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

TC 3-22.20 Chapter 2 – System

Chapter 2


Army physical readiness is defined as the ability to meet the physical demands of anycombat or duty position, accomplish the mission, and continue to fight and win.

The goal of the Army Physical Fitness Training Program is to develop Soldiers who are physically capable and ready to perform their duty assignments or combat roles. To reach this goal, leaders use the PRT System to aim first at developing strength, endurance, and mobility. Soldiers must be able to perform required duties and sustain activity during full spectrum operations. Soldiers trained through PRT demonstrate the mobility to apply strength and endurance to the performance of basic military skills such as marching, speed running, jumping, vaulting, climbing, crawling, combatives, and water survival. These skills are essential to personal safety and effective Soldier performance—not only in training, but also, and more importantly, during combat operations.

Physical fitness and health form the basis of physical readiness. Physical readiness is in turn essential to combat readiness. Physical readiness training prepares Soldiers and units physically to be successful in the conduct of full spectrum operations. Secondary goals of PRT are to instill confidence and the will to win; develop teamwork and unit cohesion; and integrate aggressiveness, resourcefulness, and resilience. The PRT System brings Soldiers to a state of physical readiness through a systematic program of drills and activities specifically designed to enhance performance of WTBDs. Army PRT seeks to attain the development of all Soldiers‘ physical attributes to the fullest extent of their given potential. This will instill confidence in their ability to perform their duties under all circumstances.

“Soldiers should train to become stronger, faster, mobile, lethal, resilient, and smarter.”

Frank A. Palkoska, Director USAPFS


2-1. Commanders face the continual challenge of training Soldiers with different physical capabilities. Training to the level of the least fit removes rigor from the program, while excessive rigor places less fit Soldiers at risk of injury. Most commanders recognize this dilemma and try to occupy a reasonable middle ground. This chapter guides commanders in the implementation of safe and challenging PRT. It should be applied IAW Chapters 5 and 6.

2-2. The initial conditioning phase prepares future Soldiers to learn and adapt to Army PRT. Toughening phase activities develop foundational fitness and fundamental movement skills that prepare Soldiers to transition to the sustaining phase. Sustaining phase activities develop a higher level of physical readiness required by duty position and C-or D-METL. Reconditioning restores Soldiers‘ physical fitness levels that enable them to safely re-enter the toughening or sustaining phase and progress to their previous level of conditioning. See Chapter 6 for more information on reconditioning. Types of PRT training include on-ground, off-ground, and combatives. Within these types of training are three fundamental components: strength, endurance, and mobility. Phased training follows the principles of precision, progression, and integration. Finally, Army PRT optimizes physical performance within an environment of injury control. Figure 2-1 shows the PRT System‘s phases, types of training, components, principles, and reconditioning as they apply to ARFORGEN.


2-3. The purpose of the initial conditioning phase is to establish a safe starting point for people considering entering the Army. This includes those individuals enrolled in the Army‘s Future Soldier Program and in the Reserve Officer Training Corps. This phase of training is conducted before enlistment or pre-commissioning. See RPI 237, Pocket Physical Training Guide, for appropriate placement into a physical training program designed to accommodate individual physical fitness capabilities. The exercises and activities in this guide prepare the individual for the rigors of IMT.


2-4. The purpose of the toughening phase is to develop foundational fitness and fundamental movement skills. A variety of training activities with precise standards of execution ensures that bones, muscles, and connective tissues gradually toughen, rather than break. In the toughening phase, Soldiers gradually become proficient at managing their own body weight. Toughening phase activities develop essential skills associated with critical Soldier tasks such as jumping, landing, climbing, lunging, bending, reaching, and lifting. Physical readiness improves through progression in these activities. The toughening phase occurs during IMT, basic combat training (BCT), one station unit training (OSUT) (red/white/blue phases), and Basic Officer Leader Course A (BOLC A). The toughening phase prepares Soldiers to move to the sustaining phase.


2-5. The purpose of the sustaining phase is to continue physical development and maintain a high level of physical readiness appropriate to duty position and the requirements of the unit‘s C-or D-METL as it applies to ARFORGEN. See AR 350-1 to reference ARFORGEN. Sustaining phase activities are conducted in unit PRT throughout the Army. In this phase, activities become more demanding. Exercises, drills, and activities such as advanced calisthenics, military movement, kettlebell, and CLs are performed with increasing resistance. Endurance and mobility activities such as foot marching, speed running, and sustained running increase in intensity and duration. Activities that directly support unit mission and C-or D-METL, such as individual movement techniques, casualty carries, obstacle courses, and combatives are integrated into PRT sessions.


