The US Army Physical Fitness Test, or APFT, consists of three events- push-ups, sit-ups, and a two mile run. In order to pass the APFT, you must score at least 60 points in each event, for a total minimum score of 180 points. You can score a maximum of 100 points in each event, although there are “extended scales” that some units use for scoring physical training competitions that have scale past 100 points. The APFT is taken in a specific order, as prescribed by US Army Field Manual 21-20. The APFT is taken as follows:
2 Minutes of Push-ups
10-20 Minute Rest
2 Minutes of Sit-ups
10-20 Minute Rest
2 Mile Run
The APFT scores repetitions and times by “norming” them for age and gender. Males are expected to do more push-ups and sit-ups, as well as run faster, than females, and younger soldiers are generally expected to perform better than older ones.
The norming process takes gender heavily into consideration, and the differences in age categories are much smaller than that between males and females. This means that a 50 year old male who completes 24 good push-ups will only receive 59 points, failing the event, but a 17 year old female who does 24 push-ups will receive 69 points and pass.
The score charts are devised at the Department of the Army level, and there have always been some grumblings among soldiers at to whether they are fair or not. One common complaint is that males in the 22 to 26 year old age bracket have to perform more push-ups and sit-ups than males in the 17 to 21 year old age bracket. The generally preferred explanation is that males reach their physical peak at age 25, which is why the standards are higher.
The first step in improving your APFT score is to look up the table for your age bracket and gender and determine the minimum number of repetitions and run time for you to pass. Go ahead and look up your score here. Next, look up what you need to do to achieve 100 points in each event. Write both of these scores down and make these your short and long term fitness goals. It is absolutely essential that you do everything you can to achieve the minimum passing scores as quickly as possible, but be sure not to stop there.
People who achieve the minimum on the APFT often have trouble consistently passing it. If you can only do the minimum when you’re perfectly healthy, what happens when your are at a physically demanding school, Basic Training, Airborne, Officer Candidate School, etc, and you have to take the test when you are sick, tired, and hurt? The ability to consistently max your APFT will help you greatly in your US Army career, and should always be the standard to which you strive. There are several tips and tricks to getting better at taking the test, here are a few points to consider. Try these ideas out and see if they work for you:
Ensure that your hip flexors (the muscles just below the front of your hips) are in good shape. Often times, soldiers strain these muscles during the sit-up event and it affects their run time, which is the very next event. Prepare these muscles by doing specific exercises that target them and stretch them before and after the sit-up portion of the APFT.
Practice taking the APFT on a regular basis.It helps to have someone observe your push-ups and sit-ups, but even just taking the event every two weeks by yourself will help condition you to the sequence of exercises and let you know where you stand physically.
When taking the real test, be sure that your grader communicates with you and that they are paying attention. Before you start the push-ups or sit-ups ask them to count off every ten correct repetitions, this will ensure that they don’t lose count and that you’re getting credit for the ones you do correctly. Also, when running on a track, shout out your lap number as you pass your grader, so that they don’t miss one of your laps. Few things are worse for your run time than having to run nine laps instead of eight because your grader wasn’t paying attention.