A soldier’s level of physical fitness has a direct impact on his combat readiness. The many battles in which American troops have fought underscore the important role physical fitness plays on the battlefield. The renewed nationwide interest in fitness has been accompanied by many research studies on the effects of regular participation in sound physical fitness programs. The overwhelming conclusion is that such programs enhance a person’s quality of life, improve productivity, and bring about positive physical and mental changes. Not only are physically fit soldiers essential to the Army, they are also more likely to have enjoyable, productive lives.
This chapter provides an overview of fitness. It defines physical fitness, outlines the phases of fitness, and discusses various types of fitness programs and fitness evaluation. Commanders and leaders can use this information to develop intelligent, combat-related, physical fitness programs.
Physical fitness, the emphasis of this manual, is but one component of total fitness. Some of the others are weight control, diet and nutrition, stress management, dental health, and spiritual and ethical fitness, as well as the avoidance of hypertension, substance abuse, and tobacco use. This manual is primarily concerned with issues relating directly to the development and maintenance of the five components of physical fitness.
Components of physical fitness include weight control, diet, nutrition, stress management, and spiritual and ethical fitness.
The Army’s physical fitness training program extends to all branches of the total Army. This includes the USAR and ARNG and encompasses all ages and ranks and both sexes. Its purpose is to physically condition all soldiers throughout their careers beginning with initial entry training (IET). It also includes soldiers with limiting physical profiles who must also participate in physical fitness training.
Commanders and leaders must ensure that all soldiers in their units maintain the highest level of physical fitness in accordance with this manual and with AR 350-15 which prescribes policies, procedures, and responsibilities for the Army physical fitness program.
Effective leadership is critical to the success of a good physical training program. Leaders, especially senior leaders, must understand and practice the new Army doctrine of physical fitness. They must be visible and active participants in physical training programs. In short, leaders must lead PT! Their example will emphasize the importance of physical fitness training and will highlight it as a key element of the unit’s training mission.
Leaders must emphasize the value of physical training and clearly explain the objectives and benefits of the program. Master Fitness Trainers (MFTs), graduates of a special course taught by the U.S. Army Physical Fitness School, can help commanders do this. However, regardless of the level of technical experience MFTs have, the sole responsibility for good programs rests with leaders at every level.
A poorly designed and executed physical fitness program hurts morale. A good program is well planned and organized, has reasonable yet challenging requirements, and is competitive and progressive. It also has command presence at every level with leaders setting the example for their soldiers.
Leaders should also continually assess their units to determine which specific components of fitness they lack. Once they identify the shortcomings, they should modify their programs to correct the weaknesses.
Leaders should not punish soldiers who fail to perform to standard. Punishment, especially excessive repetitions or additional PT, often does more harm than good. Leaders must plan special training to help soldiers who need it. The application of sound leadership techniques is especially important in bringing physically deficient soldiers up to standard.
Commanders must evaluate the effectiveness of physical fitness training and ensure that it is focused on the unit’s missions. They can evaluate its effectiveness by participating in and observing training, relating their fitness programs to the unit’s missions, and analyzing individual and unit APFT performance.
Leaders should regularly measure the physical fitness level of every soldier to evaluate his progress and determine the success of the unit’s program.
Commanders should assure that qualified leaders supervise and conduct fitness training and use their MFTs, for they have received comprehensive training in this area.
Leaders can learn about fitness training in the following ways:* Attend the four-week MFT course or one-week Exercise Leaders Course.
- Request a fitness workshop from the Army Physical Fitness School.
- Become familiar with the Army’s fitness publications. Important examples include this manual, AR 350-15, and DA Pamphlets 350-15, 350-18, and 350-22.
Commanders must provide adequate facilities and funds to support a program which will improve each soldier’s level of physical fitness. They must also be sure that everyone participates, since all individuals, regardless of rank, age, or sex, benefit from regular exercise. In some instances, leaders will need to make special efforts to overcome recurring problems which interfere with regular training.
Leaders must also make special efforts to provide the correct fitness training for soldiers who are physically substandard. “Positive profiling” (DA Form 3349) permits and encourages profiled soldiers to do as much as they can within the limits of their profiles. Those who have been away from the conditioning process because of leave, sickness, injury, or travel may also need special consideration.
Commanders must ensure that the time alloted for physical fitness training is used effectively.
Training time is wasted by the following:* Unprepared or unorganized leaders.
- Assignment of a group which us too large for one leader.
- Insufficient training intensity: it will result in no improvement.
- Rates of progression that are too slow or too fast.
