Saturday, September 10, 2011

Tougher APFT

The tough new Army Physical Readiness Test may be getting tougher as officials consider three key changes:
• The addition of dead-hang pull-ups — perhaps to replace push-ups.
• Doubling the rower from one minute to two minutes.
• Returning to a two-mile run.
The changes result from an analysis of statistical data and comments from the rank and file, said Maj. Gen. Richard Longo, deputy commanding general of Initial Military Training at Training and Doctrine Command.
The Army Physical Fitness School, which played a key role in designing the new test, has completed 8,000 of 10,000 initial tests that will build the test’s scoring scales. But the effort “is not just number crunching,” Longo said. “We are listening to some incredibly insightful soldiers and leaders and collecting new and good ideas on the test.”
And the introduction of pull-ups is at the top of that list.
Replacing push-ups with dead-hang pull-ups was among the first things considered when officials began to develop the new test.
Second, officials are adamant that the new test remain gender neutral, with identical events for men and women. There will be different scoring standards based on physiological differences, but female soldiers would be required to do dead-hang pull-ups.
“The average [for women] might be three or four pull-ups,” Longo said. “Excellent might be seven. Poor might be one. So that means each additional pull-up might be worth 25 points. I don’t know if that’s what we want.”
The initial answer was to introduce new standards for push-ups. They are tougher and better replicate the motion of a soldier pushing someone away to get position of dominance or pushing himself up from a prone position. But soldiers at all ranks have said they want pull-ups added, and Longo said he agrees with them because the exercise is “a better measure of that which we ask our soldiers to do in combat.”
Longo is including pull-ups when thousands of soldiers at Fort Bliss, Texas, take the new test Sept. 13-20.
The Marine Corps also is considering an overhaul of its Physical Fitness Test that would require women to do pull-ups to obtain a perfect score. A June 17 plan recommends that women be allowed to score up to 70 points for maintaining the existing flexed-arm hang for 70 seconds. They would need to do pull-ups to make up the remaining 30 points. Another option under consideration is to give 75 points for one pull-up with five points awarded for each additional pull-up. A perfect score would be obtained with six pull-ups.
Male Marines are given five points for each pull-up, with a minimum requirement of three. They can get a maximum of 100 points with 20 dead hangs.
A second change that will be tested at Fort Bliss is doubling the rower from one to two minutes.
The rower has a very steep bell curve and there is not a lot of variation, Longo said. Officials want to know if extending the rower to two minutes can better measure the difference between a soldier with good overall body fitness and one who can bust out a high number in one minute, but is spent afterward.
Most soldiers average 36-37 rowers in one minute, based on age and gender. In the current test, male trainees at Fort Jackson, S.C., average 62 sit-ups in two minutes, while female trainees average 61, according to Army data.
The third possible change — keeping the run at two miles instead of the new 1.5-mile distance — will not be tested at Fort Bliss because the Army already has ample data, Longo said.
“For the physiologist and the statistician, 1.5 miles is all I need to measure fitness,” Longo said. “But commanders have said resoundingly to me that they want it to stay two miles. While 1.5 miles measures all we need to measure about your cardiovascular fitness, that other half-mile measures the other piece of the heart – the piece that keeps you going in Afghanistan at 10,000 feet with an 80-pound ruck. That’s compelling to me.”
A final set of tests will be conducted by month’s end at Fort Lee, Va., to close a “statistical gap” that exists because there is not enough data from women over 30 to get a good sample. The final recommendations will follow a three-month analysis and will be presented to leadership at the beginning of 2012. Longo expects a final decision by April, followed by a six-month transition and full implementation by Oct. 1, 2012.


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