CSU ROTC pioneers new Army fitness training study

Charlotte Lang

The Army Physical Fitness Test has served as a way to test combat readiness. Now, with changes happening within the test, Colorado State University’s Army ROTC program has pioneered a new study assessing the best physical fitness training for this test.

The original test of pushups, situps and a 2-mile run will be changed to a six-event test that focuses on more components of physical fitness, Military Science Instructor Al Armonda said. 

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“It’s been great for assessing initial fitness for folks coming into the military but hasn’t been an accurate assessment of combat fitness,” Armonda said. “The military, recognizing this, decided to change the three-event test to a six-event test that measures more components of physical fitness.”

These components include strength, power, endurance, core ability, aerobic and anaerobic strength. The original test was only measuring endurance, Armonda said. 

“These are the same things soldiers and officers will need in a combat setting or fighting situation,” Armonda said. Examples of such settings are rescuing a fellow comrade or moving between obstacles to engage with an enemy.

Another big change is that the test will be gender- and age-neutral.

“There’s no benefit of being a girl that has to do 18 pushups to pass the test instead of the 40 that men do,” cadet Ren Pretkelis said.

Armonda said he likes this change because combat is also age- and gender-neutral.

The support we have received from the community and their interest in something as simple as a physical fitness test is very helpful for us as an organization, and we enjoy being able to tell our story.” -Lt. Col. Troy Thomas

Armonda and others in the Army ROTC program are working with the department of health and exercise science and Human Performance Clinical Research Laboratory to develop the best training protocol in preparing cadets for the test. 

Lt. Col. Troy Thomas, another military science instructor, said the academic environment allows for only three hours a week for training with cadets.

The genesis of the study came from the ROTC program searching for the best way to utilize that time and compress training to get the best results, Thomas said.

“The payback is that once we figure out and optimize that workout, we can take that and help out other programs that are in the same situation,” Thomas said. “That includes other ROTC programs across the country and other similar organizations that need fitness but have a limited training time.”

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Thomas said first responders are an example of a group that can benefit from the results of the study, as they also have limited training time for things like strength and agility. 

“The University has stepped up big time to help us out for many organizations across the country and campus,” Thomas said.

Armonda said the student population in general will also benefit from the study results, as they can adopt the program into their hectic academic schedule.

Pretkelis said that this study will be the first program to implement scientific data to see which workout protocols actually work.

The study will start with physiological measurements of 60 cadets, which will be split into three groups of 20, Armonda said. The study will then assess three different protocols against each other over the course of 12 weeks.

“At the end of the study, we’ll have a benchmark test to see how much we’ve improved,” Armonda said. 

In a pilot test conducted earlier this year, cadets and their cohorts were able to experience what sorts of results and improvements may come from the official study.

Pretkelis said the workout programs in the study were different from what he and his cohorts have done in the past.

“They’re programs involving a lot more strength over endurance, and a lot of cadets hadn’t been training for that at all,” Pretkelis said. “The study is to improve on strength and the knowledge on how best to improve.”

Maureen Eggleston, a cadet and CSU student, said the study and program would not be as strong as it is without the hard work of people like Armonda and Thomas.

“They are making us the best we can be as students here at CSU and as cadets and as future military leaders,” Eggleston said. “We greatly respect and appreciate what they’ve done for us.”

Thomas shared gratitude for everyone’s interest in helping the program reach this point. 

“It shows the importance that people are putting on this, and the belief in our cadets and our military is refreshing,” Thomas said. “The support we have received from the community and their interest in something as simple as a physical fitness test is very helpful for us as an organization, and we enjoy being able to tell our story.”

Students interested in the program of study can contact Recruiting Operations Officer Peter Bleich for more information.

Charlotte Lang can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @chartrickwrites.