What You Should Know About Military Body Composition Tests

An Army reservist gets done with a workout.
Spc. Coulter Brandon, a U.S. Army Reserve soldier from the 200th Military Police Command, dries off after a shower during a Performance Triad program organized by the command and hosted on Fort Meade, Maryland, May 9, 2017. (Master Sgt. Michel Sauret/U.S. Army Reserve photo)

All services use the body composition test. It requires all military personnel to weigh in and have their height measured. When out of height/weight standards, body fat is measured using the circumference test -- measuring the neck and waist.

The body composition test is the only part of the Air Force BMT that requires all personnel to run 1.5 miles and do push-ups and crunches. This is the same test as the Navy and Coast Guard. The VO2 max bicycle ergometer test is still available to those members who cannot run because of leg injuries. The stationary cycle test is designed to measure how efficiently the heart and lungs work to transfer oxygen through the body. The test uses heart rate to estimate aerobic capacity (VO2 max).

Here is a question I received from a member of the Air Force:

"What exercises will reduce my waist at least eight inches in two months, and what exercises will increase my neck size?"

The whole plan is needed in this case, not just some exercises. I don't know whether it can be done in eight weeks, but here's how I would attempt it. 

For starters, if you want to reduce inches that quickly, drink more water. Water retention may be one of the culprits to your waist size. If you think you may be retaining water, try adding up to a gallon of water a day, and you could lose about 5-10 pounds of retained water in a few short days. I have seen people lose up to 20 in a week by only adding water to their diet. But once that is done, you need to focus on the principles of healthy weight loss below:

Eating Plan

The eating plans below will help your body keep the metabolism high and burn calories throughout the day. Limiting fat and processed carbs, and adding fiber and protein will lean you out quickly and in a healthy manner.

A Marine works out on a rowing machine.
Gunnery Sgt. Chad Trebil, the 2nd Marine Division (Forward) intelligence section operations chief, uses a rowing machine aboard Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan, Aug. 18, 2011. (Cpl. Tommy Bellegarde/U.S. Marine Corps photo)

Cardio Workouts

Four to five times a week of 45-60 minutes of cardio exercises -- elliptical gliding, walking, jogging, swimming, rowing or biking -- are great examples of how to burn calories. If you need to lose more than 50 pounds, I do not recommend running. Select one of the non-impact aerobics listed above.

Ab Exercises

Read the suggested articles below. Do crunches without holding your hand behind your head and build your neck muscles, too.

Muscle Training

Lift weights or PT (push-ups, sit-ups, pull-ups, squats, lunges, crunches) every other day three times a week. Also add neck exercises into your day by simply lying on the floor and raising your head until your chin touches your collarbone 20-30 times. Then lift your head off the floor and shake your head as if you were nodding "no" 20-30 times. This will help you add some girth to your neck in a relatively short period of time.

See the Programs

I have a list of programs that can help you, but it all depends on your fitness level: 

The Complete List of Stew Smith's eBooks:

  • The Military Physical Fitness Workouts
  • Combat Conditioning Workout
  • Navy SEAL Workout Phase 1
  • Navy SEAL Workout Phase 2
  • Navy SEAL Workout Phase 3
  • Navy SEAL Workout Phase 4
  • Navy SWCC Workout
  • Navy OCS Workout
  • The Service Academy Workout (West Point, Navy, Air Force Academy)
  • The Navy, Air Force, Marine Corp Boot Camp Workout
  • The Army OCS and PFT Workout
  • The Army Air Assault School Workout
  • The Army Airborne Workout
  • The Army Special Forces/Ranger Workout -- Phase 1 & 2
  • USMC RECON Workout Phase 1 & 2
  • USMC OCS/TBS Workout
  • Air Force PJ/CCT Workout
  • The Coast Guard Rescue Swimmer Workout

The law enforcement physical fitness test workouts:

  • The FBI Academy Workout
  • The FBI SWAT Team Workout
  • The DEA Workout
  • The FLETC Workout -- Ace the PEB
  • The State/Local Police Academy Workout
  • The Public Safety Diver Workout
  • Coming Soon -- Border Patrol Agent Workout

General fitness and nutritional guides for everyone:

  • The 45-Day Beginner Guide to Fitness
  • The 45-Day Intermediate Guide to Fitness
  • The Diabetic Prevention Workout/Diet
  • The Athlete Workout -- Rugby, Soccer, Lacrosse & Football
  • The Busy Executive Workout Routine
  • The Six-Week Advanced Weight Training/PT Guide
  • Beer and Barbells USBDT Workout

This is the way you lose weight and inches in the proper manner. As you can see, it is a lot more than a few exercises, as requested. True fitness is a lifestyle change that can fit easily into your schedule. Good luck and thanks for your continued service to our country.

More on body composition test prep:

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 stew@stewsmith.com.

Want to Learn More About Military Life?

Whether you're thinking of joining the military, looking for fitness and basic training tips, or keeping up with military life and benefits, Military.com has you covered. Subscribe to Military.com to have military news, updates and resources delivered directly to your inbox.

Story Continues