ACFT 3.0 - A new way to Train for 600
Updated: 6 days ago
The Army recently approved the third installment of the Army Combat Fitness Test: ACFT 3.0
So what's changed for ACFT 3.0?
The "plank" is approved as a scorable alternative to the leg tuck. Choose to plank or choose to leg tuck.
The Army will trial performance tiers based on gender to account for the physiological differences between men and women.
Minimum scores for high physical demand Military Occupational Specialties (MOS) appear to be a thing of the past.
What hasn't changed for ACFT 3.0?
The ACFT is still a far better assessment of meaningful fitness metrics than the APFT. The ACFT is still more expensive and time-consuming than the APFT (more on that later).
Until final implementation, leaders may not use a Soldier's score or comments on performance administratively -- SMA Grinston made it clear that he wants data in DTMS. Still, ACFT scores remain diagnostic until further notice.
The expected standard for Soldiers of any MOS is a minimum of 60 points in each event for a total of 360 points on the ACFT.
The ACFT scoring standards remain gender and age-neutral, but the Army intends to use a tiered performance system and option to plank to ensure the ACFT does not adversely or disproportionately affect any Soldier or group.
What does the future of the ACFT look like?
ACFT 3.0 consists of six events: Three-Repetition Strength Deadlift; Standing Power Throw; Arm Extension Push-Up; 250-Meter Sprint, Drag, Carry; Leg Tuck or Plank; and the Two-Mile Run.
All active-duty Soldiers should take two ACFTs for data collection by 1 October 2021. Reserve Component Soldiers should take at least one record ACFT before 1 October 2021.
The ACFT is a training requirement in Initial Military Training (IMT) but not a graduation requirement.
Soldiers with a permanent profile should execute any events their profile permits. Soldiers on a temporary profile that prevents a full six-event ACFT should recover, rehabilitate, recondition, and then complete a full ACFT.
During FY21, Soldiers attending institutional training courses that require a physical fitness test as an entrance requirement should use their last record APFT score. However, functional course commandants may continue to establish their own course-specific physical performance requirements (if they don't violate ACFT policies).
What are the ACFT 3.0 performance tiers?
The Army has not made final determinations, but here's an example: Soldiers who score in the top 1% by their gender may be designated as having a Platinum score; 10% may be banded into Gold; top 25% - Silver, top 50% - Bronze. Anyone who achieves a score of 360 and higher with a total score falling in the lower 50% of all ACFT scores could be placed in the Green band.
For now, Army leaders are exploring ACFT 3.0 tiered performance as a benchmark to guide data collection and drive training goals in FY21 and FY22. In the future, the Army may use performance categories by gender for certain administrative purposes while accounting for physiological differences between male and female Soldiers.
For more context, check out this tentative flow chart:
Some brief commentary on ACFT 3.0
The physiological differences between men and women are well-documented in exercise physiology research and literature. Using a percentile rank where the physical capacity of an individual is measured against members of the same gender makes sense. The Army should take it one step further, though. Given the technological advances of the 21st century with respect to data analytics, why shouldn't we be able to apply several different filters? For example, a 28-year-old Information Technology Specialist (25B) should be able to see how they compare to the total Army, their unit, other 28-year-olds, and other 25Bs. What are the drawbacks of a system where a female Infantry Soldier can show that she's in the top 25 percent of all Infantry Soldiers her age?
On Leg Tucks and Planks
Preliminary ACFT data tells an interesting story about Leg Tucks: the ability to perform well in the Leg Tuck event correlates with a strong performance in all the other events. Your initial response may be "no sh*t, Sherlock," but this topic warrants further discussion.
The data from early ACFT testing represented in the graphic above highlights the importance of trunk musculature for the ACFT, but that's not the only place you'll find professionals stressing the trunk's importance. Best practices from the strength and conditioning field indicate the same.
As an event that stresses trunk strength and stability, poor leg tuck performance is indicative of underdevelopment and poor activation of trunk musculature. It naturally follows that any activity that requires a stiffening of the torso may be negatively impacted. A stiffened trunk is a prerequisite for transmitting power from the hips to the extremities when lifting or carrying weights (like the MDL & the farmer’s carry during a SDC). Moreover, in rapid throwing movements and change of direction (SPT & SDC), the rectus functions as an elastic storage and recovery device.
The idea that any power generated in the glutes and hips must be transmitted through a stiffened trunk is so well known in the strength and conditioning field that it is often described by the term “core to extremity.” Core to extremity doesn’t just describe the flow of energy; it also offers a logical order for prioritizing training: start at the core and work to the extremities.
So is the Plank a worthy substitute for the Leg Tuck?
The jury is still out on this topic. Opinions are many, but there's very little research that directly compares the two exercises.
Here's our recommendation: If you're still searching for success on the Leg Tuck, build the capacity to knock out the minimum 2 minute and 9-second plank to earn 60 points. Then shift your focus to building leg tuck capacity.
Here's the basis for our recommendation: Dr. Stuart McGill, a leading expert in spinal mechanics and trunk function, believes holding the plank for any longer than a 10-second interval is pointless. “There’s no utility to this kind of activity other than claiming a record.” In fact, he believes long-duration planks could actually be more harmful than helpful. After 30 years and countless research studies as a professor of spine biomechanics at the University of Waterloo, he arrives at this conclusion.
Plankers gonna Plank
We think everyone should plank. But the world's leading expert advocates for short, intense bouts. If you decide planking is right for you, consider adding the following plank variations to your kit-bag. These are great ways to increase your capacity without the need to hold the base position for potentially harmful lengths of time. Save the max duration bouts for test day!