Last Updated: 23 February, 2015

Introduction Squad, Running

“Physical fitness contributes to the maintenance of general health and the physical and moral components of fighting power by enhancing capabilities without the need for additional resources.  Conducting tests or assessments of physical fitness is one of several methods by which the Army’s policy on physical fitness can be validated.” (Army School of Physical Training, 2001, p.1)

The British Army encourages its commanders to use physical fitness assessment/test results as performance indicators.  However, the British Army argues that care must be taken to ensure that physical fitness is developed in a balanced way.  Also unit physical training programmes must emphasise the development of combat fitness, the prevention of ill-health and the promotion of health, and are not to be specifically designed for the soldiers to pass the assessments or tests.

Therefore, the British Army also makes use of alternative methods to validate its policy for the physical fitness of its soldiers and these include:

  • Inspections: used to evaluate training procedures, the effectiveness of a unit’s physical training policy and its physical training programme.
  • Observation: by observing training in barracks, or on exercise, any reduction in physical ability/fitness may be identified and corrective action taken.  For example, modifying a physical training programme to improve upper-body strength.
  • Medical Examinations: assist in the identification of personnel with health related problems or disabilities who may benefit from participation in rehabilitation or remedial training programmes.

Underpinning Policy and Procedures

In order to provide military fitness instructors with detailed information on the conduct of the physical fitness assessments and tests the four branches of the armed forces each produce, in some form, ‘Fit to Fight’ policy and procedures.

These policies and procedures provide detailed information on the conduct of the various physical fitness assessments and tests to ensure that they are carried out in a professional, consistent and safe manner by appropriately qualified personnel.

Although the armed forces have several different fitness assessments and tests, training providers typically utilise, either a direct or hybrid form of, the basic personal fitness assessment (BPFA) currently in use by the British Army.  An outline of the various fitness assessments and tests is given later.

Purpose of Fitness Assessments: General Perspective

Assessment of individual fitness should be performed on a regular basis and convention suggests at the beginning and end of training so that meaningful comparisons can be made and improvements quantified.  If training is over a longer period then testing in the middle of the training programme will also be useful (ASPT, 2001).

This information is important in determining the effectiveness of the training programme and can be used to revise the training objectives and the physical training programme.  Assessments conducted too frequently are unlikely to be true indicators of programme effectiveness and may be counter-productive by alienating individuals.  The publication of test results, via email or social networking sites, can also be a powerful motivational tool.

Purpose of Fitness Assessments: Boot Camp Perspective

For training providers in the outdoor fitness, fitness boot camp and military fitness market, the purpose of the fitness assessment is to provide new and current members, plus the fitness instructor, with an indication of the individual member’s current level of fitness.

As fitness is a relative term and has no absolute value, the fitness assessment provides a snapshot of an individual’s fitness for that particular moment only.    However, several snapshots over a period over time can be useful to gauge progression.

Comparison of British Armed Forces Fitness Assessments and Tests

Table 1 provides a brief overview of the fitness assessments and tests currently utilised by the four branches of the British armed forces.

Table 1: Comparison of British armed forces fitness assessments and tests

Branch/Test

British Army

Royal Air Force

Royal Navy

Royal Marines

Basic Personal Fitness Assessment

(BPFA)[1]

Press-ups (2 min)[2]

Yes

Yes

Yes

Sit-up (2 min)

Yes

Yes

Yes

2.4 km run

Yes

Yes

Yes

MSFT

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Rockport Walk[3]

Yes

Combat Fitness Test (CFT)

Yes

Yes

Advanced CFT (1)

Yes

Yes

Advanced CFT (2)

Yes

Yes

Military Swimming Test (MST)

Yes

Yes

Combat MST

Yes

Yes

Source: ASPT, 2001; Royal Navy, 2010, Royal Marines, 2011; Royal Air Force, 2012

[1] Known as the: BPFA in the British Army; as the Royal Navy Fitness Test (RNFT) in the Royal Navy; as the RAF Fitness Test (RAFFT) in the Royal Air Force; and as the Royal Marines Battle Fitness Test in the Royal Marines.

[2] One minute for both press-ups and sit-ups in the RAF.

[3] The Rockport Walk is a ‘sub-maximal’ test that predicts stamina levels and it involves a best effort walk of one mile.

