Army Physical Fitness Test

This article covers the Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT) and FM 21-20.

My goal today is to give a general overview about the APFT.

This information will benefit anyone in the Army or anyone thinking about joining the Army in the near future.

The Army Physical Fitness Test is really decided to evaluate the physical fitness of Soldiers.

It consists of three events: two minutes of push-ups, two minutes of sit-ups, and a 2-mile run.

The scores are determined by your age and gender.

To pass the APFT you must score a minimum of 60 points in each category AND have a minimum total score of 180.

The only exception is if you have a profile or do an alternate event.

All Army National Guard M-Day Soldiers are expected to pass an Army Physical Fitness Test, minimum once per year.

On the other hand, AGR Soldiers and Active Duty Soldiers must pass the APFT twice per year.

In addition, Soldiers must also conduct an Army Height-Weight every six months.

APFT Challenges

We live in an overweight and obese society.

These problems have even affected the military.

Look at any military unit and you will find PLENTY of people that cannot meet the Army’s physical fitness or height and weight standards.

It’s sad, but true.

One of my biggest challenges as a Company Commander was getting my Soldiers to pass their annual Army Physical Fitness Test.

Although physical fitness is an individual responsibility, Company Commanders are responsible for the readiness of their units.

They must ensure their Soldiers are physically fit and meet the minimum APFT and Height/Weight standards.

This task sounds simple, but is actually quite difficult to manage.

Since you only train with your Soldiers 2-3 days per month, it’s difficult to control what they do the other 28 days.

In other words, you can’t make your Soldiers exercise and eat properly during their “off time.”

You have little control over that.

Since you can’t make your Soldiers stay in shape, it’s little wonder the National Guard and Army Reserves have a horrible reputation for physical fitness.

In fact, it truly amazes me how many Soldiers in the National Guard and Army Reserves cannot pass the APFT and/or Army Height Weight.

In some units, APFT Failures consist of 20% or more of the unit.

Personally, I think that’s pathetic.

Most physical fitness failures fail the APFT because they don’t exercise on their own.

Let me say that again.

Most APFT Failures fail the APFT because they don’t exercise on their own.

These same Soldiers will have countless excuses, but the bottom line is they don’t exercise consistently, or eat healthy.physical fitness

Let me continue by saying that I don’t have a problem with APFT Failures.

Instead, I have a problem with repeat APFT failures.

Sometimes, someone can have a bad day and not do well on their APFT.

I can handle that.

But, I can’t stand the Soldier that hasn’t passed an APFT in 2 years, 5 years, 10 years or more, and is still in the Army.

In most cases, they’re still in the military because their leaders didn’t do their jobs like they were supposed to do.

During drill weekend, Company Commanders are very busy trying to accomplish individual training and collective training.

They also have meetings, briefings and countless other requirements.

In most cases, the training schedule does not have “extra” time to do company-level physical fitness.

Even if it did, it wouldn’t matter much.

Even if you do physical fitness training during drill weekend, that’s not enough exercise to pass the Army Physical Fitness Test.

Ultimately, Soldiers must work out on their own to stay in shape.

Other posts you may enjoy:

  1. 5 Tips for Improving Your PT or APFT Score
  2. What to Do If You Fail a Record APFT
  3. Top 10 Tips to Max Your APFT
  4. How the Army APFT Extended Scale Works
  5. APFT Requirements

APFT Tips for Unit Leaders

Even though you can’t control what your Soldiers do away from the unit, you can do several things to “influence” your Soldiers to exercise on their own.

Here are a few helpful things I did during my time in Company Command.

1. APFT Flags: Initiate an APFT Flag to everyone who fails the APFT in your unit.

I mean everyone.

This includes your First Sergeant, Officers and Senior NCOs, as well as your Soldiers.

That way, everyone knows you are serious about enforcing the APFT Standards and Army Standard.

If you don’t enforce the APFT standard, it will have a negative impact on your unit.

Don’t FLAG one Soldier for failing and then let another Soldier off the hook.

2. Take the APFT as a unit: Minimum once per year, have your entire unit take a record APFT together.

As the Company Commander, be first in line so everyone can see you doing the APFT and Army Height/Weight.

It’s called leading from the front.

Personally, I’ve always had a problem with someone who only passes the APFT when their buddy administers the test.

Perception is everything.

If a Soldier can’t participate in the company-level APFT, make sure that two or more senior people administer the APFT to him or her.

3. Stay in Shape Yourself: As a leader, you should always lead by example.

To do so, stay in shape.

Do whatever you need to do to stay in shape and receive a satisfactory APFT score.

Do PT on your own.

Join a gym.

