National Guard January 2012 : Page 36
New Regimen By Andrew Waldman The Air Force has toughened how it scores its physical fitness test. The Army is looking at a new test. It’s all about being more fit to fight 36 HYSICAL FITNESS IS either a necessary evil or a way of life, depending on how you look at it. Either way, the Army and Air Force require every National Guardsman to maintain a certain level of ﬁtness. While the standards are a little dif-ferent for each service, they generally test a soldier or airman’s aerobic and P | Na tional Guard
The Air Force has toughened how it scores its physical fitness test. The Army is looking at a new test. It’s all about being more fit to fight<br /> <br /> PHYSICAL FITNESS IS either a necessary evil or a way of life, depending on how you look at it.<br /> <br /> Either way, the Army and Air Force require every National Guardsman to maintain a certain level of fitness.<br /> <br /> While the standards are a little different for each service, they generally test a soldier or airman’s aerobic and anaerobic fitness. Both services test their members on their ability to run and do push-ups and sit-ups.<br /> <br /> But soon, those paths will diverge as changes affect the entire Guard. Already, the Air Force has changed how it scores its program, and the Army is in the midst of reviewing the results of a pilot program that would shake up its fitness events entirely.<br /> <br /> But all the changes have a similar goal: Make sure testing accurately portrays the fitness level of the force and focuses on the most necessary physical activities of the warfighter.<br /> <br /> In 2010, the Air Force changed how it scores its fitness test. Formerly, airmen would perform push-ups, sit-ups and a 1.5-mile run and the scores, along with an abdominal circumference measurement, would be combined.<br /> <br /> That meant that an airman who could run like the wind was able to score low on push-ups, for example, and still do well overall on the test. Someone able to do push-ups all day could worry less about an expanding waistline.<br /> <br /> In July 2010, that changed. The Air Force now requires airmen to achieve a minimum score in each event, much like the Army does in its current Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT).<br /> <br /> According to Maj. Gerald Cullens, the chief of the Air Guard customersupport policy branch at the National Guard Bureau, the purpose of the change was balance. Airmen must train for each event.<br /> <br /> “[The Air Force] wanted an overall change in lifestyle,” he says. “And the health of the complete force is significantly increased.” <br /> <br /> The most controversial minimum standard is the abdominal circumference measurement. Each male airman must have a waist measurement of 39 inches or less to pass, while females must meet a standard of 35.5 inches or less.<br /> <br /> Cullens says clinical studies back up this portion of the assessment as an accurate measure of fitness.<br /> <br /> Senior Master Sgt. Tanya Viands, the chief of the Air Guard integration division, says the changes have been good for airmen across the force. And the new scoring system creates “a culture of fitness—to stay conditioned and well.” <br /> <br /> Viands says many airmen are now focusing on the test as a way to bolster their promotion potential. It’s also affected some who are not as fit as others.<br /> <br /> “It’s definitely stricter, it’s definitely harder,” she says. “But it’s achievable. It’s definitely impacted a lot of people’s careers.” <br /> <br /> Cullens says another change is on the horizon for Air Force fitness testing as Fitness Assessment Cells (FACs) are being phased out of the program.<br /> <br /> The cells are groups of testers on an active component base who administer the fitness tests. These cells, Cullens says, were meant to ensure that the testing standards were uniform throughout the force.<br /> <br /> Guardsmen did not have to take their fitness tests from FACs unless they were stationed at an active-component base.<br /> <br /> Throughout 2011, the Army performed a pilot test of the Army Physical Readiness Test (APRT), which is the likely replacement for the APFT. The Army has also been developing a companion test called the Army Combat Readiness Test (ACRT) that could be rolled out at the same time as the APRT.