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Ace the APFT
To make sure you’re prepared for the next test, master these two workouts and take another look at your diet
YOU KNOW IT'S COMING. You tell yourself you’re going to prepare for the APFT. But the days get away from you. Excuses pile up. And when the time comes to take the test, you don’t do as well as you had hoped. To make sure you’re ready next time, Staff Sergeant Brooks Wangler, the Fitness Improvement Training Program course manager for the Wisconsin National Guard, has provided two workouts and a few reminders on nutrition. Wangler specializes in getting Soldiers ready for the APFT, so follow these tips, and you’ll see significant improvement.
Take note, though: You can’t wait until two to three weeks before the APFT to start preparing. That’s setting yourself up for failure. And failing the APFT can have significant consequences, such as losing bonuses, promotion opportunities and access to specialty schools. Instead, if you normally have a sedentary lifestyle, you should allow at least two to three months to prepare properly to avoid any injuries.
Exercise alone isn’t enough to get you in shape for the APFT. Here are six things you should know about your diet.
WATCH YOUR PORTIONS
Think about the amount of food on your plate, along with the quality of food. One approach is to eat the amount of meat that’s equal to the size of your palm. Then fill the rest of your plate with green vegetables, such as broccoli or green beans, and a few nuts, such as cashews or macadamias, which provide a good source of fat. This provides roughly the appropriate amount of protein, carbohydrates and fats. A more technical way to break down the portions on your plate: 40 percent carbohydrates, 30 percent fat and 30 percent protein.
Aim for a serving of meat about the size of your palm.
CUT DOWN ON CHOLESTROL
The amount of cholesterol you have in your body is largely related to the food you eat. While you need a certain amount of cholesterol to function properly, too much can cause plaque to form in your arteries, which can lead to heart disease. Keep in mind, though, that there is good and bad cholesterol. The “good” cholesterol, called HDL, can help prevent plaque buildup and get rid of “bad” cholesterol. The “bad” cholesterol, called LDL, causes the buildup. Diets high in saturated fats can decrease the “good” cholesterol in your body and increase the “bad” cholesterol. Read below to learn what foods have saturated fats.
KNOW GOOD FAT FROM BAD
“Fat” doesn’t always mean “bad.” There are good fats. Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats are important for cell reproduction, and they help your body absorb vitamins and regulate your hormones, immune system and other functions. Those fats can be found in fish, nuts and vegetable oils. The fats to avoid or consume in moderation are saturated fats, which can be found in fried foods, processed foods, meat and dairy. A diet high in saturated fats increases risk for heart disease, obesity, diabetes and some forms of cancer.
EATING JUST THREE TIMES A DAY CAN BE A MISTAKE
That habit can cause overeating, because it can leave you hungry throughout the day. Overeating can make you feel sluggish and cause your body to store the excess nutrients as fat. Instead, eat five to six smaller meals—three main meals with two to three snacks in between.
MAKE SURE "HEALTHY" FOODS ARE JUST THAT
Words such as “sugar-free” or “diet” don’t always mean “healthier.” Sports drinks, for instance, contain high amounts of unnecessary simple sugars and more vitamins than our body can typically use. They can be useful after an hour of intense training for replenishment, but not as a recreational beverage. Another example: Diet soft drinks contain artificial sweeteners that can actually cause you to crave sweets more.
32-oz. sports drinks typically pack 200 calories or more!
DISSECT THE FOOD LABEL
First check out the serving size, which determines the final calorie content.
The serving size also affects the percentage of fat, carbohydrates and protein in the product. The numbers listed on the food label show only one serving.
Stick with polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, which are better for you, and avoid saturated fats.
Carbohydrates are broken down into dietary fiber and sugar. Dietary fiber is the favorable source of carbs.
Here are two workouts designed specifically to help you train for the APFT. The routines outlined here are Tabata workouts, a type of high-intensity interval training that will improve both your aerobic and anaerobic systems.
20 SEC Start the workouts by performing the first exercise as fast as you can
10 SEC Rest
8 SETS Repeat the 20s/10s for 6–8 sets
60 SEC Once you complete the sets, rest for one minute, then start the next exercise
DON'T FORGET YOUR WARM-UP
Jog for a quarter mile to a half mile. Then complete 15–20 “good mornings”: Place your hands on your head, bend forward at the waist, then return upright after feeling your hamstrings stretch. (Be sure to keep your back straight the entire time.) Then, do 20 air squats at a moderate pace, followed by 20 hands-up push-ups (see “Up the Difficulty” in Workout #1) and 20 V-push-ups. For a V-push-up, walk your hands toward your feet as far as you can, so your body is making an upside down V shape. Then do push-ups by bringing your head to the floor and then back up.
Position your hands at least shoulder-width apart, with your thumbs in line with your chest. Lower yourself until your arms are at least parallel to the ground. Make sure to keep your back straight throughout the entire exercise.
Up the Difficulty: Lower yourself all the way to the ground, then pick your hands up off the ground slighty, put them back down and push yourself back up the strting position.
Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground about 6 inches apart. Your arms should either be resting on your head or across your chest. When you sit up, be sure to engage your core muscles.
Starting from a standing position, lower your body to the push-up position by placing your hands on the ground and kicking your feet outward. Once there, lower yourself until your chest and legs touch the ground. Now, push yourself back up, then stand up. Once you are standing, shoot your hands over your head and jump at least 6 inches off the ground.
Stand with your feet roughly shoulder-width apart, toes pointed slightly outward. When you start this movement, kick your butt out before you start lowering your body. Use full range of motion and squat as low as you can go. While moving down, make sure to push your knees outward, but stop before your knees come out farther than your toes. You can use your hands as a counterbalance by holding them out in front. Once again, keep your back straight.
Find a 2-foot-high platform or box that can support your weight. Stand 3 to 6 inches away from the box. Slightly bend your knees and hips, then explode onto the box. Land with both feet on the box, standing up fully. Then return to the ground.
Use a kettlebell ranging from 15 to 50 pounds, depending on your strength level. Grab the handle with both hands. Slightly bend your knees and lean forward, bringing the kettlebell between your legs while keeping your back straight. Now explode up and thrust your hips forward to lift the kettlebell up and over your head. Stop it directly over your head before resuming the starting position.
Grab the pull-up bar with your hands about shoulder-width apart. Palms should be facing away from you, with thumbs wrapped around the bar. Flex your elbows and pull your body up until your chin passes the bar. If this is too difficult, chin-ups (palms facing toward you) are another variation, or use an assisted pull-up machine or have a friend hold your legs.
Begin in a modified push-up position. However, instead of being on your hands, use your forearms. Keep your core tight and do not sag in the middle or arch your back. Use a mirror to watch yourself until you feel you are able to do it correctly. Hold that position for the allotted time.–Workouts and nutrition information by SSG Brooks Wangler