Watch your diet.

Hire a personal trainer if needed.

Always lead by example.

Don’t get fat and out of shape.

You can’t hold your Soldiers to the APFT standard or Army Height Weight standard if you don’t meet it yourself.

4. Incorporate PT into Training Events: Whenever possible, incorporate physical fitness into your training schedule.

Once a year, hold a “Commander’s Cup” or “Company Olympics.”

During down time, do push-ups, sit-ups and cardio workouts as a unit.

You could even put a sign up in your company area where everyone must do 10 push-ups before entering.

Just get creative.

5. APFT Failure Counseling: When someone fails their record APFT, you must prepare a DA Form 4856 to conduct their APFT Failure Counseling.

At a minimum, you should outline the APFT standards identified in FM 21-20.

You should discuss which standards they failed and by how much. Next, your Army APFT Failure Counseling should discuss a simple APFT Improvement Plan.

Make sure you put everything in writing on a DA Form 4856.

Tell them what you expect and what will happen if they fail to meet your expectations.

Finally, if they fail to meet the objectives in the designated time-frame, hold them accountable.

6. Army Weight Control Program: The Army Weight Control Program can be effective when used properly.

The purpose of the Army Weight Control Program is to monitor the progress of your overweight Soldiers.

In essence, you conduct a tape test on your overweight Soldiers each month to evaluate their progress.

This program is only effective if it is a command priority.

In other words, you must weigh your Soldiers each month, counsel them on their progress and enforce the Army standard.

If you don’t do this, you will be wasting your time.

Articles About the APFT 

Here are a few articles on this blog about the APFT that you might enjoy.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, physical fitness is an important aspect of military readiness.

All Soldiers are required to pass an APFT minimum once every year and the Army Height/Weight Test every six months.

The APFT standards are clearly outlined in the APFT regulation, FM 21-20 and the Height Weight standards are outlined in AR 600-9.

Physical fitness is an individual responsibility.

It’s the Soldier’s job to stay in shape and the leader’s job to enforce the Army standards.

If you take nothing else from this article, please remember the following things:

  • Physical Fitness is an individual responsibility
  • Part-Time National Guard and Army Reserve Soldiers must take an APFT minimum once every 12 months
  • Active Duty and AGR Soldiers must take an APFT once every six months
  • All Soldiers must conduct a Height/Weight check every 6 months
  • AR 600-9 is the official Army Height Weight regulation
  • FM 21-20 is the official Army APFT Regulation
  • Unit Leaders must enforce the Army standard to everyone in their unit
  • Leaders should always lead by example

What do you think about the APFT?

What do you like or dislike about it?

Leave a comment below to share your thoughts.

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31 thoughts on “Army Physical Fitness Test”

  1. This is a real problem, especially for the National Guard and Reserves. You are right, most people cannot overeat and be sedentary for 28 days and then suddenly spring into action and pass a physical fitness test. The 20 percent failure rate you mentioned for some units is astounding. Good suggestion to make those training days count by incorporating PT into the training.

  2. Army Physical Fitness Tests seem to be one of the most dreaded and most controversial topics– there are just so many factor to consider. Again, great advice here that applies outside of this situation, as well. Flagging everyone who fails is great advice as we too often let our emotions get in the way of what’s right. A flag is not the end of the world and can be remedied– a soldier simply having a bad day will be able to quickly. I also think the failure counselings are golden. It shows that you are invested as a leader and that they cannot simply get off the hook and also helps them to be further invested. The line that blew me away though: perception is everything. Incredibly true! There is nothing worse than someone who cannot carry his load and not willing to do so, getting a boost from a buddy who feels sorry for him or who has something against a supervisor or whatever getting him past “third strike you’re out” while everyone else continues to carry their share of the weight with no added help. Real morale killer. Situations like that should be monitored closely.

  3. I’m thinking it would be a good idea to help the overweight soldiers set individual goals, especially in the Guard and Reserve. That way weight and fitness goals could be reviewed monthly and ideas for ways to meet those goals discussed. Instead of playing poker and watching movies during down time, it could even be a squad event each month. Support from fellow squad members is just as important as the example set by the CO.

  4. I work in the medical unit, so while I feel bad for someone who is sick or injured on their PT day you would be amazed at the increased percentage of these things on test day. If a soldier comes to you and says their sick and can't take the test, they should see a doctor and have it noted in their file (Same for injuries) This covers everybody. Plus it lets you know if a soldier has a lot of "illnesses"

    One of the biggest disgraces I've seen is senior leadership either not testing for PT, or miraculously passing. I think we've all had that person in our unit you know can't pass the HT/WT or PT test yet they are never flagged or seem to be in trouble. This person is usually a high rank, full time Guard/Reserve, or a suck up. Nothing can kill morale quite like this. Standards are standards are standards.

