Every time the military changes their fitness requirements lately it leads to controversy. This is mostly because so many of the recent changes created at least the suggestion that accommodations were being made for female recruits, or perhaps even males who couldn’t meet the traditional standards. This latest set of changes may sound similar on the surface, but let’s not be too quick to judge. Rather than doing two minutes of push-ups and two minutes of sit-ups, new exercises are being added which supposedly better simulate physical demands encountered on the battlefield. (Washington Times)

The Army Physical Fitness Test that soldiers have known since the 1980s — 2 minutes of pushups; 2 minutes of situps; the 2-mile run — will be retired before the end of the decade. While the 2-mile run will still conclude the assessment, five other events seen as a better predictor of successfully completing combat tasks have been added.

“The Army Combat Fitness Test [ACFT] will ignite a generational, cultural change in Army fitness and become a cornerstone of individual Soldier combat readiness,” Maj. Gen. Malcolm Frost, commander of the Army’s Center of Initial Military Training, said Monday. “It will reduce attrition and it will reduce musculoskeletal injuries and actually save, in the long run, the Army a heck of a lot of money.”

So they’re doing away with the sit-ups. The standard push-ups are gone, but they’re being replaced with a different style of push-up. And a few new items are included as well.

  • Three repetitions of an increasing strength deadlift with a proposed weight range of 120 to 420 pounds
  • Standing backward power throw of a 10-pound ball
  • Sprints, followed by dragging a 90-pound sled, and then hand-carrying two 40-pound kettlebell weights
  • As many leg tucks as they can do

The other category is the new push-up which I’m not familiar with. It’s described as “start in the prone position and do a traditional pushup, but when at the down position they release their hands and arms from contact with the ground and then reset to do another pushup.”

Doesn’t really sound like much of a compromise in physical strength and stamina to me. They’re still including the two-mile run in full gear. And throwing weights around or dragging a heavy sled may very well be a better test of battlefield readiness. I’ll confess that I don’t really get the purpose of the leg tucks, but I’m not a physical education expert either.

In any event, this seems like nothing to panic over or worry that we’re tanking the standards. Even if we’re falling short of recruiting goals, lowering the standards is no way to increase the ranks. They need to offer better compensation and benefits just like any other employer in a competitive labor market. And fixing the darned VA system would go a long way toward helping also.