What is Physical Readiness?

This blog is courtesy of Capt. Ken Huenink, the Missouri National Guard state Fitness Coordinator.

Soldiers at the Operational Fitness Trainer Course at Ft. Hood learn how to use the TRX suspension system. Operational Fitness Trainer Course instructors emphasized the traditional lack of muscular strength – as opposed to muscular endurance – training found in most unit programs.

What is physical readiness?  “Run farther, faster.”  For decades this was the fitness mantra of the U.S Army.  Copious amounts of long distance running sprinkled with repetitive muscular endurance exercises were the keys to fitness.  It is 2011, and, undoubtedly, a paradigm shift has finally occurred.  It is a good day to be a Soldier.
The Physical Readiness Training (PRT) manual (TC-3-22.20) defines physical readiness as “the ability to meet the physical demands of any combat or duty position, accomplish the mission, and continue to fight and win.”  How do we best train to meet the demands of any combat or duty position?  We must balance the components of fitness: muscular strength, muscular endurance, aerobic endurance, anaerobic endurance, agility, balance, coordination, flexibility, posture, stability, speed, and power.  The days of focusing almost solely on aerobic conditioning and muscular endurance are over.  We are now training Soldiers more like professional athletes.

How do we achieve this balance of physical skills?  Programming must be unbiased, progressive, and cyclic.  What does this really mean for 90 percent of us?  Stop running and doing push-ups all the time and mix it up a little!  Physical readiness means becoming at least minimally competent at things like sprinting, climbing, jumping, combatives, and lifting heavy objects.  More of these skills will be formally tested if the proposed APRT is approved.  It will include new events such as the shuttle run (agility, speed), long jump (power, coordination, balance), and the rower (flexibility, muscular endurance).

The great thing about this “well rounded” approach is the training is less repetitive, which makes it not only more fun, but easier on your body (reduces overuse injuries).  The PRT manual is a great place to start.  But like any manual, it is only a guide.  It has a finite number of sample workouts.  I encourage everyone, especially those in the National Guard who often do most of their workouts “off-duty” to look at other resources also.  Numerous internet and video based functional fitness programs offer balanced routines, many using little to no equipment.

I get it; some people really like to run.  Others really like to lift weights.  That is great!  But human beings tend to repeat the activities we excel at and enjoy.  Just remember your job requirements and responsibilities as a Soldier require you to be a bit of a generalist rather than a specialist when it comes to physical readiness.  So work on your weaknesses.  Besides, variety is the spice of life.

For more information on fitness programs and other physical resiliency topics, visit www.moguard/physical-resiliency.

What is physical readiness?

ADT IV Senior Enlisted Adviser, SMSgt Jerry Blankenship, hitting a tire with a sledge hammer as part of his functional fitness routine in Afghanistan. Once only a distance runner, SMSgt Blankenship now possesses outstanding skills in all areas of fitness.

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2 thoughts on “What is Physical Readiness?

  1. Great article, CPT Huenink. I appreciate the shift to the all-around fitness approach approach instead of just ensuring out Soldiers can do three very specific functions.

    CPT W

  2. “What is physical readiness?” It seems the Army still hasnt figured it out…

    From the ARMY TIMES:

    Army scraps long-awaited PT test update

    Leaders want new test to include combat readiness events By Lance M. Bacon – Staff writer Posted : Monday Aug 27, 2012 9:04:32 EDT

    The new fitness test has been canceled. That’s right — in an unexpected move, the Army has buried the five-event test, originally slated to start in October.

    But don’t relax just yet — a new test is in the works.

    The decision to cancel was made by Gen. Robert Cone, whose Training and Doctrine Command spent two years developing the test, which has now been scrapped. Independent evaluations said it did no better than the existing three-event test in regard to measuring fitness levels. More importantly, the Army wants a test that better measures a soldier’s physical ability to complete warrior tasks and battle drills in future combat environments, and the proposed test does not meet that need.

    Related Reading
    Canceled test was originally conceived as two The new test will be heavily influenced by knowledge gained in the past 10 years of war and honed by the return of master fitness trainers in company-size units.

    “This is critically important. This is the one critical basic skill required for every soldier to perform well on the battlefield,” said TRADOC Command Sgt. Maj. Daniel Dailey. “We cannot take this lightly. There is no need to rush to a wrong decision. It is crucial that we take our time and do this right, and when we do release this to the Army, it will be the right thing at the right time to advance our physical fitness.”

    Cone called a check fire after three independent agencies — the U.S. Military Academy Department of Physical Education, the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command, and California State University at Fullerton — determined the five-event fitness test was neither a significant improvement on the existing test nor the measurement of combat readiness the Army desires.

    The proposed test included max pushups in one minute, a 60-yard shuttle run, one-minute rower, long jump and 1.5-mile run.

    The three-event fitness test will remain in place until a new test is developed. That effort will begin in October, Dailey said.

    And my email to the Army Times:

    The Army seems embarrassingly lost and, frankly, uneducated on the principles of physical fitness. How many more millions do we need to spend on studies that tell us what we already know? There seems to be a fundamental misunderstanding when it comes to the requirements for a PT test. A military PT test can and should only test an individual’s general fitness. It should not attempt to over-specify into a “combat readiness test.” What exactly is “combat fitness” and how do you quantify that? I can come up with a thousand hypothetical combat scenarios, each with different physical requirements. It is impossible to apply this methodology to a universal Army PT test. And today’s narrow opinion of that requirement can become obsolete 10 years from now.

    We can equate this to training for sports. Athletes divide training into two categories: strength and conditioning and sport specific skill work. In modern times, regardless of sport, nearly all collegiate-level and above athletic programs approach strength and conditioning in very similar ways: using high intensity, full-body, functional movements. The drastic differences are only seen during sport specific training. For example, the NFL combine has two categories: workout drills and position drills. Fitness is a universal attribute. The Army should not be doing “position drills” for the general population.

    The Army should be universally testing strength and conditioning and leave the specific skill work to the individual MOS and unit training schedules. The universal Army PT test should test overall fitness, while attempting to gauge as many of the 11 components and factors of fitness outlined in TC 3-22.20 as possible (strength, mobility, endurance, power, speed, agility, balance, coordination, posture, and stability). The current APFT only tests two: speed and endurance. The 5-event APRT was at least a step in the right direction, as it additionally tested power (long jump) and agility (shuttle run). It is human nature; Soldiers will train for what is tested. Therefore, the test should demand broad based fitness proficiency.

    Ken Huenink, MAJ
    Jefferson City, MO

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