Updated: Apr 10, 2022
The Army recently approved the fourth installment of the Army Combat Fitness Test: ACFT 4.0
So what's changed for ACFT 4.0?
The "plank" is approved as a scorable alternative to the leg tuck.
The ACFT is performance-normed by gender and age groups.
Minimum scores for high physical demand Military Occupational Specialties (MOS) appear to be a thing of the past.
Take a look at Army Directive 2022-05 (Army Combat Fitness Test) for all the latest Details.
Why did the Army Combat Fitness Test Scoring Tables Change?
The RAND Corporation conducted an independent study to determine the impact of ACFT implementation across all Army demographics, compositions, and geographic regions. After review of the RAND study results, plus the information gathered by the Army from nearly 630,000 test scores in DTMS, Army leaders determined that the ACFT would be implemented as a general physical fitness test with age and gender performance-normed scoring scales.
What hasn't changed for ACFT 4.0?
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).
The test comprises 6 events: maximum dead lift (MDL), standing power throw (SPT), hand-release push-up (HRP), sprint/drag/carry (SDC), NEW - the Plank (PLK) and 2-mile run (2MR).
What does the future of the ACFT look like?
RA and USAR (AGR). Soldiers will take their first record ACFT prior to 1 April 2023.
ACFT Scoring. To pass the ACFT, Soldiers must attain a score of at least 60 points on each test event taken and a “GO” on the alternate aerobic event, if taken. If a Soldier does not attain a minimum of 60 points in an event or a “GO” on an alternate aerobic event, the event is a failure. Failure of one or more events results in ACFT failure.
RA and USAR (Active Guard Reserve (AGR)). Soldiers will take a diagnostic ACFT (to standard) during 1 April 2022–30 September 2022. In any instance where the Soldier passes the diagnostic ACFT prior to 1 October 2022, the Soldier may elect to have the test re-characterized as a record ACFT and uploaded to the Digital Training Management System (DTMS) at any time after 1 October 2022.
RC (less USAR (AGR)). Soldiers will take a diagnostic ACFT (to standard) during 1 April 2022–31 March 2023. In any instance where the Soldier passes the diagnostic ACFT prior to 1 April 2023, the Soldier may elect to have the test re-characterized as a record ACFT and uploaded to the DTMS at any time after 1 April 2023.
Evaluations will indicate ACFT status on officer evaluation reports (OERs) and noncommissioned officer evaluation reports (NCOERs) ending with thru dates of 1 October 2022 or later
Profiles and Alternate Events. Soldiers will take all events not prohibited by a permanent profile. If a permanent profile prohibits the 2-mile run, permanent-profile directed alternate aerobic events include the row, stationary bike, swim, and walk. Soldiers on temporary profiles will not take the ACFT, but will recover and recondition prior to taking the ACFT.
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?
But you can't always get what you want
We went back to the future with age and gender-adjusted scoring scales. View it here.
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!