With our archives now 3,500+ articles deep, we’ve decided to republish a classic piece each Sunday to help our newer readers discover some of the best, evergreen gems from the past. This article was originally published in September 2011.

The Army first introduced a formal fitness test to its troops in 1942. Millions of men were being called up to fight in World War II, and not all of them were prepared for the rigors of combat. To get the men in fighting shape, the Army implemented a systematic physical development program as part of the Combat Basic Training course. And the Army Ground Forces Test was designed to assess whether the program was having its desired effect. The AGFT involved a battery of five events: squat jumps, sit-ups, pull-ups, push-ups, and a 300-yard run. The emphasis was on functional fitness and giving American GI’s the strength, mobility, and endurance they would need to tackle real tasks on the battlefield.

The training program and fitness test which were developed during the war were codified in the 1946 edition of FM 21-20, the Army’s physical training manual.

In the decades after WWII, the military’s emphasis on physical fitness waxed and waned, depending on whether the country was involved in a conflict.

Most recently, the Army introduced the Army Combat Fitness Test as the newest iteration of their PT test. It involves six exercises/events: deadlift, power throw, hand-release push-ups, sprint/drag/carry, leg tuck, and 2-mile run.

The AGFT remains a high-water mark for PT testing, however, for the way it tests all-around fitness, while not requiring any special equipment (outside of a pull-up bar).

If you’d like to see how you’d stack up against your grandfather or great-grandfather, consider taking the WWII fitness test yourself. Why? Well as the introduction to the original test itself says:

Tests motivate the men to improve their physical condition. Frequently men do not realize what poor condition they are in. When the tests reveal their deficiencies, they are much more receptive to an intensive physical training program in order to remedy their shortcomings.

So maybe taking the test will inspire you to get in shape (or inspire you to feel awesome about how in shape you already are).

If you’re a coach, it might be fun to have your guys take the test; I took the young men at my church through it and we had a great time.

Below you’ll find the test, as taken directly from FM 21-20. Before we get to it, let’s go over a couple of guidelines:

The WWII test requires that the exercises be done with strict precision. To get an accurate assessment of how you did, don’t sacrifice quality for quantity!In the chart below, you will see two batteries of tests — one for doing outdoors, one for doing indoors. Pick one or the other — not both. The fifth test in the indoor battery includes two variations: choose one or the other.I’ve never been able to ascertain if/how much rest was allotted in between each exercise/event; when I do the test, I do one event pretty much right after the other.


The WWII Fitness Test

OUTDOOR TESTSINDOOR TESTS1.  Pullups1.  Pullups2.  Squat Jumps2.  Squat Jumps3.  Pushups3.  Pushups4.  Situps4.  Situps5.  300-yard Run5A.  Indoor Shuttle Run5A(1).  60-Second Squat Thrusts



This event requires a horizontal bar. This may be made of a pipe or gymnasium horizontal bar, or other rigid horizontal support which is not over 1½ inches in diameter. The bar should be high enough to permit the performer to hang at full length without touching the ground. A height of 7 feet, 9 inches to 8 feet is recommended.

Starting Position. Hanging at full length from the bar with arms straight. The forward grasp is used with the palms turned away from the face.

How to perform pull ups illustration military manual.
Movement. Pull up until the chin is above the level of the bar. Then lower the body until elbows are completely straight. Continue for as many repetitions as possible.

Instructions. The men should be told that it is permissible to raise the legs and flex the hips