Apprehension among America’s more than 330,000 citizen soldiers in the Army Guard is growing as October 2020 approaches. Why? This is the date when all Army soldiers must pass a more rigorous fitness test known as the Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT).
According to wire service reports, “Spread out in more than 2,800 armories around the country, members of the Army Guard are required to do weekend duty once a month and a two-week stint during the year. A number of units are also tapped by state governors for help during hurricanes, wildfires, border problems and other events. And, during the peak of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, Guard units were routinely called up for active-duty deployments to fill needs that couldn't be met by the overstretched active-duty troops in the battle zones.”
The Army Guard is rushing to find more than 5,000 fitness instructors to get these weekend warriors in shape to pass the ACFT. It is also planning on purchasing more than $40 million in workout equipment.
In response to this change in the Army fitness test and the training that will be necessary for soldiers to meet these rigorous requirements, Rally Fitness has developed an Army Combat Fitness Test Equipment Package. This package was designed by Rally Fitness, known for its rugged CrossFit and high-use fitness facilities equipment, to help soldiers train and test administrators to accurately assess the fitness of Army soldiers.
If you would like more information on the Rally Fitness Army Combat Fitness Test Equipment Package, click here for more information.
Fox News reports that "For those who are already doing well on their physical fitness test and they have the routine figured out, I think they're going to transition to this new test without any issues," said Army National Guard Lt. Col. Brian Dean, who is responsible for implementing the new test across the Guard. "People who are in those parts of their life where they're still kinda struggling to make the right time for fitness and do fitness in the right ways — this will feel significant."
Most Army Guard members see more limited duty and are often focused on their full-time jobs and other commitments, which can be hundreds of miles from the nearest military base. This presents a logistical challenge in their preparation for taking (and passing) the ACFT.
"Ninety percent of my soldiers are part-time," Maj. Gen. Timothy Orr, the adjutant general for the Iowa National Guard, told The Associated Press in an interview. "I think there's apprehension. There's always the question of how are we going to do this with the time that we have, and the equipment we have."
The Army’s current fitness test, which consists of two-minutes of pushups and sit ups and a 2-mile run, is being replaced with a much more rigorous test. The “events’ include:
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.
STANDING POWER THROW
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.
Resources for the ACFT
The Army has been building training tools to help soldiers prepare for this challenging test. Click here for more information on the ACFT training website.
Rally Fitness has also offered more detailed “Training Tips “ for the passing the ACFT. They can be accessed by clicking here.
The Biggest Challenge: The Timeline
Regular Army and Army Guard soldiers are facing a physical challenge that many have not had to face in decades. The biggest challenge, said Army National Guard Lt. Gol. Dean, is “the timeline — particularly identifying the thousands of trainers needed to staff all of the armories and work with soldiers on the new fitness regime. It takes about two days to get someone certified, and he said that so far only about 500 of the needed 5,000 trainers are in place. Getting the training equipment is a challenge, but it's not insurmountable."
The U.S. Army is pilot-testing a new way to measure the fitness of soldiers and it looks a LOT like a CrossFit class. The six-event test measures functional fitness and has no adjustment for gender. They are Occupational Physical Assessment Test, or also known as OPAT.
According to a recent article in The Wall Street Journal, the proposed test known as the “Army Combat Readiness Test” (ACRT), seeks to “encourage more practical physical training and prevent injury in a force frequently deployed around the world. It also reflects a U.S. military where all combat jobs are now open to women: The proposed test would have one set of passing standards, with no adjustments for age or gender.”
Officials who manage the physical training of Army personnel have been concerned about the relative fitness of this fighting force for several years. “When you look at fitness, we’re having some challenges right now,” says Maj. Gen. Malcolm Frost, commanding general of the U.S. Army Center for Initial Military Training. Tens of thousands of soldiers aren’t deployable because of injuries, many caused by poor physical fitness.
The soldiers who belong to the elite forces of the U.S. military such as Navy SEALS and Army Green Berets have a long history with CrossFit training and apparently the physical instructors of the Army have been taking notice of this. It is not a stretch to say that anyone who endures a weekly CrossFit workout – man or woman – would pass this proposed fitness test.
The Current Test is Based on Aerobics
The current Army test got its impetus from the aerobics boom of the 1980’s. This was also a time when many “Cold-War” leaders felt that ground combat was obsolete.
Fitness experts note that this current test, which includes timed push-ups and sit-ups and a two-mile run, and is taken twice a year is only about 40 percent predictive of a soldier’s ability to complete tasks necessary for combat. The proposed ACRT test is about 80 percent predictive.
The article notes that in order to pass the current test, soldiers must score 60 points in each of three categories: push-ups, sit-ups and a timed two-mile run. The test awards points on a sliding scale based on a soldier’s age and gender (except in sit-ups, where the male and female standards are identical). For instance, a 22- to 26-year-old man must do 40 push-ups in two minutes to pass that event. A 22- to 26-year-old woman can pass with 17 push-ups.
The Proposed OPAT is Considerably More Challenging
The proposed test will require both genders to be functionally fit in order to pass. CrossFit athletes will certainly recognize these “events” from their WOD’s.
Event #1 - Dead Lift
Soldiers line up behind rows of barbells loaded with weights ranging from 125 pounds to 425 pounds. Each soldier picks one of the barbells and performs three dead lifts.
Event #2 – A Reverse Throw of a 10-pound Weight
This throw is measured for distance and seems awkward to some soldiers. However, it serves a purpose. It mimics a boosting move that’s “exactly how we get people into buildings,” says Col. Dale Snider in the Journal article. The 49-year-old has been deployed four times to combat zones.
Event #3 – A New Push-Up
The Army notes that the proposed new push-up requires lowering all the way to the ground and extending one’s arms in a T between repetitions. The T push-up is easier to monitor in testing, Army leaders say and is much more difficult to perform.
Event #4 – 250 Meter Shuttle with 90-Pound Sled and Kettlebells
This event, which every CrossFit trainer has included in his/her regimen at one time or another, requires the soldier to alternately sprint, dragging a 90-pound sled and carrying two 40-pound kettlebells. Many in the test have noted that this is one of the toughest as far a muscle fatigue.
Event #5 – The Leg Tuck
This leg tuck, the fifth event in the proposed test, requires lifting knees or thighs to elbows while hanging from a pull-up bar. The article noted that some soldiers struggled to do more than a handful of reps.
Event #6 – The Two-Mile Run
The proposed test ends with a timed two-mile run. This is the only event identical to one in the current test.
Functional Training is Coming…and Soon
According to the Occupational Physical Assessment Test, some of the fighting forces have gotten fat as the Army reports that about 17 percent of its soldiers are obese. This rate has risen (from 13 percent) from the previous year and is about half the overall obesity rate of all U.S. civilians. Clearly, the leaders of the Army feel these numbers are going the wrong way and they plan on doing something about this.
The report noted that change could come as soon as 2018. If adopted, the ACRT would complement or replace the current fitness test in the next few years. “The proposed test is part of a move toward a more comprehensive approach to training and maintaining the Army’s 1 million soldiers. It comes amid high demands on the Army world-wide, a shrinking pool of people eligible for military service and a shift in the civilian fitness industry (such as CrossFit) toward free-weight and functional training.”