January 13, 2023
As I have written before, the difference between getting top scores on a test like the ACFT and a mediocre score is often how much help and experience you have before your first day of training camp. The work you will do when you arrive is designed to get you ready for the test and to hold a level of combat readiness but it is not guaranteed to earn you the best score possible on each event. This is why we have included Recruits in our Raven Initiative program, to give you free access to the help you need to start your military career on the right foot.
Success in the ACFT and other similar tests ultimately comes down to three things: Strength, power and conditioning. Each of these elements has to come together for you to have success in every event. Too much of any one of the three and you begin to suffer on the other two, this is most often why you have one or two strong events just to limp your way through the other four. Let’s break the how and why of each element down.
Training for strength seems pretty straight forward but it is the most important of the three elements. Pure strength is tested in the 3 Repetition Maximum Deadlift (MDL) and it carries over to every other event. The stronger you are the easier the endurance events will be and you will also score better on your power events, like the Standing Power Throw (SPT). To develop the strength needed to max your scores on the ACFT focus on hinge exercises, like deadlift, RDL and single leg RDL, extension exercises, like squats, step ups, and lunges, and finally pressing exercises, like bench press, shoulder press and tricep extension. For these exercises focus on using heavier weights (70-80% of your maximum) for lower repetitions (4-6 per set) while slowly adding more weight over time. If done correctly, 3-6 months work can have a massive impact on all of your scores.
This is a great multiplier of your abilities, as the only one of these three elements to be optional for moderate success it is absolutely necessary if you have dreams of acing all six events on the ACFT or any other similar fitness test. Developing your ability to produce power, or move against resistance with speed, can be what takes every one of your test scores to the top rung. By training with relatively moderate weights for 2-3 sets of 2-3 very explosive repetitions at the beginning of your workout you can slowly train your muscles to work faster and more aggressively. Exercises to focus on here are: jumps (vertical or horizontal), light object throws (medicine balls, kettlebells, rocks, etc.), and dynamic variations of the lifts discusses for strength work above. If you are training to move moderate weight as fast as possible and try to get faster week after week then you’re on the right track. Enhancing this ability over time can help with everything from a shortening your run times to increasing your MDL if done effectively.
If you are already training for a test like the ACFT you are probably hindering yourself by doing too much conditioning. There is a point where long distance running becomes counter productive. In order to succeed at the ACFT you need to focus on conditioning under load. This will be tested in the Sprint-Drag-Carry (SDC), Hand Release Push-Up (HRP) and Two-Mile Run (2MR), specifically, but it will also carry over to your ability to hold up through all of the events when tested together. To prepare for this type of endurance work focus on exercises like pushing and pulling sleds, carrying a variety of objects and short sprints. For these exercises the focus should be short fast efforts, up to 80m or under 30 seconds, followed by shorts rests and repeated to fatigue. Working in short bursts with relatively heavy loads will reduce the amount of time you spend training your conditioning and have far more carry over to the events themselves.
Sadly, to the average reader many of the things discussed in this article may sound foreign but to a Recruit entering military service they can make a huge difference on your career. If you are preparing for the ACFT or a similar test please take our advice and seek help preparing before you show up at training camp.
We provide FREE training and support services to Veterans and Recruits through our Raven Initiative program. If you or someone you know would like to be a part of the Raven Initiative please follow the link and complete the application form or call us with any questions. To support our mission please visit our GoFundMe page.