<br /> <br /> The readiness fitness test (box, page 37) would consist of five events: 60-yard shuttle run, 1.5-mile run, oneminute rower drill, standing long-jump and one-minute push-up drill, says Sgt. 1st Class Justin Lampert, the master fitness director for the Army Guard.<br /> <br /> The combat readiness test, which would be performed while wearing the Army combat uniform and helmet, would include a 400-meter run, hurdles, high crawl, casualty drag, sprints and other movement drills.<br /> <br /> The current APFT includes only a two-mile run, sit-ups and push-ups and has been used for about three decades. It is out of date, according to Staff Sgt. Ken Weichert, the Tennessee Army Guard master resilience and fitness trainer.<br /> <br /> Weichert says the APFT was designed as a way to show the public that the Army was staying fit and active during peacetime.<br /> <br /> “I call it cosmetic fitness,” Weichert says. “It wasn’t really designed for combat. It was something that came about in the Cold War era.” <br /> <br /> By expanding the number of events, the two new tests would apply more “functional” fitness tests that gauge a soldier’s ability to perform battlefieldrelated tasks. The shuttle run, for example, is aimed at mimicking common battlefield movements.<br /> <br /> “It’s indicative of any soldier reaching down and picking up a weapon, soldier or object in the heat of the moment,” says Weichert.<br /> <br /> The emphasis on functional fitness is a direct result of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Weichert says. The proposed APRT and ACRT tests recall an earlier Army fitness test first used in 1946, just after the end of World War II. <br /> <br /> The new test would also eliminate the full sit-up, which has long been known to be a potential cause of injuries, Weichert says.<br /> <br /> “It’s terrible for your hips and back,” he says.<br /> <br /> The Army completed a pilot of the new fitness events and standards in July. About 10,000 soldiers of all ages took part. The data from those tests is being analyzed and will be used to determine standards, frequency of testing and other issues regarding a new test.<br /> <br /> According to the Army website, the results will be presented to Army leadership early this year and, if approved, the new physical fitness events and standards will be implemented by October.<br /> <br /> Andrew Waldman can be contacted at (202) 408-5892 or at andrew.waldman@ ngaus.org. <br /> <br /> (“Functional Fitness” by Ken Weichert, Courtesy of GX magazine)<br /> <br /> Functional Fitness<br /> <br /> Staff Sgt. Ken Weichert, a master fitness trainer for the Tennessee Army National Guard, suggests soldiers and airmen perform “functional fitness” training to get ready for their fitness tests. Here are a few exercises to get you started.<br /> <br /> Warm-up Phase:<br /> <br /> Aerobics: Perform 6-8 minutes of aerobics exercises, such as running in place, side-straddle-hops, jumping jacks or high steps/knees.<br /> <br /> Stretching: Perform 4 to 6 minutes of flexibility exercises.<br /> <br /> Muscular Strength and Balance Phase:<br /> <br /> TRX Atomic Push-up with Pike <br /> <br /> Start: Lengthen the TRX until the foot cradles are 8 to 12 inches off the ground. Place your feet into the foot cradles, toes down, and feet under the anchor point. Assume a normal-grip push-up position by balancing your body on your hands with your back forming a straight line, hands directly under your shoulders. Look forward and keep your feet together.<br /> <br /> Actions: While keeping your abdominal muscles tight, drop your body straight down by bending both elbows. Return to the start position and perform a pike by lifting your hips upward, keeping your knees and elbows straight. Return to start position and continue until your goal is reached. Exhale through your mouth as you push up and pike, and inhale through your nose as you return to the start position.<br /> <br /> Basic standards: <br /> <br /> Male – 1 to 5 repetitions (no pike) Female – 1 to 2 repetitions (no pike)<br /> <br /> Plyometric Phase:<br /> <br /> Double-leg Side Hops (Side Cone Hops) <br /> <br /> Start: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent and toes pointing forward. Position your arms at your sides, elbows slightly bent and palms facing inward.