US Army Overhauls Physical Fitness Test for First Time Since 1980

Diana J. Smith
army woman and man doing pushups

Catherine LednerGetty Images

The U.S. Army’s Physical Fitness Test (PFT) has remained the same for over 30 years. Since 1980, the screening process which all candidates must pass in order to be considered fit for active duty has consisted of two minutes of pushups, two minutes of situps, and a two-mile run.

While considered for a long time to be a suitable assessment of cardiovascular fitness and muscular endurance (which has also led to the PFT becoming a popular challenge among YouTubers, athletes, and fitness influencers), it has since been deemed insufficient in measuring important aspects of military training. “That test measured endurance but failed to assess strength, power, speed, and agility, all of which are also critical on the battlefield,” Michael McGurk, director of research and analysis directorate at the U.S. Army Center for Initial Military Training, said in 2018.

A new Combat Fitness Test was first devised three years ago, but faced delays in being rolled out across the Armed Forces due to concerns surrounding the suitability of certain exercises, as well as pandemic-related delays. It is now set to become the official standard of military fitness in Spring 2022, Bloomberg reports.

The Combat Fitness Test, which has been designed to allow for a more comprehensive measure of the kind of upper body and core strength required in modern warfare, consists of:

  • 3-rep max deadlift
  • Standing medicine ball throws
  • Hand release pushups
  • Sprint, drag, carry drill
  • Leg tucks or planks
  • 2-mile run

    Kevin Bigelman, director of fitness and holistic health at theU.S. Army Center for Initial Military Training at Fort Eustis in Virginia, describes the new test is equivalent to “what has been the gold standard across professional sports and collegiate sports for a number of years.”

    “I’m not saying that every individual soldier is a world-class athlete,” he says, “but they should be treated like an athlete and cared for like an athlete because soldiering is a physical profession.”

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