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How to Prepare for the Army Physical Fitness Test

Expert advice on preparing for this rigorous test.

By
Ben Greenfield,
September 12, 2011
Episode #062

Page 1 of 2

Listener Mike recently wrote in asking:

“Would you analyze the current Army Fitness Test, point out what it is testing, where it fails, and what soldiers can due to max the test without creating a muscle imbalance or hurting their back, shoulders, and knees, which are all common aliments among our service men and women? I am sure all of the soldiers out there appreciate your advice!”

This one is for all you soldiers (and potential recruits) who want to learn everything you need to know about preparing for the Army Fitness Test.

What is the Army Physical Fitness Test?

The Army Physical Fitness Test, also known as the APFT, is designed to test the fitness of soldiers in the United States Army. A test of your muscular strength, endurance, and cardiovascular fitness is conducted by scoring you on 3 separate events:

  1. a push-up completed with your upper arms at least parallel to the ground

  2. a sit-up completed with your upper body rising to a vertical position, with your neck over your spine

  3. a two-mile run

You are scored on your performance in the APFT by adding up the total number of points in each of the 3 events. Scoring is based on gender, age category, and number of repetitions you perform for the push-up and sit-up, plus run time.

If you’re an active soldier, you are required to take the APFT at least twice a year, and if you’re a reserve soldier, you must test at least once per year.

How to Prepare for the Army Physical Fitness Test

With proper workouts, you can maximize your ability to succeed at the APFTest. For most males to be optimally prepared, you should be able to do 60-75 push-ups in two minutes, 65-80 sit-ups in two minutes, and clock in at 13 to 14:30 minutes for your two-mile run. For a female, be ready for 30-45 push-ups, 65-80 sit-ups and a 15:30-18:00 time for a two-mile run.

Here are your Quick & Dirty Tips to prepare for each part of the APFT:

Push-Ups

Strength and muscular endurance in your chest and shoulders are just one component of the push-up. For example, if you drop and do 20, and find that your arms don’t get tired, but your low back is sagging or your abs are hurting, you likely have issues with a weak core. If your shoulders sag or drop, you likely have weak scapula and upper back muscles. If your upper body does not get tired during the push-ups, but your legs feel unstable, you likely have weak quadriceps or hip muscles.

So to work yourself up to a high number of push-ups with good form, you should do:

  1. Planking exercises (especially side and front plank)

  2. Upper back exercises (pull-ups and seated rows)

  3. Quadriceps and hip exercises (lunges and squats)

  4. Push-ups. There is no better training for your upper body APFT preparation than push-ups. However, rather than simply doing the standard push-up, you can do harder variations of the push-up that will make the standard version seem easy!

Sit-Ups

There are 3 possible areas that can get tired or cramped when you’re completing a high number of sit-ups – your hip flexor muscles on the front of your legs, your neck, and of course, your abdominals.

Because of this, your sit-up preparation routine should include:

  1. Hip flexor stretching (lunging hip flexor stretch)

  2. Neck strengthening, which can be done by using a towel for resistance and moving your head in all four directions

  3. Sit-ups. Similar to push-ups, there is no better training for your sit-up APFT preparation than sit-ups!

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