The Army Combat Fitness Test will still become the service’s new PT test of record on Oct. 1, but soldiers’ scores won’t count against them for the time being, Army leaders said Monday.
The test is also being reintroduced with some changes, Sgt. Maj. of the Army Michael A. Grinston said during a telephone call with reporters.
“If you can’t do a leg tuck, we’ve added a two-minute plank," said Grinston, adding that soldiers must first attempt the leg-tuck event. “We need that core strength … so if you can’t do any leg tucks, how do we build off of that? The plank can help us.”
The latest changes give soldiers a chance to adjust to the Army’s delay in rolling out the ACFT. Right now, it’s unclear when exactly ACFT scores will officially count, but March 2022 was the rough date given during the telephone call.
“We do have a goal, but we have to be flexible for the total force,” Grinston added. “It’s hard to say. Does COVID come back even harder in the fall? … I’m cautious to give a hard date because the conditions are so fluid.”
The ACFT rollout was temporarily suspended in late March as the coronavirus pandemic upended policy plans across the military. Gym closures across installations, PT cancellations and strict adherence to social distancing guidelines made large gatherings for even the current Army Physical Fitness Test impractical, officials said at the time.
The adjusted rollout plan will allow soldiers more time to prepare for the six-event test without fear of it impacting their careers this year. The only soldiers who will have to take the older APFT are those without a current passing score.
Maj. Gen. Lonnie Hibbard, commander of the Center for Initial Military Training, said the two-minute plank substitution was introduced because some troops were having trouble with leg tucks, but the core is still a focus area for the service.
“Lower back injuries are the most common debilitating and costly injuries to the Army,” said Hibbard. “And that leg tuck is what trains the core, the hips and the shoulders to reduce those injuries. So if they can’t quite do one leg tuck yet, we give them the option to do a plank.”
Soldiers performing the plank must remain still, with their elbows planted beneath their shoulders while maintaining a straight posture for at least two minutes, according to Hibbard.
Grinston added that he doesn’t view the plank as a permanent substitute for the leg-tuck exercise.
The other five events are still locked in, according to the Army, which includes the three-repetition maximum dead-lift, standing power throw, hand-release pushups, 2-mile run and sprint, drag, carry.
At this point, more than 90 percent of ACFT equipment ordered by the Army has been delivered and all of it should be distributed to individual units by the end of June, according to Hibbard.
Kyle Rempfer is an editor and reporter whose investigations have 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.