<br /> <br /> Actions: Bend forward at your hips and bring your arms behind you. Jump laterally over the cone, bringing your knees into your chest as you jump. Keep your knees slightly bent as you return to the ground. Quickly, repeat until your goal is reached. Change directions and continue. Exhale through your mouth as you jump and inhale through your nose as you land. (Note: You can substitute any kind of object that is roughly the same size as a 12-inch or 18-inch safety cone.)<br /> <br /> Muscular Endurance Phase:<br /> <br /> Ammo Can Walking Lunges<br /> <br /> Start: Grasp two ammo cans and stand with a neutral spine.<br /> <br /> Actions: Step forward with your left leg. As your leg reaches the ground, immediately go into a lunge by bending both knees until your forward leg achieves 90-degrees of knee flexion. Maintain your balance in the center. Stand up and switch legs by stepping forward and lunging with your opposite leg. Continue until your goal is reached. Exhale through your mouth as you step up and inhale through your nose as you lunge. (Note: You can substitute 1-gallon milk jugs or dumbbells for ammo cans.)<br /> <br /> Warning: Do not let your forward knee bend beyond your toe line.<br /> <br /> Basic standard: 10 to 20 feet<br /> <br /> 5-Gallon Fuel Can Carry <br /> <br /> Start: Grasp two 5-gallon fuel cans, stand with a neutral spine, shoulders retracted, elbows slightly bent.<br /> <br /> Actions: Walk forward in a straight line as fast as you can until you reach your goal. Breathe naturally. Note: You can substitute water cans or dumbbells for 5-gallon fuel cans.<br /> <br /> Basic standard: 10 to 20 feet (light-medium weight)<br /> <br /> Duffe Bag Scoop and Backward Throw <br /> <br /> Start: Stand in front of a duffle bag, turn around, spread your legs and straddle the bag, aligning yourself over the center of the bag. Squat down by bending both knees and grasp the bag from the sides with your elbows slightly bent.<br /> <br /> Actions: Tighten your abdominals and lower back, quickly extend your body upward and throw the bag up and behind you as far as you can. Run to the bag and repeat the actions until your goal is reached. Exhale through your mouth as you throw the bag and inhale through your nose before you throw. Note: You can substitute a full laundry bag for a duffle bag.<br /> <br /> Basic standard: 10 to 20 feet (light weight)<br /> <br /> Cool-down Phase:<br /> <br /> Stretching: Perform 4 to 6 minutes of flexibility exercises.<br /> <br /> Some Fitness Suggestions<br /> <br /> Staff Sgt. Ken Weichert is a Tennessee Army Guardsman who is the master resilience and fitness trainer for the state. He is a nationally known fitness guru and educator. His fitness programs are regularly featured in GX magazine.<br /> <br /> He offers these tips for National Guard officers looking for advice on how to improve their unit physical fitness scores: <br /> <br /> Suggest a monthly schedule of workouts for your troops. Fitness is not a once-a-month activity. The monthly “PT Club” is not enough to get soldiers or airmen in shape for a fitness test. Give them help by suggesting multiple workouts each month.<br /> <br /> Create “incentive-based” fitness activities for drill weekends. There is no reason to focus just on push-ups, sit-ups and running during drill weekends. Incorporate some fun fitness activities like a group fun run or an urban challenge which have goals other than decreasing run times or upping the push-up score. These are events that are not only fun, but make “Guardsmen feel that they are getting new fitness ideas,” Weichert says.<br /> <br /> New Army PRT Events<br /> <br /> If approved, the new Army Physical Readiness Test will have new events while keeping a few from the old Army Physical Fitness Test. The APRT will not include the full sit-up or two-mile run. The rower drill, 60-yard shuttle run and 1.5-mile run will be added.<br /> <br /> 60-yard shuttle run: A soldier must run between markers to retrieve blocks at progressively greater distances and return them to the starting point.<br /> <br /> Rower exercise: Lying on his back with arms stretched above his head, the soldier brings his chest and legs together while keeping the arms stretched above his head. This exercise replaces the sit-up and lasts for one minute.<br /> <br /> Standing long jump: From a standing position, a soldier jumps as far forward as possible, landing on both feet.<br /> <br /> Push-up: The only change is the test lasts for one minute instead of two.<br /> <br /> 1. 5 mile run: A modification of the two-mile run.