British Army Fitness Tests and Assessments

As most training providers utilise, in some form, the British Army’s fitness assessment to measure the progress of their members we shall now look at the fitness assessment and other tests employed by the British Army in greater detail.

Basic Personal Fitness Assessment (BPFA)BPFA, Running

The aim and general outline of the BPFA is to measure the components of fitness which are most closely associated with:

  • Improved performance on a wide range of military tasks;
  • Reduced susceptibility to fatigue and psychological stress;
  • The maintenance of good health; and
  • The prevention of ill health.

The BPFA accounts for the effects of age and gender on aerobic fitness and muscular endurance and as such the assessment is both age and gender-fair.  The fitness components assessed are aerobic power and muscular endurance.  The assessment comprises of three separate activities, conducted in the following order:

  1. Press-ups;
  2. Sit-ups; and
  3. Aerobic Fitness (Run or Multi-Stage Fitness Test (MSFT)).

The MSFT is often referred to as the ‘Bleep Test’ and is only used as an alternative to the run in situations where it is not possible, for logistical, geographical and/or security reasons, to conduct a run.

Scoring Categories

A maximum of 100 points can be achieved on each activity in the BPFA, giving a highest possible score of 300 points.  Scoring categories have been placed in a ‘traffic light’ colour code (ASPT, 2001).  The code colours are:

  • Green or ‘Good’: personnel achieving a minimum total score of 210 points, with a minimum of 70 points achieved in each activity, are classified as ‘Good’.  This is the minimum acceptable level of personal fitness and those achieving this standard are deemed as being physically capable of undertaking more progressive physical training without need for additional personal training.
  • Amber or ‘Fair’: personnel achieving a minimum total score of 210 points, but who only score from 60-69 points on one or two activities, are classified as being within the ‘Fair’ category.  This indicates that the individual has a weakness and needs specific remedial physical training prescribed for that particular area. Medical advice should be sought whenever doubt exists as to the cause of the weakness.
  • Red or ‘Weak’: personnel achieving a total score under 210 points, or less than 60 points in any one activity, are classified as ‘Weak’.  It is strongly recommended that the individual receives specific remedial physical training and may, additionally, require medical referral.

“Attainment of a higher score than that required for a satisfactory grade is a creditable individual goal, which is to be encouraged, but one which should not become a unit objective.” (ASPT, 2001, p.18)

The purpose of adopting a colour-coded scoring scheme is to provide a method of assessment which is sensitive to changes in personal fitness, offer commanders an easily identifiable ‘snap-shot’ of the unit’s fitness standards and encourage individuals to progressively increase their score.

Assessment 01: Press-upsBPFA, Press-up

The individual lies flat on the stomach/chest with legs straight, the feet not more than 30cms apart and the hands positioned under the shoulders.  Ensure that the hands and feet are on the same level, either both on the mat or both on the floor.  The press-up is performed by straightening the arms, until they are fully locked at the elbows, using the toes as a pivot.  The body is then lowered until the upper arms are at least parallel to the floor.  The body must be kept straight throughout (see picture right).  Press-ups are performed for a period of two minutes or until the individual can no longer continue due to the onset of fatigue.  However, rest periods are permitted provided that the correct rest position (on both knees, with hands stationary) is adopted.

Assessment Aim

The aim of this assessment is to assess the muscular endurance of the muscles of the chest and shoulder girdle.

Assessment Standards

Table 2 highlights the number of press-ups to be performed in two minutes to achieve the various categories.

Table 2: Assessment standards for BPFA press-ups

Age

Gender/

Category

Under 30 M/F

30-34

M/F

35-39

M/F

40-44

M/F

45-49

M/F

50-54

M/F

(Green) ‘Good’ >=

44

21

41

19

39

16

35

15

29

13

25

11

(Amber) ‘Fair’

43-34

20-13

40-31

18-11

38-29

15-10

34-26

14-9

28-21

12-7

24-16

10-6

(Red) ‘Weak’ <=

33

12

30

10

28

9

25

8

20

6

15

5

Assessment 02: Sit-upsBPFA, Sit-up

The individual lies in a supine position on a mat with his/her knees bent between 70/110 degrees and the feet not more than 8 cm apart.  The arms are folded across the chest with the finger tips placed in the depression above the clavicle, close to the shoulder and must be maintained in this position throughout the duration of the assessment.  The scorer holds the feet in place.  The sit-up is initiated by curling up to reach the vertical position, followed by a return to the starting position, ensuring that the shoulder blades gently touch the floor (see picture right).  Sit-ups are performed for a period of two minutes, or until the performer can no longer continue due to the onset of fatigue.  However, rest periods are permitted provided that the correct rest position is adopted (lying flat, knees bent and scorer holding the feet in place).

