Dissecting the U.S. Army’s new APFT: How Survival Legion can help you prepare

By Rich

The new U.S. Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT) is set for implementation in 2020 and there are some physical challenges you will need to work on in order to get ready for it.

As the Army transforms its APFT for the first time in decades in order to reinvigorate its warrior ethos and to transform the force into warrior-athletes, Survival Legion can help prepare you for this unique challenge.

As we dig into this segment, take note that this is not the first time the U.S. Army has given serious thought to changing the APFT, but it is the first time a change has been implemented in almost 40 years. That’s the level of commitment the Army has to its new test; if you’re a soldier, your commitment should be equally strong.

Let’s break the new APFT down into the individual exercises and hit on each one as it’s own obstacle before we combine the entire event. Leading the way is the Deadlift.

1. Deadlifts (between 120 lbs and 420 lbs)

For the APFT, the soldier will be required to lift their maximum amount of weight for three consecutive reps and within a 5 minute time period. The lifts must be clean and smooth attempts. The Deadlift is a common exercise in the Survival Legion program. It is important to anyone trying to attain physical fitness balance because it incorporates the ‘raw power’ aspect of a complete fitness program.

The APFT participant will be given a 2 minute break after completing the deadlift requirement before moving on to part two, the Standing Power Throw. 

2. Standing Power Throw (between 14.5 feet and 45.9 feet)

In this portion of the APFT the soldier will be required to throw a 10 lb. medicine ball for a maximum distance. A jump is allowed, but there is a line that must not be crossed, as more than two violations disqualifies the soldier. Our Legion workouts concentrate on throws of many kinds, from tire throws to medicine ball tosses and slams. This exercise provides raw burst power that is needed in many real-life situations. Again, there is a 2-minute break before moving onto the next requirement, the push-up segment. 

3. Hand-release Push-ups (3 minutes, as many as possible)

The push-up has been a mainstay of the APFT for decades. The only difference with the new version of the APFT is the time limit; soldiers are required to perform as many push ups as possible for three minutes rather than two minutes, the old/current standard. Also, for the new APFT, at the bottom of each push-up the soldier will rest their chest on the ground and move their arms out to the side so they will form a “T” when viewed from above. Survival Legion workouts focus on movements that lower the body all the way to the ground; the burpees we incorporate into many workouts are a perfect example. Getting up and down off the ground has always been important in combat, especially for the Infantry.

Next, soldiers will be required to perform a “sprint-drag-carry” event:

4. Sprint-drag-carry (4 minutes to complete the following)

  • Sprint 25 meters and back without any weight
  • Pull a 100-pound sled 25 meters and back
  • Sprint 25 meters and back without weight
  • Run 25 meters and back with two forty-pound kettlebells
  • Run 25 meters and back to the start without a weight

No other part of the new APFT better aligns with the Survival Legion training program than this segment. We constantly strive to improve our capability to sprint, drag and carry weight over distances in as short amount of time as possible. I guess you could say Survival Legionnaires are made for this portion of the test and this portion of the test was made for Survival Legionnaires.

When complete, soldiers are given two minutes to rest/recover before moving to the fifth event, the Leg Tuck:

5. Leg Tuck (2 minutes to complete as many as possible)

I, for one, like this addition to the APFT because it is a superior abdominal strength/endurance exercise over the current sit-up requirement. The soldier must hang from a pull-up bar and pull their knees up to their elbows, completing as many reps as possible in 2 minutes. Survival Legion workouts focus on a lot of pull-ups, which increase grip strength; we will be adding more Leg Tucks in our future workouts to help prepare our Army followers compete better in this event.

When the Leg Tuck portion is completed, soldiers will be given five minutes of rest before completing the final and only event that has survived the upgraded APFT unchanged: The 2-mile run. 

6. Two-mile Run (complete in 20 minutes or less)

As soldiers know, in the previous/current version of the APFT two-mile run, the older you are the more time you have to complete it. Now, all soldiers have 20 minutes; far more than was given younger troops in the past but less than was given to older soldiers.

I recommend running at least a mile initially to prepare, then work up to 3 miles to get you ready to rock this event.

After many of our Survival Legion workouts, in order to round out the physical training necessary to be strong and have endurance, I often put in a couple miles.

Now, let’s put all of this together and figure out why, as a whole, this new test is important to a soldier.

First, it tests strength in a soldier that was never really tested before. Yes, we had to be strong, but two minutes of push-ups doesn’t test strength like deadlifts and throws/pulls do.

Next, the new APFT is a much more realistic test of endurance and strength, as you will complete a crucible of events that you can’t just train for over a period of a few weeks and be ready. The new APFT will take constant and consistent training in order to pass, let alone achieve your best times and scores.

Finally, ending a test like this with a two-mile run is brutal, but again, it is important as you will need to reach deep into your soul in situations that require strength and endurance when the stuff gets real and you’re in a combat situation.

The Army knows and understands this, and while change often comes slow, at least it finally got here in terms of upgrading/updating a badly outdated APFT.

Just think about how much better you’re going to be as a soldier when you master this, and as always, Survival Legion will be here to help you power through it.

Rich is a former U.S. Army infantryman and member of the 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The “Old Guard”) who responded to the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001, as our nation was attacked by international terrorists. He is co-founder of Survival Legion, a vet-owned company that stresses functional fitness and draws it’s uniqueness from the Roman Legions.

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