Soldiers can forget about sit-ups. For the first time in 30 years, the US army has up-dated its fitness testing to better prepare soldiers for the demands of combat. Lt. General Mark Hertling, the general in charge of the Army’s initial training, collaborated with a 16 member team to revise the Army’s Physical Readiness and Combat tests. Going are the full sit-up test, and the 2 minute push-up and 2 mile run are being revised. Instead, the first test will expand from 3-5 events. The full sit-up goes for several physiological and safety reasons: they don’t do much to strengthen the core to translate to battle strength, and the full flex movement, the actual crunch part of the sit-up, puts an unhealthy strain on the back at its weakest point. The push-up pace increases to assess upper body endurance, and the run gets shortened to 1.5 miles to assess the anaerobic capacity needed for high intensity bursts in the battlefield. “This is about training smarter, not training more”, Hertling said. Added are a no-rest standing long jump and 1 minute row to look at immediate fatigue and failure.
The out-dated PT test” does not adequately measure components of strength, endurance and mobility. The events have a low co-relation to the performance of warrior tasks and battle drills” said Hertling, who holds a master’s degree in exercise physiology.
Combat veterans trying out the new tests say they are tough. For the Army Combat Readiness test they are in full combat gear while carrying a rifle. They have to excel at sprints, move through hurdles and maneuver balance beams while holding heavy ammo tins, drag a 180 pound sled, and run sprints.
Specific gender and age standards, from under age 30 to 60, for the test scores will align with the American College of Sports Medicine and Cooper Institute to establish standards and a thorough review before the tests are approved. “Soldiers like to be challenged. This will definitely challenge them”, Hertling said.
Training for the Rest of Us/ Bringing Boot Camp Home
Most of us want to look and feel good and the only battle we face is aging well. But we can take elements of the new testing to inspire us to work a little harder in our work-outs by going beyond where we thought we could, into the “somewhat hard” zone, even if it is only 30 seconds or a minute. High-intensity exercise toughens you up, writes Dr. John Ratey,author of Spark: The Revolutionary New Science Of Exercise and The Brain.”It’s why we climb mountains and sign up for boot camp and Outward Bound trips.” Studies show that by adding a single spurt of sprinting for 30 seconds, on a bike for example, generates a 6 fold increase in human growth hormone, the ” fountain of youth” hormone. Remember, he writes, that by middle age these hormones dwindle to 1/10 of what they were during childhood. The sprints and agility tests that the Army will practice build fast-twitch muscles, which add power to movement. For us mere mortals, these new muscle fibers enhance our metabolism and help us become better at burning fats and carbohydrates for up to 4 hours after training, as well as lowering blood pressure.
Keep the push-ups.Push-ups are a great full body exercise strengthening many muscles at once: abs, front of your legs, arms and back. According to the American College of Sports Medicine fitness test, a 40-49 year old female or male performing more than 18 or19 push-ups, respectively, with the chin touching the floor and back straight, scores an “above average” rating. The tests are designed to help you develop a fitness program based on your results. The ACSM and Cooper Institute will also be involved in the Army’s establishment of test standards.
Connie Aronson is an American College of Sports Medicine Health & Fitness Specialist and personal trainer located at the YMCA in Ketchum, Idaho