There are all of these new exercises … dead lifts, power throws, hand release push-ups, sprint-drag-carry, and the leg tuck. How do you build the needed core fitness strength? Is it possible to train for the ACFT without hurting yourself?

Army Public Health Center experts say the key is to think like a Soldier-Athlete and “train smart,” by gradually increases the challenge to your body over time; using proper training form and technique for any new exercises; don’t ‘overdo it’ with the amount of weights or time training; seek alternatives when something doesn’t feel right and having the confidence to know your performance will progress.

Maj. Timothy Benedict, an APHC physical therapist and Army Master Fitness Trainer, recommends Soldiers start training now and do as much as they can to gain control of their fitness and training plans.

Too much, too soon

“I would recommend Soldiers and leaders come up with a proactive plan, sooner rather than later,” Benedict said. “If Soldiers wait until the last minute to start training for the ACFT, it is more likely they will try and perform at a level their body is not yet accustomed to, and be at risk of injury. In addition, as Soldiers become more familiar with the tests, their confidence increases, which may also help reduce their chance of getting hurt.”

Benedict says time is the No. 1 strategy to reduce the likelihood of injury with the ACFT. Many injuries are the result of doing too much, too soon. The more time Soldiers give themselves to train, the more their bodies will adapt to the forces and perform better on these new tests. The ACFT website, army.mil/acft, provides recommendations for how to train for the ACFT events.

“ … our leaders are … going to make adjustments, as needed, to ensure Soldiers are ready for combat,” said Benedict. “Leaders should also be proactive and monitor profile rates in your units. If you see any spikes in profile rates, investigate how your unit is training and consider making some adjustments.”

Benedict recommends a 12-week training program where Soldiers gradually increase their weight or effort for each event. He also recommends slightly decreasing the weight and increasing relative rest every fourth week, adding there are online programs and videos that demonstrate good techniques and how to train and progress at each event.

Leg tuck blues

“The No. 1 thing you can do to improve your performance on the leg tuck is to increase your upper body strength, followed by core strength,” said Benedict. “Spend some time working on pull-up progressions.”

Benedict thinks the new ACFT reinforces the vision of the professional Soldier-Athlete.

“We shouldn’t be overly afraid of the new fitness test because it is new or because it involves lifting weights. Instead, we should meet the challenge that I’m confident all Soldiers are capable of achieving,” he said.