Physical Fitness Requirements to Join the Military
The six branches of the military are the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines, Coast Guard, and Space Force, and each one has their own physical fitness requirements. If you are considering the U.S. Military as your career of choice, you must make body conditioning a priority.
Being physically fit is a requirement since military members are expected to be combat ready. If you exceed a certain weight, can’t run a couple miles, do push-ups, and sit-ups, you will be labeled unfit for duty. That’s why a physical fitness test is required to join. And even after you’re a military member, you’ll take physical fitness tests at least once a year.
As you can see, physical fitness will be a key part of your military career. Below is a list of physical fitness requirements to join the military:
Army Physical Fitness Requirements
According to the official Army website, the definition of physical fitness is, “The ability to function effectively in physical work, training, and other activities, while still having enough energy left over to handle any emergencies that may arise.”
The past Army Physical Fitness Test consisted of push-ups, sit-ups, and a two-mile run. In October 2020, the Army switched to the new Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT) which consists of the following six events:
- Strength deadlift: You must perform a three-repetition deadlift, with the weight increased with each repetition. The weight range of the deadlift is 120 to 420 pounds. The deadlifts replicate picking up ammunition boxes, a wounded soldier, supplies or heavy equipment.
- Standing power throw: You will need to toss a 10-pound ball backward as far as possible to test the muscular explosive power that may be needed to lift yourself or a fellow soldier over an obstacle or to move rapidly across uneven terrain.
- Hand-release pushups: You will have two minutes to do as many hand-release pushups as possible. There may be a minimum number to complete due to your job. These are like traditional pushups, but at the down position, you lift your hands and arms from the ground and then reset to do another pushup.
- Sprint/drag/carry: You must run five times up and down a 25-meter lane, sprinting, dragging a sled weighing 90 pounds, and then carrying two 40-pound kettlebell weights. This can simulate pulling a soldier out of harm’s way, moving quickly to take cover, or carrying ammunition to a fighting position or vehicle.
- Leg tuck: Similar to a pull-up, you must lift your legs up and down to touch your knees/thighs to your elbows between one and five times. This exercise strengthens the core muscles.
- Two-mile run: This is a timed run to build endurance and cardiovascular strength.
All events must be completed in under 50 minutes and minimum requirements are based on job or unit. Everyone is expected to meet ACFT requirements regardless of age or gender.
According to an article in the Army Times, the ACFT applies to all soldiers in Basic Combat Training, Advanced Individual Training, One Station Unit Training, Warrant Officer Basic Course and the Basic Officer Leader Course.
However, the test will not apply to graduation requirements for Soldiers going through initial enlisted and officer training courses in 2021.
Air Force Physical Fitness Requirements
If you have your sights set on becoming an Airman, there’s good news. As of December 2020, the Air Force removed the waist measurement component of the physical assessment test.
To enter the Air Force Basic Military Training, the gateway to the Air Force, you’d need to meet the following requirements:
- Sit-ups: Enlistees and Airmen complete this exercise to ensure they have the core strength to aid in balance, dynamic movement, and overall physical strength necessary for service in the Air Force.
Women and men need to complete 11 sit-ups to enter basic military training.
- Push-ups: Enlistees and Airmen perform push-ups to show they have the level of upper-body strength that is frequently needed to lift and carry equipment and perform dynamic movements and other tasks.
Women and men need to complete 8 push-ups to enter basic military training.
- 5-mile run: This timed run ensures airmen and recruits have the cardiovascular endurance needed for military service.
Women and men need to complete a 1.5 mile run in 18 minutes and 30 seconds.
Graduation requirements differ from those needed to enter Air Force BMT and are based on gender and age. Review the Air Force Basic Military Training website for details.
But keep in mind, new changes are on the horizon for the year 2022. A July 2 news article reveals that the Air Force will soon offer 5 fitness alternatives for Airmen. The article states:
Airmen will select from the traditional 1.5-mile run, 1-mile walk or the High Aerobic Multi-Shuttle Run (20M HAMR) to meet the cardio requirement. Then select from traditional push-ups or hand release push-ups for one strength component; and from sit-ups, the cross-leg reverse crunch or plank for the other strength component to complete the comprehensive fitness assessment. Finalized fitness assessment scoring charts, with alternative components broken out by gender and age, will be provided at a later date.
