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Advancing the Army's Fitness Leadership

Updated: Oct 14, 2019

An Argument for Precision - Part 1

Preventable musculoskeletal (MSK) injuries plague Army readiness.

Among Active Duty Soldiers, MSK injuries result in over 10 million limited duty days each year and account for over 70% of medically non-deployable Soldiers. Described by health experts as the single biggest health problem in the U.S. Military, almost 50% of service members experience one or more injuries each year, resulting in over 2 million medical encounters, and requiring 90-120 days of lost duty for each injury. Most of these injuries are a result of overuse strains, sprains, and stress fractures to the lower leg and foot; more than half are exercise or sports-related. Of note, available statistics and literature identify running as one of the major causes of MSK injuries. Recruitment, societal, and cultural issues aside, most health experts and senior Army leaders agree a “balanced fitness program” is a critical component of the prescription required to diminish preventable MSK injuries and increase Army readiness. What does a “balanced fitness program” look like? Who will develop, implement, and supervise these efforts? What Army doctrine should we look towards to further understand how to optimize fitness while simultaneously reducing risk of injury?

Current Army doctrine does not sufficiently address these issues. It is incumbent upon platoon-level leaders to plan, prepare, and execute physical readiness training that logically and systematically generates the type of comprehensive physical readiness capable of reducing preventable MSK injuries. To achieve this end state, leaders must understand the fundamental principles offered in “A Leader’s Guide to Training for the ACFT;” more importantly, leaders must empower subordinates to develop and implement training strategies that look vastly different than the physical training that produced success on the APFT. What follows is a practical, evidence-based template intended for use by junior Army leaders to develop physical readiness training strategies representative of the “balanced fitness program” the Army needs.

The ACFT is not an impediment to action; the ACFT is the impetus for action.

The Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT) presents some challenges; it also presents a great deal of opportunity. As we learn to train for a new fitness test, we must fine-tune our understanding of fitness in the context of performance. Overall fitness can be divided in two categories: physical fitness and motor fitness. Measurable qualities of the human body’s physical processes, or physiology, are the components of physical fitness: muscular strength and endurance; aerobic and anaerobic endurance. Elements of motor fitness like power, speed, agility, coordination, balance, and reaction time, are often overlooked by traditional training programs, but no less vital to performance. The type of overall fitness that will make Soldiers more r