The Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT), as you know, consists of three main areas, pushups, sit-ups and a two-mile timed run. For an Army Soldier, your physical fitness test score is not only worth points for promotion but is a measure of prestige and honor. As Officers and NCOs, we must strive to always exceed the standard in all that we do…especially with regards to our physical fitness. That being said, here are my Top 10 Tips to Max Your APFT.
1. Utilize different hand positions. A slightly different hand position can greatly change the muscles being utilized during your test. Putting your hands slightly closer together and down will use more of your triceps muscles, while moving your hands outward will put more strain on your chest muscles. Use this to your advantage. Our chest muscles are larger muscles and are the primary muscles used. Try starting with your hands close together and do as many repetitions as possible. Once your triceps are burned out, you can still crank out a good bit more utilizing your chest muscles as you widen your hand position.
2. Use time management. I am by no means saying that you should pace yourself here! But, you do have 2 whole minutes to do as many pushups as you can. Use that first 45 seconds to 1 minute to crank out as many as you can. Once you hit your goal, take a short rest, adjust your hand position and get back to work for another 10+ reps. Continue this approach until you hit your max!
3. Build up power! First, do sets of pushups throughout each day to keep yourself “greased” and loose. Try different chest exercises such as bench presses, flyes and other complex movement exercises utilizing free-weights.
4. Alter your position. Similar to our technique during the push-up portion of the test, changing your position during the sit-up event can increase your efficiency. To begin, start with your butt as close to your heels as you can. This position will make your body utilize your abdominal muscles during the event. Your abdominal muscles are much smaller muscles and will tire out more quickly than your hip-flexors. As you begin to fatigue, increase the distance between your butt and your heels to engage your hip flexors more.
5. Move your legs. As your partner holds your feet, try moving your knees apart as you work your way to the up position. This simple movement can provide a brief moment of rest for your hip-flexor muscles and decrease the distance you have to cover to achieve the standard “up” position. This is important also because you don’t want to completely tire out your legs as you still have to complete the 2-mile run.
6. Get into a “groove”. The guys that I see crank out the most sit-ups seem to have a rhythm or pace as they knock them out. After talking with a few, that is exactly what they are doing. A tip for success during the sit-ups is to develop a rhythm: control your breathing (in on the way down, out on the way up), relax the legs allowing yourself to fall back and then exploding back up, and finally, rounding your back so that your literally “rock back and forth”.
7. Run…don’t JOG! A lot of people (regretfully myself included) simply run and maintain what they got. Every other day I run 2-3 miles at my comfortable pace. However, to run a 13:00 or less you have to actually run. That being said, you must run to train. Rather than simply running distance at one pace, try interval training where you jog for ¼ mile and then sprint as fast and for as long as you can. Then, jog again until you are able to sprint it out again.
8. Increase your pace. Okay, maybe the last tip wasn’t for you. But, you still need to exceed that 13:00 time. Well then, increase your pace speed each time you run. Whether it seems like it or not, when your body develops a pace it defaults to that pace when you are tired. So, what that means is that if you are used to running an 8:00/mile pace but began your 2-mile event running a 6:30, you will eventually default to the 8:00/mile pace as you tire. Train to change that pace!
9. Increase your endurance. Unlike the first two events, the run is all about endurance, endurance, endurance! Developing your leg muscle and cardiovascular endurance is one sure way to get the best 2-mile run time. Try different things such as walking lunges, squats and box jumps. There are literally thousands of exercises out there to increase your endurance.
10. Clear yourself from the “traffic”. Make sure you get out front. If you start towards the rear, sprint to get out front so that you are not behind other Soldiers and tempted to “pace” another buddy of yours. And finally, always, always, always sprint the last 50-75 meters of the run. At this point, you’ll feel like toast, but that last burst can take you from a 13:10 to a 12:58, which is what you want!
FINAL THOUGHTS: It will take some time and a lot of hard work, but maxing the APFT is something every leader should strive to do. The mark of physical excellence is something few leaders and Soldiers will obtain but with these tips you may be one who does!
What are your thoughts? Do you have any questions? Just post them below. Thank you.