1946 (World War II) Army Physical Fitness Test


Welcome to the IHPRA site.  In the late 1990's, Dr. Ed Thomas was an Instructor and Doctrine Writer at the Army Physical Fitness School.  Dr. Thomas served in the Infantry in 1967-69.  He is one of the top military physical readiness training doctrine experts in the nation, and is often quoted in the media.  For more background information about Dr. Thomas, click here.

Dr. Thomas has been calling for reform of Army PRT since the 1980s.  To stress the need for improved PRT, Dr. Thomas began giving the WWII PT test to units in and around Fort Benning.  The results were sobering.  Soldiers who scored in the highest percentile of pushups, for instance, could only do a fraction of their usual numbers when held to the WWII standards.  This is because during WWII, fitness experts understood that the purpose of the pushup is to prepare a soldier to push somebody or something.  Dr. Thomas published an article in the Fort Benning newspaper in the late 1990s explaining how the pushup quality was compromised in the early 1980s.  As the quality deteriorated, the required numbers increased.  Now soldiers throughout the Army make themselves less prepared to push because the doctrine reinforces poor pushups.  

PRT doctrine developed after WWII and the Korean War was aimed at mission essential battlefield performance.  The squat jumper, for instance, could predict how well a soldier could assume a stable crouched firing position and then quickly recover so he could maneuver.  It is not unusual today to find scores of Infantry soldiers who cannot do even a few squat jumpers to the WWII standard.  The danger of doing them is high for those who have not trained their bodies to properly execute the movement, and training injuries will occur if soldiers are not taught using the three cardinal rules of progression, variety and precision.  

With the demise of functional PRT in the early 1980s, only those who served in elite units might recall today what quality physical training looked like.  Rangers and Special forces held on to the classical PRT doctrine for several years after the mainstream drifted off course.  Ironically, many of the principles employed in previous doctrine are considered cutting-edge today by world-class strength and conditioning coaches.  

The New York Times learned about how poorly today's soldier did on the WWII PT test, and the published an article about it.  

Take the test, but don't compromise the standard.  If you want to score better on the WWII test in the future, get hold of the 1946 FM 21-20 or the 1957 TM 21-200 and start employing the PRT doctrine of those periods.  You can find them on ebay or at www.abebooks.com.

I.  VALUES OF PHYSICAL FITNESS TESTING.

a. The results of the physical fitness test enable the physical training instructors to ascertain the physical condition of the men at the time tested. At the beginning of the program of training, this enables the instructors to determine how intense a program of physical conditioning is necessary.

b. Tests serve the instructor as a means of measuring the progress of his unit and of evaluating the effectiveness of the training.

c. Tests serve to indicate to the instructor the specific needs and deficiencies of individual men who may require special instruction or corrective work.

d. Tests motivate the men to improve their physical condition. Frequently men do not realize what poor condition they are in. When the tests reveal their deficiencies, they are much more receptive to an intensive physical training program in order to remedy their shortcomings.

e. Tests frequently lead to an intensification of the physical training program by revealing to the commanding officers the poor condition of their men.

II.  CRITERIA FOR SELECTING TEST EVENTS.

a. For military purposes, tests selected should measure the various factors in physical fitness which are essential to military fitness. The most important of these are muscular strength, muscular endurance, circulo-respitatory endurance, agility, and coordination.

b. Test events should be selected which require a minimum of equipment. Necessary equipment must be easy to procure and set up.

c. Test events should be capable of administration with a maximum economy of time.

d. Test events which are dangerous to the unskilled or poorly conditioned men should not be included.

e. Test events used should depend as little as possible upon previously learned skills. The purpose of physical fitness tests is to measure the various components of physical fitness, not to measure acquired skills.

f. Test events should be such as can be scored on a point table. When tests are scored with points, men are strongly motivated to improve their scores.

g. The test in its entirety should be such as to distinguish clearly between the fit and unfit individuals.  Test results obtained from fit groups should be consistently better than those obtained from poorer groups.

III.  TEST BATTERY.  Two batteries of test events which adequately meet the criteria in paragraph II are listed below.  The first battery is recommended when the test can be administered on a dry, level field which is of sufficient size to conduct the 300-yard run.  The second battery, which is used when testing cannot be done outdoors, is identical with the first except for the last event and its alternate which are indicated below as 5A and 5A(1).  (See par. V.)

