APFT Improving Your Army Physical Fitness
As sure as death and taxes, twice
each year soldiers will take the Army Physical
For many, the performance requirements will become
more difficult this October when the Army's new APFT
standards take effect [see "The New 1998 APFT
Standards on page 5 and the 1998 APFT chart on page
24 of the February SOLDIERS].
Additionally, many units are setting high
unit-average goals that require everyone to work
just a bit harder.
Improving your performance on the APFT will require
work, but here are some tips to help you work
smarter and get more profit from your sweat.
Planning for Success
First, carefully analyze your strengths and
weaknesses to ensure effort is applied in a way that
provides the greatest payoff.
US Soldiers In action around the world in action!
as death and taxes, twice each year soldiers will take the Army Physical
For many, the performance requirements will become more difficult this
October when the Army's new APFT standards take effect [see "The New 1998
APFT Standards on page 5 and the 1998 APFT chart on page 24 of the February
Additionally, many units are setting high unit-average goals that require
everyone to work just a bit harder.
Improving your performance on the APFT will require work, but here are some
tips to help you work smarter and get more profit from your sweat.
Planning for Success
First, carefully analyze your strengths and weaknesses to ensure effort is
applied in a way that provides the greatest payoff.
At least six to eight weeks before the record APFT, you should be fully
focused on a training plan to maximize your performance. Keep written
records as you train for each event, and mark your progress. Develop a
contingency plan for TDYs or other interruptions of your program.
As you train, use specificity, overload and progression.
When doing specific training, run the actual two-mile course and time your
half-mile segments. Then you can better pace yourself and know exactly how
far you still have left to run from anywhere on the course. And, while
weight lifting or doing crunches have their value, doing push-ups and
sit-ups to standard and learning to pace yourself are the best ways to
prepare for those events.
When working to overload, try to gradually increase the number of
repetitions of sit-ups and push-ups and decrease the run time.
Progression is illustrated in a timed workout where one week you do
repetitions of 30 seconds of exercise followed by 30 seconds of rest. In
subsequent workouts you progress to 45 seconds of exercise and 45 seconds of
rest. Alternatively, you can gradually reduce the recovery time between
exercises. This is where careful planning and good records pay off.
Find a training partner who is near your ability level. This provides mutual
support and encouragement and helps you exert a little more effort each day.
If your partner has diff-erent strengths and weaknesses, use that to help
each other. Part-ners can also evaluate each other on push-ups and sit-ups
to make sure the exercises are done to standard.
Three Weeks Before the Test
For the last few weeks prior to the test, do your workouts at about the same
time of day that your record APFT is scheduled. If possible, practice at the
test site at least once a week during this period.
This will familiarize you with the situation, especially the run course, and
will help your pacing. By knowing your performance goals for each one-half
mile segment of the run, you'll know exactly how you're performing during
the test and what you must do to make or exceed your goals.
The Week of the Test
On the day of the test, fatigue will hurt your score more quickly than any
other factor. For two days prior to testing, avoid taxing your muscles --
stop training and relax, because it's too late to improve and more training
will only tire you out.
The older you are the more recovery time you'll need between major
exertions, so if you're over 40 give yourself four to five days' rest.
During this period of rest, try mental practice. Picture yourself moving
through each test event and attaining your specific goal. You need to have a
goal prior to taking the test and a strategy of how you plan to obtain that
On Test Day
Eat only a light meal immediately preceding the test. Warm-up with a few
(and only a few) push-ups about five minutes prior to testing. Do the same
thing with sit-ups and the run. Since you may be waiting a few minutes
before testing, plan ahead.
Pace yourself on the run. Your best time will occur if you run each quarter
mile at the same pace rather than starting fast then fading badly at the
end. Also, by starting a bit slower you will be the one passing others,
rather than being passed, which will greatly aid your motivation the last
Pace yourself on the other events also. You can only pace yourself by
knowing your capabilities, and that will only come from the experience of
doing the test several times before doing it for record.
Avoid reaching momentary muscle failure while completing the push-up and
sit-up portion of the test. When you feel you're near muscle failure, rest
for a few seconds in the authorized position, then attempt a few additional
If the person administering the test says "No" to a repetition, make an
obvious, deliberate change in form. Don't waste good energy on bad reps.
A Final Reminder
The APFT is not an end in itself. It's intended to help you attain high
levels of cardiovascular and muscle fitness. These physical capabilities are
necessary for optimal execution of your mission-essential task list.
Training for the APFT ought to be just one part of an overall program to
maximize your health and military proficiency.
All physical tasks have an integral mental component as well. Within reason,
you can train your body not only to pass, but also to excel at these tests.
Mental toughness, perseverance and hard work are needed. There are no
secrets that bypass the need for hard work, thoughtful preparation and a
positive attitude. There is no substitute for determination, motivation and
good work habits.
You can find additional training tips in "Training for the APFT," starting
page 8 of the February SOLDIERS. -- Editor] Improvement
Know Yourself: Practice your weakest event much more than your strongest
Plan Ahead: There are no "overnight wonders" in physical performance.
Written Records: They help keep you on track and motivated.
Partners: They make workouts more consistent and enjoyable.
Basic Principles: Specificity, progression and overload.
Practice: Repeatedly take the test for score, in all three events.
Proper Form: Follow standards described in FM 21-20 and DA PAM 350-22, and
listen to your partner's evaluation.
Set Goals: This is important in the preparation phase and helps your pacing
during the test.
Pace Yourself: Practice in each event will help you to know your
capabilities and when it's time to push yourself.
Rest: Take two to five days off immediately before the test and don't
overeat on test day.
Develop Habits: Perform regular, 20- to 30-minute workouts, at least three
times per week.
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