Welcome to the first article in the Forager Fitness ACFT Series! If you like what you see, please subscribe to the blog, and the Forager Fitness Twitch and YouTube channels. We appreciate the support!
For years, there was rumblings about a new Army PT test that included movements grounded in functionality and purpose. Rumors about ammo can carries, weight vest events, and even elevated heart-rate marksmanship testing spread through the force. The Army realized that it needed a new test of fitness the was more dimensional than the traditional Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT). Or at least a test more recent than the Regan Administration…
This shift in focus was spurred by several factors. 1.) The extreme popularity in functional fitness programs like CrossFit and Strongman, 2). the exponential success of said programs, 3.) the ever changing and dynamic battlefield soldiers must negotiate, and 4.) the explosion of obesity and chronic disease within the ranks.
Taking these factors into consideration, higher headquarters decided upon the Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT). A six-event test created to spur change in Army fitness culture, build a more rounded, durable soldier-athlete, and challenge the fitness spectrum we see in the military today. Whether or not you agree with the change, it’s here and as far as we know…It’s not going anywhere.
For some, a shift from a predominantly muscle failure/endurance test to a more functional test plays to their favor. For the majority of the Army, that is not the case. Lucky for you, the guys at Forager Fitness have dissected this new challenge and are here to help.
Here’s a few insights, thinking pearls, and accessories that can help you pass if not crush the new ACFT.
FINALLY. A strength event within an Army PT test.
It becomes extremely irritating hearing over and over again that the original APFT tested a soldier’s overall physical ability. FALSE.
On top of that, there was (and still is) and extreme amount of push back regarding this event due to fears of potential injury. Trust me, the Army has enough problems with low back pain. This is due to 1.) soldiers as a whole aren’t deadlifting and practicing proper bracing sequencing and technique and 2.) are occupying more jobs that require sitting at a desk during the workday (tight hipflexors/psoas, rounded/overly stretched back structures).
Aside from stand-up desks, this event is a step in the right direction for soldier’s back health.
The ACFT Deadlift uses a hex or “trap bar” making the lift slightly different than a conventional deadlift. See the contrast between the lifts below:
1. Less knee flexion in the setup resulting in lesser amount of knee extension during the lift,
2. More hip flexion in the setup resulting in more extension during the lift.
3. The center of gravity of the barbell is situated in front of you leading to greater hamstring and spinal erector activation.
1. More knee flexion in the setup resulting in greater amount of extension during the lift
2. Less hip flexion in the setup resulting in less hip extension during the lift
3. The trap-bar center of gravity is closer to your physical center of gravity activating more of the quadriceps and glutes during the lift.
This is a 3-rep max lift which does not require you to stop momentum. This is extremely beneficial because of the stretch reflex of our muscles. Without getting extremely complex, when the trap bar is lowered to the ground during the eccentric part of the rep, stretching within the activated muscles create an elasticity effect. Like a rubber band, the lifter can utilize the tension in the loaded muscles to assist with the next rep. This NCBI article goes further in-depth if your interested.
*TIP* Test your stretch reflex. With any variation of deadlift attempt a deadlift from the floor and compare that with a dead lift that begins at the top, down to the floor and back up. See how that was just a bit easier?
Prior to executing any deadlift, whether it be in practice, training, or competition, proper warm-up techniques are essential. Though the bar path of this lift is simple, the technique, bracing, and coordination required to complete a safe, effective rep is quite complex. This creates a high warm-up demand. Warm-ups for this lift should focus on hip range-of-motion, glute, hamstring, and erector activation, and proper bracing. Any warm-up or practice that focuses on lower-back protection is worth investigating. You will find out what movements and warm-ups work best for your limitations and strengths.
The folks at Squat University have a tremendous video that goes over effective dead-lift warm-ups that can bee seen below.
Accessories Focus for the ACFT Deadlift:
With those pearls, we’ve provided several accessory movements and focuses. These areas will 1.) provide you the stability and mobility to achieve a safe and effective rep and 2.) build the required muscle systems that lay the foundations for dead lift gains. Give them a shot.
1. Tempo GHD back extensions (loaded if you require it).
2. Back Squats
3. Bulgarian Split Squats
4. Good Mornings
Thanks for your support guys! More to come from the ACFT series.
-Rob and Nik