  5. Does anybody know if a Soldier fails the height and weight test, does that mean that they fail the entire APFT? I’ve searched through FM 7-22 and AR 600-9 and can’t find it.

    The scenario is that someone passed their Pushups, Situps and 2 mile run, but weighed in over their screening table weight for their height and age and were taped and were out of tolerance for body-fat percentage. Overweight and over-fat. Can this person still get a “GO” on the APFT?

    1. I believe they are two totally separate standards. When I Flagged Soldiers as a Company Commander it was either for failing the Ht/WT or APFT. Just my two cents.

  6. Just a follow up. The soldier has acquired a civilian atty. who I believe is a former Army JAG Officer, so things may get interesting. I will try and keep tabs and post here any further information about the proceedings. This is a good example to me of a COC using the ” PT test flush out ” for a service member that may be rocking the boat in a unit. This happened to a relative of mine, so that is why I have a vested interest in this situation. Thanks for your responses

  7. What if soldier was made to take the APFT while sick and with No witnesses except for an acting CDR which was a CW2, an Acting ISG which is an E7 and another cohort. The fact of the matter is I witnessed a soldier walk into a pre-failed APFT. When you hear in the hallways, that hey this guy needs to not Pass, I would say pretty obvious. Word is that this soldier had questioned the acting 1SG giving ADSW or now ADOS money to the acting CDR ( CW2 ) .

    1. That is definitely a shady situation, Harley. I always want a witness when taking a PT test. I have never heard of that happening.

      I also thought soldiers had the option not to take the PT test if they are sick.

  8. In the days when I could pass the APFT with full gear and still have room to go, we didn’t have as many who failed. It seemed that top brass had a better handle on the situation. If a person knows that they will lose their job if they don’t pass it by test #3. They will work harder at achieving the prize. I hate to admit it, but the Army has fallen short when it comes to discipline.

    By the way, how many situps and pushups these days? If I remember correctly, when I served it was 100 su/40 pu, with full gear.

  9. This is one of the HARDEST things to enforce in the ARNG!!!!

    When my husband was hired by DynCorp, he realized that the reason they could afford to hire the best for his job (former Rangers, SF, Marine Recon, etc) and keep them is because they could fire you at a moment’s notice. This applied to everything from showing up late, to not qualifying on the weapons systems they used (individual and crew serve). This especially applied to their PT.

  10. Good info. One question, if a soldier has a ” bad day ” and fails a Record PT Test and recieve a FLAG, then is given another Record PT Test in two weeks and fails by only three sit ups, just as an example. The Soldier if confident he can pass that event as he/she has never had trouble in that event, and request another test on their own time for record in lets say a week, or less. Can the CDR grant that request and allow the soldier the oppurtunity to pass, since they are showing vast improvement, or does the CDR draw a line and not allow the soldier to take the test, therefore remaining under the FLAG until their ETS. Seems that if the soldier is making improvement he/she should be given the oppurtunity to demonstrate that everyday if so desired. Just asking because I have seen it happen. Thanks for your input

    1. I don’t know what the regs say about this, but if I was a Company Commander again, and this situation happened, I would let the Soldier take another APFT. Just my two cents.

  11. This topic is so relevant as we are becoming more out of shape as a country. As a Company Commander, it’s critical to set a good example of weight control and physical fitness and to also motivate your Soldiers to do the same. You have soon good suggestions here for Company Commanders to share with their Soldiers. It’s good to watch for improvement and give a little note in writing along the way too. Even though it is the individual’s responsibility, morale support from the Company Commander can be important too.

  12. It is interesting to see how the Japanese Self Defense Forces handle this situation. Maybe it’s just a cultural thing, but the bulk of SDF personnel serve on a reserve basis but have much higher physical fitness standards than U.S. military personnel do. I had a couple of pals in the SDF and those guys were fitness fanatics. One told me that if they failed even one annual test, they were out. SDF positions are highly regarded in Japan, and those in the force cherish their jobs.

  13. The Army Physical Fitness Test doesn’t sound all that difficult to do. Although I have never served a day in the Army, I think I could go pretty good taking an APFT. I normally work out three to four days a week lifting weights. When I’m not working out at the gym, I try to run 10-20 miles per week, too.

    Wallace

    1. Good for you Wallace. I wish more Americans took control of their own physical fitness. The obesity epidemic is spreading through society and more than half our country is currently overweight. Staying in shape boils down to eating right, exercising on a regular basis and staying active.

      Chuck

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