- Extreme formality that usually emphasizes form over substance. An example would be too many units runs at slow paces or “daily dozen” activities that look impressive but do not result in improvement.
- Inadequate facilities which cause long waiting periods between exercises during a workout and/or between workouts.
- Long rest periods which interfere with progress.
To foster a positive attitude, unit leaders and instructors must be knowledgeable, understanding, and fair, but demanding. They must recognize individual differences and motivate soldiers to put forth their best efforts. However, they must also emphasize training to standard. Attaining a high level of physical fitness cannot be done simply by going through the motions. Hard training is essential.
Commanders must ensure that leaders are familiar with approved techniques, directives, and publications and that they use them. The objective of every commander should be to incorporate the most effective methods of physical training into a balanced program. This program should result in the improved physical fitness of their soldiers and an enhanced ability to perform mission-related tasks.
MFTs can help commanders formulate sound programs that will attain their physical training goals, but commanders must know and apply the doctrine. However, since the responsibility for physical training is the commander’s, programs must be based on his own training objectives. These he must develop from his evaluation of the unit’s mission-essential task list (METL). Chapter 10 describes the development of the unit’s program.
MASTER FITNESS TRAINERS
A Master Fitness Trainer (MFT) is a soldier who has completed either the four-week active-component, two-week reserve-component, or U.S. Military Academy’s MFT course work. Although called “masters,” MFTs are simply soldiers who know about all aspects of physical fitness training and how soldiers’ bodies function. Most importantly, since MFTs are taught to design individual and unit programs, they should be used by commanders as special staff assistants for this purpose.
MFTs can do the following:* Assess the physical fitness levels of individuals and units.
- Analyze the unit’s mission-related tasks and develop sound fitness training programs to support those tasks.
- Train other trainers to conduct sound, safe physical training.
- Understand the structure and function of the human body, especially as it relates to exercise.
Components of Fitness
Physical fitness is the ability to function effectively in physical work, training, and other activities and still have enough energy left over to handle any emergencies which may arise.
The components of physical fitness are as follows:
- Cardiorespiratory (CR) endurance - the efficiency with which the body delivers oxygen and nutrients needed for muscular activity and transports waste products from the cells.
- Muscular strength - the greatest amount of force a muscle or muscle group can exert in a single effort.
- Muscular endurance - the ability of a muscle or muscle group to perform repeated movements with a sub-maximal force for extended periods of time.
- Flexibility - the ability to move the joints (for example, elbow, knee) or any group of joints through an entire, normal range of motion.
- Body composition - the amount of body fat a soldier has in comparison to his total body mass.
Improving the first three components of fitness listed above will have a positive impact on body composition and will result in less fat. Excessive body fat detracts from the other fitness components, reduces performance, detracts from appearance, and negatively affects one’s health.
Factors such as speed, agility, muscle power, eye-hand coordination, and eye-foot coordination are classified as components of “motor” fitness. These factors affect a soldier’s survivability on the battlefield. Appropriate training can improve these factors within the limits of each soldier’s potential. The Army’s fitness program seeks to improve or maintain all the components of physical and motor fitness through sound, progressive, mission-specific physical training for individuals and units.
Principles of Exercise
Adherence to certain basic exercise principles is important for developing an effective program. The principles of exercise apply to everyone at all levels of physical training, from the Olympic-caliber athlete to the weekend jogger. They also apply to fitness training for military personnel.
These basic principles of exercise must be followed:
- Regularity. To achieve a training effect, a person must exercise of ten. One should strive to exercise each of the first four fitness components at least three times a week. Infrequent exercise can do more harm than good. Regularity is also important in resting, sleeping, and following a good diet.
- Progression. The intensity (how hard) and/or duration (how long) of exercise must gradually increase to improve the level of fitness.
- Balance. To be effective, a program should include activities that address all the fitness components, since overemphasizing any one of them may hurt the others.
- Variety. Providing a variety of activities reduces boredom and increases motivation and progress.
- Specificity. Training must be geared toward specific goals. For example, soldiers become better runners if their training emphasizes running. Although swimming is great exercise, it does not improve a 2-mile-run time as much as a running program does.
- Recovery. A hard day of training for a given component of fitness should be followed by an easier training day or rest day for that component and/or muscle group(s) to help permit recovery. Another way to allow recovery is to alternate the muscle groups exercised every other day, especially when training for strength and/or muscle endurance.
- Overload. The work load of each exercise session must exceed the normal demands placed on the body in order to bring about a training effect.
