T Nation

Help with Army APFT/Bodybuilding



I've searched the forums and articles for a couple months, and I can't find a program that fits my specific needs. All of them either concentrate on muscle hypertrophy, strength, or fat loss, at the negligence of the other two.

I am an Army Cadet who needs to drop my run time by 2 mins in order to max the PT test. I also want to gain 15lbs of muscle and drop 10% BF. I know you read that and slapped your forehead, but here's my disclaimer: The Army doesn't allow one-dimensional training, and however stupid that is, it's the rule.

Here's my stats:
H: 5'6"
W: 155lbs
BF: 16-18%
DL: 235 for 5x5
Bench: 155 for 5x5
Squat: 225 for 5x5

I would love to concentrate on one goal. Really. And I wish I didn't have to run, because the Army has already graced me with chronic stress fractured legs. But I am in a bind and need some specific advice on how to proceed. If you need, I can write out my current program. Also, any forum members that have experience are welcome to help as well. I just posted here because you're performance based hypertrophy. None of the other forums fit the bill well enough, and I can't post in the War Room.

Thanks for your help.


I find it a bit ironic that an Army cadet cannot post in a place called the "War Room," but fortunately, you've come to the right place. I was once an officer in the Army Reserve so I'm familiar with PT. I'll let CT address the finer points of fat loss, but I can give you some tips for planning your workouts.

First, you'll just have to accept the fact that running and squatting don't play well with each other - at least that's been my experience. Fortunately, the distance the Army makes you run is not far. I'm assuming it's still just two miles, right? That's not that far and shouldn't interfere too much with your squatting and DLing. But it will interfere a little. Second, I'm assuming that your stress fractures have healed. If not, then I'm not sure if the following recommendation will work for you, but I'll present it anyway. The one thing that really helped me get faster in the two-mile run was 400 meter (or quarter mile) intervals. I don't know if your body will react the same way, but I don't see why not. What I did was just sprint 400 meters and then jog (or walk if needed) 400. I repeated this 4 times. This equaled one total mile of sprint work and one total mile of jogging, two miles of total distance. I think I increased this to 5 and even 6 repetitions. I can't even tell you my reasoning for coming up with this workout. This is something I did almost 20 years ago, back before the Internet and before interval training was even popular. I must have read something about intervals and came up with the brilliant idea that, since I needed to run two miles, why not force myself to sprint half of it and jog the other half? Luckily, it worked. For something more updated, look in the archives for CT's article called "Running Man." It has a progression for doing 400 m sprints.

I was going to insert a war story here - you can't talk to an old Army guy without being a told a story. However, I need to get back to work so I'll save it for later.

As for doing overdistance work, yes it helps, but I see no reason to ever run more than four miles to prepare for a two-mile run, and even four miles may be too much. The sprints will help get you lean and help maintain leg strength. If you don't have access to a track, go on Google Earth and mark yourself 400 meter loop, or a 200-meter out and back course. The distance doesn't need to be exact but you want to be close. For example, sprints of 100 meters won't help that much.

I'll talk about strength work a little later in a subsequent post.


Thanks, Bear. Looking forward to the rest.

Also, fractures haven't healed. They take 6-8 months of no running to fully heal, and I can't take that much time off. Drive on, I guess.


hungry4more is a military dude and he said to keep getting bigger lifts he just lifted more frequently but with less volume as to not kill himself for the random PT tests and other running. Nutrition is everything studies have shown that having protien even after running is very beneficial.


That sucks. Can you ride a bike without pain? More importantly, is riding enough of a low-impact activity that it would allow the fractures to heal? I guess you should check with your doctor. The reason is that a couple of years back I did a short triathlon and I found that cycling improved my running, but running didn't help cycling. It's not a perfect replacement, but it will help. Swimming would be ideal for you - it will increase your cardio but won't really get your legs used to running. This will produce a strange result - once you get back into running, you'll be running along, barely breathing hard, but your legs will be dying. Still, if that's all that you can do, it would be better than nothing.