2-6. The objective of reconditioning is to restore physical fitness levels that enable Soldiers to reenter the toughening or sustaining phase safely, and then progress to their previous levels of conditioning. See Chapter 6, Special Conditioning Programs, for more information on rehabilitation and reconditioning PRT. Soldiers may participate in reconditioning after rehabilitation and recovery from injury or illness, and then re-enter training in the toughening or sustaining phases.

2-7. Factors such as extended deployment, field training, block leave, and recovery from illness or injury can cause Soldiers to move from the toughening or sustaining phases to reconditioning. Once Soldiers meet the transition criteria for re-entry into unit training, they may do so. Units usually conduct either reconditioning and toughening or reconditioning and sustaining phases at the same time.


2-8. The conduct of Army PRT follows the principles of precision, progression, and integration. These principles ensure that Soldiers perform all PRT sessions, activities, drills, and exercises correctly, within the appropriate intensity and duration for optimal conditioning and injury control.


2-9. Precision is the strict adherence to optimal execution standards for PRT activities. Precision is based on the premise that the quality of the movement or form is just as important as the weight lifted, repetitions performed or speed of running. It is important not only for improving physical skills and abilities, but to decrease the likelihood of injury due to the development of faulty movement patterns. Adhering to precise execution standards in the conduct of all PRT activities ensures the development of body management and fundamental movement skills.


2-10. Progression is the systematic increase in the intensity, duration, volume, and difficulty of PRT activities. The proper progression of PRT activities allows the body to positively adapt to the stresses of training. When progression is violated by too rapid an increase in intensity, duration, volume or difficulty the Soldier is unable to adapt to the demands of training. The Soldier is then unable to recover, which leads to overtraining or the possibility of injury. Phased training ensures appropriate progression.


2-11. Integration uses multiple training activities to achieve balance and appropriate recovery between activities in the PRT program. Because most WTBDs require a blend of strength, endurance, and mobility, PRT activities are designed to challenge all three components in an integrated manner. The principle of integration is evident when WTBDs and their component movements are incorporated in PRT. For example, CDs and CLs develop the strength, mobility, and physical skills needed to negotiate obstacles. Military movement drills (MMDs) improve running form and movement under direct or indirect fire. The guerrilla drill (GD) develops the strength and skill associated with casualty evacuation and combatives. The drills, exercises, and activities in this TC integrate essential Soldier tasks, making PRT a critical link in the chain of overall Soldier physical readiness.


2-12. The PRT System incorporates the three components of training shown in Figure 2-2.


2-13. Strength is the ability to overcome resistance. Strength runs a continuum between two subcomponents: absolute muscular strength (the capacity of a muscle/muscle group to exert a force against a maximal resistance) and muscular endurance (the capacity of a muscle/muscle group to exert a force repeatedly or to hold a fixed or static contraction over a period time). Soldiers need strength to foot march under load; enter and clear a building or trench line; repeatedly load heavy rounds; lift equipment; transport a wounded Soldier to the casualty collection point; and most of all, to be able to withstand the rigors of continuous operations while under load. A well-designed, strength-training program improves performance and appearance and controls injuries. The Army‘s approach to strength training is performance-oriented. The goal is to attain the muscular strength required to perform functional movements against resistance. Calisthenics are the foundation of Army strength training and body management. They develop the fundamental movement skills needed for Soldiers to manipulate their own body weight and exert force against external resistance. Strength is further developed through the performance of advanced calisthenics, resistance training, CL, and the GD.


2-14. This is the ability to sustain activity. The component of endurance, like strength, also runs a continuum between the ability to sustain high-intensity activity of short duration (anaerobic), and low-intensity activity of long duration (aerobic).

2-15. A properly planned and executed endurance training program balances anaerobic and aerobic training. Analysis of the mission and C-or D-METL for nearly all units shows a significant need for anaerobic endurance. Anaerobic training has a crossover value in improvement of aerobic capability. However, aerobic training alone does little to improve anaerobic capacity. To enhance effectiveness and survivability, Soldiers must train to perform activities of high intensity and short duration efficiently. Endurance programs based solely on sustained running, while likely to improve aerobic endurance, fail to prepare units for the type of anaerobic endurance they will need for the conduct of full spectrum operations.

