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How do I train for the Air Force fitness test to succeed every year?

OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- All Airmen know the four primary fitness test components that compromises the Air Force fitness program -- aerobic component (worth 50%), abdominal circumference component (worth 30%), pushups (worth 10%), and crunches (worth 10%).

But how does one prepare to exceed the standards year-in and year-out?

When training for any part of the Air Force fitness test, ensure you train the same way you will be tested. For example, if you are tested on the cycle ergometer, you should not run every day of the week, but rather ride the upright cycle.

To prepare for the 1.5-mile run, individuals should run at least three times a week, on non-consecutive days, and should include one vigorous run in each week. The vigorous run should be short in time and/or distance.

The next day's run should be longer in distance, but jog in the lower end of your predicted maximal heart rate or ran at a slower pace than normal. For the final day, complete a hill run outside or on a treadmill (e.g. increase the grade to between 3 and 5 percent).

By running up hills you increase leg strength and stride frequency, which may reduce your 1.5 mile run time.

For members on medical waivers, alternative aerobic tests include either the cycle ergometer or 3-mile timed walk. The type of test is determined by the individual's specific medical condition.

The cycle ergometer test predicts maximal aerobic capacity and is administered as the participant sits on a cycle and pedals. Individual training plans for people testing on the cycle must be different than training for the run or the walk test.

Members should train on an upright cycle, not a recumbent cycle, at least three times a week.
If possible, training on the specific cycle you will be tested on is better. When training on the cycle, increase workloads that will elicit high heart rate responses.

Individuals should gradually increase the time of the work interval and keep the recovery interval constant. When not practicing on the cycle, participate in leg strength training and perform three sets of 12 to 30 repetitions of each leg exercise. Members should also choose a weight that will cause them to reach volitional fatigue.

Additionally, members' predicted aerobic fitness level on the cycle ergometer is based on his/hers height, weight, final workload, age and heart rate for the last two minutes of the test.

Furthermore, the cycle test does not permit the subject's heart rate to exceed 85 percent of his/hers predicted maximal heart rate.

Thus, there are several confounding variables that could significantly affect the subject's aerobic score on the cycle test. 

Examples of such confounding variables include anxiety, stress, caffeine, smoking, sleep deprivation, certain medications and illness. However, their effects may be minimized based on the advice from the test administrator.

Prior to your official Air Force test members receive a fitness test preparation handout from their Unit Fitness program Manager or Physical Training Leader. The handout provides instructions explaining what individuals should and should not do several days prior to the test.

By reading this fitness preparation handout and following the instructions, members increase their chances of success on the fitness test.

Lastly, having a certified PTL / Fitness tester conduct an unofficial practice test can help members better gauge the amount of training they need to do to exceed USAF fitness standards.