Friday Favorite Workout — Leg Day with Army CFT in Mind

How squats can help you prepare for the Army combat fitness test.
U.S. Army Sgt. Melissa Schimmel, an intelligence analyst with Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 2nd Special Troops Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, performs squats, using a Smith Machine, at Fort Carson’s Iron Horse Sports and Fitness Center in Colorado Spring, Colo., April 18, 2013. (Staff Sgt. Andrew Porch/U.S. Army photo)

If you are thinking of ways to implement some of the new tactical fitness tests into your normal workouts slowly but steadily, consider some of the following options.

This is a lower-body workout (leg day), with some old and new exercises mixed in to help you continue to do the things you are used to doing. This workout also adds in new exercises that will be tested in your tactical future.

After all, if you already are doing a leg day, why not add in some of the elements of your future tactical fitness test (also known as the Army combat fitness test)?

Squat pyramid 1-10 with 100-meter run between each set (weight vest optional) -- 1 squat, run 100 meters; 2 squats, run 100 meters; 3 squats, run 100 meters … up to 10 squats. Stop at 10 and start your workout.

This is a classic leg-day warmup that mixes in progressively speedier runs each set, along with a total of 55 squats.

If you do the math from a 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 squat half-pyramid, you get 55 squats and 1,000 meters of running during your warmup. You can mix in some dynamic stretches during the 100-meter travel sections to prepare fully for the lifts, load-bearing and other running events included in the workout below.

Lift plus added CFT exercises

Repeat 3 times

Deadlift 5

5-minute cardio -- mix of run, bike or sled pull (as desired)

Repeat 3-5 times

Squats 10: Use barbells or dumbbells for this exercise with moderately heavy weight.

Hanging knee-ups 15 (aka leg tucks): This is going to replace sit-ups in the Army. Get used to adding them into your workouts regularly. These will be good for the grip as well as the abdominal and hip muscles.

Farmer walks 25 meters x 4 fast: You can do these two ways -- with one heavy weight in one hand or with two moderately heavy weights in both hands. When carrying one weight, the exercise forces you to flex the entire core to stay upright and straight as you fight leaning with the weight.

The farmer walk test in the sprint-drag-carry part of the test will require carrying weight in both hands. Walk fast for 25 meters, change directions and return back to the start. Accumulate 100 meters with 4 x 25-meter walks with weight.

Calisthenics and running: This step is for endurance and muscle stamina in the legs. Keep this one focused on completing as many reps as possible in one minute for squats and lunges, then hold an isometric flex leaning against the wall with knees bent at 90-degree angle.

Repeat 4 times

Run 400 meters at goal mile pace

-- squats 1 minute

-- lunges 1 minute

-- wall sit 1 minute

Cooldown cardio: run, ruck or swim (pick one for 30 minutes)

Pick one of the following moderately easy-paced cardio options for 30 minutes. Running and rucking should be a go-to option, but if you need a break from the impact of running or preparing for Army Dive School, you also should practice swimming.

Note the distances:

Run, ruck with 40-50 pounds, swim with fins. Shoot for 3-4 miles running, 2-3 miles rucking and 1,500 meters swimming with fins. That puts the paces at 7-10 minutes per mile for running, 10-15 minutes per mile for rucking and 50 meters per minute with fins for swimming.

Regardless of how you start to implement the new exercises that will be tested by the Army in 2020, figure a way to make them fun and how to fit them into normal workouts that you enjoy. This way, you can make the transition easily and learn to enjoy the new testing exercises.

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you’re looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to

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