Certain factors must be part of any fitness training program for it to be successful. These factors are Frequency, Intensity, Time, and Type. The acronym FITT makes it easier to remember them. (See Figure 1-1.)
Factors for a successful training program are Frequency, Intensity, Time, and Type; “FITT”.
Army Regulation 350-15 specifies that vigorous physical fitness training will be conducted 3 to 5 times per week. For optimal results, commanders must strive to conduct 5 days of physical training per week. Ideally, at least three exercise sessions for CR fitness, muscle endurance, muscle strength, and flexibility should be performed each week to improve fitness levels. Thus, for example, to obtain maximum gains in muscular strength, soldiers should have at least three strength-training sessions per week. Three physical activity periods a week, however, with only one session each of cardiorespiratory, strength, and flexibility training will not improve any of these three components.
With some planning, a training program for the average soldier can be developed which provides fairly equal emphasis on all the components of physical fitness. The following training program serves as an example.
In the first week, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday are devoted to CR fitness, and Tuesday and Thursday are devoted to muscle endurance and strength. During the second week, the training days are flip-flopped: muscle endurance and strength are trained on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and CR fitness is trained on Tuesday and Thursday. Stretching exercises are done in every training session to enhance flexibility. By training continuously in this manner, equal emphasis can be given to developing muscular endurance and strength and to CR fitness while training five days per week.
If the unit’s mission requires it, some muscular and someCR training can be done during each daily training session as long as a “hard day/recovery day” approach is used. For example, if a unit has a hard run on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, it may also choose to run on Tuesday and Thursday. However, on Tuesday and Thursday the intensity and/or distance/time should be reduced to allow recovery. Depending on the time available for each session and the way training sessions are conducted, all components of fitness can be developed using a three-day-per-week schedule. However, a five-day-per-week program is much better than three per week. (See Training Program in Chapter 10.)
Numerous other approaches can be taken when tailoring a fitness program to meet a unit’s mission as long as the principles of exercise are not violated. Such programs, when coupled with good nutrition, will help keep soldiers fit to win.
Training at the right intensity is the biggest problem in unit programs. The intensity should vary with the type of exercise being done. Exercise for CR development must be strenuous enough to elevate the heart rate to between 60 and 90 percent of the heart rate reserve (HRR). (The calculation of percent HRR is explained in Chapter 2.) Those with low fitness levels should start exercising at a lower training heart rate (THR) of about 60 percent of HRR.
For muscular strength and endurance, intensity refers to the percentage of the maximum resistance that is used for a given exercise. When determining intensity in a strength-training program, it is easier to refer to a “repetition maximum” or “RM.” For example, a 10-RM is the maximum weight that can be correctly lifted 10 times. An 8-12 RM is the weight that can be lifted 8 to 12 times correctly. Doing an exercise “correctly” means moving the weight steadily and with proper form without getting help from other muscle groups by jerking, bending, or twisting the body. For the average person who wants to improve both muscular strength and endurance, an 8-12 RM is best.
The person who wants to concentrate on muscular strength should use weights which let him do three to seven repetitions before his muscles fatigue. Thus, for strength development, the weight used should be a 3-7 RM. On the other hand, the person who wants to concentrate on muscular endurance should use a 12+ RM. When using a 12+ RM as the training intensity, the more repetitions performed per set, over time, the greater will be the improvement in muscular endurance. Conversely, the greater the number of repetitions performed, the smaller will be the gains in strength. For example, a person who regularly trains with a weight which lets him do 100 repetitions per exercise (a 100-RM) greatly increases his muscular endurance but minimally improves his muscular strength. (See Chapter 3 for information on resistance training.)
All exercise sessions should include stretching during the warm-up and cool-down.One should stretch so there is slight discomfort, but no pain, when the movement is taken beyond the normal range of motion. (See Chapter 4 for information on stretching.)
Like intensity, the time spent exercising depends on the type of exercise being done. At least 20 to 30 continuous minutes of intense exercise must be used in order to improve cardiorespiratory endurance.
For muscular endurance and strength, exercise time equates to the number of repetitions done. For the average soldier, 8 to 12 repetitions with enough resistance to cause muscle failure improves both muscular endurance and strength. As soldiers progress, they will make better strength gains by doing two or three sets of each resistance exercise.
Flexibility exercises or stretches should be held for varying times depending on the objective of the session. For warming-up, such as before a run, each stretch should be held for 10 to 15 seconds. To improve flexibility, it is best to do stretching during the cool-down, with each stretch held for 30 to 60 seconds. If flexibility improvement is a major goal, at least one session per week should be devoted to developing it.
