Exercises to Get Ready for the Army’s APFT or ACFT

Exercises to Get Ready for the Army’s APFT or ACFT

Exercises to Get Ready for the Army’s APFT or ACFT

Are you thinking about joining the army? Or maybe you’re getting ready for your semiannual APFT (Army Physical Fitness Test)? Or you might be wondering when the switch to ACFT (Army Combat Fitness Test) is happening or preparing for that test? If you’re looking to improve your score and learn more about the Army’s Fitness Test, you’re in the right place. Learn more about the test’s events and exercises that will help you pass.

Did you know? There are two different Army Fitness Tests. Know the difference between the APFT and the ACFT!

Table of Contents

The APFT vs. the ACFT

What’s the difference? Find out!

What is the APFT?

APFT stands for the Army Physical Fitness Test. This is the current fitness test that must be passed during basic training in order to graduate boot camp. It is taken twice a year by active duty military members. The required test scores are based on the participants’ sex and age. If a permanent medical condition keeps a soldier from completing the two mile run, alternatives are available (walking, biking, or swimming for various distances), but there are no alternatives for the other events.

What is the ACFT?

The ACFT stands for the Army Combat Fitness Test. This test will replace the APFT by October 2020. The new test standards are the same for men and women, as the physical challenges they face during combat are the same.

Why is the army fitness test changing?

The current test measures aerobic and muscular endurance, but it doesn’t align with all of the complex fitness requirements that are encountered during combat. The new test measures additional factors, including muscular strength, speed, agility, balance, flexibility, and coordination. The APFT only has a forty percent predictive power for combat performance, but the new ACFT has an eighty percent predictive power. Thus, this test is a better measurement of a soldier’s combat readiness.

When will the ACFT take effect?

In March 2019 through October 2019, selected units will take two not-for-record tests. Starting in October of 2019, the entire Army will take two not-for-record tests about six months apart. The ACFT will become the army test of record by October 2020.

Exercises to Prepare for the Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT)

COVID-19 has caused the army to suspend physical fitness tests since March 2020. When testing resumes only Soldiers without a current passing score will be required to take an APFT again.4 If you need to take the APFT, get prepared with these exercises!


Before you jump into exercising, start with a warm-up. Jumping jacks and running in place will get your blood flowing. You can also do some stretching. Use a stretch strap for dynamic stretches to get ready before your workout.

Event 1: Two Minute Push-Up Test

The first event is a push-up test. You can use a TheraBand CLX resistance band for more challenging push-ups while practicing. This exercise strengthens your chest and provides resistance similar to a bench-press.


  1. Place one hand in an end loop, run the resistance band across your upper back, and place your other hand in the other end loop
  2. Get into a plank position and perform a push-up, with your elbows bent just above ninety degrees
  3. For an advanced move, add a second, lighter CLX band in front of your body. Perform a push-up, move into a side plank, do a resisted full arm extension, then return to your starting position.
  4. Repeat on the opposite side.

Event 2: Two Minute Sit-Up Test

The next event is a timed sit-up test. Move beyond standard crunches by adding a resistance band to exercises that work your abs and obliques. Start with this easy exercise to strengthen your abdominals.


  1. Attach your resistance band to a secure anchor point near the floor
  2. Lay flat on your back with your knees bent
  3. Grasp the middle of the band with both hands
  4. Keeping your arms extended, curl up lifting your shoulder blades from the floor
  5. Hold, slowly return to your starting position, and repeat

Event 3: Two Mile Run

If you aren’t used to running, slowly build up to this event. Start with a one mile walk. Build up to a two mile walk. Then start to alternate walking and running over the course of two miles. Slowly work up to running the entire time. Foot pain? Use a TheraBand Foot Roller to massage your feet and help relieve aching pain.

Cool Down

After your workout, take the time to walk around, slowly lowering your heart rate. Don’t forget to stretch out too. And check out how your score stacks up with this APFT calculator! By the end of basic training you need at least fifty points per event and one hundred and fifty points overall. Active and Army Reserve members need at least sixty points per event.

Exercises to Prepare for the Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT)

The Army Combat Fitness Test will become the army’s PT test in October 2020. Every year, Active Army and AGR Soldiers will take two ACFTs, Reserve and Guard Soldiers will take one ACFT. During this implementation period, the Army states that “No adverse administrative actions will be taken against a Soldier for failing the ACFT and a Soldier’s score or comments on performance will not be used administratively during the data collection period”.

