Fitness is an integral part of military life. When not on active deployment, all ranks are expected to maintain a high level of “combat readiness” by exercising regularly both individually and as part of their unit. To ensure the men and women of the armed forces are fit enough to do their job, soldiers, sailors and airmen must pass regular fitness tests.
Until relatively recently, fitness testing in the armed forces could be described as cap-badge specific meaning that some branches of the military would use one set of tests and other branches would use another irrespective of their actual operational duties. Most testing focused on aerobic fitness and muscular endurance and, in reality, had little to do with the physical demands the soldiers would have to face in places such as Afghanistan or Iraq. For example, a soldier’s ability to perform 35 sit-ups in 60 seconds had little to do with their ability to patrol vast distances on foot while carrying large amounts of essential kit.
In a move to make fitness more role-specific, the armed forces have begun to make some sweeping changes to how soldiers train and are subsequently assessed. The old Basic Fitness Test or BFT is gradually being replaced by Operational Fitness Tests or OFTs which more closely represent the physical challenges soldiers will be expected to be able to handle. In addition to the OFTs, special tests called Mission Specific Tasks or MSTs are also being used to assess specific branches and roles within the military. According to an army source, MSTs involve simulations of physically strenuous activities soldiers are likely to experience while on active duty. Artillerymen will have to be able to manhandle heavy ammo boxes and MSTs for infantry soldiers will include tasks such as dragging heavy sandbags to simulate helping a fallen comrade and crossing obstacles to simulate working in urban environments.
The ultra-FIT Physical Fitness Test
With the introduction of OFTs and MSTs, it’s clear the armed forces take operational fitness seriously but, unless you have access to firing ranges, artillery shells, assault course obstacles or a willing training partner who is happy to be carried on your shoulders or dragged along the floor, most of the new military fitness tests are not really practical for the average exercise enthusiast. This is where the old-style BFT offers some advantages in that it can be conducted almost anywhere and requires very little in the way of specialist equipment. While the BFT does not test task-specific fitness, it does provide a good general overview of all round conditioning.
With that in mind, we have devised our own version of the military fitness test. Taking elements of the BFT and adding other more “functional” fitness assessments, the ultra-FIT Physical Fitness Test (UFPFT) will assess your aerobic and anaerobic fitness as well as your muscular endurance and core strength. The tests selected will produce easily quantifiable, can be periodically repeated to measure your progress results and will highlight areas of strength and weakness.