Type refers to the kind of exercise performed. When choosing the type, the commander should consider the principle of specificity. For example, to improve his soldiers’ levels of CR fitness (the major fitness component in the 2-mile run), he should have them do CR types of exercises. These are discussed in Chapter 2.
Ways to train for muscular strength and endurance are addressed in Chapter 3, while Chapter 4 discusses flexibility. These chapters will help commanders design programs which are tailor-made to their soldiers’ needs. The basic rule is that to improve performance, one must practice the particular exercise, activity, or skill he wants to improve. For example, to be good at push-ups, one must do push-ups. No other exercise will improve push-up performance as effectively.
Warm-up and Cool-Down
One must prepare the body before taking part in organized PT, unit sports competition, or vigorous physical activity. A warm-up may help prevent injuries and maximize performance. The warm-up increases the body’s internal temperature and the heart rate. The chance of getting injured decreases when the heart, muscles, ligaments, and tendons are properly prepared for exertion. A warm-up should include some running-in-place or slow jogging, stretching, and calisthenics. It should last five to seven minutes and should occur just before the CR or muscular endurance and strength part of the workout. After a proper warm-up, soldiers are ready for a more intense conditioning activity.
Soldiers should cool down properly after each exercise period, regardless of the type of workout. The cool-down serves to gradually slow the heart rate and helps prevent pooling of the blood in the legs and feet. During exercise, the muscles squeeze the blood through the veins. This helps return the blood to the heart. After exercise, however, the muscles relax and no longer do this, and the blood can accumulate in the legs and feet. This can cause a person to faint. A good cool-down will help avoid this possibility.
Soldiers should walk and stretch until their heart rates return to less than 100 beats per minute (BPM) and heavy sweating stops. This usually happens five to seven minutes after the conditioning session.
Phases of Fitness Conditioning
The physical fitness training program is divided into three phases: preparatory, conditioning, and maintenance. The starting phases for different units or individuals vary depending on their age, fitness levels, and previous physical activity.
Young, healthy persons may be able to start with the conditioning phase, while those who have been exercising regularly may already be in the maintenance phase. Factors such as extended field training, leave time, and illness can cause soldiers to drop from a maintenance to a conditioning phase. Persons who have not been active, especially if they are age 40 or older, should start with the preparatory phase. Many soldiers who fall into this category may be recovering from illness or injury, or they may be just out of high school. Most units will have soldiers in all three phases of training at the same time.
The preparatory phase helps both the cardiorespiratory and muscular systems get used to exercise, preparing the body to handle the conditioning phase. The work load in the beginning must be moderate. Progression from a lower to a higher level of fitness should be achieved by gradual, planned increases in frequency, intensity, and time.
Initially, poorly conditioned soldiers should run, or walk if need be, three times a week at a comfortable pace that elevates their heart rate to about 60 percent HRR for 10 to 15 minutes. Recovery days should be evenly distributed throughout the week, and training should progress slowly. Soldiers should continue at this or an appropriate level until they have no undue fatigue or muscle soreness the day following the exercise. They should then lengthen their exercise session to 16 to 20 minutes and/or elevate their heart rate to about 70 percent HRR by increasing their pace. To be sure their pace is faster, they should run a known distance and try to cover it in less time. Those who feel breathless or whose heart rate rises beyond their training heart rate (THR) while running should resume walking until the heart rate returns to the correct training level. When they can handle an intensity of 70 percent HRR for 20 to 25 minutes, they should be ready for the next phase. Chapter 2 shows how to determine the THR, that is, the right training level during aerobic training.
The preparatory phase for improving muscular endurance and strength through weight training should start easily and progress gradually. Beginning weight trainers should select about 8 to 12 exercises that work all the body’s major muscle groups. They should use only very light weights the first week (that is, the first two to three workouts). This is very important, as they must first learn the proper form for each exercise. Light weights will also help minimize muscle soreness and decrease the likelihood of injury to the muscles, joints, and ligaments. During the second week, they should use progressively heavier weights on each resistance exercise. By the end of the second week (four to six workouts), they should know how much weight will let them do 8 to 12 repetitions to muscle failure for each exercise. At this point the conditioning phase begins.
To reach the desired level of fitness, soldiers must increase the amount of exercise and/or the workout intensity as their strength and/or endurance increases.
To improve cardiorespiratory endurance, for example, they must increase the length of time they run. They should start with the preparatory phase and gradually increase the running time by one or two minutes each week until they can run continuously for 20 to 30 minutes. At this point, they can increase the intensity until they reach the desired level of fitness. They should train at least three times a week and take no more than two days between workouts.
