Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT) FM 21-20 / TC 3-22.20 Training Info

Army Fitness Handbook – 1 – Physical Fitness – Principles

Physical Fitness


Before explaining what a physical fitness program should look like, there are some basic terms that must be discussed. These principals apply to all programs in general and must be addressed in the development of any fitness program.

INTENSITY – The amount of effort put into each workout, usually measured by heartbeats per minute. For the maximum benefit in each workout, plan on exercising at a minimum of 70 percent of the heart rate reserve. There are several scientific ways to your heart rate reserve. The simplest way is to begin with you maximum heart rate (220-Age). Next, measure your resting heart rate. The heart rate reserve is found by Max heart rate – resting heart rate. To train at 70% of the heart rate reserve you would multiply 70% by the heart rate reserve and then add your resting heart rate. For a 20 year old with a resting heart rate of 60 to dDetermineing your training heart rate in beats per minute would be 70% x Heart Rate Reserve =.70 x (200-60) + 60 (Resting Heart Rate) = a training heart rate of 158 beats per min.

DURATION – The length each exercise period should last. There has been a great deal of research on this topic. Most experts believe that when working on your cardiovascular endurance a minimum of 20 to 30 minutes is needed to obtain maximum benefit. This holds true for the majority of the population. The only notable exception occurs for long distance or endurance athletes (e.g. marathon runners or triathletes).

FREQUENCY – The number of workouts one should have per week. Once again experts agree that the average person requires a minimum of three workouts per week to improve their current level of fitness. Working out less frequently will only maintain a level of fitness; it will not improve the level of fitness. When exercising only three times a week, each period should be medium to high intensity. Exercising with consistent frequency can also be referred to as REGULARITY. Exercise must be done regularly to produce a training effect. Sporadic exercise may cause more harm in the form of injury than benefit from exercise. The same is true for extremely intense workouts. They may create injuries.

RECOVERY – Do not work the same muscle groups hard day after day. Muscles need recovery time. People frequently misunderstand this point. Providing inadequate recovery can explain the reason why most people see little or no gain from excessive exercise. You can work the same muscle groups each day, however, you should work hard one day and easy the next. This is a critical point because this fitness program is based on a six days a week exercise program.

GENERAL ADAPTATION PRINCIPAL (GAP) – Muscles as well as your cardiovascular system in the body will adapt to the increasing stress placed upon it through exercise. To see gains in a fitness program one must stress the existing muscular and cardiovascular systems. This can also be called the OVERLOAD principal. For a muscle to increase in strength, the workload during exercise must be larger than what it normally experiences.

SPECIFICITY – There are several different exercises and events that can develop your muscular strength as well as cardiovascular fitness. To increase the number of push-ups you can do, simply increase upper body strength through a number of strength exercises and weights. However, the best way to improve push-ups requires doing push-ups. Similarly one can improve cardiovascular fitness by biking swimming, or walking. However, if the goal remains an improved ability to run, the best exercise will be running.

MAJOR COMPONENTS OF PHYSICAL FITNESS – There are several components of any fitness program. The three major components of most programs are flexibility, strength, muscular endurance, and cardiovascular endurance. These components are the essential elements of the Army Physical Fitness Program.

How to Use These Workout Programs

These programs are designed as four week plans. Each program has a workout A & B. Alternate workouts daily for 6 days, then rest. For example, perform workout A on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday; perform workout B on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. Different muscles are trained in workouts A & B, which means you are training each muscle group 3 days per week. Rest Sunday. Work cardiovascular exercises into your workouts at least 3 times per week. You may attempt to eventually work up to doing cardio 6 days a week using the hard/easy technique mentioned under the recovery principle.

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