Assessment Aim

The aim of this assessment is to assess the muscular endurance of the abdominal and hip-flexor muscles.

Correct Performance

Performers are not allowed to bounce their back off the floor to gain assistance or momentum.

Assessment Standards

Table 3 shows the number of sit-ups to be performed in two minutes to achieve the various categories.

Table 3: Assessment standards for BPFA sit-ups

Age

Gender/

Category

Under 30

M/F

30-34 M/F

35-39

M/F

40-44

M/F

45-49

M/F

50-54

M/F

(Green) ‘Good’ >=

50

46

43

37

34

32

(Amber) ‘Fair’

49-40

45-38

42-33

36-27

33-26

31-23

(Red) ‘Weak’ <=

39

37

32

26

25

22

Assessment 03: Aerobic Fitness (Run)BPFA, Run (1)

This assessment consists of two parts:

  • Part one is a warm-up walk/jog over a measured 800m course to be completed in a minimum time of four minutes and fifty seconds and a maximum time of five minutes; and
  • Part two follows on immediately after Part one and is a timed, best effort run over a measured distance of 2.4km.

Assessment Aim

The aim of this assessment is to assess aerobic fitness.

Pacing/Encouragement

It is permitted to pace during the run as long as there is no physical contact with the paced individual and the pacer does not physically hinder others taking the assessment.  The practice of running ahead of, alongside of, or behind an individual who is being tested, while serving as a pacer is, therefore, permitted.  Cheering or calling out the elapsed time is also permitted.

Assessment Standards

Table 4 shows the time required to achieve the following categories on Part 2 (2.4km) of the run.

Table 4: Assessment standards for BPFA aerobic fitness (run)

Age

Gender/

Category

Under 30

M/F

30-34

M/F

35-39

M/F

40-44

M/F

45-49

M/F

50-54

M/F

(Green)

‘Good’ >=

10:30

13:00

11:00

13:30

11:30

14:00

12:00

14:30

12:30

15:00

13:30

16:00

(Amber)

‘Fair’

10:31

11:15

13:01

14:00

11:01

11:50

13:31

14:30

11:31

12:20

14:01

15:00

12:01

12:55

14:31

15:30

12:31

13:30

15:01

16:00

13:31

14:40

16:01

17:05

(Red)

‘Weak’ <=

11:16

14:01

11:51

14:31

12:21

15:01

12:56

15:31

13:31

16:01

14:41

17:06

Assessment 03: Aerobic Fitness (MSFT)BPFA, MSFT

The Multi Stage Fitness Test (MSFT) is only used in situations where it is not possible for logistical, geographical and/or security reasons to conduct the run assessment.  The assessment involves running between two lines set exactly 20m apart (a lap) while keeping up with a series of bleeps from an audio cassette or CD player.  The bleeps start off at a slow jogging pace and progressively increase in speed approximately every minute.  The first expired minute is referred to as ‘Level 1’ the second as ‘Level 2’ and so on.  The end of each level is denoted by a triple bleep.  Performers stop running when they can no longer maintain the required pace due to fatigue.

Assessment Aim

The multi-stage fitness test is used as an alternative to the run to assess a performer’s aerobic fitness.

Assessment Standards

Table 5 shows the level and lap (10/3 = level 10 lap 3) required to achieve the various categories on the MSFT.

Table 5: Assessment standards for MSFT

Age

Gender/

Category

Under 30

M/F

30-34

M/F

35-39

M/F

40-44

M/F

45-49

M/F

50-54

M/F

(Green)

‘Good’ >=

10/2

8/1

9/8

7/7

9/4

7/3

8/10

6/9

8/5

6/5

7/7

5/6

(Amber)

‘Fair’

10/1

9/6

8/0

7/3

9/7

9/1

7/6

6/9

9/3

8/7

7/2

6/5

8/9

8/2

6/8

6/1

8/4

7/7

6/4

5/6

7/6

6/8

5/5

4/7

(Red)

‘Weak’ <=

9/5

7/2

9/0

6/8

8/6

6/4

8/1

6/0

7/6

5/5

6/7

4/6

Combat Fitness Tests

Table 6 outlines the various combat fitness tests used by the British Army.