For weight trainers, the conditioning phase normally begins during the third week. They should do one set of 8 to 12 repetitions for each of the selected resistance exercises. When they can do more than 12 repetitions of any exercise, they should increase the weight used on that exercise by about five percent so they can again do only 8 to 12 repetitions. This process continues throughout the conditioning phase. As long as they continue to progress and get stronger while doing only one set of each exercise, it is not necessary for them to do more than one set per exercise. When they stop making progress with one set, they should add another set on those exercises in which progress has slowed. As training progresses, they may want to increase the sets to three to help promote further increases in strength and/ or muscle mass.
Soldiers and units should be encouraged to progress beyond minimum requirements.
For maximum benefit, soldiers should do strength training three times a week with 48 hours of rest between workouts for any given muscle group. It helps to periodically do a different type of exercise for a given muscle or muscle group. This adds variety and ensures better strength development.
The conditioning phase ends when a soldier is physically mission-capable and all personal, strength-related goals and unit-fitness goals have been met.
The maintenance phase sustains the high level of fitness achieved in the conditioning phase. The emphasis here is no longer on progression. A well-designed, 45- to 60-minute workout (including warm-up and cool-down) at the right intensity three times a week is enough to maintain almost any appropriate level of physical fitness. These workouts give soldiers time to stabilize their flexibility, CR endurance, and muscular endurance and strength. However, more frequent training may be needed to reach and maintain peak fitness levels.
Soldiers and units should always be encouraged to progress beyond minimum requirements. Maintaining an optimal level of fitness should become part of every soldier’s life-style and should be continued throughout his life.
An effective program uses a variety of activities to develop muscular endurance and strength, CR endurance, and flexibility, and to achieve good body composition. It should also promote the development of coordination as well as basic physical skills. (See Chapter 10 for guidance in constructing a unit program.)
Types of Fitness Programs
The Army has too many types of units with different missions to have one single fitness program for everyone. Therefore, only broad categories of programs and general considerations are covered here. They are classified as unit, individual, and special programs.
Unit programs must support unit missions. A single unit may require several types of programs. Some units, such as infantry companies, have generally the same types of soldiers and MOSS. On the other hand, certain combat-service-support units have many different types of soldiers, each with unique needs. Commanders can develop programs for their own unit by following the principles in this chapter. MFTs know how to help commanders develop programs for their units/soldiers.
Commanders of units composed of both men and women must also understand the physiological differences between the sexes. These are summarized in Appendix A. Although women are able to participate in the same fitness programs as men, they must work harder to perform at the same absolute level of work or exercise. The same holds true for poorly-conditioned soldiers running with well conditioned soldiers.
To overcome this problem in the case of running, for example, the unit should use ability group runs rather than unit runs. Soldiers in a given ability group will run at a set pace, with groups based on each soldier’s most recent 2-mile-run time. Three to six groups per company-sized unit are usually enough. Within each group, each soldier’s heart rate while running should be at his own THR. When the run is not intense enough to bring one or more of the soldiers to THR, it is time for those soldiers to move up to the next ability group.
Ability group running does two things more effectively than unit runs:
- it lets soldiers improve to their highest attainable fitness level; and, 2) it more quickly brings subpar performers up to minimum standards.
It also allows soldiers to train to excel on the APFT which, in turn, helps promotion opportunities. Holding a fit soldier back by making him run at a slow, unit-run pace (normally less than his minimum pace for the 2 mile run on the APFT) hurts his morale and violates the principle of training to challenge.
Initial Entry Training (IET)
The training program in basic training (BT) brings soldiers up to the level of physical fitness they need to do their jobs as soldiers. However, the program requires good cadre leadership to ensure that it is appropriate, demanding, and challenging.
Trainees report to active duty at various levels of physical fitness and ability. During basic training they pass through the preparatory into the conditioning phase. During “fill” periods and the first week of training, the focus is on learning and developing the basics of physical fitness.
Training emphasizes progressive conditioning of the whole body. To minimize the risk of injury, exercises must be done properly, and the intensity must progress at an appropriate rate. Special training should be considered for soldiers who fail to maintain the unit’s or group’s rate of progression. Commanders should evaluate each basic trainee who falls below standard and give him individualized, special assistance to improve his deficiencies.
Additional training should not be used as punishment for a soldier’s inability to perform well.
More PT is not necessarily better. Chapter 11 describes how to develop physical training programs in IET units.
