Hand-release push-ups are the most difficult part of the new test, core strength is key and “embrace the change, because like it or not, it’s coming.”

That’s some of the advice offered by the first soldier to hit a perfect score on the new Army Combat Fitness Test, according to a service release posted Monday.

Maj. Timothy Cox, the executive officer for the 22nd Chemical Battalion, earned a 600 — the highest score recorded so far, according to the Army.

Cox, who has twice competed in the Army’s Best Ranger competition, was able to up his score from an initial first try that earned him a 587 in December 2018. He hit 600 in mid-July, the service announced.

Cox said he was a fan of training by doing 400- and 600-meter repeats on a track and Tabata push-ups to increase his endurance during the hand-release push-up part of the ACFT, which he said was the most difficult part of the new test.

An early self-assessment also shifted Cox’s focus toward strengthening his core, legs and grip. He encouraged other soldiers to start with those areas, echoing many of the comments made by senior leaders.

“It’s all about a mindset change," the new commander of TRADOC, Gen. Paul E. Funk II, said in early August. "You don’t need to practice the test. What we want you to do is functional fitness. Work on your core. Work on your endurance. Work on muscle fatigue. All those things that make you much more fit.”

Cox’s unit also has access to the Holistic Health and Fitness, or the H2F Lite pilot program. The initiative is being tested in certain battalions across the force and provides strength coaches to mentor soldiers and watch their form, as well as offer nutritional advice.

He endorsed the program.

“These individuals I want to personally thank," he said. "Due to their dedication to our program we have seen positive results in many measurable areas. We are grateful because our H2F professionals are passionate about our program and you can see a difference in performance and morale.”

Cox encouraged soldiers preparing to take the test to embrace it as a culture change for soldiers and to research how to approach the events using fitness apps and the abundance of online fitness information already freely available.

Conducting a diagnostic test wouldn’t hurt either. And for soldiers who worry about not having all the right equipment, you can still train with ad-hoc preparations.

“There’s a manual to train this and there are ways to train without having the exact equipment," Funk said.

Ammo cans, water-filled jerrycans and sandbags, for instance, can be used as weighted items in place of a trap bar and plates, medicine balls and kettlebells.

Another piece of advice from Cox, who says diet is important along with fitness: Home-cooked meals are best.

Kyle Rempfer was an editor and reporter who has covered combat operations, criminal cases, foreign military assistance and training accidents. Before entering journalism, Kyle served in U.S. Air Force Special Tactics and deployed in 2014 to Paktika Province, Afghanistan, and Baghdad, Iraq.

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