APFT A-OK

By Sgt. 1st Class Rafael C. Lopez II

In LEO/Mil

August 18, 2010

PDF Article

Two army U.S. Army platoons use CrossFit while a third uses traditional PT. When physical testing rolls around, one group sees impressive improvements.

I am a sergeant first class in the United States Army and platoon sergeant in an Aviation Task Force that consists of 30 UH-60 Blackhawk, AH-64 Apache and CH-47 Chinook helicopters. We are stationed out of Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah, Ga., but are currently deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.

We received a new battalion commander prior to our deployment. Since the first day he took command, he preached to us about combat-focused physical-fitness training (PT). He came to us with kettlebells, burpees and box jumps, and we were convinced he had lost his mind. I mean we believed that his thought process was in the right spot because our normal physical-fitness regimen only taught us how to pass the Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT) but would be useless to us in combat. But the hard pill for us to swallow was this: “How is swinging a weight around, jumping up on boxes and performing short but fast runs going to help us on an APFT?”

We were sure that this “combat-focused PT” was going to doom our soldiers. As I stated earlier, we understood our commander’s philosophy clearly, and it made perfect sense for preparing a soldier for combat, but as a platoon sergeant in charge of 30-plus soldiers’ careers, I did not want to abandon traditional PT styles in fear that I would soon have an enormous amount of soldiers failing the APFT.

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15 Comments on “APFT A-OK”

1

wrote …

Very cool. All it takes is a little ingenuity and creativity and even out in the desert you can make it work. A great display of adapting and overcoming. I can't imagine crossfitting in that heat and dust.

2

wrote …

Thanks for the post Rafey
I was the CSM for this unit when the new commander came in. We talked about PT on our very first "get to know you" session before he took command. I learned two things about him then, one he loved hard core crossfit style combat focused PT as much as I did and he was able to con me into paying for lunch by using the old "I forgot my wallet" excuse. I paid because I did not want our new commander to get arrested before he took command. For all those out there that think this program can't be done in the regular Army think again. This is an AVIATION unit. We were doing crossfit circuit training in lieu of battalion runs. The Soldiers loved it. Anything is better than a boring slow paced run. I am now a brigade CSM trying to get this started across an entire brigade. Fortunately I have some help and I just might be successful. If you are an Army leader you can do this at the company and battalion level if your really put effort into it. The results were clear: Better APFT score, less profiles, more enthusiasm for PT, everything got better. SFC Lopez is a genuine bad ass NCO and you can tell by his own comments that it takes persistence in causing the paradigm shift in PT training because most leaders are focused on PT test results and not true fitness. The problem is that the PT test is a measurable result where crossfit is not. The programing I use now uses a weekly fitness test. I use four different ones so that we do a different one every week for four weeks before they repeat. So once a month you get to compare your results. One week was "300" workout, one was Army APFT followed by a Fran. You can pick what ever you want and change it when the guys start to progress. We started using the 22.500 pound workout from sealfit and then moved up to a 600 workout.

We can't do true main site crossfit, but you can apply the fundamentals to our schedules and equipment availability to get truly impressive results. Sandbags made from large truck tire inner tubes and water cans filled with sand make great PT equipment. We always have old truck tires around to drag and flip. This works. Do it.

G7

3

wrote …

Outstanding work that we can all learn from. The studies don't need to be massive and complex, just show consistent measure across two or more groups. In law enforcement and the military we will make it happen yet. CrossFit is the way to save lives.

4

Kelley Rakow wrote …

(by Steve Rakow)
I saw significant improvement in my USMC PFT score after focusing on just CrossFit. Prior to CrossFit, my PFT score had slipped over the years. As a young lieutenant in the late 80s, I had 290+ scores, but by early 00s was regularly in the 240 range. After only 6 months of CF, my score jumped back to 289 and my final PFT before retiring in 2007 was a 292. After beginning CF, I never went on a run longer than 800m unless the WOD was a 5k for time. And doing kipping pullups was not a detriment to the deadhangs required by the Marine PFT standards.

Steve Rakow

5

wrote …

Great work-

A very interesting comparision will be when everyone gets home. Most folks on a deployment spend more than an hour in the gym with their 3 sets of 10, then additional cardio, etc. When they get back home, gyms will be too crowded in the morning during PT, and the spouse and kids won't really put up with afternoon trips to gym.

CrossFit - as you demonstrated - can be applied anywhere with anything. Bet you see an even greater difference in scores then. But the real difference you'll see is in those post-deployment issues we all run into. If you are breaking folks down in the morning, younger soldiers probably will relent in that "one more" adult beverage. You will also get that nice hormonal balance achieved after exercise at high intensity. Folks will feel better, and the overall effect will go well beyond just the APFT.

Stay safe, and CrossFit Camp Spann will show up at your CrossFit Games. Let me know when it is and I will work the AMRs!

6

wrote …

James,

I sent an email on the Black and Gold site with the info for time and location at the Games hope to see you there!

7

replied to comment from James Maxwell

james,

shoot me an email at rafael.c.lopez@us.army.mil for specifics

8

wrote …

Great article Rafael!

I am blown away that this is an AVIATION unit. My husband, who is in Afghanistan currently, is a Chinook pilot and I am VERY familiar with the aviation way of thinking towards PT. Unfortunately his location couldn't be more challenging from what I've gathered....just finding the time to workout is nearly impossible. Long story short, he is not a CF'er and has no drive to start becoming one in country.