Advanced Individual Training (AIT)
Although AIT focuses on technical and MOS-oriented subjects, physical fitness must be emphasized throughout. Most soldiers arriving from basic training are already well into the conditioning phase. Therefore, AIT unit training should focus on preparing soldiers to meet the physical requirements of their initial duty assignments. (See TRADOC Reg. 350-6, Chapter 4.)
Walking, running, and climbing during unit training contribute to physical fitness, but they are not enough. Physical training in AIT requires continued, regular, vigorous exercise which stresses the whole body and addresses all the components of fitness.
By the end of AIT, soldiers must meet APFT standards. With good programs and special training, all healthy AIT graduates should easily be able to demonstrate that they, possess the required level of physical fitness.
TOE and tdA Units–Active Component
There are many types of units in the Army, and their missions often require different levels of fitness. TOE and tdA units must emphasize attaining and maintaining the fitness level required for the mission.
The unit’s standards may exceed the Army’s minimums. By regulation (AR 350-15), the unit’s standards can be established by the unit’s commander, based on mission requirements.
TOE and tdA Units–Reserve Components
The considerations for the active component also apply to reserve components (RCS). However, since members of RC units cannot participate together in collective physical training on a regular basis, RC unit programs must focus on the individual’s fitness responsibilities and efforts. Commanders, however, must still ensure that the unit’s fitness level and individual PT programs are maintained. MFTs can give valuable assistance to RC commanders and soldiers.
Many soldiers are assigned to duty positions that offer little opportunity to participate in collective unit PT programs. Examples are HQDA, MACOM staffs, hospitals, service school staff and faculty, recruiting, and ROTC. In such organizations, commanders must develop leadership environments that encourage and motivate soldiers to accept individual responsibility for their own physical fitness. Fitness requirements are the same for these personnel as for others. Section chiefs and individual soldiers need to use the fundamental principles and techniques outlined in this manual to help them attain and maintain a high level of physical fitness. MFTs can help develop individual fitness programs.
The day-to-day unit PT program conducted for most soldiers may not be appropriate for all unit members. Some of them may not be able to exercise at the intensity or duration best suited to their needs.
At least three groups of soldiers may need special PT programs. They are as follows:
- Those who fail the APFT and do not have medical profiles.
- Those who are overweight/overfat according to AR 600-9
- Those who have either permanent or temporary medical profiles.
Leaders must also give special consideration to soldiers who are age 40 or older and to recent arrivals who cannot meet the standards of their new unit.
Special programs must be tailored to each soldier’s needs, and trained, knowledgeable leaders should develop and conduct them. This training should be conducted with the unit. If this is impossible, it should at least occur at the same time.
There must be a positive approach to all special fitness training. Soldiers who lack enough upper body strength to do a given number of push-ups or enough stamina to pass the 2-mile run should not be ridiculed. Instead, their shortcomings should be assessed and the information used to develop individualized programs to help them remedy their specific shortcomings. A company-sized unit may have as many as 20 soldiers who need special attention. Only smart planning will produce good programs for all of them.
Commanders must counsel soldiers, explaining that special programs are being developed in their best interests. They must make it clear that standards will be enforced. Next, they should coordinate closely with medical personnel to develop programs that fit the capabilities of soldiers with medical limitations. Each soldier should then begin an individualized program based on his needs.
MFTs know how to assess CR endurance, muscular strength and endurance, flexibility, and body composition. They can also develop thorough, tailor-made programs for all of a unit’s special population.
Although it is not the heart of the Army’s physical fitness program, the APFT is the primary instrument for evaluating the fitness level of each soldier. It is structured to assess the muscular endurance of specific muscle groups and the functional capacity of the CR system.
Soldiers with reasonable levels of overall physical fitness should easily pass the APFT. Those whose fitness levels are substandard will fail. Soldiers who fail the APFT must receive special attention. Leaders should analyze their weaknesses and design programs to overcome them. For example, if the soldier is overweight, nutrition and dietary counseling may be needed along with a special exercise program. DA Pam 350-22 outlines several ways to improve a soldier’s performance on each of the APFT events.
When trying to improve APFT performances, leaders must ensure that soldiers are not overloaded to the point where the fitness training becomes counterproductive. They should use ability groups for their running program and, in addition to a total-body strength-training program, should include exercises designed for push-up and sit-up improvement. When dealing with special populations, two very important principles are overload and recovery. The quality, not just the quantity, of the workout should be emphasized. Two-a-day sessions, unless designed extremely well, can be counter-productive. More PT is not always better.
Designers of weight loss and physical training programs for overweight soldiers should remember this: even though exercise is the key to sensible weight loss, reducing the number of calories consumed is equally important. A combination of both actions is best.
