- Congress is considering replacing the Army’s new fitness test with the old version that required just push-ups, sit-ups and a 2-mile run, but soldiers warned troops would struggle to readjust to the old test.
- Most soldiers reacting to the news agreed the ACFT was a better measure of overall fitness, but said it is easier to pass.
- “I think they realized the ACFT highlights just how out of shape a lot of soldiers are and how different women are from men physically,” one of the top commenters wrote.
A proposal in a Senate committee’s defense policy bill would bring back the Army’s old fitness exam, prompting an outcry from Army leadership and soldiers who say the reversal is a waste of time and would lead to more soldiers struggling to pass the test.
The Army officially implemented a new fitness test in 2022 consisting of six exercises following a years-long push from Congress to develop a replacement for the traditional Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT), which measured only timed sit-ups, push-ups and a 2-mile run. While many soldiers prefer the Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT) as a better measure of overall physical ability, some said the service would struggle to return to the APFT because of its more rigorous standards for the 2-mile run, according to a Daily Caller News Foundation review of discourse in popular online forums for servicemembers.
While the Senate Armed Services Committee’s proposed legislation will still undergo months of debate and reconciliation with the companion bill in the House, early drafts demonstrate where Congress’ mind is. (RELATED: ‘Re-Name, Relocate, Deny’: Here’s Why The GOP Faces An Uphill Battle In Purging ‘Wokeism’ From The Military)
If it does become law, the act would require the Army to restore the APFT as the “test of record” and create a 24-month pilot program and briefing to Congress before a new standard could be officially implemented, according to a summary of the bill released Friday.
“It would be highly not [recommended] going back to the APFT,” Sergeant Major of the Army Michael Grinston said on Monday, according to Military.com. “I think it’s unreasonable and, to me, doesn’t make any sense.”
Army planners began developing the ACFT in 2010 with the goal of developing a test that better represented the nature of physical preparedness the Army wanted its soldiers to have than the APFT, which had been the standard since the 1980s, Military.com reported. The ACFT’s final version scores soldiers on a maximum deadlift, standing ball throw (overhead yeet), push-ups, a sprint-drag-carry complex, plank and 2-mile run.
Most soldiers reacting to the news agreed the ACFT was a better measure of overall fitness.
1st Lt. Austin von Letkemann, who holds a bachelor’s degree in sports and health sciences and an Elite Level 1 fitness training certification, said he preferred the ACFT in a social media post on his influencer account Mandatory Fun Day, which is popular with the Army community. The ACFT tests both the aerobic and anaerobic systems, whereas the APFT tests only the aerobic system primarily associated with endurance, he explained.
“I think they realized the ACFT highlights just how out of shape a lot of soldiers are and how different women are from men physically and that’s hurting a lot of feelings so they’re abandoning it,” one of the top comments on the post states.
“I’ve seen a lot of people get used to run 22 minutes on the ACFT. Going back is gonna hurt,” another agreed.
Under the previous test, the maximum passing run time was 16:36 for men and 19:42 for women among the youngest age group. For the ACFT, however, a passing time is 22:00 for men and 23:22 for women in the youngest age bracket.
On r/Army, a massive online forum for current and former soldiers or those interested in Army life, comments expressing similar opinions received positive responses.
“Anyone who wants to go back to the old test hasn’t seen many of the people who joined in the last couple of years actually run. The old 2 mile times are a blistering pace for this new group,” one user said.
“I work with so many soldiers who have never taken an APFT and on the ACFT they still struggle to pass the run. This would hurt quite a few slow runners,” said another.
One explanation could be that the events preceding the run on the ACFT are more taxing on the lower body, slowing down participants. But current and aspiring soldiers have trained specifically for ACFT events that place a greater emphasis on strength than the test’s precursor.
Achieving the minimum score to pass the ACFT is not difficult, but getting a perfect score on the ACFT is a challenge, they said. The ACFT is also logistically difficult, requiring millions in specialized equipment to be distributed to Army units worldwide, according to Military.com.
As of Oct. 1 the ACFT is officially the Army’s physical fitness test of record for Active Duty and AGR Soldiers. Are you ready to crush this test? #MondayMotivation
📸 Sgt. 1st Class Luisito Brooks & Pfc. Summer Parish pic.twitter.com/o56h7epByg
— U.S. Army (@USArmy) October 17, 2022
The possibility of reverting to the old test comes after Congress delayed the official rollout of the ACFT until it made changes based on a study of the ACFT pilot version’s effect on female recruiting and retention. Data showed that nearly 50% of women failed an event present in the earlier test where the soldier crunches knee-to-chin while hanging from a bar, triggering developers to replace the one-rep leg tuck requirement with the plank.
After the change, the Army also gave up on its vision of implementing a gender-neutral test, according to Military.com. The defense policy bill for fiscal year 2023 required the Army to establish uniform standards for both men and women “that ensure soldiers can perform the duties of their respective” occupations, Military.com reported.
The Senate did not consult with the Army when crafting the provision, according to Military.com.
“Just remember ya’ll. One single leg tuck defeated the entire United States Army and forced it to lower standards. Lower standards is the standard,” one user posted.
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