Air Force Chief of Staff General CQ Brown, Jr. announced, in May 2021, “We are moving away from the one-size-fits-all-model. More testing options will put flexibility in the hands of our Airmen – where it belongs.”
Navy Physical Fitness Requirements
To join the Navy’s ranks, you’d need to complete a swim test, a body composition assessment, and the Navy Physical Readiness Test (PRT).
According to the Navy PRT Guide, this physical fitness test evaluates aerobic capacity, or cardio-respiratory endurance, muscular strength, and muscular endurance.
The requirements to pass the PRT at Navy boot camp include sit-ups, push-ups, and a run. These are based on age and gender and include the following:
Men entering Naval Service ages 17-19
- 50 sit-ups in 2 minutes
- 42 pushups in 2 minutes
- 5 mile run in 12:30
Women entering Naval Service ages 17-19
- 50 sit-ups in 2 minutes
- 19 pushups in 2 minutes
- 5 mile run in 15:30
Additionally, the Navy has what’s known as the Navy Third Class Swim Test, taken during boot camp. The swim test consists of:
- A 5-foot minimum jump into a pool that’s at least 8 feet deep
- A 50-yard swim without stopping, standing, or holding on to the sides of the pool
- A 5-minute prone float
And just in case you want to be a Navy SEAL, you’d need to complete the following:
- 500-yard swim within 12 minutes, 30 seconds
- 42 push-ups in two minutes
- 52 sit-ups in two minutes
- 8 pull-ups without touching the ground or letting go of the bar
- 5-mile run in 11 minutes, 30 seconds
For more details, visit the Navy’s requirements to join webpage.
Marines Corps Physical Fitness Requirements
As you may suspect, the Marines have the most difficult fitness standards. For example, body fat standards for Marines are not to exceed 18 percent for men and not to exceed 26 percent for women.
Before earning the Marine title and entering basic training, new recruits must pass the Initial Strength Test or IST for short. This test includes the following:
Pull Ups or Push Ups
Men: 3 pull-ups or 34 push-ups within 2 minutes
Women: 1 pull-up or 15 push-ups within 2 minutes
Men: Complete run in 13 minutes and 30 seconds
Women: Complete run in 15 minutes
Planks or Crunches
40 second plank at a 1 minute, 3 second minimum; or
44 crunches within 2 minutes
USMC Physical Fitness Test
The United States Marine Corps Physical Fitness Test or PFT evaluates stamina and physical conditioning. It includes 3 parts: pull-ups or push-ups, crunches or plank pose, and a 3-mile timed run. Men must complete the three-mile run in 28 minutes or less. Women must complete the three-mile run in 31 minutes or less.
The PFT is the Physical Fitness Test that all recruits must pass and sets the standards all Marines must maintain once a year to assess battle-ready physical conditioning.
Be sure to take time to learn more about the Marine Corps physical fitness requirements at its official website.
Coast Guard Physical Fitness Requirements
The Coast Guard serves as America’s maritime first responder with jurisdiction in domestic and international waters. As a part of U.S. Homeland Security, it protects our economic, national and border security.
To graduate from the 8 week long basic physical training, you’d need to complete the Coast Guard minimum physical fitness requirements:
- Complete a swim circuit: Jump off a 1.5-meter platform and swim 100 meters
- Men: Run 1.5 miles under 12:51 for men
- Women: Run 1.5 miles under 15:26
- Men: Do 38 sit-ups in less than 60 seconds
- Women: Do 32 sit-ups in less than 60 seconds
- Men: Do 29 push-ups in less than 60 seconds
- Woman: Do 15 push-ups in less than 60 seconds
Space Force Physical Fitness Requirements
For now, the Space Force’s Guardians are required to adhere to the Air Force’s physical fitness guidelines.
According to Military.com, the Space Force won’t reveal its own physical fitness requirements until late 2021 or some time in 2022.
The team at Empire Resume hopes this information about physical fitness requirements in the military are helpful. Be sure to bookmark our military-to-civilian blog for veteran career insight, the latest on entering the military, and what it’s really like to be a part of the military.
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Dr. Phillip Gold is President/CEO of Empire Resume and has vast experience writing resumes for service-members transitioning from the military into civilian roles. He served as a Captain in the U.S. Air Force responsible for leading nuclear missile security. Phillip is a Certified Professional Resume Writer and holds a BA in Communications from The Ohio State University, an MS in Instructional Technology, an MBA in Finance, and a PhD in Finance.