OUTDOOR TESTS INDOOR TESTS
1.  Pullups 1.  Pullups
2.  Squat Jumps 2.  Squat Jumps
3.  Pushups 3.  Pushups
4.  Situps 4.  Situps
5.  300-yard Run 5A.  Indoor Shuttle Run
  5A(1).  60-Second Squat Thrusts

IV.  PREPARING MEN FOR TESTING. 

a.  The men should be given seven or eight periods of physical training before they are tested.  This procedure will reduce injuries and will provide opportunity for teaching the men the correct form for executing various test events.  Care must be taken that the men are not handicapped by muscular stiffness and soreness when they take the tests.

b.  In the physical training program, much stress is placed upon running.   Frequently, however, this type of running is purely the usual military double timing which is adapted to economy of effort, but not to speed.  Therefore, the men should, in addition, be given the instruction and practice in sprint running.

V.  RULES GOVERNING TESTS.  The first four tests below are part of both the indoor and outdoor batteries described in paragraph III.  Test 5 completes the outdoor battery.  Test 5A or its alternate, Test 5A(1), completes the indoor battery.

TEST 1: PULLUPS

This event requires a horizontal bar.  This may be made of a pipe or gymnasium horizontal bar, or other rigid horizontal support which is not over 1 inches in diameter. The bar should be high enough to permit the performer to hang at full length without touching the ground.  A height of 7 feet, 9 inches to 8 feet is recommended.

Starting Position.  Hanging at full length from the bar with arms straight. The forward grasp is used with the palms turned away from the face.

Pullup

Movement.  Pull up until the chin is above the level of the bar.  Then lower the body until elbows are completely straight.  Continue for as many repetitions as possible.

Instructions.  The men should be told that it is permissible to raise the legs and flex the hips when pulling up but not to kick or execute a jerking motion with trunk or legs.  The body must be kept from swinging.  The chin must be raised above the bar.  The arms must be completely straight at the bottom of the movement.

Administration and Scoring.  Each time the performer pulls his chin above the bar in correct form, he is given credit for one pullup.  He is not credited with a pullup if he fails to raise his chin above the level of the bar or if he stops to rest.  If the performer does not straighten his arms at the bottom of a movement, if he kicks or jerks, only half a pullup will be counted.  If there are four half-pullups, the performer should be stopped and retested later.  If the performer starts to swing, the judge should stop the swinging with his hands.  Some such aid as a resin-bag or a cake of magnesium carbonate should be available to prevent the hands from slipping.

TEST 2: SQUAT JUMPS

Starting Position.  Squatting on right heel with fingers laced on top of head, palms down.  The feet are 4 to 6 inches apart with the heel of the left foot on a line with the toes of the right foot.  

Movement.  Spring upward until both knees are straight and both feet clear the ground.  Jump just enough to permit straightening the knees without touching the ground.  Do not jump any higher than necessary to accomplish this purpose.  Keep the upper body erect.  While off the ground, reverse the position of the feet bringing the right foot in front.  Then drop to a squat on the left heel.   Keep the knees pointing forward.  Spring up again and continue for as many repetitions as possible.

Squat Jump

Instructions.  The men should be told that the most common errors are: getting the feet too far apart, forward and backward, and failing to squat down on the rear heel.   The correct position should be demonstrated clearly, and the men should be given sufficient practice to master it.  The action must be continuous throughout.   Before beginning the event, the men should be told that it requires courage almost to the same extent as it requires strength and endurance and that they should not give up until they cannot make another movement.

Administration and Scoring.  The performer is credited with one squat jump each time he springs up from the squat to the erect position and returns.  The movement is not scored if he fails to descend to a complete squat, if he does not straighten his legs completely and reverse his feet while he is in the air, if he removes his hand from his head, or if he discontinues the movement and comes to a stop.  If he loses his balance and removes a hand from his head momentarily, or falls but immediately recovers and continues, he shall not be penalized.  If the performer gets his feet too far apart but comes to a squat on the rear foot, there is no penalty.  Some men cannot squat all the way down on the heel.  If they go down as far as possible they should not be penalized.

