T Nation

Military PT


I've been thinking about some of the fucked up exrcises we had to do for PT.
in the Army. Anyone in the service can probably relate.

  1. The sit up - if you've never seen them done Army style, it will make you cringe. My neck would be sore as hell after a PT test.

  2. Running with riffles. This just sucked.

  3. Running in formation on a Monday. Someone always had horrible shit gas from all the crap they ate over the weekend. And there is no way to escape it in formation.

OK, that's my trip down memory lane. I feel better now!


Eight count bodybuilders, Running in flack vest and helment with M-4 rifle LBE gear with 25 extra pounds on it. Crawling in the sand and climbing over walls with all this on. Good times.

I always got smoked for falling out of formation when someone shit on themselves.

I would say "Sarge, this guy just shit down both legs and I cant breath."

Sarge- I dont give a fuck if he shit on you troop! You having trouble breathing? Maybe if you were in the front leaning rest you could breath better.

This happened everytime we ran in formation. It got to the point that the sergeant was finally just like fuck it. But, it was hell up untill that point. Pushups,flutter kicks and anything else he could think of for breaking formation.



Oooh, don't get me started. Alright, you already did, rant on. For the most part, PT is just frustrating, not benificial.
I am built for running, and every run is an ass kicker for me. Still, I keep up, and appreciate it's value. It does build conditioning, cohesion and mental toughness. The problem is formation runs are always as slow as the slowest guy. They are smoked, the faster guys don't break a sweat, and the shuffle is hell on your knees.

Stretching is done by the numbers- I know my body, and I know what I need to stretch and warmup. For a run, I don't need to spend much time stretching my arms, on the same token, a ten count might work for the younger guys, but I need to spend several minutes loosening up my lower body. The way it is handled is very juvenille, worse than jr high gym class.
Bent knee situps and flutter kicks- proven to do more harm than good to your back.

The overhead arm clap- provides no training benifit in any way, except maybe to be able to do more claps.
Knee pain and back pain are two of the most common injuries in the army; I am a medic, I see it every day. Despite this, the army does nothing to address this. No or very little back specific stretching or strengthening. Repeat runs on hard surface, often in boots.

To try to bring something new and innovative in is just rockin' the system and the higher ups won't approve it. I make it a habit, when I run PT to give the command "Fall in at PT spacing", the book says to do several facing movements, count ranks, step by step spread out. I try to bring sandbag training, gpp and odd object (including people) lifting, and we have to hide out to do it. To get to the gym, we have on day a month we are able to do it, and it needs a commander's written approval and needs to be scheduled 4 weeks out.

Uniform is uniform and the whole battalion has to dress to a standard, not to the weather or personal comfort.
I hate it, every morning. I hate how I have to schedule my lifts around BS PT, and organized PT makes cuts into my personal program.


I find the formantion run a useless part of PT. You have hit the nail on the head. You have to circle around and pick up the slow folks.

Good move already having them fall into PT spacing. I hate all of the, LEFT FACE, COUNT OFF! EVEN NUMBERS ONE STEP UP! RIGHT FACE, well you know the rest of the spiel.

The uniform part, I am lucky enough to be in the Air Force so right now our brand new PT gear that we have is only mandatory when deployed. So we get to look like a bunch of individuals all we want at PT.

And I do think the mandatory PT is a waist of time. Im speeking for myself though. There are some fat asses that do need to have mandatory PT. So I understand why it is mandatory, but I damn sure dont agree with it. We are suppost to be grown men and women here right? If you cant get off your ass on your own time and do a 1 1/2 mile run, 60 push ups and 50 to 55 sit ups, I dont think you need to be in the military anyway.

Like you PT cuts into alot of my workout time. Sometimes the higher ups will let us just go to the gym and lift. But, that only happens every so often.



When did the Air Force start doing PT? Thought you hired contractors to do that stuff for you. Kidding.

I have gotten yelled at dozens of times for leading a "hard" PT session and to keep the intensity at the lowest common denominator. Of course I love this line, "Unit PT isn't designed to get you into shape". WTF? At least let's make it beneficial.


I think the services across the board are not very good at keeping up with current information on exercise and conditioning. We can't seem to shake the "Daily Seven" (pushups, situps, side-straddle hops, ect.), stretch for a 10-count, then run. The Marine Corps is a little worse off because we don't have an MOS for physical trainers like the Army does. I went through OCS in 1997 and we did a light jog for 10 minutes or so with mobility drills, then some range of motion exercises, and then started PT. It was a much better way to warm up and prevented many injuries. We were told that is the way all Marine Corps PT would be. I'm still waiting. Boot Camp PT is still run the same way as always, change is slow. Working weights into a PT session is still a novel idea. Shifting the focus of training from the physical fitness test to combat conditioning is still a novel idea. The system isn't broken though, we are successful in combat and I haven't heard anything about soldiers and Marines suffering from a lack of conditioning. I think we could make our guys stronger and break less of them during training, but I guess the old ways are going to die hard.
When I finally got my own company command, I worked a lot of weights into our PT. We never ran slowly during my PT sessions, except to get to the pullup bars or the PT field. If we did run, we took our kettlebells or weights with us during the run. We would do cleans, pullups, and sprints or k-bell swings, pushups and fireman's carries. We also did Dan John's 8-6-4 sets of cleans, press, and front squats. I had a coach come in and teach olympic lifts. I tried to stay out of the box and away from the normal stuff.
Gunny took care of the pack runs and obstacle courses and we would do a conditioning hike once or twice a month. I think we were pretty successful in training our guys and they were much stronger after six months than most of the units I have been in. I converted several of my Marines to train a little smarter, even the Gunny and that guy has been in for about 18 years.
Keep working to change things, eventually all of us will get to a high enough rank that we can slowly make PT better.