I'm just wondering how you seem to get the joe's actively involved in CF. Yes, yes, I know PT is mandatory but in my years of CF'ing I've learned that you've got to WANT to do it and do it well. So, how did you convince the soldiers to give it their all? And did you have any Warrents along the way?

I'm a Level 1 trainer on Fort Hood and I've been trying to get more aviators involved with CF (esp my husband)...tell me your secret!

Thanks!

9

replied to comment from Jennifer Kruse

Jennifer,

Well it was pretty simple because they had a choice run, run, run, or do crossfit. I began to notice after giving it a trial run people were more into crossfit because it was constantly varied and it was something new. They Company was hurting after the PT Test and the majority of them understood that it needed to be done. We started the deployment by allowing Soldiers to do PT on their own, once they proved that was not going to cut it there was really no options about it they just did what we told them to do. Just like it happened with me as I am sure it did with you they started getting hooked. They hated it at first but then they started getting excited wondering what we would be doing next. And as always the Soldiers loved the competition aspect of it since I recorded all of the times and urged Soldiers to beat their peers. So the whole program kind of made itself and I just steered. The only secret I can tell you is if you can get someone to make them get through the first week of pain while their bodies get used to it they will hopefully drink the Kool-Aide and get addicted like all avid crossfitters.

10

wrote …

SFC Lopez:

I really enjoyed reading your article and I'm glad you were able to get a lot of soldiers involved. While stationed at Taji, we had a similar but smaller group of volunteers that performed Crossfit WODs exclusively with the permission of their commanders. The results were 100% improvements in overall scores for all soldiers on the APFT!

Best of luck to you and your troops in the future.

John M. Munson
CW3, AV
U.S. Army

11

wrote …

Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines need general physical preparedness to do their jobs and perform in hostile environments. The APFT does not focus on general physical preparedness. The test measures performance on three events and has a lovely grading scale to give you a quantifiable result. However, you can have a Soldier score a 300, the perfect score, on the test but they have a hard time completing a 12 mile road march with a 8 pound weapon and a light 30 pound rucksack on their back. I think few have ever professed the APFT is a great measure of fitness, but it requires minimal equipment and space to administer.
It is great to see Crossfit principles and workout spreading through the military. More and more units will be embracing it in the future. I am at the Command and General Staff College (CGSC) at Ft. Leavenworth. Iron Major Crossfit is spreading the word and offering Level 1 Certification courses to 100 to 125 majors each year. As these men and women return to the force – Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps alike will all benefit because this is a Joint, multi-service, and international school. I am lucky enough to count myself among them. I passed the level I certification and look forward to implementing Crossfit workouts into training at my next unit. My next opportunity to see quantifyable results on my APFT will ne in October.
The military’s senior leaders embracing the program; facilities are being set aside, built and equipped to support. Coach Glassmen spoke at the Army War College and to the class of 1400 majors that graduated this past July. Crossfit will continue to spread from Soldier to Soldier on large stateside bases and on small austere combat outposts in Afghanistan. The end result will be a better physically prepared military.

Charles Preble
MAJOR, US Army

12

replied to comment from Charles Preble

MAJ, Preble,

SIR, I could not agree more with your comment. SOldiers on a whole do their best to remain physically fit, but we as a whole get stuck in a rut of teaching the test if you will so we gear our PT sessions to facilitate the test.
To al the other leaders out there, Crossfit does not just improve your Soldiers ability to pass the APFT. We have seen our Soldiers become mentally tougher from performing Crossfit in un-measureable results. When a SOldier is used to mentally making through a grueling WOD, the other small things that used to mentally bog them down do not exist anymore. When it is hot or cold outside or they are tired and you tell them to keep working, Now it is like finishing that last round, mentally they overcome those obstacles. I can not speak enough about the total SOldier preparedness that Crossfit offers.

SFC Lopez

13

wrote …

Hey there,

I will be station in Fort Jackson this month Comming up, I am in the Army, I am Level 1 Certified, and I always do the main site WODs, If anyone that it is station in Fort Jackson and want to workout with me, please send me an Email to santiago0072002@yahoo.com

v/r

SANTI

14

replied to comment from David Perkins

This is my First time even being introduced to CrossFit. I am very excited and can't wait to actually start these programs. I do however seem to hit a road block that I have seen many others overcome. I am a deploying soldier and I haven't even started the program yet and feel that the start up process is a little more difficult than just going to a Crossfit gym by my house. I do not have the proper coaching but have ben utilizing the internet to pick up the proper techniques and scaling of the WOD's. I guess my main question will be how to actually put this to a practice on my own? I have always worked out traditionally with other individuals pushing me. How can I incorporate this workout style or way of life with others when I am new to it as well. Any guidance and advise would be appreciated. Feel free to email me at rodolfo.tejada@us.army.mil

15

replied to comment from David Perkins

This is my First time even being introduced to CrossFit. I am very excited and can't wait to actually start these programs. I do however seem to hit a road block that I have seen many others overcome. I am a deploying soldier and I haven't even started the program yet and feel that the start up process is a little more difficult than just going to a Crossfit gym by my house. I do not have the proper coaching but have ben utilizing the internet to pick up the proper techniques and scaling of the WOD's. I guess my main question will be how to actually put this to a practice on my own? I have always worked out traditionally with other individuals pushing me. How can I incorporate this workout style or way of life with others when I am new to it as well. Any guidance and advise would be appreciated. Feel free to email me at rodolfo.tejada@us.army.mil

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