TEST 3: PUSHUPS

Starting Position.  The performer assumes the front leaning rest position with the body straight from head to heels.  His palms are directly underneath the shoulders and elbows are straight.  Fingers pointed forward.  The judge sits on the ground beside the performer, with one palm down on the ground underneath the lowest part of the performer's chest.

Movement.  Lower body until chest touches the ground (in informal practice), or touches the hand of the judge (in formal testing).  Elbows must point directly to the rear.  Return to the original position by straightening elbows.  Keep the entire body in a straight line throughout.   Repeat as many times as possible.

Pushup

Instructions.  The performer is told: that the arms must be straight at the start and completion of the movement; that the chest must touch the judge's hand; and that the stomach, thighs, or legs must not touch the floor.  Hands and feet must not move from their positions.  He is also told that the whole body must be kept straight as he pushes the shoulders upward; that is, the shoulders should not be raised first, and then the hips or vice versa.  The judge uses his free hand to guide the man in case he is raising his hips too much or raising his shoulders first.  In the first instance, he taps the man on the top of the hips to straighten them out; in the second case he taps underneath the abdomen to make him raise his abdomen with the same speed as his shoulders.

Administration and Scoring. The performer is credited with one pushup each time his arms are completely straightened and the exercise is performed in acceptable form.   There is no penalty for the hips being slightly out of line if the whole body is moving upward at about the same speed. The men may proceed but may not stop to rest.   If a man violates any of the instructions given above, he is credited with a half-pushup.  If and when the performer is no longer able to hold a correct front leaning rest, the test is terminated.  

TEST 4: SITUPS

Starting Position.  Performer lies on his back with knees straight, feet approximately 18 inches apart and fingers laced behind head and elbows on the ground. The scorer kneels on the ground at the performer's feet and presses the performer's ankles firmly down against the ground.

Movement. Raise upper body rotating it somewhat to the left, and then forward far enough to touch the right elbow to the left knee.  The knees may bend slightly when sitting up.  Lower the body until the back and elbows again touches the ground.  Again sit up, but this time rotate the trunk to the right and touch left elbow to the right knee.  Again lower the body until the back touches the ground.  Perform as many situps as possible in two minutes.  Rest pauses are permitted during the test but count toward the 2-minute period.

Situp

Instructions.  The performer should be warned that he must keep his knees straight until he starts to sit up; that he must touch his knee with the opposite elbow; and that he may not push up from the ground with his elbow.  

Administration and Scoring.  Performer is given credit for each situp completed within the 2-minute period.  No score is given if he unclasps his hand from his head, if he pushes up from his elbow, or if he keeps his knees bent while lying back on the ground.  He is not penalized if the elbow misses the knee slightly.  He must, however, sit up far enough so that the elbow almost touches the knee.  Time should be announced every 20 seconds.  At the end of 2 minutes, the timer calls: STOP and the judge counts the full number of situps completed before the stop command.

TEST 5: 300-YARD RUN

A course 60 yards long is laid out on flat level ground with lanes 4 feet wide for for each runner.  Both ends of the course have cross-marks at right angles to the lanes.  The cross-mark at one end serves as a starting line; the one at the other end, as a finish line.  In the middle of the cross mark at either end of each lane is a stake which is at least 1 feet high.  If possible the lanes should be marked out in lime.  If there are no lanes, it is recommended that the stakes be numbered or painted different colors.  Each performer must run around his stake withough grasping it.

Starting Position.  Standing behind the starting mark in the lane with rear foot braced by another man's foot placed crossways behind it.

Movement.  At the starting signal, run to the stake at the farther end of the lane.  Run around the stake at the finish line.  Then return and run around the stake at the starting line.  Continue until five lengths of the course, or 300 yards have been run.  Make each turn from right to left.  The run will finish at the opposite end of the course from which it started.

Shuttle Run

Instructions.  The men should be told to run about 9/10ths full speed, to run straight down the lane, to turn around the far stake from right to left without touching it, and to return running around the stakes one after another until they have traveled five full lengths.  The men should also be instructed to walk around slowly for 3 or 4 minutes after completing the run.  Recovery will be much more rapid if they walk than if they lie down.

