Army physical fitness test
Photo: Sean Kimmons/U.S. Army

Combat Ready? New Army Test Aims to Better Assess Fitness

The Army is officially doing away with the classic Army Physical Fitness Test. Most of us know it as the pushup test, but that’s changing.

Army physical fitness test
Photo: Sean Kimmons/U.S. Army

Called the Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT), the new six-event format won’t roll out until 2020. The ACFT has to go through some basic training of its own — a yearlong field study starting this October.

The U.S. Army has been intent on making its combat-readiness testing more accurate, as well as more age- and gender-neutral, for a while. It’s widely known that soldiers dislike the current Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT), which includes three dated fitness measures: situps, pushups, and a run.

The new multifaceted ACFT will include six challenges covering a wider range of strength, agility, and endurance tests that help eliminate physical discrepancies related to age and sex.

A post shared by United States Army (@usarmy) on

It might sound like a small shift. But for an organization as massive as the military, the change is weighty. Maj. Gen. Malcolm Frost, head of the Center for Initial Military Training, told Army Times, “This is a generational, cultural change in fitness for the United States Army, and will be a cornerstone of individual soldier combat readiness. That’s how big this is for the Army.”

Dated 3-Event Test Moves to Dynamic 6-Event Challenge

Army physical fitness test
Photo: Sean Kimmons/U.S. Army

The current physical fitness test, which has been the standard for almost 40 years, starts with pushup and situp tests. Recruits must do as many as possible in two minutes. The third component of the APFT is a two-mile run for time. Participants receive scores of 0 to 100 in each event. To pass, Army recruits need a minimum score of 60 in each event.

A post shared by United States Army (@usarmy) on

What the New Army Combat Fitness Test Includes

The ACFT will include the following six events, with a two-minute rest between each strength and agility test and a five-minute break before the run. The entire test will last 50 minutes.

  1. Deadlift. Deadlift between 120 and 420 pounds, depending on the individual soldier. You must do three reps in five minutes.
  2. Standing power throw. Toss a 10-pound medicine ball overhead and backward. Complete one practice throw and two graded throws in three minutes. The longest distance is recorded.
  3. Hand-release pushups. With chest lowered to the floor, lift your hands off the ground between each rep. Complete as many reps as possible in three minutes.
  4. Sprint-drag-carry. In four minutes, sprint 25 meters out and 25 meters back five times. Each iteration will include a different activity: sprint, sled drag, lateral shuffle, and 40-pound kettlebell carry.
  5. Leg tuck. Hang from a pullup bar and, with your body parallel, pull your knees to your elbows as many times as possible in two minutes.
  6. Two-mile run. Takes place on a track or a paved, level road, with a 20-minute maximum.

How the ACFT Better Measures Fitness

Army physical fitness test
Photo: Sean Kimmons/U.S. Army

The continuous 50-minute test triples the work-to-rest ratio of the current test. The new ACFT is also expected to predict a soldier’s effectiveness in combat with 80 percent accuracy, compared to 40 percent for the existing APFT, Frost said.

And the more well-rounded test neutralizes age and gender gaps.

Women have been permitted to test for all direct-combat positions since 2016. However, many have felt that the calibrated APFT meant that women were getting a break on standards. After all, men had to run faster and do more pushups.

A post shared by United States Army (@usarmy) on

Because the ACFT focuses more specifically on physical demands for combat, the measures are more universal. The fitness standards are baseline requirements regardless of sex or age.

This is the largest overhaul of the Army physical fitness test in history. But the standards have changed incrementally six times since 1980. And the Army has been moving toward an overhaul of the APFT for the last six years.

It’s a glacial process. There’s still a year and a half until the ACFT is fully implemented. But here’s the good news: There’s plenty of time to train for it.

Julie Kailus

Associate editor Julie Kailus has spent a career covering people, places, and products in the outdoor industry. Julie can be found testing the latest and greatest in her favorite activities — trail running, mountain biking, swimming, snowboarding, and the underrated endurance sport of chasing two sons around the mountains.