Table 6: British Army combat fitness tests

Test Name

Abbrev

Outline

Standards

(Female, Minimum)

Standards

(Male, Minimum)

Basic Combat Fitness Test

BCFT

8 Mile March, as a squad

2 hrs carrying 20 kg (44 lbs) and 3x Representative

Military Tasks

(RMTs)

2 hrs carrying 25 kg (55 lbs) and 3x Representative

Military Tasks

(RMTs)

Advanced Combat Fitness Test (1)

ACFT 1

1.5 Mile run/walk, individual best effort

15 min carrying 15 kg (33 lbs)

15 min carrying 20 kg (44 lbs)

Advanced Combat Fitness Test (2)

ACFT 2

Day 1: 20km endurance march, as a squad

3 hrs & 30 min carrying 30kg (66 lbs)

Day 2: 20km endurance march, as a squad

3 hrs carrying 20kg (44 lbs)

Source: ASPT, 2001

  •  BCFT: The aim of the test is to measure aerobic capacity using a physically demanding criterion task (Loaded March), while accounting for the generic differences in aerobic fitness requirements between each Arm and Service.  The test is a measure of basic combat fitness.  The test is age and gender free; personnel over 50 years old are not required to take this test.
  • ACFT (1): is based on the physical demands associated with operating in an environment where high levels of aerobic power (speed) are required (e.g. urban patrolling).
  • ACFT (2): is based on the physical demands associated with operating in a rural environment where high levels of aerobic capacity (endurance) and load carrying ability (muscular strength/endurance) are required.

Representative Military Tasks (RMTs)

Immediately upon completion of the ACFT (1) and day 2 of the ACFT (2), all personnel are to perform a range of RMTs (Table 7) which best represent role-related operational requirements for anaerobic muscular endurance (speed), muscular strength and combat agility for their particular unit.

Table 7: Representative military tasks

Number

Name

Conditions

Rationale

1

Unaided, climb into and out of the rear of a 4-ton vehicle with tail-board down.

Jumping out of vehicle is not permitted and weapon carried or slung.

Functional test of upper and lower body strength.

2

Jump a 1.7m ditch/gap.

Carrying weapon.

Functional test of combat agility and leg power.

3

Fireman’s carry of 100m over good terrain.

Carrier carrying both weapons, in a time of 1 minute and with a partner of similar size/weight.

Simulated casualty evacuation.

4

Casualty Drag of 50m and on a grassed surface.

Weapon slung, in a time of 40 seconds, simulated casualty to be constructed from sandbags (70-75kg) attached to a toggle rope, and both wearing webbing.

Simulated casualty evacuation.

5

Scale a standard 2m wall on the assault course.

Weapon carried or slung and helmet worn.

Functional test of upper body strength, leg power and combat agility.

6

Single Lift of a 35kg ammunition box.

Lift to a height of 1.45m, emphasise and practice safe lifting technique with 25kg prior to test, using correct (safe) lifting technique and weapon slung.

Weight represents 7.62, 4-bit link ammunition. Height represents loading platform of a 4-ton truck.

7

Carry 2x 20kg Jerry cans 150m.

Weapon slung, jerry cans kept clear of the ground and to be completed in 1min 40secs.

Fuel/water re-supply and the approx weight of a 2-man stretcher carry with casualty.

8

Perform a re-gain on a single rope bridge and area below re-gain to be soft.

Rope height from ground: minimum – 2.25m; maximum – 3m and weapon slung.

Functional test of combat agility and upper body strength.

9

Shuttle sprints of 5x20m, in 56 seconds.

Carrying weapon. Adopting a prone position at the 20, 40, 60 and 80m marks and wave formation in controlled group.

Functional test of anaerobic fitness and muscular endurance using a simulated section attack.

10

Climb and descend a hemp/nylon rope under control.

Weapon slung and hands to reach 4m mark.

Functional test of combat agility and upper body strength.

