing performance by improving core stability and core strength. Sports Medicine, 38(12), 995–1008. doi:10.2165/00007256-200838120-00004

National Strength and Conditioning Association. (2017). NSCA’s Essentials of Tactical Strength and Conditioning (B.A. Alvar, K. Sell, & P.A. Deuster Eds.). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics Publishers.

United States Army. (2018). Army Combat Fitness Test. Retrieved from https://www.army.mil/acft/