The Army May Change Its Pushup Technique For The New Combat Fitness Test

Health & Fitness

Editor’s Note: This article by Matthew Cox originally appeared on Military.com, the premier source of information for the military and veteran community.


U.S. Army fitness officials are still experimenting to determine the technique soldiers will have to master when they take the Army Combat Fitness Test for record in October 2020.

The Army began a large-scale field test of the six-event ACFT on Oct. 1, sending mobile training teams out of Fort Jackson, South Carolina to train and certify graders in more than 60 battalions across the active, National Guard and Reserve force.

The exercises are locked in, but the mechanics may change to make them easier to grade, Whitfield East, the research physiologist for Center for Initial Military Training, told Military.com today at an ACFT demonstration.

"During the field test, we are refining the hand-release pushup," East said, explaining that event will either have soldiers raise their hands straight up off the ground before coming back up or extend their hands out to the sides and bring them back in again before coming up again.

The arm-extension version may be easier to grade, East said.

"More or less, the point of it is to ensure that they are totally resting on the ground. We don't want them in a low hover over the ground," East said.

The arm-extension also "engages a little bit of the ... muscles in the back," East said, adding that "it is good to link movements together, so a pull-type movement and a push-type movement."

Both techniques achieve similar physical results, said Lt. Col. David Feltwell, the command physical therapist for the Center for Initial Military Training.

"Biomechanically, and from a combat specificity point of view, both work pretty well, but we really want to make sure we are getting a gradable event," he said.

A U.S. Army Soldier grimaces as he raises himself up during the hand release pushup event of the 74th Engineer Dive Detachment's Diver Fitness Challenge at Kuwait Naval Base, Kuwait, Aug. 31, 2018U.S. Army/Spc. Adam Parent

Sgt. 1st Class Brandon Estes, a member of the mobile training team at Eustis, said he prefers the technique that involves simply raising the hands up rather than extending them out to the side.

When the hands are brought back in from the arm extension, "your hands might be too far out and the pushup wouldn't count," said the 37-year-old Apache maintainer, who is normally assigned to B Company, 1st Battalion, 210th Aviation Regiment.

While no decision has been made yet, East said practice will help solve Estes' concern.

"It's really simple to know where your fingers are, because your arms just stop when the outsides of your thumbs touch your chest," he said.

Capt. McKenzie Hensley has no real preference for either technique, but said that both are harder than the standard pushups on the current Army Physical Fitness Test.

"In a traditional PT test, I can do 50; in this one, 25," said the 27-year-old S1 officer for the 128th Aviation Brigade at Eustis. "It's a lot harder."

The Army chose the hand-release pushups because they increase the force on the body "somewhere in the neighborhood of 25 percent," East said.

"What we are seeing is about a 30 to 50 percent decrement in total pushup performance when we do that hand-release pushup, which is really a good thing," he said. "Intensity is really more important than useless repetition. So if I can get 40 to 50 hand-release pushups, I am better off in terms of shoulder wear and tear ... than I am doing 80 or 90 of the other types of pushups."

Feltwell agreed, adding that "a longer movement recruits more cells in the muscle, so it's harder to do. That's what we want."

"Faster movements don't do that," he said. "Highly repetitious exercises are generally going to become more injurious over time."

This article originally appeared on Military.com

More from Military.com:

WATCH NEXT:

U.S. Air Force airmen from the 405th Expeditionary Support Squadron work together to clear debris inside the passenger terminal the day after a Taliban-led attack at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, Dec. 12, 2019. (U.S. Air Force/Airman 1st Class Brandon Cribelar)

Blasts from Taliban car bombs outside of Bagram Airfield on Wednesday caused extensive damage to the base's passenger terminal, new pictures released by the 45th Expeditionary Wing show.

The pictures, which are part of a photo essay called "Bagram stands fast," were posted on the Defense Visual Information Distribution Service's website on Thursday.

Read More Show Less
The U.S. Navy Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) returns to Fleet Activities Yokosuka following a collision with a merchant vessel while operating southwest of Yokosuka, Japan, June 17, 2017 (U.S. Navy photo)

Editor's Note: The following is an op-ed. The opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Task & Purpose.

Shortly after seven sailors died aboard USS Fitzgerald when she collided with a merchant ship off Japan in 2017, I wrote that the Fitzgerald's watch team could have been mine. My ship had once had a close call with me on watch, and I had attempted to explain how such a thing could happen. "Operating ships at sea is hard, and dangerous. Stand enough watches, and you'll have close calls," I wrote at the time. "When the Fitzgerald's investigation comes out, I, for one, will likely be forgiving."

The investigations, both public and private, are out, and the Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently released a report assessing the changes to training implemented since the collisions.

So, am I forgiving? Yes — for some.

Read More Show Less
Belgian nurse Augusta Chiwy, left, talks with author and military historian Martin King moments before receiving an award for valor from the U.S. Army, in Brussels, Dec. 12, 2011. (Associated Press/Yves Logghe)

Editor's note: a version of this story first appeared in 2015.

Most people haven't heard of an elderly Belgian-Congolese nurse named Augusta Chiwy. But students of history know that adversity and dread can turn on a dime into freedom and change, and it's often the most humble and little-known individuals who are the drivers of it.

During the very darkest days of the Battle of the Bulge in World War II, Chiwy was such a catalyst, and hundreds of Americans lived because of her. She died quietly on Aug. 23, 2015, at the age of 94 at her home in Brussels, Belgium, and had it not been for the efforts of my friend — British military historian Martin King — the world may never have heard her astonishing story.

Read More Show Less
A Ukrainian serviceman watches from his position at the new line of contact in Zolote, Luhansk region, eastern Ukraine Nov. 2, 2019 (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)

More than $20 million of the Pentagon aid at the center of the impeachment fight still hasn't reached Ukraine.

The continued delay undermines a key argument against impeachment from President Trump's Republican allies and a new legal memo from the White House Office of Management and Budget.

Read More Show Less
(Glow Images via Associated Press_

Average pay, housing and subsistence allowances will increase for members of the military in 2020, the Pentagon announced Thursday.

Read More Show Less