Army Physical Fitness Test: Requirements and Tips to Pass the Events

Need to improve your APFT performance? Try these strategies

men running in army physical fitness test (APFT)
Image courtesy army.mil

U.S. Army soldiers are required to take a physical fitness test at least once each calendar year that measures their muscle strength, cardiovascular strength, and endurance.

The Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT) test uses three events to measure physical fitness: push-ups, sit-ups, and a timed two-mile run. Soldiers must score a minimum of 60 points on each event.

The test also can affect whether or not you get promoted, since scores are used in the Army Enlisted Promotion System.

How the Army Physical Fitness Test Is Performed

The test is administered in accordance with the procedures detailed in the Army Field Manual 7-22.

Soldiers who fail any portion of the APFT must re-take the entire APFT within three months (unless they have an approved medical profile). Soldiers who fail the APFT are flagged in accordance with Army Regulation 600-8-2, Suspension of Favorable Personnel Actions, and are not eligible for promotion, reenlistment or enlistment extension.  

If you can't complete the two-mile run due to medical reasons, Army regulations allow alternate aerobic events. There aren't any substitutes for the sit-ups and push-ups.

How to Improve Your APFT Score

Here are some tips to improve your scores in the push-ups, sit-ups, and two-mile timed run events:

  • Push-ups. Proper hand placement can determine how well you perform. Place your hands at just below shoulder height and just greater than shoulder width apart, with fingers pointing at the 11 o'clock (left hand) and the 1 o'clock (right hand) positions. Your upper arms (above the elbows) should create a 45-degree angle with your torso when in the "down" position. Practice push-ups every other day using a variety of set and repetition numbers, but push your ability to do push-ups and you will improve your push-ups.
  • Situps. Pace yourself. Many people fail sit-ups because they start out too fast and fail to match their performance in the first 30 seconds in the rest of the event. Set a goal pace of (approximately) 20 sit-ups in 30 seconds. That will give you 40 sit-ups in one minute and 80 sit-ups in two minutes, for an above-average score. This can be done with practice three to four days a week in timed 30-second and one-minute sets.
  • Two-Mile Timed Run. You have to practice running to run a two-mile run faster. Plan to run four to five days a week. Alternate with fast run intervals of 1/4 to 1/2 mile distances at above pace speed, as this will help you to develop "muscle memory" for your pace. Build up to running two to three miles of distance a day, four to five days a week in order to master the two-mile timed run. Learn to do a two-mile run after days you do upper-body work (push-ups, sit-ups, pull-ups) so you get used to the transitions of the actual test.

One final tip: Transition from the upper body calisthenics part of the APFT test makes running the two-mile timed run more difficult. Use the "rest time" in between events to stretch your upper body prior to running in order to get your best performance on the fitness test.

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