Beginning in October, the Army Combat Fitness Test will become the U.S. Army’s official physical fitness test for certain Soldiers. It’s a big change from the Army Physical Fitness Test, so we’ve rounded up some of the most frequently asked questions about the ACFT and sent them to the experts, Capt. Brian Harder, a physical therapist with the Virginia National Guard and Regional Holistic Health, forwarded Fitness Lead and Master Sgt. Ramon Abreu-Perez, Virginia National Guard Holistic Health and Fitness Project Officer and Master Fitness Trainer Coordinator.
Army Combat Fitness Test Frequently Asked Questions
When is the ACFT counted for recording?
Beginning April 1, 2022, all Soldiers had the opportunity to undergo diagnostic ACFT to become familiar with the test and the new rating scale. When the test can be counted for recording depends on your status:
- Regular Army and Active Reserve/Guards Soldiers will complete a diagnostic ACFT between April 1, 2022 and September 30, 2022 and must record an ACFT after October 1, 2022 and before April 1, 2023. Record ACFT results will be used for administrative actions for these Soldiers beginning October 1, 2022.
- Reserve component Soldiers, including National Guard Soldiers, will conduct a diagnostic ACFT between April 1, 2022 and March 31, 2023 and are required to record an ACFT after April 1, 2023 and before April 1, 2024. Record ACFT Results will be used for administrative actions for these Soldiers beginning April 1, 2023.
For all Soldiers, regardless of component, beginning October 1, 2022, the ACFT will be a requirement for all professional military training.
What is different about the latest version of the ACFT compared to one I did maybe last year or even earlier?
As of April 1, 2022, the ACFT includes performance normalized assessment standards scaled by both age and gender. Additionally, the plank is now the only core strength event and the 2.5 mile walk has been added as an alternate aerobic event.
Why ACFT? It’s so much more complicated compared to the APFT.
The six disciplines in the ACFT are very different from just doing two minutes of push-ups, sit-ups and a 2-mile run. But there is a method and a reason behind it all. Our bodies have three energy systems that we use for activities in life, and the ACFT test of how well all three are functioning. In addition, for muscle capacity or strength we also have three sections: absolute or maximum strength, strength and endurance. Here, too, the ACFT evaluates each of these elements as well. Finally, the ACFT tests recovery time. As warriors, our bodies need to be able to reset and be ready for the next activity, especially when preparing for combat roles, and the ACFT examines recovery between different maximal effort events. As an added bonus, due to its broader nature, the ACFT is a better measure of specific deficits you may have, which can help you train smarter.
What is the latest guidance on ACFT OIC, NCOIC and Grader Validation and Training?
According to ATP 7-22.01, “The success of any physical fitness testing program depends on obtaining valid and accurate test results. As such, leaders must manage the ACFT according to the standard to accurately assess individual soldier and unit physical readiness.”
Each unit is responsible for establishing an ongoing training program to maintain an adequate knowledge of the testing standards. Training can be delivered either in-person with classroom and hands-on training, online via the ACFT Validation DL Training (milsuite.mil), or a combination of both.
Why do we have to walk two miles? Isn’t it enough that we run at sprint drag carry?
The two-mile run, or 2MR, provides a solid picture of a soldier’s aerobic endurance, which is why it’s still part of the test. Performing sprints during an event like the SDC does not test aerobic endurance as it does not require a sustained effort of more than a few minutes.
Additional Background: During the inception of the ACFT, the U.S. Army Environmental Medicine Research Institute conducted extensive physical requirement studies to determine the reliability of simulated physical soldier tasks relevant to combat soldiers. Studies showed that muscle power and strength accounted for 60 percent of the variability in physical demands, meaning that endurance-oriented training and testing approaches did not support all of the basic demands required of being a soldier. The other 40 percent is driven by other three domains: muscular endurance, anaerobic endurance, and aerobic endurance.
More on aerobic endurance: Our bodies need oxygen to generate energy during the oxidative phosphorylation energy pathway. Aerobic endurance refers to the ability to perform low-to-moderate intensity activities, typically lasting more than 3 minutes. Improving our aerobic endurance is related to our body’s ability to use oxygen effectively to generate energy. As we get fitter, we can utilize higher percentages of oxygen, increasing the duration and quality of our aerobic activity.
In an operational context, improving our aerobic endurance is directly related to how well we perform in activities like reverse marches, long-distance moves, and other warrior and professional tasks.
More resources to improve your running:
I already have a profile, why do I need to update it?
Because the events in the ACFT test specific components of strength, flexibility, endurance, and more, profiles must be updated specifically for the test’s events and not just upper or lower body. It is important that you update your profile before the ACFT becomes the Test of Record to ensure everyone is on the same page and Soldiers are only performing the events that they can safely perform.
It seems people get hurt when they take ACFT. Shouldn’t that be investigated further?
It’s not the ACFT that causes injury, it’s just an inanimate test that reveals weaknesses or deficiencies in soldiers. The ACFT is a performance test that shows if all areas of your health are working together, which goes beyond physical health. Did you sleep well the night before the ACFT? How do you fuel your body? Are you mentally prepared for the rigors of the exam? If these other areas are not functioning optimally, this will also show with regular training. In addition, it will also show an unbalanced fitness program that does not work to test and improve all components.
Finally, don’t let your ego get in the way. If you haven’t prepared for the ACFT like you should, don’t try to keep up with the person in front of you maxing out the 3-rep maximum deadlift or MDL. Knowing your body and what you are currently capable of can help prevent injury.
What is the reference for holistic health and fitness and tests like the ACFT?
FM 7-22: Holistic Health and Fitness (H2F) and ATP 7-22.01: H2F Tests.
The H2F system is the U.S. Army’s most important investment in soldier readiness and lethality, optimal physical and non-physical performance, reduced injury rates, improved rehabilitation from injuries, and increased overall effectiveness of the entire army. The system empowers and equips Soldiers to take responsibility for their health, fitness and well-being to optimize individual performance while preventing injury and illness.
Where can I find the latest updates for the ACFT?
US Army ACFT microsite: https://www.army.mil/acft/