As for the strength stuff, in my brief dabbling with endurance sports, I found that lower body endurance work (running, cycling) had no effect on my upper body strength and I could do fairly intense upper body work and gain strength. Legs suffered, but then again, I was training for something longer than a two-mile run. Liam M brought up a good point about more frequent but lower volume workouts, which might be a good choice for lower body stuff. As I said, two miles is not terribly far and won't have near the impact of a longer distance run. I also noticed, and perhaps this was just something weird that my body did, that running took a toll on my squat strength, my deadlift was fine. And while the thought of squatting while doing lots of running made me want to cry, I actually wanted to do some heavy deadlifts. So, when PT test time comes around, focus on getting your run where it needs to be and just deadlift.


Thanks, Bear. I appreciate the insight. Basically, the gist of what you're saying is forgo the muscle gain for now and concentrate on run time via cross-training and 400m intervals. That's pretty much exactly what I'm doing.

The problem lies with mandatory Army PT that is outside of my normal training regimen. Normally this would be conducted by trained, knowledgeable NCOs and Officers, but in Cadet Land, it's created in 3 week stints by college students intent on being the most "badass". Ergo, a lot of stupid, pointless shit that royally fucks me up. (Like today's random 6 mile run on hardball at 2-mile test pace.) This leaves me trying to simultaneously rehab myself, train myself, and complete the mandatory PT sessions with as little damage as possible. Sticky situation, to say the least.

If I were training myself, I'd have my run to a 12:00 last year. Instead, I'm about ready to snap my legs off when I come in at 14:30. There are three weeks left til the APFT, so I will do what I can until then. Thanks for your help, I really appreciate it. The stupidity of training here just pisses me off, is all.

Also, if anyone else wants to chime in about specific rehab tips, I'd love it. I've tried icing and massage to no avail.


I, too, came up through ROTC so I know exactly what you mean by cadet-land. I always thought organized PT was dumb - it didn't do a damn thing for my fitness. It's just a way to build "group morale." Yeah, you might be in a group, but there's little morale.

As for whether you need to forgo on gaining muscle, I wouldn't necessarily say "forgo;" more like "be patient." You can certainly gain some strength, especially on your bench and deadlift, and although just about every person who posts on the Bodybuilding forum will disagree with me, I've always believed that if you gain strength, the physique will follow. And I would certainly encourage you to do all kinds of rep ranges on the bench press. A strong bench press will help you crank out the max number of push ups - guaranteed. I don't have any advice for sit ups, they just plain suck. Just do lots of them.

Sorry that I don't have any rehab tips for stress fractures. I don't know bones. However, I'm practically an expert when it comes to soft tissue injuries.

BTW - I noticed your location says "Colorado." I'm also in Colorado. What school are you attending?


I'm at CU Boulder. Buffalo Battalion. MSIII this year. Any soft tissue advice for the shin splint portion of stress fractures? I have both. Hairline fracture of the tibia in my right leg with inflammation of the gastrocnemius muscles in both legs mixed with some on again/off again swelling of whatever muscle is in the front of your leg. (MRIs suck because they are very meticulate about how fucked up you are)

My PU and SU are fine, I always max those. Usually I'm tied for 2nd or 1st best in the Corps for PU. It's just the run that bugs me, obviously. Funny, though, because when my max bench went up, my max PU went down. Different muscle fibers, methinks.


For soft tissue injuries, let's just say that I take a LOT of ibuprofen. Like 4 pills at once. When I told my doctor this he had this look of horror on his face and suggested a cut that down to 3, but I still take 4. I'll do this at least twice a day. That and rest. I don't bother with ice anymore because it just makes things cold and doesn't seem to help. Fish oil helps, too.

