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Fitness

Maximum Push-ups

To boost your score on the APFT, focus on endurance more than pure strength

The push-up portion of the APFT tests muscle endurance, not muscle strength. So hitting the gym and pumping out 10 reps of bench presses with heavy weight won’t increase your score. To build muscle endurance, do high-rep push-up workouts before the next test. Because doing even one high-rep set will likely take you to muscle failure and end your workout early, the key is to pick an easy number of push-ups (one-third the number you did on your last PT test) and do five to 10 sets of that number, but with only 40 to 60 seconds of rest between sets. Those short rests will enable your muscles to build endurance. Measure your improvement by how many such sets you can do before falling below the one-third figure.

Supplement the above workout with the following exercises using fitness/Olympic rings. By forcing you to stabilize more, these exercises will target more muscle fibers and engage the core.

PushUpsPUSH-UPS

Position the rings 6 inches off the ground and shoulder-width apart.

Get into a push-up position on the rings. Then complete a push-up by lowering your entire body down as one unit, without bending at the waist, until your upper arms are parallel with the ground. Keep your back straight and feet together throughout the exercise.

SETS: 3–5
REPS PER SET: 15–20 percent of the number of push-ups you performed at the last APFT
REST: 40–60 seconds between sets

FliesFLIES (Advanced)

Once you have built up enough core strength to complete 20 push-ups on the rings, you are ready to try this advanced exercise. Start out in the up position of the push-Up. Then spread your arms apart sideways, while keeping them extended. Your elbows should be slightly bent. Lower yourself until your hands are level with your chest, then bring your arms back together to return to the start position.

Be sure to take three to four days off from chest workouts before the APFT to allow enough time for your body to rest and rebuild.

SETS: 3–5
REPS PER SET: You should work up to being able to perform sets of 15–20 percent of the number of push-ups you completed on the last APFT
REST: 40–60 seconds between sets

PullUpsPULL-UPS

Position rings 7 feet off the ground and shoulder-width apart.

Grab the rings “overhanded” and bend your arms to 90-degree angles. Your feet shouldn’t touch the ground. Lower your body until your arms are straight and your shoulders are rotated up and around your ears. Engage the back muscles and pull your body upward until your shoulders are level with your hands, then lower yourself back to the starting position.

SETS: 3–5
REPS PER SET: 10–15 percent of the number of push-ups you performed at the last APFT
REST: 40–60 seconds between sets

DipsDIPS

Position the rings at shoulder level and shoulder-width apart.

While standing between the rings, jump up to mount them with your arms straight down against your side and elbows locked. Fix your gaze straight ahead, and lower or dip your body downward until your hands are nearly at your armpits. On the way down, let your elbows move away from your sides to engage the chest muscles, then straighten your arms and push yourself back into the starting position.

SETS: 3–5
REPS PER SET: 10 percent of the number of push-ups you performed at the last APFT
REST: 40–60 seconds between sets

LegRaisesLEG RAISES

Position rings 7 feet off the ground and shoulder-width apart.

Grab hold of the rings “underhanded” with your arms bent at 90-degree angles. Your feet shouldn’t touch the ground. Point your toes and raise your legs upward, keeping them as straight as possible, until your body is vertical. If you get too tired during a set to complete the exercise, raise your legs to waist level instead of to a vertical position.

SETS: 3–5
REPS PER SET: 10–15 percent of the number of push-ups you performed at the last APFT
REST: 40–60 seconds between sets
 
–Story by SFC Marc, Photo by Gregory Byerline, Illustrations by Jason Lee (The writer of this article is a member of a Guard Special Forces unit. His last name is withheld for security reasons.)
Warning: Always seek the advice and guidance of a qualified health provider with any questions or concerns you may have before commencing a fitness program. This article should not be relied on or substituted for professional medical diagnosis or treatment. The exercises presented are for suggestion only. Participate at your own risk. Stop if you feel faint or short of breath.