Currently, the scale is tiered by “heavy” (black), “significant” (grey), and “moderate” (gold) physical demands. During field testing, for each event, 60 points is considered the moderate tier, 65 points is the significant tier, 70 points is the heavy tier, and one hundred points is the maximum score possible. To pass, you must meet the 60 point gold standard. Changes may be made in future years based on performance data.

The alternative assessment for soldiers with permanent profiles includes all ACFT events within the limits of their profile including at least one of the aerobic events. Aerobic test events the standard 2 mile run with a 21 minute time standard and alternatives with a 25 minute test standard, including a 5,000 meter row, a 12,000 meter stationary bike, or a 1,000 meter swim.3

Make sure you warm up before exercising!

Event 1: Three Repetition Maximum Deadlift (MDL)

What you do during the event: Deadlift the maximum weight possible three times using a sixty pound trap (hex) bar and plates

What is measured: The maximum weight lifted three times

Points awarded: 60 points for 140 pounds, 100 points for 340 pounds

What it simulates: Lifting and moving heavy loads (both equipment and injured soldiers) from the ground

How to train: Check out these three exercises below to improve your muscular strength and balance for event one.

sumo deadlift

Sumo Deadlift

For this exercise you can use a kettlebell, dumbbell, or trap bar.

  1. Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart and your toes pointed out, using a single weight
  2. Hold the weight in both hands with your knees bent and back straight
  3. Stand up, straightening your knees and raising your trunk
  4. Hold for a moment, then return to your starting position

forward lunge

Forward Lunge

Grab two dumbbells or kettlebells for this exercise.

  1. Stand with your feet hip distance apart
  2. Pick up one kettlebell in each hand and stand up straight
  3. Step forward with your left leg and kneel with your right leg, keeping your back straight
  4. Briefly hold, then reverse and return to starting position
  5. Repeat, stepping forward with your right leg

bench press

TheraBand Bench Press

For this exercise, you’ll need a resistance band.

  1. Attach the band to a secure anchor point at shoulder level
  2. Stand facing away from the anchor point, and step forward with one foot
  3. Grasp one end of the band in each hand with your elbows bent, palms facing inward, and back straight
  4. Push the band forward, extending your arms straight out at shoulder level
  5. Slowly return to your starting position and repeat

Event 2: Standing Power Throw (SPT)

What you do during the event: Throw a ten-pound medicine ball backwards, over your head

What is measured: The distance thrown

Points awarded: 60 points for four meters, 100 points for 13 meters

What it simulates: Throwing equipment over a wall/onto an obstacle, helping a fellow soldier climb over a wall, using force in man-to-man contact, and jumping over and across obstacles

How to train: Practice building your explosive power with these exercises.

overhead press

CLX Overhead Press

  1. Stand on the middle of the CLX resistance band with one foot in each loop
  2. Hold one end loop in each hand
  3. Lift your hands upward over your head, fully extending your arms
  4. Be sure to keep your arms in line with your body and your back straight
  5. Slowly return to your starting position and repeat

Power Jump

Power Jump

  1. Start with your feet shoulder-width apart and your hands on your hips
  2. Squat keeping your heels flat, and placing your palms flat on the ground
  3. Jump upward forcefully, swinging your arms up over your head
  4. Land softly in a squat position with your hands on the ground
  5. Return to your starting position and repeat

Standing Power Throw

Standing Power Throw

  1. Start with your feet shoulder-width apart holding a medicine ball in front of you with both hands
  2. Face away from the direction you will be throwing the medicine ball
  3. Squat down while holding the ball, with your arms extended
  4. Forcefully extend your legs, trunk, and arms. Then, throw the ball backwards, overhead (your feet can leave the ground)

Event 3: Hand-Release Push-Up (HRP)

What you do during the event: Complete as many hand-release push-ups as possible during the timed two minute event

What is measured: The number of hand-release push-ups completed

Points awarded: 60 points for 10 repetitions, 100 points for 70 repetitions

What it simulates: Pushing away an opponent during man-to-man contact, pushing a disabled vehicle, moving obstacles, reaching out from a prone position when crawling, taking cover, or shooting, getting down and up from the ground during evasive maneuvers

How to train: Hand-release push-ups work your upper body. Strengthen your chest and arm muscles by doing the CLX Shoulder Push-Up and CLX Core Stabilization Quadruped Arm and Leg using a TheraBand CLX Resistance Band.

