Monday, March 01, 2004


I haven't had a lot of time to answer questions lately, so here goes...
"I need help on my PT. Got any good tips for enhancing situps and pushups? My run is a fluke because I can run it a lot faster...But any advice you can give me would be a great help"
I think I have a post on this subject somewhere back in the archives, but I'll answer it from another angle.

My Privates took their final PT test a few days ago. They did really well, of course. We did NOT "win" the usual competition between platoons, because we had two failures...and 2nd Platoon had none. The streamer goes to whoever has the highest percentage of FIRST TIME "go"s. We had one soldier fail the run by 2 seconds and one soldier failed his pushups by a significant amount.
I'm proud as hell of the one who failed her run anyway. She is somewhat large, although much smaller than when she arrived lol. She knocked 3 minutes off of her last two mile time which is pretty amazing improvement for less than 3 weeks work.
The one who failed his pushups is another story. He will probably make it on his retest...but there is no reason why he should've failed in the first place.
Which brings me to the answer I promised.

The best way to improve your pushups before you head off to BCT is to DO PUSHUPS lol.
However, if you can do a hundred pushups, and none of them are done CORRECTLY...then you will be suckin' when it comes time for an APFT. (Army Physical Fitness Test)

The thing to focus on right now is correct form. When you assume the start position, place your hands approximately shoulder width apart to start with. We can change positions later to focus on different muscle groups.
Your body should form a straight line from your shoulders to your heels, with your feet less than a foot apart. As you perform repetitions and your muscles become fatigued, you will be tempted to either sag in the middle or raise your ass in the air. DON"T!!
Keep your head up and face forward. This is not required to count as a correct pushup, but it helps force your body into a relatively straight line.
Your first movement will be to lower your entire body, maintaining a straight line and moving all parts as one, until your upper arms are parallel to the ground or lower. Since you are trying to improve your form and reps...preferably lower. If you get into the habit of going lower now, you will have no problem when it comes time to test. This was the problem with my soldier who failed. He did a lot of pushups that did not count on the test. I talked to the Drill who graded him and he said his form sucked and he only counted about half. If he had good form this would have been way more than enough to pass the test.
Once you have "broke the plane" simply push your body back to the start position keeping a straight line and moving all together. You have to lock out completely at the top. The soldiers who are really strong and can do a lot of reps have trouble with this sometimes because they are in a hurry and they end up starting back down before they lock out. It's a waste of effort if it doesnt count, so don't get in that much of a hurry.

Begin your program by doing smaller sets and work up for a few days before you really push yourself. (you're probably past this point already) This conditions your muscles, ligaments and tendons and begins to toughen them up in preparation for overload. Always try to give yourself a day of rest between really intense sessions for recovery. Your muscle fibers need to begin to repair themselves before you tear them again or you're defeating the purpose.
Doing pushups uses several different muscle groups. You can isolate these by changing hand position. Once you've worked on regular pushups for a while...change it up each session by doing wide arm pushups and close hand pushups. As you move your hand position out, you start to work your chest more. As you move them in, until they are touching, you focus more on arms and triceps. Work them both ...but when it comes test time, it's better to be a little wide because the pectoralis muscles seem to have a little more strength and endurance. Also you have a shorter distance to lower yourself when you do "wide arms".

Try alternating the workouts between endurance and strength. If you want to focus on strength, you can have a friend press LIGHTLY on your back as you push yourself up. This increases resistance but you won't be able to do as many reps at first. For endurance, USING GOOD FORM, start with sets of 25 or so. Give yourself a SHORT break between sets, and do as many sets as you can. When you can't get 25 any more drop to 15 and keep going. When you can't hit 15, drop to 10s or even 5s. This is sort of the same principle as doing drop sets in the weight room on the bench press.

You can also do pyramids. Do about 5 pushups and go to your knees for about 10-20 seconds. then do 6 pushups and take the same break. Then 7 and break. Keep this up until you get to whatever your goal is for that session. Start with a goal of 20. Once you do 20, take a 20 second break and then do 19 pushups. 18...17...16...etc all the way back down to 5.
Aside from just doing pushups, I highly recommend that you get in the weight room with a dedicated partner if you can. Work your entire body regularly and reasonably on machines and free weights. Pushups use a lot of muscles that you wouldn't expect, and the end goal is combat effectiveness anyway. You have to have a good core body strength and be well rounded to be able to do anything that might be expected (or unexpected) in your duties. You can do this on your own but a good DEDICATED partner is priceless if you want to get serious about fitness in the gym.

Well .... I hope this helps a little. I will hit the Situps tomorrow probably.