Crap. I forgot about flutter kicks and hello dollys. I think it is reasonable to say that "some" military PT is a bit outdated. Just like CQ duty.

Now that I am in school, I use the campus gym. It is funny as hell watching the ROTC leaders come in and do push-ups and sit-ups. All of those free weights and they do push-ups and fucking sit-ups!


Glad to hear that BH6, I would have enjoyed being under you command....I my self was a remedial PT instructor for the fat bodies.....when I was moving up the ranks I noticed that the fat bodies could run the 3 mile better than me...but could barely get 3 pull ups or like the minimum situps......so I did alot of sprint work with these guys, boots and utus, flax jacket, helment...even had them bring out their gas mask one time...of course I did this with them and of course...power cleans, squats, deadlift, and pull ups, and bench. Most passed their physical then next time. Good luck and stay safe. SEMPER FI!!


Good observation that free weights are ignored. However, there is a place for bodyweight exercises. I think they should include the pistol and the handstand pushup. Even more gymnastic movements (which used to be taught in the 40's). A soldier (used in a in a non-service specific manner) needs to know how to move his/her bodyweight and develop spacial awareness of the body. In a deployed environment, there isn't much else you can do for PT but get creative with bodyweight exercises. Most units do. They are important, but they are not to be worked at the exclusion of weights and other exercises.


One more post and I'm gone for the rest of day.
I think one obstacle we face in the military is the lack of knowledge about exercise and strength in the majority of recruits these days. Many high schools and middle schools are cutting gym and exercises classes. Kids aren't getting exposed to exercise anymore.

I commanded a company that trained tank crewman a couple years ago and my instructors and I found that we had to teach our Marines, fresh from Boot Camp, how to workout and lift.

Many of them had to have supplemental PT in order to load a 45lb tank round within a require number of seconds in order to pass their tests. I would informally poll the incoming classes and I found that only a small number were high school atheletes, and only a small number played sports. They were all good at playing video games though.

We are getting recruits to Boot Camp and training them how to work out, how to eat properly, and how to take care of themselves (which is what Boot Camp/Basic Training has really always done). There is an advantage to this though, in that we have clean slates to work with who have no bad exercise habits. They have terrible eating habits but 13 weeks of chow hall food can fix that, and when you are 18 you can get away with more of a bad diet.

I think the military needs to take advantage of the lack of knowledge and start at boot camp by teaching some fundamentals of proper exercise. How great would it be if every recruit graduated being able to properly powerclean 100lbs. Nothing too heavy, but with proper form and an understanding of how it is beneficial.


Good Posts. And I agree that the focus should move away from the PFT and more towards combat conditioning as that's more applicable to actual combat. I also thought that we'd do more obstacle courses but none of the bases (except boot camp and MCT) did we actually use one.


I always hated guerilla drills in modified BDU's (without blouse) in the sand at 0530 when it's already 85 degrees and 95% humidity. Especially when they'd put you in the bicycle position and all of the sand is falling into your eyes and the sand is sticking to your wet shirt and skin.



thats funny, the sad part is that its true.

were hoping to have contracted the Air force out by 2010


Agreed. I will say that the Army Master Physical Fitness school is not bad. The problem is, it's not one of the schools that is (was anyway) really pushed. My old unit had a couple of guys that went to it and came back with a good body of knowledge and applied a lot of it to our PT program. (Would you believe we actually started doing calisthenics BEFORE stretching)? The problem is that this knowledge is not applied at the training doctrine level. I've been out for 5 years, so this may have changed since then, but I doubt it. I'm sure they're still putting a premium on guys that can run two 5-minute miles over the guy who maxes pushups with 30-secs to spare.



Several people really nailed the issue. I have been frustrated over the Army PT for a long time. The program as it is written is ok for combat fitness, relatively. The problem is that most people don't understand the whole fitness arena. When people are leading the PT, they aren't understanding WHY things are done the way that they are. Many people will just go through the motions, cutting shit out in the process.

When I lead the morning PT, which I do most days, the spend a good deal of time in the warming up and really lay on the effort afterward which earned me the nickname "bad man". Most, if not all, of my morning PT comes from what I learned here and it really makes the soldiers work hard. No injuries this far, but I have noticed that the newer guys break much more easily. Must be all of those video games. I've seen people pull muscles doing push-ups(or they faked it). I recently had a guy sprain a knee just running a moderate pace. Scary. Imagine if he had been running under fire!!

I believe that KBs and DBs would be a valuable addition to a unit PT program. I think every unit should have a stockpile of these for use during morning PT, and extend the PT hours too. I used a KB in Iraq. A lot of people thought I was crazy and talked a lot of shit, even though I was WAY above their conditioning level by doing that. Not a damn one would touch that KB though. Those are the people who are leading the PT in our units, and those are the people who are teaching the younger troops about Army fitness. Scary, huh?