My Olympic weightlifting club is in Boulder. We also have kettlebells, which is a great way to build strength and endurance. Once you heal up, if you're interested stop by. It's actually a Crossfit facility, but the OL/KB is separate from the Crossfit so you can just join the OL/KB club. Our coach is trying to attract new folks so rates are pretty inexpensive. Anyway, sorry for the advertising, but our coach is a good guy and he can use the business. Olympic weightlifting won't give you all that much muscle mass (although it can if do it a certain way) but it will make you very strong and explosive. We have another CU student that attends, but I won't ask if you know him because that's just stupid. I always hated when people asked me if I knew so-and-so. There's thousands of students that go to my college, so odds are no, I don't know so-and-so.


I'll weigh in, if you don't mind. I've been through several different types of units and know how you feel between the APFT and your goals. I think Mike is right on (he actually gave me the same advice about 6 months ago when I was trying out for something). Anyway, I normally do my best when I think of everything as training volume, although I often don't realize it until I look back later.

For instance, those ridiculous days you have to run 6 miles - you just did a huge amount of work capacity for your legs, so maybe just knock out some deadlifts contracted with broad jumps that week to keep a little speed on you. As far as PU and SU, it sounds like you know what you're doing. Bench will always help your strength, but for me it's a technique thing; if you spend the few weeks before the test practicing those moves a couple times a week you will be good. A real good protocol for me was 4 sets at half my two minute max 2 - 3 times a week. I think interval runs planned as part of your lower body routine are terrific (by that I mean don't run one day, then legs, then run, then legs, then a ruck, then run - makes no sense). Recently I made the mistake of running 5 miles 3 times a week because that was what tended to get guys my age.

I abandoned strength work and just ran 5 miles under the standard 3 times a week. I passed that event, but the rest of my time there was horrible - I had no strength or general endurance; I could only run at that pace. I guess my point here is that the APFT is just a test, and I know it sucks because it has some impact on you as a cadet, but remember to train for what you'll actually do - which is carry a ton, sprint and hit hard repeatedly. I'll be off my soapbox now.


Well since CT hasnt posted yet, as far as weight loss go for your stats you have alot in options, carb cycling, Paleo, Paleo Plus, and etc.

But in honesty your stats arent that hard considering you are kinda short drop the dead lift to once every other week and front squat to once a week and fill t=then spots with OLY lifting and if possible sled work, then for dropping the fat ruck man. Walking a far distance with a heavy load is a great conditioning and fat loss tool start with like 35lbs and add 5lbs every other time, 2 times a week, starting for 2miles and increase it every week or other week, til 15 mile then go for time. Make sure your nutrition is spot on. Drop fat first, you will be more anabolic after you do.


Thanks to Dave and TFP. I will try to incorporate Oly lifts, but I've never had formal training in them, and thus have been afraid to attempt them without a decent coach checking my movements. I have a bad tendency to start too heavy, but still be able to lift the weight using bad form. I used to think I could squat 350, but my legs weren't near parallel. I think Oly lifts would exacerbate my tendency.

The APFT is the single most stressed portion of our training as a cadet. Personally, I think that emphasis is misplaced, because we have cadets going to camps and getting average PT scores and totally bombing the other events (i.e. land nav, STX lanes, etc.) But I don't make the rules. I'm going to concentrate on fat loss and run time for the next half of the semester, and maybe gain a little muscle over the winter break.

I'll keep myself on track by using this website. Thanks for all your help. I think I'll just look up a Keto diet of CTs for the few weeks remaining before the PT test (15 Nov). Wish me luck.


If you're interested I'll see if my coach will give you a student/military discount for an Olympic lifting lesson. His prices are very reasonable to begin with so I can't promise anything.


Ah, ARMY PT...quite the load of BS it really is. The APFT is no different. I heard they were looking at changing the standards here shortly. MTF on that part of course. As for improving your run, I do believe 400 meter interval sprints would be a good way to go, along with some tempo running. I've seen a lot of performance increases from doing timed interval work, I think some people call it tempo running. Pretty easy stuff, just set up a time frame to work on, say 30 seconds of sprints, 30 seconds of easy pace. Continue for desired distance. Then work your way up in time (ie. 60 seconds of sprinting: 60 seconds of easy pace).

