The Army Physical Fitness Test, or APFT, is the standard by which all members of the United States Army are measured to determine their physical fitness for the job. All active soldiers are required to take the test twice a year and all reserve members are required to take it once a year. It’s obvious why physical fitness would be so critically important to active duty soldiers as their ability to perform on the battlefront or in emergency situations is a vital part of their job.
The APFT is made up of three basic components: a push-up completed with your upper arms at least parallel to the ground; a sit-up completed with your upper body rising to a vertical position, with the neck over the spine and a two-mile run. Naturally, the first two phases will include as many repetitions as you can manage and the run will be evaluated based on time. The number of points you score in each phase of the test are totaled to give you your overall score.
In general, males are expected to complete about 60-75 push-ups and 65-80 sit-ups in two minutes and to complete their two-mile run in approximately 13 to 14:30 minutes. For females, the standard is 30-45 push-ups, 65-80 sit-ups and a completed run time of 15:30 – 18 minutes. You can improve your chances of scoring well on your APFT by following a few easy tips for approaching each of the test segments.
For both the push-ups and sit-ups, it’s important to consider all of the muscle groups that are involved in properly completing these exercises and ensuring that you work each of these groups so that all are at maximum fitness. If you focus too much on one area at the expense of another, you’ll just be undercutting your own chances so balanced preparation really is key.
At the same time, you should be aware of any possible areas of weakness you may have. You can determine this by attempting each exercise per the Army requirements and taking note of where you feel the most strained or fatigued. If your back feels fine but your arms are aching, then clearly you need to work on arm strength. If you finish your sit-ups and your abs are sore, then you probably need to work on your core.
Naturally, doing a proper push-up involves strong chest and shoulder muscles but that’s not all that is involved. You also need to strengthen your back, arms and core as well as your legs to maximize your performance. A regimen of exercises including planks, pull-ups and squats can help to strengthen each set of muscles. And, of course, you’ll want to do plenty of actual push-ups in order to get your body used to the process.
Sit-ups tend to involve the abdominals the most, but they can also involve the hip flexors and the neck muscles. Lunging stretches of the hip flexors can help to prepare for the stress of sit-ups on the legs and hips and neck strengthening, possibly using a towel for resistance, can help to work out the neck muscles. And as with push-ups, doing actual sit-ups can help prepare your entire body for the testing experience.
The two-mile run will require plenty of leg strength, which you can build up with work on the elliptical machine or treadmill. You’ll want to vary your speed but be sure to get some fast sets in as this will help to increase resistance and improve reaction time. It can also help to build up cardiovascular endurance, which is critical to successfully completing this part of the APFT. Just remember, when it comes to physical fitness the Army expects the best so the more you can do to prepare yourself, the better off you’ll be.