The type of exercise the soldier does affects the amount and nature of the weight loss. Both running and walking burn about 100 calories per mile. One pound of fat contains 3,500 calories. Thus, burning one pound of fat through exercise alone requires a great deal of running or walking. On the other hand, weight lost through dieting alone includes the loss of useful muscle tissue. Those who participate in an exercise program that emphasizes the development of strength and muscular endurance, however, can actually increase their muscle mass while losing body fat. These facts help explain why exercise and good dietary practices must be combined.
Unit MFTs can help a soldier determine the specific caloric requirement he needs to safely and successfully lose excess fat. They can devise a sound, individualized plan to arrive at that reduced caloric intake. Likewise, unit MFTs can also develop training programs which will lead to fat loss without the loss of useful muscle tissue.
Generally, overweight soldiers should strive to reduce their fat weight by two pounds per week. When a soldier loses weight, either by diet or exercise or both, a large initial weight loss is not unusual. This may be due to water loss associated with the using up of the body’s carbohydrate stores. Although these losses may be encouraging to the soldier, little of this initial weight loss is due to the loss of fat.
Soldiers should be weighed under similar circumstances and at the same time each day. This helps avoid false measurements due to normal fluctuations in their body weight during the day. As a soldier develops muscular endurance and strength, lean muscle mass generally increases. Because muscle weighs more per unit of volume than fat. caution is advised in assessing his progress. Just because a soldier is not losing weight rapidly does not necessarily mean he is not losing fat. In fact, a good fitness program often results in gaining muscle mass while simultaneously losing fat weight. If there reasonable doubt, his percentage body fat should be determined.
Soldiers with Profiles
This manual stresses what soldiers can do while on medical profile rather than what they cannot do.
DOD Directive 1308.1 requires that, “Those personnel identified with medically limiting defects shall be placed in a physical fitness program consistent with their limitations as advised by medical authorities.”
AR 350-15 states, “For individuals with limiting profiles, commanders will develop physical fitness programs in cooperation with health care personnel.”
The Office of the Surgeon General has developed DA Form 3349 to ease the exchange of information between health care personnel and the units. On this form, health care personnel list, along with limitations, those activities that the profiled soldier can do to maintain his fitness level. With this information, the unit should direct profiled soldiers to participate in the activities they can do. (An example of DA Form 3349 is in Appendix B.)
All profiled soldiers should do as much of the regular fitness program as they can, along with substitute activities
All profiled soldiers should take part in as much of the regular fitness program as they can. Appropriate activities should be substituted to replace those regular activities in which they cannot participate.
Chapter 2 describes some aerobic activities the soldier can do to maintain cardiorespiratory fitness when he cannot run. Chapter 3 shows how to strengthen each body part. Applying this information should allow some strength training to continue even when body parts are injured. The same principle applies to flexibility (Chapter 4).
Medical treatment and rehabilitation should be aimed at restoring the soldier to a suitable level of physical fitness. Such treatment should use appropriate, progressive physical activities with medical or unit supervision.
MFTs can help profiled soldiers by explaining alternative exercises and how to do them safely under the limitations of their profile. MFTs are not, however, trained to diagnose injuries or prescribe rehabilitative exercise programs. This is the domain of qualified medical personnel.
The activity levels of soldiers usually decrease while they are recovering from sickness or injury. As a result, they should pay special attention to their diets to avoid gaining body fat. This guidance becomes more important as soldiers grow older. With medical supervision, proper diet, and the right PT programs, soldiers should be able to overcome their physical profiles and quickly return to their normal routines and fitness levels.
Age as a Factor in Physical Fitness
Soldiers who are age 40 and older represent the Army’s senior leadership. On the battlefield, they must lead other soldiers under conditions of severe stress. To meet this challenge and set a good example, these leaders must maintain and demonstrate a high level of physical fitness. Since their normal duties may be stressful but nonphysical, they must take part regularly in a physical fitness program. The need to be physically fit does not decrease with increased age.
People undergo many changes as they grow older. For example, the amount of blood the heart can pump per beat and per minute decreases during maximal exercise, as does the maximum heart rate. This lowers a person’s physical ability, and performance suffers. Also, the percent of body weight composed of fat generally increases, while total muscle mass decreases. The result is that muscular strength and endurance, CR endurance, and body composition suffer. A decrease in flexibility also occurs.
Men tend to maintain their peak levels of muscular strength and endurance and CR fitness until age 30. After 30 there is a gradual decline throughout their lives. Women tend to reach their peak in physical capability shortly after puberty and then undergo a progressive decline.
