How to Train for and Pass the Army Fitness Test (Even if You’re Not Enlisting)

Detric Smith STACK

The new Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT) rolled out in October 2020. It will test soldiers’ power, strength, endurance, and aerobic conditioning more practically than the previous test.

In this article, we’ll provide a brief overview of the six events within this test and provide strategic training tips so you can prepare for it. These tips will help soldiers or anyone else interested in developing the physical skills needed to pass.

6 Events of the ACFT

The previous physical fitness test consisted of three individual events. The new test has a total of six and requires a minimum score of 70 to pass. Let’s discuss each of these events.

#1: Trap-Bar Deadlift

Performing deadlifts with heavyweights is one of the ultimate body strength tests. In this challenge, you get two attempts to do three deadlifts using the hexagon-shaped bar, often referred to as the trap-bar.

If you can do three reps with a weight of at least 180 pounds, you’d get 70 points. At 340 pounds or more, you’d get the maximum score of 100 points.

#2: Power Throw

In this event, you have to throw a 10-pound medicine ball over your head for distance. It tests your ability to generate force and explosiveness, two things necessary for battle.

To score a 70, the minimum distance needed is 28 feet (or 8.5 meters). When thrown 44 feet (or 13.5 meters), you’ll get the max score of 100.

#3: Hand-Release Push-Ups

The old test required soldiers to do as many push-ups as they could within 2

minutes. Although this new test is timed for two minutes, the style changed to hand-release push-ups, which adds muscular endurance.

Those who complete 30 push-ups in this timeframe get 70 points. At the same time, those who can meet 70 of them will get a maximum of 100 points.

#4: Sprint, Drag, Carry

This new anaerobic test combines exercises that require excellent conditioning as well as muscle strength. You sprint for approximately 25 yards in this timed event, then drag a 90-pound sled the same distance. Next is a side shuffle for 55 yards, and finally, you have to carry a 40-pound kettlebell in each hand for another 25 yards.

To score 100 points, you need to complete this in less than 1 minute and 40 seconds. For a minimum score, you must accomplish this run in under 2 minutes and 9 seconds.

#5: Leg Tuck

While hanging from a pull-up bar, you’ll bring the tops of your thighs or knees in towards your elbows. Doing 20 reps will give you a score of 100, while 5 reps is a passing score of 70 points. Depending on your size, your endurance or strength training will come into play big time here.

#6: Two-Mile Run

Although not everyone loves distance runs, building aerobic capacity really pays off in so many areas of your health and fitness capabilities.

A time of 18 minutes will give you a passing score, and a time of 12 minutes 45 seconds or faster is what you need for a perfect 100.

Strategic Ways to Train

The ACFT is a test of pure athleticism. It’s not about training for a few exercises and calling it a day. It’s all about developing strength, power, and conditioning. Being strong in one or two of these areas won’t cut it. You must work on all three areas to do well on this test, even if you’re participating in the challenge for fun and not planning to join the Army.

Regardless of your motivation or reasons to take the ACFT, the most strategic way to prepare is to split up your training. Break it up into parts — strength-focused, power-focused, and conditioning-focused.

Strength Building

This section will vary for those who’ve been lifting regularly versus those who haven’t. For beginners, dedicate the first four weeks of your training schedule to using weights that allow you to maintain reasonable control. For instance, choose a weight for each exercise that you can comfortably use to complete each set and have 2 to 3 reps left in you.

Those of you that weight train regularly, choose weights that won’t leave many reps in the tank by the time you finish the set. The key here is to maintain proper control and technique and do so with heavy enough weights to increase your strength.

It’s also beneficial to alternate between higher volume, less intensity, and higher intensity, less volume. You can use free weights to build strength by doing squats, deadlifts, rows, and presses.

Increase Power

For the power training element, you’ll want to do plyometrics and agility drills. The speed and force involved with these types of drills build muscle power.

Examples of exercises to increase your power include:

  • Jumps
  • Throws
  • Ball slams
  • Alternating lunge jumps
  • Kettlebell swings
  • Olympic lifts

Depending on your current fitness level, some of these options are better than others.

When performing Olympic lifts, use variations based on your training experience. And for the plyometric work, keep the reps and volume low so you can stay fresh and do multiple, high-quality sets.

Focus on Anaerobic Conditioning

This form of conditioning involves short yet high-intensity exercises to measure both your strength and endurance. It will also help you train for the fourth event, mainly the sprint, drag, and carry.

As such, you’ll want to do the same exercises that this event requires.

  • Sled Drags
  • Carries
  • Sprints

Again, the amount of time you spend on each exercise will vary based on your fitness level. Pick a few of these to start with and set a timer for 30 to 60 seconds. Complete anywhere from 2 to 5 sets per exercise.

Aerobic Conditioning

To prepare for the long two-mile run, getting in some aerobic conditioning is critical. Suppose you hate running and never do it. Start slow and pace yourself on your long runs. Also, you can alternate by taking a shorter run with a bit more speed.

Or, if you prefer starting with a different type of aerobic exercise, consider biking, rowing, or swimming. Before taking the ACFT test, run enough to feel confident in completing two miles, but rotate in other conditioning forms to prevent injury.

Improve Muscle Endurance

For this final training category, it’s all about increasing your muscle endurance through bodyweight circuit training.

Circuits consist of a series of exercises you piece together. For instance, if you start with four exercises, try to perform 8 to 15 reps, repeat for two to three rounds, and take minimal rest in between. The total workout can last from 10 to 20 minutes based on your ability.

The exercises can include push-ups, squats, lunges, mountain climbers, rows, plank variations, and so forth.

For instance, when doing the push-ups, try varying the tempo, the number of reps, and the distance between your hands to switch things up. Also, be sure to include exercises for your chest, like dumbbell bench presses, and vary the number of reps you do. And throw in some variations to target your shoulders and triceps, such as overhead presses, lateral raises, and tricep extensions.