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How to Train for the ACFT's 3-Repetition Maximum Deadlift (3RM MDL) without Equipment

Updated: Aug 29, 2020

Physical Demands of the Hex-Bar Deadlift

The Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT) will assess Soldiers’ absolute strength using a three repetition maximum hex-bar deadlift (MDL). This compound lift requires leg strength, a strong, stable trunk (which includes the upper-back), strong hip extensors, and an effective grip. In short, this lift requires total body strength. Most training facilities have a myriad of options for developing total body-strength, and you don’t need an advanced degree to conclude that leg curls develop the back of the leg and leg extensions develop the front of the leg.



Training for the ACFT with No Equipment

But what if you don’t always have an adequate training facility available? How can you appropriately stress each of the aforementioned body parts to train for the ACFT MDL without equipment? Try these 5 training methods to develop total body strength with little to no equipment:


Front of the leg: Single leg pistol squat or skater squat.

Multiple repetitions of single-leg pistol squats on each leg is a great goal for healthy humans seeking increased fitness. Most healthy humans will need to work hard to get there, though. Start with single-leg skater squats and progress through a range of depths until you’ve mastered the skater squat. Mix in some assisted pistol squats using the scaled version suggested in the video below.


Back of the leg: Nordic Hamstring Curl

This exercise is a game-changer. You control the intensity by lowering the body (eccentric) as far as possible before using the hands and arms for support. Assist the concentric portion of the exercise by pushing with the arms and chest until you can engage the glutes and hammies. Precise execution with a generally straight body-position from the knees to the head should be the goal. Start with 3 to 4 sets of 3 repetitions (3 really hard repetitions). Build to a few sets of 5 of 6 repetitions.