  • Examples of anaerobic training are speed running, individual movement techniques, and negotiation of obstacles.
  • Examples of aerobic training are foot marching, sustained running, cycling, and swimming.


2-16. This is the functional application of strength and endurance. It is movement proficiency. Strength with mobility allows a Soldier to squat and lift an injured Soldier. Without sufficient mobility, a strong Soldier may have difficulty executing the same casualty transport technique. Endurance without mobility may be acceptable to a distance runner, but for Soldiers performing individual movement techniques, both components are essential for optimal performance.

“Movement, as such, may replace by its effect any remedy, but all the remedies in the world cannot take the place of movement.”

Tissot, XVIII Century


2-17. Performing movements with correct posture and precision improves physical readiness while controlling injuries. Qualitative performance factors for improved mobility include:

Agility is the ability to stop, start, change direction, and efficiently change body position. Performing the GD, the shuttle run (SR), and negotiating obstacles all improve agility.

Balance is the ability to maintain equilibrium. The drills in this TC are designed to challenge and improve balance. Balance is an essential component of movement. External forces such as gravity and momentum act upon the body at any given time. Sensing these forces and responding appropriately leads to quality movements.

Coordination is the ability to perform multiple tasks. Driving military vehicles and operating various machinery and weaponry requires coordination. Coordination of arm, leg, and trunk movement is essential in climbing and individual movement techniques.

Flexibility is the range of movement at a joint and its surrounding muscles. Flexibility is essential to performing quality movements safely. Regular, progressive, and precise performance of calisthenics and resistance exercises promote flexibility. Spending time on slow, sustained stretching exercises during the recovery drill (RD) may also help to improve flexibility.

Posture is any position in which the body resides. Posture constantly changes as the body shifts to adapt to forces of gravity and momentum. Good posture is important to military bearing and optimal body function. Proper carriage of the body while standing, sitting, lifting, marching, and running is essential to movement quality and performance.

Stability is the ability to maintain or restore equilibrium when acted on by forces trying to displace it. Stability depends on structural strength and body management. It is developed through regular precise performance of PRT drills. Quality movements through a full range of motion, such as lifting a heavy load from the ground to an overhead position, require stability to ensure optimal performance without injury.

Speed is rate of movement. Many Soldier tasks require speed. Speed improves through better technique and conditioning. Lengthening stride (technique) and increasing pace (conditioning) improve running speed.

Power is the product of strength and speed. Throwing, jumping, striking, and moving explosively from a starting position require both speed and strength. Power is generated in the trunk (hips and torso). Developing trunk strength, stability, and mobility is important to increasing power. Soldiers, as tactical athletes, are power performers.


2-18. The PRT System incorporates the three types of training shown in Figure 2-3.


2-19. On-ground training includes activities in which Soldiers maintain contact with the ground. Activities such as marching, speed running, sustained running, calisthenics, and resistance training create a foundation for physical fitness and movement skills.


2-20. Off-ground training includes activities that take place off the ground briefly (jumping and landing) or while suspended above ground for longer periods (climbing bar and negotiation of high obstacles). Examples of jumping and landing exercises are high jumper, power jump, and verticals. Negotiation of high obstacles (reverse climb and cargo net) and exercises using the climbing pod (pull-up and leg tuck) require manipulation of the body and specific movement skills while suspended above ground.


2-21. This includes techniques that deter or defeat opponents using projectile (weapons), striking and/or close range (grappling). (See FM 3-25.150.)


The Army’s PRT System consists of three phases: the initial conditioning phase, the toughening phase, and the sustaining phase. The initial conditioning phase prepares future Soldiers to learn and adapt to Army PRT. Toughening phase activities develop foundational fitness and fundamental movement skills that prepare Soldiers to transition to the sustaining phase. Activities in the sustaining phase develop a higher level of physical readiness required by duty position and/or C-or D-METL. Reconditioning restores Soldiers to physical readiness levels that allow them to safely re-enter the toughening or sustaining phase. Types of PRT include on-ground, off-ground, and combatives. Within these types of training are three fundamental components: strength, endurance, and mobility. Phased training of these components is guided by the overarching principles of precision, progression, and integration. Finally, Army PRT optimizes physical performance within an environment of injury control. Figure 2-1 illustrates the PRT System’s phases, types of training, components, principles, and reconditioning as they apply to ARFORGEN.

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