If you’re in the Army, and want to score well on the APFT, my hat’s off to you. In today’s political Army climate, that may not mean that you’ll be any more likely to be promoted or to be more respected by your leadership, but I can promise you two things:
1. you’ll be a better soldier for it.
2. You’ll eventually look like a soldier and not some fat lazy disgrace to the uniform.
The APFT consists of three events:
There are two strategies I feel work well for push ups. The first would be doing 3 sets of pushups to failure every other day, with the goal being 75-85 pushups in a set. That’s mentally and physically challenging, and you’ll grow tired of it pretty quickly, but it’s a good place to start, because you need to master the proper form. Pushups are best conducted while looking in a mirror- this will keep your head up, eyes forward, and allow you to critique your own form. General rules- body must stay in a straight line, triceps must break parallel with your back, and elbows must nearly lock in order for one complete repetition to be counted. The other generally easier strategy for preparation would be to take ~74% of your body weight and bench press it to failure 2 or three times every other day. If you can get 28 reps with that you’re doing pretty well. Additionally adding a lat pulldown and a seated row will promote healthier overall balance of strength in your rotator cuffs which will reduce the incidence of shoulder injuries.
For the actual event the hands cannot leave the floor but can be rotated and slide in or out. Sliding the hands in and out targets different muscles, so it may help you complete more reps to go to wide arm or to some other variation toward the end of the event.
I personally have not felt that sittups require much training- if you’re running, your abs should be in shape- but 60 sittups a day will prepare you for the sittup event on the APFT.
Strategy is important in sittups. FOR THE APFT ONLY, you want to actually push your body toward the ground by flaring your elbows and using your abdominal and lower back muscles, bounce your lower shoulder blades off it never wasting time to lower your head which is not required, and finally closing your elbows to rocket your body upward for completion of each repetition. The reason for this is the unrealistic manner in which sittups are scored. The time only allows for very fast repetitions to max the event with ~ 80 sittups requred in 2 minutes.
The 2 mile run
The run is my personal favorite. It makes the most sense of the APFT tasks as they pertain to soldiering. The best way to get in shape for the APFT run is to jump on a treadmill at a 1 degree incline and run 2 miles at a reasonably pace- while monitoring your heart at intervals to ensure you are not in danger of hurting yourself. Then repeat this process every two days, but adjust the treadmill speed 1/10th of a MPH faster than the previous attempt.
I have, probably my last Army PT test coming up in a week or so, and I started training for it about 25 days ago. Today I ran it at 9.8MPH or ~12:20 for time. I run the first mile without touching the treadmill and the second with one hand touching the display, alternating hands every 5/100ths of a mile, so I have a physical reference for where I am on the belt as I get fatigued- for safety and also to ease the mental aspect of pacing myself visually which gets a little hard as I get tired. I find the change of hands every 5/100ths makes the time seem to move faster which is nice. Obviously treadmills are boring.
My personal feeling on the run, is that if you can reach 12 flat on a treadmill, you can run 13 flat on the street. If you have time, and reach 10MPH, I recommend increasing the incline to eventually 3 degrees, at which point you’ll probably be running an honest 12 minute flat street time.
Tips for running? Blow through pursed lips as you exhale if you have trouble breathing- this helps the lungs to work better, and concentrating on exhaling will keep you from the common problem of concentrating on inhaling, while forgetting to exhale. Forget to exhale, and you’re run is going to suffer horribly- you’ll find yourself hammer breathing and making sounds as your body tells you “hey I’m sutting down.” Not good. The only other tip I have is don’t ever quit. Slow down if you have to, but walking during the event is for quitters and losers, neither of which should be soldiers regardless of their ever-presence within the system.
Shoot for an APFT 300, not 220 or some other unit-imposed standard. That way if you miss, you’ll still come out near the top.