The U.S. Army is rolling out a new fitness test, the ACFT 3.0, the first change to the test in 40 years.
Back in 2013, the Army realized they had a problem when they were evacuating more soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan due to preventable musculoskeletal injuries than combat injuries. Frankly put, soldiers were not in good enough shape to handle the everyday physical demands of deployment.
To reduce injuries and improve combat readiness, the Army replaced their previous fitness test—sit-ups, push-ups, and a 2-mile run (essentially a Cooper Test)— with the army ACFT 3.0, a six-event assessment designed to be completed within a 120-minute period.
In this guide, we look at:
- What’s Changed With The ACFT
- The Full Details Of The 6 Exercises in the ACFT
- How To Perform The ACFT Yourself!
Here are the 6 Exercises in the new ACFT
The new ACFT 3.0 includes 6 events total – each one has a minimum pass threshold, which gives 60 points, and a maximum, which gives 100 points.
Therefore the minimum theoretical passing score is 360, while the maximum possible is 600.
Here are the 6 exercises:
- Three-Repetition Maximum Deadlift
- Standing Power Throw
- Hand-Release Push-up
- Leg Tuck or Plank
- Two-Mile Run
In addition to adding more events, skills they thought would more accurately test functional fitness, they changed the scoring, and that’s been causing a bit of a stir.
Now All ACFT Participants Are Graded The Same Way
The Army did away with adjustments for age, weight, height, and gender—all soldiers will be scored on the same scale.
Critics say single-scale raw scoring unfairly disadvantages smaller individuals and women. That disadvantage is most obvious in the three resistance events in the new ACFT standards —Deadlift, Power Throw, and Sprint-Drag-Carry.
Take the example of a 110-pound woman and a 185-pound man who both deadlift the minimum passing weight of 140 pounds. Both would receive the same score, even though their personal fitness levels are quite different. And a perfect score for deadlifting 340 pounds is probably not achievable by a 110-pound woman, regardless of how hard she trains.
“We believe that the Army needs a scoring system that assesses minimal combat readiness while rewarding individual fitness,” two officers wrote in a letter in the Army Times, criticizing the lack of adjusting for individual body composition.
Recognizing the physiological differences between men and women, the Army says it will add five performance levels within genders—green, bronze, silver, gold, and platinum- based on their percentile rank within their gender.
How would you score on ACFT 3.0?
As a runner, you might be able to rock the two-mile run, but let’s have a look at the new army ACFT standards, to see if you’re really in fighting shape. Who knows—a little warrior training might make you a healthier, or humbler runner!
The Passing score is 60 points for each test, with a maximum of 100 points, for minimum overall score of 360 and perfect score of 600. The very thorough ACFT website includes detailed instructions as to how the exercise is performed, and videos showing how to train for the test. It also describes how this event correlates to activities in the field. You might notice some applications in your own daily life!
Remember, there’s no picking and choosing which events you do, or dawdling—the challenge of ACFT 3.0 is that it’s all six events in a 120-minute period.
By the time you get to the 2-mile run, you’ve built up some serious fatigue.
Ready? Let’s get started!
Exercise #1: Three-Repetition Maximum Deadlift
- Passing (60 points), 140 pounds
- Perfect (100 points), 340 pounds
Using a hex bar, plate weights, and good form, the candidate deadlifts from 140 pounds to 340 pounds three times. The idea here is that practicing good deadlift form strengthens the upper and lower back and legs to prevent injuries from carrying heavy loads.
Using clever Army psychology, they figured requiring three lifts would prevent injuries from an overly ambitious one-and-done. And they were right!
Exercise #2: Standing Power Throw
- Passing (60 points), 4.5 meters
- Perfect (100 points), 12.5 meters
Candidates throw a 10-pound medicine ball overhead and backward as far as possible from a standing position. This one tests explosive power, balance, and coordination, factors the Army found are important to “overall movement lethality.”
True, these skills are not much practiced by distance runners, but don’t despair—good form goes almost as far as brute strength.
Exercise #3: Hand-Release Push-Ups
As many as possible in two minutes:
- Passing, 10 reps
- Perfect, 60 reps
You’ll be relieved to know this is not the version with a clap between push-ups, as seen in dorm party dares. In this case, the candidate lowers his/herself from high plank position to the ground, keeping elbows close to their body. With chest on the ground, the candidate extends arms out to the side, then replaces hands next to their body and pushes back up to front plank position.
The Army has lots of experience with push-ups since they’ve been part of the fitness test for decades.
Over the years, they found soldiers doing the usual push-up format went for quantity over quality.
Their form deteriorated, and the test didn’t correlate to upper body strength or fitness in the field. The hand-release method required better form, was a better test of upper body strength, and correlated to tasks soldiers would actually need to perform.
Exercise #4: Sprint Drag Carry
- Passing, 3:00 minutes
- Perfect, 1:33 minutes
This is a 5 x 50-meter shuttle event consisting of a sprint, dragging a 90-pound sled, lateral shuffle, carrying two 40-pound kettlebells, and another sprint.
It was added to ACFT because it has tons of frontline applications, and was easy to learn. While not part of the previous Fitness Test, the Army has been doing shuttle-type interval training for decades.
Maybe that’s why it didn’t present many problems to soldiers as they rolled out the army ACFT 3.0. Crossfitters out there—slam dunk for you.
Exercise #5: Leg Tuck or Plank
- Passing, 1 rep
- Perfect, 20 reps
- Passing, 2:09 minutes
- Perfect, 4:20 minutes
Sprint Drag Carry may have presented no problem for soldiers, but Leg Tuck sure has.
While hanging from a bar with your hands on opposite sides of the bar, keeping one’s head even with the bar, the candidate lifts his knees and hips into a tucked position and lowers them back to vertical.
It’s a steep test of grip, upper body, and core strength. Leg Tuck was chosen over the more common pull-up because it more closely correlates to pulling oneself high enough on a wall to “hook a heel” and get over—real-world maneuvers.
But leg tucks proved the undoing of so many soldiers, the Army introduced the plank as an alternative test of core strength. Realizing that the leg tuck requires greater upper body as well as core strength, those choosing the plank are encouraged to work toward the leg tuck, which is the gold standard. While they wanted to provide a pathway to success, the Army does not like to be seen as “soft” on fitness standards.
Exercise #6: Two-Mile Run
- Passing, 21:00 minutes
- Perfect, 13:30 minutes
This is the only event that tests aerobic ability and has been a part of the Army’s fitness program since its inception. It’s done outdoors, on a flat, measured course.
What You’ll Need To Do The ACFT Yourself
Ideally, you should do the ACFT in a well-equipped gym. As well as plenty of space, you need the following equipment to perform it properly:
- A hex bar and plates (for the Deadlift)
- A 10lb medicine ball (for the Standing Power Throw)
- 2 x 40lb kettlebells (for Sprint Drag Carry)
- An elevated bar if you are doing leg tucks
- Access to a flat, measured running route for the 2-mile run.
Remember, the exercises should be performed in sequence, and have to be completed within 120 minutes!
Good luck, soldier!