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.
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.
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:
- 5 Tips for Improving Your PT or APFT Score
- What to Do If You Fail a Record APFT
- Top 10 Tips to Max Your APFT
- How the Army APFT Extended Scale Works
- 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.
- How to Max Your APFT
- How the APFT is Scored
- What to Do If You Fail an APFT
- APFT Extended Scale
- How to Improve Your Push-Ups
- How to Improve Your Sit-Ups
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.