Administration and Scoring.  Each runner has one inspector, or judge, who stands at the finish line.  The judge watches his runner to see that he makes the turns properly and observes all the rules.  This inspector also holds the man's card and records his performance.  A timekeeper stands on one of the lines in the middle of the course, 20 feet away from the finish line.  The men are started by the starter with ordinary signals of: "Get on your mark; get set; go."  Since the timer starts his watch by the "go", the starter should also use a hand signal.

When the first runner is about 30 yards away from the finish line, the timer begins to count the seconds aloud using "hup" for the half-seconds.  For example, he counts "44, hup, 45, hup, 46, hup, 47, hup, 48, hup ...... etc."  The judge for each man listens to the count and at the same time watches his runner.  He then records the last full second or half-second, which was counted before the man reached the finish line.  After the inspector records the time on the man's scorecard he returns the card to him.

TEST 5A: INDOOR SHUTTLE RUN

A course 25 yards long is laid out on the gymnasium floor with a lane 4 feet wide for each runner.  The lanes should be marked on the floor with water-solvent coloring, chalk, paint or adhesive tape.  Turning boards are placed at both ends of the course.   Each turning board is placed at a 45 angle, facing inside the lane and toward the runner.  The turning boards must be firmly braced and made of heavy material.   They should be from 12 to 16 inches in width.  The lower edges of the turning boards are flush with the end of the lines of the running area.  The number of each lane will be painted on the face of its board.

Starting Position.  Ready for a sprint start, with one foot braced against a turning board and the other foot and the hands extended into the lane.

Movement.  On the starting signal, run to the turning board at the other end of the lane.  Touch board with foot or feet.  Turn and continue running until completing ten shuttle trips or laps (for a total of 250 yards).  Touch the turning board at the end of each lap, except the final one. At the end of the final lap, the runner will continue across the turning board.  Any footwork may be used in making the turn provided the foot or feet touch the turning board each time.

Instructions.  Each runner must stay in his own lane.  Any method may be used in making the turn, although it is recommended that the forward foot touch the block on the turn.  In the event a runner falls or is hindered by another participant entering his lane during the progress of the run, he may be permitted to repeat the run later in the same period.

Administration and Scoring.  This event is administered and scored as the 300-yard run.  The time of the run is taken as the runner's body passes beyond the turning board on the final lap.

TEST 5A(l): 60 SECOND SQUAT THRUST

When it is not possible to employ the indoor shuttle run as a substitute for the 300-yard run the 60-second squat thrust should be used.

Starting Position.  Attention.

Movement.  Bend at knees and hips and, squatting down, place hands on ground shoulder width apart.  Keep the elbows inside the knees.  Thrust feet and legs backward to a front leaning rest position.  Keep body straight from head to heels.   Support weight on hands and toes.  Recover to the sqatting position.   Then recover to starting position.

Squat Thrust

Instructions.  The men should be told that in executing this movement for speed the shoulders should be well ahead of the hands when the legs are thrust backwards.   Extending the legs too far backward, so that the shoulders are behind the hands, makes it difficult to return to the original position with speed.  On the preliminary practice, the performer is told he will score better if he does not make a full knee-bend, but bends his knees only to about a right angle; and that he should keep his arms straight. It is not a failure if he bends his arms but the performer will not be able to score as well.

Administration and Scoring.  A score is given for the successful performance of each complete squat thrust.  No score is given if: the feet start backward before the hands are placed on the ground; the hips are raised above the shoulder-heel line when the feet are back; or the performer does not fully recover to the erect position on the fourth count.  The judge should not count aloud as this is apt to confuse other nearby judges.  If the man is performing the event incorrectly, the judge should coach him, or stop him and have him repeat the test after more coaching.

VI.  UNIFORMITY IN TESTING.  The most important factor in test administration is uniformity.  Otherwise, no reliance can be placed upon the results.  If there are inconsistencies, the men soon recognize them and they will no longer put forth their best efforts.  Hence, uniformity must be achieved in all of the following:

a. Judging and scoring the events.  Unless all events are judged and scored in an identical manner, it is impossible to have confidence in the results.  In order to secure complete uniformity in this regard, all judges and officials must be carefully trained.  Participants should not be used to judge each other. There are often violations of proper form which no one but a trained judge can recognize.  A trained judge is also more impartial than fellow participants.

