You don't have to be headed for boot camp to train for the military Physical Fitness Test (PFT). You can take it on as a challenge even if you're just starting to get in shape and need a goal to strive for.
The test consists of three events, each worth 100 points:
- Pull-Ups: How many full reps can you complete before you drop from the bar (men); how long can you maintain elbow flexion for a timed fix-arm hang (women)
- Crunches: two minutes' worth
- 3-Mile Run: timed to completion
Not sure how to launch into your training? Here are some tips on the exercises to get you going.
- Start with eccentrics. Most people struggle to perform bodyweight Pull-Ups. Lower from the top position in a slow and controlled manner (between 10 and 30 seconds) for 4 to 6 repetitions.
- Increase the volume. Pick a number (start at 20) and aim to complete the required number of reps in the session—however many sets it takes.
- Work through the full range. That's how you gain strength. It's important to clear the bar at the top, and fully extend your elbows at the bottom.
- Tempo is the key to not getting tired too quickly. A controlled, steady tempo is far more effective than going too fast too early and becoming fatigued. Establishing a steady pace (50 to 60 per minute) will help you maintain good technique over a sustained period and conserve your energy.
- Although the Sit-Up is a dynamic exercise, perform various anterior chain exercises such as the "stir the pot." In a plank position on a gym ball, perform small circles with your elbows while maintaining a neutral posture from shoulder to heel.
- Work on your core. Supporting your upper body is a key to gaining strength. Use loaded exercises like Suitcase Carries, Waitress Carries, and Overhead Carries to combat stiffness.
- Do high-intensity interval training. Three miles is not a huge distance, so the main factor contributing to your performance is the level of intensity you can sustain, not how long you can run for. Performing four-minute intervals at 90-95% of your maximum heart rate separated by three minutes of active recovery at 70% of your maximum heart rate has been shown to increase endurance by 10% in as little as eight weeks of training. For best results, perform four sets of four-minute intervals two times per week.
- Perform repeated sprints. Perform six 40-meter sprints, each separated by 20 seconds of rest, followed by three minutes of rest at the end. Repeat this until you've completed a total of three sets. You can perform this drill on a track or field, and with either a straight 40 meters, or 10 or 20 meter distances that require turns to stop and change direction. However, be aware that the more turns you add, the more intense the drill—and you might compromise technique.
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