Why We Need A Better APFT
Today, while scrolling through my newsfeed I saw a banner advertisement for fitness training tips guaranteeing a 300 on the APFT. And that got me thinking- is a 300 on the APFT really that impressive?
I’ve always been against the Army’s current system of evaluating soldier fitness, and sometimes the training methods used. Personally, I’ve only scored a 300 on a few occasions, always maxing the pushups and sit-ups but generally about 5-10 seconds short on the 2-mile.
That said, my gripe with the APFT isn’t a personal one, it’s about the lack of any sort of realistic aspect to it and how it fails to actually assess how “combat-ready” an individual is.
First let’s look at push-ups and sit-ups- events used to gauge upper body strength. Being able to max these two events doesn’t say you’ve upper body strength, it says you’re really good at doing push-ups and sit-ups.
We shouldn’t even be focusing on specific exercises, we need events that gauge the warfighter’s ability to use various muscle groups all at once to complete a task; you don’t throw an injured teammate over your shoulder via push-up or sit-up, nor do you pull yourself over a wall, or ruck an M2 to an OP, and even if combat somehow did incorporate actual sit-ups and push-ups you’d be in 70+ lbs of gear.
Next is the two-mile run, an event that gauges your potential as a high school track runner more so than adequate cardiovascular ability and lower body strength during combat.
First off, any run really fails to test for actual leg strength and ability to lift large loads. Second, unless you’re doing the Mogadishu Mile you aren’t running for two miles at such a pace. Even if you do find yourself in such a scenario, odds are you won’t find yourself in an APFU.
Is there a place for “running” in the APFT? Yes, although the “run” should be a longer distance and in kit. If this sounds familiar to something else, what I’m suggesting is a ruck march.
I do believe that distance is important, but I don’t think that leaving out shorter distances (especially given the battlefields of today) makes sense; regardless of the human being, the peak for cardiovascular endurance is that of an 800-m sprinter, so we should be focusing on events that test ability more so to these standards.
My final thought on running is that, while a good way to train cardiovascular endurance, it should be by no means the way we judge combat readiness.
My next and perhaps biggest gripe is the difference in grading scale based on age and sex. I’ve seen many a woman fail (and abysmally) by the men’s standard and do just fine on their own scale. I’ve also seen the same case occur in both sexes and in regards to age.
A 21-year old male doing 55 push-ups, 60 sit-ups and their run in 14:30 scores a 228, while a female of the same age scores a 271. A 30-year old male scores a 240 to the same standard, and a female a 276.
Should a 21-year old male be doing better in all actuality than those scores, yes absolutely.
My point though, is that for the 21-year old male to score a 276, he would need 68 push-ups, 70 sit-ups and a 13:30 two-mile. Although now scored equally in the APFT’s eyes, there’s not a single fucking person who would want the lower scoring (exercise count) individual being the one dragging them out of a combat zone over the other with the higher exercises performed count.
It’s insulting and a disservice to all parties involved to consider two people who aren’t of equal physical ability of equal physical ability.
I get it though, at a certain point, as you age you do become weaker and your sex plays a factor in physical ability. But what we should be doing in changing the scoring standard for passing at each demographic, not manipulating the raw data.
It’s safe to say this this will never happen, as the egos of high-ranking officials would suffer too major a hit.
The Army has for the past four years been evaluating a new physical fitness test that is more geared towards actual performance in combat situations, although there’s still no word if and when it will become the standard for the force.
We shouldn’t be training to pass a test that evaluates performance on the test; we should be training for and then tested to the standard that allows us to most efficiently carry out our jobs.
About the author: Andrew Farquharson is an Iraq Campaign veteran and an ex-cavalry scout currently living the dream in Newport, Rhode Island as a college student. Aside from writing for 11Bravos his hobbies include mountain climbing, shooting guns and convincing women they should date him. Comments or hate mail can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org or, follow him on Instagram @Lord_Farquharson