The uniformity of judging and scoring will be in direct ratio to the time spent in training judges and scorers.  Company officers and noncommissioned officers are usually best qualified for this job.  The physical training officer should supervise the test very carefully to see that all judging and scoring is done uniformly.

b. Order in which the events are conducted.  A true indication of the performance of the men cannot be obtained unless the test events are conducted in the same order for all the men.  Fatigue from participation in certain events will markedly reduce performance in other events.  For example, it would not be fair to compare the pullup records of two men, one of whom ran the 300-yard run immediately before doing the pullups, and the other of whom did not.  It takes slightly longer to conduct the events so that all men will take them in the same order, but the extra time will be well justified.   As soon as the first two squads of men have finished the pullups they should then proceed to the next station and begin squat jumps.  After finishing the squat jumps, they proceed to the pushups and so on.  Meanwhile the other squads follow in like manner.  The whole company unit need not wait until all individuals have finished the first event before anyone starts the second event.

c. Motivation.  Unless the men exert themselves fully, the results will not represent their true condition.  All groups, therefore, should be uniformly motivated and every effort made to obtain the best performances of each individual.

d. Condition of the field areas, equipment and facilities.  All conditions should be the same for the various groups taking the tests. Where at all possible the ground used for the run should be smooth and dry.

e. Activities prior to the hour of the test. On the day of the test, the activity immediately preceding the test should not be too vigorous.  For example, men marching four miles to the test area, are at a disadvantage compared to men riding to the area.   Those who stand guard the night previous to the test, will be somewhat handicapped.   In the interest of uniformity all the testing should be done in the morning, or all in the afternoon.  Testing on Mondays or on the day after pay day should be avoided.

f. Wearing apparel.  All men should wear similar clothing.  This is particularly important with regard to shoes.  It is permissible to remove shirts when climatic conditions warrant.

VII.  ADMINISTRATION OF TESTS.  a. As the men come to the testing area, each should be given his score card, the heading of which should have been filled out previously.  These cards are carried by the men throughout the test and collected at its conclusion.  The men should be cautioned to protect the cards and avoid bending or tearing them.  The official in each event scores the man's card and returns it to him.

b. All five events should be completed in one test period.  All men take the test events in the same order.  Before, beginning an event, the officer-in-charge demonstrates and explains the proper form and states the scoring procedure.  Whatever form is followed must be consistent for all groups in the same organization.

c. The officials should be well trained in advance of the test.  They should appear in khaki to contrast with the men being tested.  Six commissioned officers and 30 noncommissioned officers can administer the test battery in paragraph III to 300 men in 2 hours.  For more or fewer men, the number of officials can be proportionately greater or smaller.

(4) Chinning bars.  7 feet 9 inches, to 8 feet high.  Smooth wooden bars are satisfactory.  The bars should be fastened on the posts so they cannot turn.   There should be room for at least 6 men to pullup for each 100 men tested at one time.  Blocks attached to the uprights, 2 feet from the ground will enable short men to reach the bar easily.

(5) Pencils.  All judges should have pencils.

(6) Lime Marker.  There should be a lime marker for marking out the starting and finishing lines for the 300-yard run and, if possible, the lanes.

VIII.  SCORING TABLES.  a. Tables have been devised for scoring the test events in paragraph III.  These tables make it possible to determine each man's total score.  It is obviously impossible to combine the number of pullups, the number of squat thrusts, the number of pushups, etc. for a total score.  These scoring tables are derived statistically.  The data from which these scoring tables were derived were based upon the performance of troops in good physical condition.  The mean or average score is 50 points and the range is from 0 to 100 points.  Thus a score of 50 represents the average score of individuals in good physical condition.  Not more than 1 percent of a well-conditioned unit will score above 100.  Not more than 1 percent of a well-conditioned unit fails to score at all.

b. In addition to their value in determining a man's total score, the scoring tables provide a powerful motivating device.  The competitive spirit of the men is aroused because they want to make the highest total score and to surpass their friends.  Further, since 50 represents the average score of well-conditioned troops, the point score gives each man a means of comparing his own performance with established norms.

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