Those soldiers who have been sweating (or perhaps not sweating enough!) the implementation of the new Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT) got a reprieve recently. Army leadership has suspended its plan to start using this more demanding gauge as its test of record this October.
Why? The mitigation and prevention of the coronavirus spread among soldiers precludes training and testing, at least for the immediate future.
According to this article, “Gym closures across installations, squad-level PT and strict adherence to social distancing guidelines make large gatherings for even the current Army Physical Fitness Test impractical,” explained Lt. Col. Robin Ochoa. “All current passing APFT scores will be extended until further notice.”
All ACFT diagnostic tests, which the entire force was scheduled to take before it officially rolled out in the fall, are also suspended. The timeline for when the new test will officially arrive has not yet been issued.
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As we have reported in this blog, the Army planned to transition fully to the ACFT at the start of fiscal year 2021. This new, more rigorous test includes the following elements:
With a proposed weight range of 120 to 420 pounds, the deadlift event is similar to the one found in the Occupational Physical Assessment Test, or OPAT, which is given to new recruits to assess lower-body strength before they are placed into a best-fit career field. The ACFT will require soldiers to perform a three-repetition maximum deadlift and the weights will be increased. This event replicates picking up ammunition boxes, a wounded battle buddy, supplies or other heavy equipment on the battlefield.
Participants will toss a 10-pound ball backward as far as possible to test muscular explosive power. This replicates that which is needed to lift themselves or a fellow soldier up over an obstacle or to move rapidly across uneven terrain.
In this event, soldiers start in the prone position and execute a traditional pushup, but when at the down position they release their hands and arms from contact with the ground and then reset to do another pushup. This is designed to build additional upper body muscles.
As they dash 25 meters, five times up and down a lane, soldiers will perform sprints, drag a sled weighing 90 pounds, and then hand-carry two 40-pound kettlebell weights. This test simulates pulling a battle buddy out of harm's way, moving quickly to take cover, or carrying ammunition to a fighting position or vehicle.
This test is similar to a pull-up, Soldiers lift their legs up and down to touch their knees/thighs to their elbows as many times as they can. This exercise strengthens the core muscles since it doubles the amount of force required compared to a traditional sit-up.
This is the same event as on the current test. In the ACFT, run scores are expected to be a bit slower due to all of the other strenuous activity.
The now delayed ACFT is designed to better measure the physical fitness attributes soldiers need for combat, but the new six-event test required far more equipment than the older APFT.
In announcing the delay in implementation, the Army spokesman noted that soldiers taking the ACFT need hexagon bars and bumper plates for deadlifts, weighted sleds, medicine balls, kettlebells and measuring tape. The surfaces of all of these can be a transmission base for the COVID-19 virus and potentially spread it to all soldiers who use the equipment. The old test, by comparison, just required repetition counters, a stopwatch and a running path.