Developing the Program

Developing the Program
The goal of the Army’s physical fitness program is to improve each soldier’s physical ability so he can survive and win on the battlefield. Physical fitness includes all aspects of physical performance, not just performance on the APFT. Leaders must understand the principles of exercise, the FITT factors, and know how to apply them in order to develop a sound PT program that will improve all the fitness components. To plan PT successfully, the commander and MFT must know the training management system. (See FM 25-100.)
Commanders should not be satisfied with merely meeting the minimum requirements for physical training which is having all of their soldiers pass the APFT. They must develop programs that train soldiers to maximize their physical performance. Leaders should use incentives. More importantly, they must set the example through their own participation.
The unit PT program is the commander’s program. It must reflect his goals and be based on sound, scientific principles. The wise commander also uses his PT program as a basis for building team spirit and for enhancing other training activities. Tough, realistic training is good. However, leaders must be aware of the risks involved with physical training and related activities. They should, therefore, plan wisely to minimize injuries and accidents.

Steps in Planning
When planning a physical fitness program, the commander must consider the type of unit and its mission. Missions vary as do the physical requirements necessary to complete them. As stated in FM 25-100, “The wartime mission drives training.” A careful analysis of the mission, coupled with the commander’s intent, yields the mission-essential task list (METL) a unit must perform.
Regardless of the unit’s size or mission, reasonable goals are essential. According to FM 25-100, the goals should provide a common direction for all the commander’s programs and systems. An example of a goal is as follows because the exceptional physical fitness of the soldier is a critical combat-multiplier in the division, it must be our goal to ensure that our soldiers are capable of roadmarching 12 miles with a 50-pound load in less than three hours.

Objectives direct the unit’s efforts by prescribing specific actions. The commander, as tactician, and the MFT, as physical fitness advisor, must analyze the METL and equate this to specific fitness objectives. Examples of fitness objectives are the following:
• Improve the unit’s overall level of strength by ensuring that all soldiers in the unit can correctly perform at least one repetition with 50 percent of their bodyweight on the overhead press using a barbell.
• Improve the unit’s average APFT score through each soldier obtaining a minimum score of 80 points on the push-up and sit-up events and 70 points on the 2-mile run.
• Decrease the number of physical training injuries by 25 percent through properly conducted training.
The commander and MFT identify and prioritize the objectives.

With the training objectives established, the commander and MFT are ready to find the unit’s current fitness level and measure it against the desired level.
Giving a diagnostic APFT is one way to find the current level. Another way is to have the soldiers road march a certain distance within a set time while carrying a specified load. Any quantifiable, physically demanding, mission-essential task can be used as an assessment tool. Training records and reports, as well as any previous ARTEP, EDREs, and so forth, can also provide invaluable information.

By possessing the unit’s fitness capabilities and comparing them to the standards defined in training objectives, leaders can determine fitness training requirements. When, after extensive training, soldiers cannot reach the desired levels of fitness, training requirements may be too idealistic. Once training requirements are determined, the commander reviews higher headquarters’ long- and short-range training plans to identify training events and allocations of resources which will affect near-term planning.

Fitness tasks provide the framework for accomplishing all training requirements. They identify what has to be done to correct all deficiencies and sustain All proficiencies. Fitness tasks establish priorities, frequencies, and the sequence for training requirements. They must be adjusted for real world constraints before they become a part of the training plan. The essential elements of fitness tasks can be cataloged into four groups:
(1) Collective tasks
(2) Individual tasks
(3) Leader tasks
(4) Resources required for training
Collective tasks. Collective tasks are the training activities performed by the unit. They are keyed to the unit’s specific fitness objectives. An example would be to conduct training to develop strength and muscular endurance utilizing a sandbag circuit.
Individual tasks. Individual tasks are activities that an individual soldier must do to accomplish the collective training task. For example, to improve CR endurance the individual soldier must do ability-group running, road marching, Fartlek training, interval training, and calculate/monitor his THR when appropriate.
Leader tasks. Leader tasks are the specific tasks leaders must do in order for collective and individual training to take place. These will involve procuring resources, the setting up of training, education of individual soldiers, and the supervision of the actual training.
Resources. Identifying the necessary equipment, facilities, and training aids during the planning phase gives the trainer ample time to prepare for the training. The early identification and acquisition of resources is necessary to fully implement the training program. The bottom line is that training programs must be developed using resources which are available.

The fitness training schedule results from leaders’ near-term planning. Leaders must emphasize the development of all the fitness components and follow the principles of exercise and the FITT factors. The training schedule shows the order, intensity, and duration of activities for PT. There are three distinct steps in planning a unit's daily physical training activities. They are as follows:
1. Determine the minimum frequency of training. Ideally, it should include three cardiorespiratory and three muscular conditioning sessions each weeks. (See the FITT factors in Chapter 1.)
2. Determine the type of activity. This depends on the specific purpose of the training session. For more information on this topic, see Chapters 1, 2, and 3.
3. Determine the intensity and time of the selected activity. (See the FITT factors in Chapter 1.)
Each activity period should include a warm-up, a workout that develops cardiorespiratory fitness and/or muscular endurance and strength, and a cool-down.
At the end of a well-planned and executed PT session, all soldiers should feel that they have been physically stressed. They should also understand the objective of the training session and how it will help them improve their fitness levels.

The commander and MFT now begin managing and supervising the day-to-day training. They evaluate how the training is performed by monitoring its intensity, using THR or muscle failure, along with the duration of the daily workout.
The key to evaluating training is to determine if the training being conducted will result in improvements in physical conditioning. If not, the training needs revision. Leaders should not be sidetracked by PT that is all form and little substance. Such training defeats the concept of objective-based training and results in little benefit to soldiers.

Teaching soldiers about physical fitness is vital. It must be an ongoing effort that uses trained experts like MFTs. Soldiers must understand why the program is organized the way it is and what the basic fitness principles are. When they know why they are training in a certain way, they are more likely to wholeheartedly take part. This makes the training more effective.
Education also helps the Army develop its total fitness concept. Total fitness should be reinforced throughout each soldier’s career. Classroom instruction in subjects such as principles of exercise, diet and nutrition, tobacco cessation, and stress management should be held at regular intervals. Local “Fit to Win” coordinators (AR 600-63) can help develop classes on such subjects.

Common Errors
There are some common errors in unit programs. The most common error concerns the use of unit runs. When all soldiers must run at the same pace as with a unit run, many do not receive a training effect because they do not reach their training heart rate (THR). The least-fit soldiers of the unit may be at risk because they may be training at heart rates above their THR. Another error is exclusively using activities such as the “daily dozen.” These exercises emphasize form over substance and do little to improve fitness.
Yet another error is failing to strike a balance in a PT program between CR endurance training and muscular endurance and strength training. In addition, imbalances often stem from a lack of variety in the program which leads to boredom. The principles of exercise are described in Chapter 1, and their application is shown in the sample program below.