Although a decline in performance normally occurs with aging, those who stay physically active do not have the same rate of decline as those who do not. Decreases in muscular strength and endurance, CR endurance, and flexibility occur to a lesser extent in those who regularly train these fitness components.
Soldiers who are fit at age 40 and continue to exercise show a lesser decrease in many of the physiological functions related to fitness than do those who seldom exercise. A trained 60-year-old, for example, may have the same level of CR fitness as a sedentary 20-year-old. In short, regular exercise can help add life to your years and years to your life.
The assessment phase of a program is especially important for those age 40 and over. However, it is not necessary or desirable to develop special fitness programs for these soldiers. Those who have been exercising regularly may continue to exercise at the same level as they did before reaching age 40. A program based on the principles of exercise and the training concepts in this manual will result in a safe, long-term conditioning program for all soldiers. Only those age 40 and over who have not been exercising regularly may need to start their exercise program at a lower level and progress more slowly than younger soldiers. Years of inactivity and possible abuse of the body cannot be corrected in a few weeks or months.
As of 1 January 1989, soldiers reaching age 40 are no longer required to get clearance from a cardiovascular screening program before taking the APFT. Only a medical profile will exempt them from taking the biannual record APFT. They must, however, have periodic physical examinations in accordance with AR 40-501 and NGR 40-501. These include screening for cardiovascular risk factors.
To evaluate their physical fitness and the effectiveness of their physical fitness training programs, all military personnel are tested biannually using the APFT in accordance with AR 350-15. (Refer to Chapter 14.) However, commanders may evaluate their physical fitness programs more frequently than biannually.
There are two APFT categories of testing for all military personnel Initial Entry Training (IET) and the Army Standard.
The APFT standard for basic training is a minimum of 50 points per event and no less than 150 points overall by the end of basic training. Graduation requirements for AIT and One Station Unit Training (OSUT) require 60 points per event.
All other Army personnel (active and reserve) who are non-IET soldiers must attain the minimum Army standard of at least 60 points per event. To get credit for a record APFT, a medically profiled soldier must, as a minimum, complete the 2-mile run or one of the alternate aerobic events.
Safety is a major consideration when planning and evaluating physical training programs. Commanders must ensure that the programs do not place their soldiers at undue risk of injury or accident. They should address the following items:
- Environmental conditions (heat/cold/traction).
- Soldiers’ levels of conditioning (low/high/age/sex).
- Facilities (availability/instruction/repair).
- Traffic (routes/procedures/formations).
- Emergency procedures (medical/communication/transport).
The objective of physical training in the Army is to enhance soldiers’ abilities to meet the physical demands of war. Any physical training which results in numerous injuries or accidents is detrimental to this goal. As in most training, common sense must prevail. Good, sound physical training should challenge soldiers but should not place them at undue risk nor lead to situations where accidents or injuries are likely to occur.
- Table of Contents
- Chapter 1 - INTRODUCTION
- Chapter 2 - CARDIORESPIRATORY FITNESS
- Chapter 3 - MUSCULAR ENDURANCE AND STRENGTH
- Chapter 4 - FLEXIBILITY
- Chapter 5 - BODY COMPOSITION
- Chapter 6 - NUTRITION AND FITNESS
- Chapter 7 - CIRCUIT TRAINING AND EXERCISE DRILLS
- Chapter 8 - OBSTACLE COURSES AND ADDITIONAL DRILLS
- Chapter 9 - COMPETITIVE FITNESS ACTIVITIES
- Chapter 10 - DEVELOPING THE UNIT PROGRAM
- Chapter 11 - PHYSICAL TRAINING DURING INITIAL ENTRY TRAINING
- Chapter 12 - ENVIRONMENTAL CONSIDERATIONS
- Chapter 13 - INJURIES
- Chapter 14 - ARMY PHYSICAL FITNESS TEST
- APPENDIX A - PHYSIOLOGICAL DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE SEXES
- APPENDIX B - POSITIVE PROFILE FORM
- APPENDIX C - PHYSICAL FITNESS LOG
- APPENDIX D - STATIONARY BICYCLE TEST
- APPENDIX E - SELECTING THE RIGHT RUNNING SHOE
- APPENDIX F - CALCULATIONS OF VO2 MAX
- APPENDIX G - PERCEIVED EXERTION
- APPENDIX H - THE MAJOR SKELETAL MUSCLES OF THE HUMAN BODY
- AUTHORIZATION LETTER