Event 4: Sprint-Drag-Carry (SDC)

What you do during the event: CSprint from the starting position to a cone and back, grab a rope attached to a ninety-pound weighted sled and drag it while running down and back, do a lateral shuffle there and back, pick up a forty-pound kettlebell in each hand and carry them quickly to the cone and back, then finally sprint there and back once more

What is measured: The time it takes you to complete the 5x50 meter shuttles (sprint, drag, lateral, carry, and sprint)

Points awarded: 60 points for completing in 3 minutes and thirty-five seconds, 100 points for completing in one minute and forty seconds

What it simulates: Quickly reacting to direct and indirect fire, extracting an injured soldier from a vehicle and carrying them to safety, carrying ammunition to your fighting position or vehicle

How to train: You can practice this event in sections. Practice sprinting and lateral shuffles, gradually trying to increase your speed. Use a kettlebell to work on the carry portion of the SDC. In lieu of a weighted sled, tie a rope to a tire or a bag filled with weights to practice the drag portion. Once you have worked on each section individually, start putting them together. For additional training, try a TheraBand Bent Over Row using a resistance band.

Event 5: Leg Tuck (LTK)

What you do during the event: In two minutes, complete as many leg tucks as possible

What is measured: Number of leg tucks completed

Points awarded: 60 points for one complete leg tuck, 100 points for 20 completed repetitions

What it simulates: Climbing over a wall, rope climbing, traversing, and descending

How to train: This exercise requires a lot of muscle strength. In addition to pull-ups and actual leg tucks, strengthen your arms, core, and legs using resistance bands.

Currently, soldiers must attempt the leg tuck. If they do not pass, they may attempt a two minute plank. This is just an interim assessment during the transition to the ACFT.

CLX Scapular Retraction

CLX Scapular Retraction

  1. Secure one end loop at chest height
  2. Hold the other end loop in one hand with your arm extended
  3. Pull down and backward, and hold briefly
  4. Return to your starting point and repeat

TheraBand Abdominal Crunch

TheraBand Abdominal Crunch

  1. Lay on your back with your hips and knees flexed (thighs perpendicular and shins parallel to the floor)
  2. Wrap the band around your knees, crossing it underneath
  3. Hold one end of the band in each hand at your side
  4. Lift your knees up, moving your hips off the floor
  5. Hold, slowly return, and repeat

TheraBand Leg Press

TheraBand Leg Press

  1. Lay on your back with one leg extended. Bend your opposite knee, bringing it towards your chest
  2. Loop the band around the bottom foot of your bent leg and hold one end in each hand
  3. Straighten your leg, hold, and return to your starting position
  4. Repeat

Event 6: Two-Mile Run (2MR)

What you do during the event: Run two miles on a flat, outdoor or indoor track/course

What is measured: The time it takes for you to complete the run

Points awarded: 60 points for a time of twenty one minutes, 100 points for a time of twelve minutes and forty-five seconds

What it simulates: A ruck march, infiltration, and dismounted movement

How to train: This run can take place indoors or outdoors on a lap track, out-and-back course, road, or sidewalk. You have a minimum five minute break between the fifth event (leg tuck) and your run. To prepare, start working towards walking up to two miles. Once you can do this, begin alternating sections of walking with sections of running, gradually increasing the running sections until you can run two miles.

Cool Down

After you finish exercising, don’t forget to cool down. You can use a stretch strap to stretch any sore muscles. If your workout has left you with aches and pains, rest and ice the area or use a topical pain reliever, like Biofreeze. Build rest days into your workout schedule to give your muscles a chance to recover. Use a massager roller to help release any tension. Read up on the Army Combat Fitness Test with this manual, which has more information on event scoring and testing procedures.


  • Whether you are taking the APFT or the ACFT, start by practicing the individual events. Then practice doing them in a sequence one after the other.
  • Start with a lower resistance or less weight and gradually increase as you grow stronger.
  • For up-to-date additional information, learn more on the U.S. Army’s website
  • Learn more about the ACFT in these U.S. Army videos
  • Once you’re an active or reserve member, you will need a higher minimum fitness test score, so be sure to stay in shape. Looking for exercise ideas? Check out the top fitness exercises for soldiers!

Medical Disclaimer: The information provided on this site, including text, graphics, images and other material, are for informational purposes only and are not intended to substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other healthcare professional with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your condition.