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Meeting Military Physical Fitness Standards

May 07, 2024

Each branch of the military -- the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard -- has specific physical fitness standards for both men and women that require potential recruits to be in good health and physical condition. The physical fitness tests (PFTs) are designed to measure a candidate's strength, endurance, and cardiovascular health. While each military branch has its unique requirements, they all want individuals who can handle the physical rigors of service. This guide will walk you through the different military fitness standards.

Standards of Physical Fitness

The physical fitness standards of the military are categorized into:

  1. Cardiovascular Fitness: Measured by running. Most branches require a timed run, which varies depending on the service branch and age group.

  2. Muscular Strength: Measured by push-ups and sit-ups. These exercises are timed, with recruits expected to perform a certain number within a set timeframe.

  3. Muscular Endurance: This is also assessed with exercises like push-ups and sit-ups, as well as pull-ups for the Marines.

  4. Flexibility: While not directly tested, flexibility is important for preventing injuries and enhancing performance.

  5. Body Composition: Assessed by height and weight measurements, and/or body fat percentage. This is to ensure that recruits have a healthy body mass index (BMI).

Decoding the PFTs

Below are the fitness standards for each branch of military service:


The Army recently introduced a new physical fitness test, the Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT), which includes:

  • 3 Repetition Maximum Deadlift
  • Standing Power Throw (throwing a 10-lb/4.5-kg ball backwards as far as you can)
  • Hand-Release Push-ups
  • Sprint-Drag-Carry (timed)
  • Leg Tuck or 2-minute Plank (option depends on capability)
  • 2-mile (3.2 km) run

The Physical Readiness Test (PRT) includes:

  • 2-minute push-ups
  • 2-minute curl-ups (similar to sit-ups)
  • 1.5-mile (2.4 km) run

Air Force

The test includes:

  • 1-minute push-ups
  • 1-minute sit-ups
  • 1.5-mile (2.4 km) run


The Physical Fitness Test (PFT) includes:

  • Pull-ups or push-ups (the candidate decides)
  • 2-minute crunches (a variation of sit-ups)
  • 3-mile (4.8 km) run

Coast Guard

The Physical Fitness Assessment (PFA) includes:

  • 1-minute push-ups
  • 1-minute sit-ups
  • 1.5-mile (2.4 km) run or swim (500 yards/457 meters)

Training for Military Standards

Preparation is key to meeting these military physical fitness standards.

  1. Consistent Exercise: Begin with exercises aimed at increasing endurance and strength, focusing most on the areas your desired branch weights more heavily.

  2. Nutrition: Maintain a balanced diet to fuel your body and promote recovery after workouts.

  3. Rest: Adequate rest ensures your body recovers and builds strength after physical activity.

  4. Practice Tests: Regularly time yourself performing the exercises exactly as they would be in the test.

Remember, every individual is unique and it may take some time for you to reach these standards. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t meet them initially, but continue with proper training and nutrition.

Adjusting Fitness Standards

It's also important to note that these military fitness standards are not fixed, but continually updated to reflect the changing needs of the military. In examining the standards, the military also takes into account age and gender.

The physical fitness test is only part of the military's overall assessment of your ability to serve. You will also have to meet educational requirements and pass the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB), a multiple-choice test that helps determine your qualification for enlistment.

While the process of meeting military fitness standards may seem daunting, remember that the standards are in place for a reason: they establish the baseline fitness levels necessary for performing duties in the military. For those committed to serving, the journey towards meeting these standards represents not only a physical challenge, but an opportunity to demonstrate resilience, discipline, and determination.

Whether you're considering enlisting or you're simply curious about the physical demands of military service, having an understanding of military fitness standards gives you a new appreciation for the physical readiness required to serve. An elite level of fitness is fundamental to the military, with the ultimate aim of preparing servicemen and women to be ready for any challenge they may face.

May 07, 2024

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