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Changing The Navy's Fitness Standards

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“The Navy looked after me like my mother. It fed me, took care of me and gave me wonderful opportunities.” - Actor Tony Curtis

Our military has some of the highest-performing athletes in the world. The training is intense and the stakes are obviously very high. Last year, Navy SEAL veteran John McGuire shared his tips with us for achieving fitness goals. McGuire recalled the grueling training required to get in shape and pass the physical screening to get into boot camp. Once in boot camp, the difficulty rose to a higher level. The Navy is known for high fitness standards, and now it is considering making some major changes.

Today’s Fitness Testing
All sailors must pass the Physical Readiness Test (PRT). The PRT consists of three elements: a timed 1.5-mile run, number of sit-ups completed in two minutes, and number of push-ups completed in two minutes. To graduate boot camp, sailors must meet an overall (averaged) score across the three events. And later, they must achieve a higher PRT score to pass the semi-annual Navy fitness test.

Drawbacks of Current Tests
There is much criticism of the current fitness tests. First, many believe that the goal of “maxing out” reps for sit-ups and push-ups doesn’t lead to sailors using appropriate form. Thus, quantity (or volume) is given priority above quality (good, controlled, safe form). Second, there are questions about the relevance of these tests. In a combat situation, the ability to knock out a bunch of sit-ups hardly proves effective.

Evaluating New Exercises
The Navy has signaled that it will change this three-pronged approach in the near future. Chief of Naval Personnel, Vice Admiral Bill Moran, questions the value of the current PRT. Moran said, "We do push-ups, [sit-ups] and run, but does that tell you that you can put on firefighting gear and go down into a space and carry somebody out of it? Does that test tell you that you can do that? … the answer is no." Moran and other Navy leaders propose a more relevant, job-related fitness test that includes strength and cardiovascular health measurements and skills required for working on ships and aircraft.

Navy Commander David Peterson has partnered with Navy experts to study improvements to the Navy's twice-annual PRT. Peterson created a five-event test that includes a 40-yard dash, standing long jump, kneeling powerball toss, a 300-yard shuttle run and a 50-yard loaded carry. These exercises require sprinting, jumping, power, endurance, and quickness, which Peterson believes are more relevant for combat than the current PRT.

Functional Training & Proper Form
Fitness experts are also calling for consideration of planks and wall-squats. One of the reasons is that it’s harder to cheat: you can rock your way into performing a bunch of sit-ups, but a plank is a stationary position that allows reviewers to more objectively gauge form. In addition, there is a lower risk of injury associated with these exercises, with less pressure placed on the back.

Navy officials have not finalized the changes they will make. It is clear, however, that they will be introducing elements of functional training (performing exercises and stretches that enable us to safely and efficiently complete our daily tasks). Critical to each of these exercises is a strong and flexible core. Many exercises being considered involve bodyweight training that can be performed with our Core Flytes. We always emphasize slow and controlled movements and rock-solid form and I’m glad that the Navy is considering doing likewise.

We’d love to hear from you. How do you feel about the Navy’s standards for fitness? Comment below or on our Facebook page or tweet us at @flytefitness.

Be Flyte Fit,

Jeremy Greenberg

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