For almost 40 recent years, the US Army measured the physical fitness of American soldiers by using the Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT). It took place during soldiers’ initial selection, basic training, and then in their unit every six months. Soldiers passed this test collectively and usually at platoon level. However, the army command often criticized APFT for the lack of real results indicating soldiers’ strength. The main focus was on endurance, and no other body parameters were clear. Several years ago, the US Army announced that it was replacing the current fitness test with a more sophisticated standard. As a result, since October 2020, soldiers have begun to take the new Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT), which includes new regulations to improve military training.
ACFT is a significant step away from the previous army fitness test, which consisted of only three two-minute exercises. The new test includes six events that reflect all types of fitness: overall body strength, explosiveness, strength endurance, functional fitness, grip strength and core strength, and aerobic endurance. This whole complex is a serious test, but, as Cohen (2021) notes, the command of the American army believes that soldiers are able to pass it by carrying out preliminary training. ACFT began its development in 2013 and included a set of 113 core military missions and exercises outlined in army doctrine, as well as feedback from those who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan. This is a crucial innovation that, although more difficult to implement than APFT, tests critical physical skills and, in addition, is gender independent. Thus, the American army has come to the conclusion that there should be no minimum standards for males and females, and everyone is on an equal footing.
Why the Problem Exists
One of the key problems that have led to the emergence of the ACFT is the deteriorated training of the military. In particular, Hepler (2021) mentions the declining health and fitness standards of recruits. The research leading to the release of the new standard has shown an increase in the number of overweight recruits who were unable to pass entry-level fitness tests (Hepler, 2021). The poor physical condition of soldiers also contributed to the increase in injuries caused by the inability to withstand standard strength loads. The lack of a practical base is a strong argument in favor of renovating the outdated recruit training program.
How It Became a Problem
The problem that developed into the need to reorganize the military testing procedure was the result of ill-considered physical training practice. Long-term light programs did not provide enough information about the indicators of strength and endurance, which, in turn, led to weakened physical potential. Gender division exacerbated the issue and made it impossible to assess the level of preparation of males and females objectively since the standards were distinctive. According to Keefer and DeBeliso (2020), the previous APFT program did not cover important health metrics. Using the active-duty Marines as an example, the authors compare the participants’ performance and confirm the lack of effectiveness of the outdated test (Keefer & DeBeliso, 2020). Moreover, the results of the study indicate that ACFT has a positive effect on all factors of military training, without exception, including not only endurance and strength but also weight (Keefer & DeBeliso, 2020). Therefore, the need to update the military training regime was acute, which ultimately has led to the emergence of the new standard.
Cohen, J. (2021). Vermont Army National Guard prepares units for Army Combat Fitness Test 3.0. Defense Visual Information Distribution Service.
Hepler, T. C. (2021). Lower-body muscular power and exercise tolerance predict susceptibility to enemy fire and cognitive performance during a simulated military task [Unpublished doctoral dissertation]. Kansas State University.
Keefer, M., & DeBeliso, M. (2020). A comparison of United States Marine Corps Physical Fitness Test and Combat Fitness Test results. International Journal of Exercise Science, 13(4), 1741-1755.