For a really killer way to tax your body out try TABATA protocol, 20-30 seconds of sprinting with 10 seconds of rest. This one taxes me out everytime. Generally you can't do this one for very long before getting exhausted.

Hill sprints, how could I forget hill sprints. Find the biggest, baddest, steepest hill you can find that's about 50-100 meters and start trucking up that sucker. Want more, add a sandbag. That one's a vomit session for sure, but it'll get your conditioning up really, really fast. You can't excape the torture of hill sprints. Then we have sled drags, modified prowler pushes (I just use a car or small truck), sand bag shuttle runs, so many options. All of which will help you slam the PT test in the face.

Then as far as bodybuilding goes, well you're not going to get huge training that way, but you'll be lean. Actually, as long as you're eating enough and lifting fairly consistantly in the gym you should be fine, since most interval, high intesity training that I mentioned above doesn't make you lose a whole lot of lean mass. You may even be able to bulk up a bit. It the long distance stuff that will eat up your muscle tissue fast. Keep it under an hour with good supplementation / dietary protocol and you can pack on some good lean mass.

Personally, I like to lift before PT gets underway. I don't like the gym being crowded with too many people, and you can't get anything done during PT hours anyway. So I get up early, go lift, trying to schedule it around whatever sort of PT they have planned (ie, if you're going to do a 6-mile run I definately try to stay away from any serious leg training or lowerback training), bike home, slam a protein shake, maybe some carbs too if I'm drained and then go do PT. Seems to work pretty well. But it's also very individualistic as far as gains are concerned as with everything. You just have to experiement and figure out what works for you, whether it's five days of hard lifting and two days off or alternate days of lifting with PT inbetween those. Write it down in a log and figure out where your best gains are coming through. Stick with that until you stop making progress and re-evaluate. I know that won't help you in the short term, but one cannot figure ones body out in a day. Sorry, won't happen.
Hope you've found something useful in this book I just composed.




Thanks, Gremlin. Good advice.


gremlin - just checked out your profile pics, keep it up man. Whatever you're doing is working.


Thanks PB Andy. Currently trying to get back to where I was before I started this whole military BS thing. Seemed like a good idea at the time, but now the only plus is that I get to kill myself in the gym almost everyday, although my schedule is just so screwed up that I can't really get into a solid routine that I'm comfortable with and keep having to adjust fire for workouts at random times.

I'm a big fan of having a solid routine I can count on and the military just doesn't cut it for me, at least in my current job position. Hopefully my next post will have more opportunity for physique improvement. Additionally more optimal food choices.

I have made some modest improvement in size over the past year without packing on too much bodyfat, but I'd like to get a little leaner before trying to bulk up again. I always seem to grow best right after the hard dieting conditions before a BB show. Kind of a no brainer there, but that's where I've had the most success.




When are you out? You can apply to local and federal law enforcement agencies with that good experience like I am! lol


Not sure as of yet. I'm currently trying to get into the Army Physical Therapy program for Baylor University, whether that happens or not, who knows, but I'm going to apply anyway. I've been out of school for a while now and just realized that I needed to go back to do something other than Personal Training or Fitness Club Management.

Now the Army is dominating my life in an unforeseen fashion. Some good, some bad, I can't decide which is which at this point. I'm re-evaluating this upcoming year and see where I end up. I only have another two years in which to make a choice, stay in or GET OUT, there's bombs you idiot (seems to be the general consensus).




Funny that I run across this thread as an MS4. I've never found push-up or sit-up endurance to be terribly complicated. I can maintain in the high 60's without doing a single pushup just from lifting but maxing definitely requires specific work. I've never found anything to translate to sit-ups except sit-ups themselves (fuck the supine bicycle).

The run? I have no insight but there's some good discussion in this thread. I've never run below 14:30 but gaining 50 lbs of mass since my MS1 year might have something to do with that too! Based on the cadets I've seen come and go, those who build an endurance base first and then get more serious about lifting have more success than the reverse.