Effective leadership is critical to the success of a good physical training program. Leaders, especially senior leaders, must understand and practice the new Army doctrine of physical fitness. They must be visible and active participants in physical training programs. In short, leaders must lead PT! Their example will emphasize the importance of physical fitness training and will highlight it as a key element of the unit’s training mission.
Leaders must emphasize the value of physical training and clearly explain the objectives and benefits of the program. Master Fitness Trainers (MFTs), graduates of a special course taught by the U.S. Army Physical Fitness School, can help commanders do this. However, regardless of the level of technical experience MFTs have, the sole responsibility for good programs rests with leaders at every level.
A poorly designed and executed physical fitness program hurts morale. A good program is well planned and organized, has reasonable yet challenging requirements, and is competitive and progressive. It also has command presence at every level with leaders setting the example for their soldiers.
Leaders should also continually assess their units to determine which specific components of fitness they lack. Once they identify the shortcomings, they should modify their programs to correct the weaknesses. Leaders should not punish soldiers who fail to perform to standard. Punishment, especially excessive repetitions or additional PT, often does more harm than good. Leaders must plan special training to help soldiers who need it. The application of sound leadership techniques is especially important in bringing physically deficient soldiers up to standard.
Commanders must evaluate the effectiveness of physical fitness training and ensure that it is focused on the unit’s missions. They can evaluate its effectiveness by participating in and observing training, relating their fitness programs to the unit’s missions, and analyzing individual and unit APFT performance.
Leaders should regularly measure the physical fitness level of every soldier to evaluate his progress and determine the success of the unit’s program.
Commanders should assure that qualified leaders supervise and conduct fitness training and use their MFTs, for they have received comprehensive training in this area.
Leaders can learn about fitness training in the following ways :
- Attend the four-week MFT course or one-week Exercise Leaders Course.
- Request a fitness workshop from the Army Physical Fitness School.
- Become familiar with the Army’s fitness publications. Important examples include this manual, AR 350-15, and DA Pamphlets 350-15, 350-18, and 350-22.
Commanders must provide adequate facilities and funds to support a program which will improve each soldier’s level of physical fitness. They must also be sure that everyone participates, since all individuals, regardless of rank, age, or sex, benefit from regular exercise. In some instances, leaders will need to make special efforts to overcome recurring problems which interfere with regular training. Leaders must also make special efforts to provide the correct fitness training for soldiers who are physically substandard. “Positive profiling” (DA Form 3349) permits and encourages profiled soldiers to do as much as they can within the limits of their profiles. Those who have been away from the conditioning process because of leave, sickness, injury, or travel may also need special consideration.
Commanders must ensure that the time allotted for physical fitness training is used effectively.
Training times is wasted by the following:
- Unprepared or unorganized leaders.
- Assignment for a group which us too large for one leader.
- Insufficient training intensity: it will result in no improvement.
- Rates of progression that are too slow or too fast.
- Extreme formality that usually emphasizes form over substance. An example would be too many units runs at slow paces or “daily dozen” activities that look impressive but do not result in improvement.
- Inadequate facilities which cause long waiting periods between exercises during a workout and/or between workouts.
- Long rest periods which interfere with progress.
To foster a positive attitude, unit leaders and instructors must be knowledgeable, understanding, and fair, but demanding. They must recognize individual differences and motivate soldiers to put forth their best efforts. However, they must also emphasize training to standard. Attaining a high level of physical fitness cannot be done simply by going through the motions. Hard training is essential.
Commanders must ensure that leaders are familiar with approved techniques, directives, and publications and that they use them. The objective of every commander should be to incorporate the most effective methods of physical training into a balanced program. This program should result in the improved physical fitness of their soldiers and an enhanced ability to perform mission-related tasks.
MFTs can help commanders formulate sound programs that will attain their physical training goals, but commanders must know and apply the doctrine. However, since the responsibility for physical training is the commander’s, programs must be based on his own training objectives. These he must develop from his evaluation of the unit’s mission-essential task list (METL). Chapter 10 describes the development of the unit’s program.
MASTER FITNESS TRAINERS
A Master Fitness Trainer (MFT) is a soldier who has completed either the four-week active-component, two-week reserve-component, or US Military Academy’s MFT course work. Although called “masters,” MFTs are simply soldiers who know about all aspects of physical fitness training and how soldiers’ bodies function. Most importantly, since MFTs are taught to design individual and unit programs, they should be used by commanders as special staff assistants for this purpose.
MFTs can do the following:
- Assess the physical fitness levels of individuals and units.
- Analyze the unit’s mission-related tasks and develop sound fitness training programs to support those tasks.
- Train other trainers to conduct sound, safe physical training.
- Understand the structure and function of the human body, especially as it relates to exercise.