Over the last decade, fitness tests have evolved into tactical fitness tests with the Army Combat Fitness Test, U.S. Marine Corps Combat Fitness Test, the Navy Human Performance Test (Special Warfare/Spec Ops), and the Air Force Operator Fitness Test (Special Warfare)..

Even though the tests are changing, the need to perform exercises (pull-ups, sit-ups vs. planks and hand-release push-ups vs. push-ups) from older tests such as the Navy Physical Screening Test and Army Ranger Fitness Test, for example, still exists. We have not fully replaced sit-ups/crunches with plank poses or gotten rid of pull-ups, either.

Here is a workout that involves a mix of the basic fitness tests and events of the newer-generation fitness tests:

Running isn’t going anywhere, so you should base any training program around the ability to run as your cardio base training. If running is waivable, you can replace the 400- or 800-meter runs with two or four minutes on the bike, respectively. These workouts are nicknamed Run/PT:

Run/PT No. 1

Build up to 10 sets of this workout and reduce the repetitions (or increase) each set to fit your abilities. If you have to get good at running and these upper-body exercises, it is essential to fit them into your week together, as you will be taking the tests with these exercises back to back.

Repeat 10 times.

  • Run 400 meters at goal mile pace
  • 5-10 pull-ups (or 10 pulldowns)
  • 10 hand-release push-ups
  • 20 sit-ups or 30-second plank pose

Goal pace means the pace you want to perform on your next fitness test. If you want to run a 14-minute, two-mile timed run for your next Army fitness test, you must learn how to run 400 meters (or a quarter-mile) in 1:45. This is a seven-minute, per-mile pace. Practicing these speeds/paces in multiple sets will be the ticket to putting several together to meet your time-running goals.

Other notes:

  • Add pull-ups, whether you need to prepare for your fitness test or not. Pull-ups are an effective grip and upper-body strength/muscle stamina exercise needed for tactical events such as wall and rope climbing on obstacle courses.
  • Do the hand-release push-ups, as they are tested in the Army and useful for creating front/back torso balance.
  • Plank poses are a new tested event. You may find that because you now practice plank poses that sit-ups/crunches do not hurt as much as before. These exercises balance each other out well. If you have to do one of these, practice both. Hanging knee-ups (leg tucks) are also useful, and you can replace sit-ups with this event if you prefer a more difficult activity.

Here is another option with longer run sets and bigger repetition sets but the same volume:

Run/PT No. 2

Repeat five times.

  • Run 800 meters at goal mile pace
  • 10-15 pull-ups (or 10-15 pulldowns)
  • 20 hand-release push-ups
  • 40 sit-ups or one-minute plank pose

As you progress with your run times and repetition sets, you may want to continue with the same volume as above, but in fewer sets. This means you will run your 800 meters at 3:30 (still a seven-minute pace) and do more extensive sets of calisthenics events to improve muscle stamina for the two-minute testing events that require it.

Try these workouts a few times a week and watch your testing scores potentially double and your timed runs events get faster in a relatively short period. Seriously, 2-3 times a week for four weeks should create a huge improvement in testing performance.

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you’re looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to [email protected].

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