Few organizations have inspired more workouts, boot camps and fitness routines than the military. And now, after decades of using the same test to gauge a recruit’s fitness for duty, the United States Army is proposing a new combat test to better judge what it takes to be battlefield ready. Here’s what you need to know about the new Army fitness test (and whether you’d have what it takes to pass it).
The new Army fit test
Since the days of the Carter Administration, the Army has used the same combat fitness test: a 2-mile run, plus two minutes of pushups and sit-ups. But behind the scenes, specialists at the U.S. Army Center for Initial Military Training have spent more than a decades retooling this test to better assess power, speed, agility and strength. Now, those years of research and testing have finally culminated.
Enter the Army’s new combat test, which the Army Times aptly describes as “a six-event slog.” The new fitness test is designed to mimic the real physical demands of the battlefield, which, not surprisingly, goes well beyond a 2-mile run, some pushups and sit-ups. The new test will be administered as a pilot first, followed by an initial field test over the next 6-9 months, with a real rollout next summer—if the testing is deemed a success.
Dubbed the Army Combat Readiness Test, the new assessment is designed to be given to soldiers as soon as they report to their first units. Unlike the previous test, it tackles five key domains: muscular endurance, cardiovascular endurance, muscular strength, agility and explosive strength. Experts say the previous test only addressed the two endurance areas.
The fit test addresses those five areas across six events, according to the Army Times:
- A 2-mile run to test endurance
- A 250-meter spring, drag and carry, which tests stamina, power and speed
- A max weight deadlift, focused on testing strength
- The leg tuck, which tests stamina and the strength of the core
- Standing power throw to test explosive power
- T-pushups to gauge upper-body endurance
Which is the most challenging of the six events? Said a 2017 Best Ranger Competition winner, “I think the sprint, drag and carry—just because it’s an all-out event and incorporates a bunch of different muscle groups so it stresses you more than just an individual muscle group.”
For the sprint, drag and carry, soldiers stand up from the prone position, sprint 25 meters and return to the start line. They then drag a sled back to the far line and return with the sled to the start line. That’s when they grab two 30-pound kettlebells, run 25 meters back to the far line and return to the start line, kettlebells in hand. The soldiers then drop the kettlebells, turn and sprint to the far line and back to wrap out the event.
Fewer fit soldiers?
In recent years, the military has stressed that the obesity epidemic isn’t just hitting Americans at work or the couch; it’s also impacting the armed forces, making battlefields fatter than ever. According to Pentagon data, about 1 in 13 troops—7.8% overall—is overweight based on body-max index. In 2001, that number was just 1.6%. That’s much lower than the nation’s obesity rate, but still a cause of concern for many in the military.
The Army hopes to recruit 80,000 soldiers in 2018, but only 29% of the U.S. population age 17 to 24 is qualified to join due to a variety of physical factors, from obesity to other fitness issues. Meanwhile, a South Carolina-based military college released a study recently calling the inability to find fit recruits “a threat to national security.”
Although Army leaders stress that troops are combat ready, being diagnosed as obese can prevent troops from advancing in their military career or cause involuntary separation. For all soldiers, physical fitness is considered a cornerstone of their readiness for the battlefield—one reason why the rollout of a new fitness test is such an important move for the Army.
Do you have what it takes to pass the Army’s proposed fitness test? Men’s Health did a great interview recently with 1st Sgt Diamond Ott, who outlined some sage fitness advice based on his work keeping soldiers fit at Fort Hood. His top recommendation for soldiers who want to lose weight is surprisingly simple: cut out the worst stuff first, but do it slowly, removing one thing every few weeks. And above all else, keep training.