Source: ASPT, 2001

Military Swimming Tests

Military Swimming Test (MST)BPFA, MST

Although military-style fitness organisations do not normally provide swimming training, the low impact benefits of swimming training are well known and the ability to swim is an essential requirement for all personnel.  All Regular Army personnel are, supposed, to pass the MST once, which should be at the earliest opportunity in their military career.  Once this test has been passed, continuation training in battle swimming techniques should be carried out at periodic intervals.  The test standards for MST are as follows:

  • The MST is to be conducted in a recognised swimming pool.  Fresh or salt water may be used;
  • All parts of the MST are to be conducted in one session and the parts are continuous, following on immediately from one another;
  • Complete a standing jump from the side of the pool into water which is deeper than the individual is tall. (A water depth of at least 2.5 metres is recommended);
  • Upon surfacing, tread water for 2 minutes. (Upon completion, immediately and without touching the side or end wall or bottom, commence the swim phase.);
  • Swim 100 metres any stroke. (There is no time limit on the swim phase, but at no time during the swim may the participants touch the side or end walls or pool bottom; and
  • When ordered to do so, leave the water by climbing, unaided, over the pool side or end wall.  Pool steps are not to be used.

Combat Military Swimming Test (CMST)BPFA, CMST

As noted above, the ability to swim is an essential requirement for all Service personnel.  However, the ability to manage personal equipment, be self-reliant and have confidence in colleagues’ skills/abilities when confronted by water hazards is an operational necessity.  A progressive combat related swimming training programme will give confidence to troops, and identify to commanders personnel who constitute a risk, when training or operations involves water.  Details of the CMST are shown in Table 8 below.

Table 8: Details of the CMST

Number

Test

Conditions

Remarks

1

Demonstrate the ability to create a flotation pack.

  • Given the standard issued combat equipment
  • Ensuring that the contents remain dry throughout the test
  • Pack is to weigh 16kg.

Goretex material will support this weight.

2

Enter the water by any safe method and swim 50m with the flotation pack.

  • Wearing Combat 95 or equivalent.
  • Boots and combat helmet are not to be worn.
  • Rifles are not to be used.
  • There is no time limit.
  • Any stroke can be used.
  • The packs are to be safely discarded immediately upon completion of the distance.
  • The test can be conducted in any still water.
  • However, temperature, additional safety implications and water purity considerations should be covered within the risk assessment.
  • Training in cold water cannot acclimatise personnel to this environment.

3

Tread water without any flotation aids for 2min.

  • Wearing Combat 95 or equivalent
  • Boots and combat helmet are not to be worn.

4

Swim a further 50m without any flotation pack.

  • Wearing Combat 95 or equivalent
  • Any stroke can be used.
  • There is no time limit.

Source: ASPT, 2001

References

ASPT (Army School of Physical Training) (2001) Fight to Fight, Pamphlet Two: Test Protocols and Administrative Instructions for Individual Training Directive (Army) 2 Fitness Tests. Aldershot: ASPT.

Royal Air Force (2012) Fitness Tests. Available from World Wide Web: <http://www.raf.mod.uk/careers/applicationzone/fitnesstests.cfm> [Accessed: 12 November, 2012].

Royal Marines (2011) Royal Marines Fitness Tests. Available from World Wide Web: <https://pdevportal.co.uk/assets/upload/ckfiles/kayak/files/RM_Fitness_Tests.pdf> [Accessed: 13 November, 2012].

Royal Navy (2010) Royal Navy Fitness Test (RNFT) Policy and Protocols. Available from World Wide Web: <https://pdevportal.co.uk/pdf/RNTF_policy_and_protocols/RNFT_Policy_and_Protocols.pdf> [Accessed: 12 November, 2012].

3 thoughts on “Fitness Assessments

  1. Remember these are the minimum requirements. If you are serious then you should be aiming for better than these figures. As an example the last bft I took before I left the army twenty years ago I completed the mile and a half run in 7 minutes dead. Did over 200 push ups and 30 pull ups and 150 sit ups.

    1. Hi Tony,

      If they could be verified, your BFT (basic fitness test) stats would be extremely impressive. However, blowing your ‘own trumpet’ in such a manner is unlikely to inspire those who do not have the physical capacity to achieve that level of fitness, regardless of how serious they are. Plus, British squaddies typically use the terms ‘press-ups’ and ‘heaves’ rather than pull-ups and push-ups, which is generally used by the Americans.

  2. This blog was… how do you say it? Relevant!

    ! Finally I’ve found something which helped me. Thanks a lot!

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