America has the most powerful military on the planet, home to more than 1.4 million active-duty service members protecting the U.S. from active threats and foreign conflict.
Yet, a thankless career in the armed forces isn’t as simple as “joining the army.”
The newly released ACFT — or Army Combat Fitness Test — is now a deciding factor in where your military career leads you (job and unit).
Personal trainer Nick Tumminello created the Combat Fit: 8-Week ACFT Training Plan to help current and future soldiers pass this six-event test with flying colors.
Check out our review for this program below!
Table of Contents
- About the Creator – Nick Tumminello
- What Is the Combat Fit: 8-Week ACFT Training Plan?
- What Is the ACFT?
- 8-Week ACFT Training Plan Details & Features
- How Long Does It Take to Train for the ACFT?
- 5 Solid Benefits of the Combat Fit Training Plan
- 2 Negatives of Combat Fit: 8-Week ACFT
- Wrapping Up This Review of the Combat Fit: 8-Week ACFT Training Plan
About the Creator – Nick Tumminello
Dubbed the “trainer of trainers,” Nick Tumminello has no trouble living up to his nickname.
The Building Muscle and Performance author is a familiar face at fitness expos worldwide, recruited to speak at the AFPA Sports & Fitness Conference and CPTN Annual Conference.
Tumminello has more than two decades of training experience with clientele ranging from a few unnamed NFL athletes to professional bodybuilders.
He also owns the titles of Personal Trainer Hall of Fame inductee (yep, that’s a thing) and 2016 NSCA Personal Trainer of the Year.
(It’s no wonder Bodybuilding.com hails him somewhat of a hero.)
What Is the Combat Fit: 8-Week ACFT Training Plan?
The roll-out of the ACFT evolved out of a rise of combat-related musculoskeletal injuries and a surge in overweight and obese recruits — dropping the number of deployable troops.
The new test dials up the fitness standards of the old APFT. So much so that 79% of female and 28% of male soldiers failed the ACFT in 2019 (before it officially replaced the APFT).
Nick Tumminello’s Combat Fit: 8-Week ACFT Training Plan not only prepares you to pass the test with a 60+ in each event, but it’ll also drive you closer to the 600-point territory (the high score).
Here’s what you need to know about Tumminello’s Combat Fit program:
- Experience level: Beginner
- Goals: Strength, endurance, and mental toughness
- Program Length: 8 weeks
- Workouts Per Week: 3–4
- Length of Workout: 45–60 minutes
- Types of Workouts: Strength, conditioning, lower body strength, upper body strength, test day practice
- Number of Phases: 2 (one to get into “testing shape,” the other for peak performance)
- Equipment Needed: Full gym access
Passing the ACFT will soon become a requirement for all U.S. Army soldiers. Keep reading to learn about the ACFT events and how Tumminello’s program can prepare you for test day.
What Is the ACFT?
The ACFT is the Army’s newest fitness cutoff for active-duty soldiers, replacing the now-retired APFT in October 2020.
Current service members and new recruits must pass this six-event test twice per year and score 60+ on each event.
Higher scores qualify soldiers for more physically demanding jobs and units (like infantry).
The six events on the ACFT are:
- MDL: 3-Repetition Maximum Deadlift (with a trap bar)
- SPT: Standing Power Throw (tossing a ten-pound medicine ball overhead and backward for distance)
- HRP: Hand-Release Push-Up Arm Extension
- SDC: Sprint-Drag-Carry (5 x 50-meter shuffles for time)
- LTK: Leg Tuck (for reps)
- (Alternative) PLK: Plank (for time)
- 2MR: Two-Mile Run
The entire test lasts about 50 minutes, and not reaching the minimum score for all six events will give you a failing score for the entire test (so, the stakes are a little higher than Your Transformation Starts Here).
What Counts as a Passing Score?
The U.S. military uses a 100-point scale to “rank” a warrior’s performance on each ACFT event. Here are the standards to pass with at least a 60 in each:
|Event||Low Score (60)||Maximum Score (100)|
|MDL||140 pounds||340 pounds|
|SPT||4.5 meters||12.5 meters|
|HRP||10 repetitions||60 repetitions|
|LTK||1 repetition||20 repetitions|
8-Week ACFT Training Plan Details & Features
Whether you’re a hopeful army recruit, an active-duty soldier, or simply a civilian looking for a non-traditional training routine, Combat Fit is nothing short of a standout program.
Let’s take a more in-depth look at this 8-week ACFT-prep routine.
Tumminello split Combat Fit into two phases: phase 1 to build foundational strength and conditioning and phase 2 to prepare for the ACFT during that final four-week countdown.
(If your test is more than eight weeks out or you don’t feel fit enough to advance to the second phase, feel free to repeat phase 1.)
The Phase 1 strength and conditioning schedule is as follows*:
After four weeks, you’ll advance to the Phase 2 test-prep stage with this schedule:
- Lower-Body Strength
- Upper-Body Strength
- Test Practice
* = Don’t be afraid to customize the training calendar to match your daily schedule. The only change Tumminello advises against is four consecutive days of training.
What Equipment Do You Need?
Between the strength, conditioning, and test practice workouts, Combat Fit requires access to the following gym equipment:
- Barbell, Hex Bar, or Trap Bar
- Weight Plates (including at least two 45-pound plates)
- A Cable Machine or Resistance Bands
- Pull-Up Bar
- Kettlebells (two, 40 pounds each)
- Nylon Drag Sled
- Some Gym Machines
The BodyFit platform also stashes hundreds of exercise alternatives into a database. If your gym doesn’t have a hex bar or leg extension machine, just find a similar exercise to replace it.
Note: The best way to ensure a 360+ on the ACFT is to build strength, improve stamina, and practice the test events. So we recommend as few modifications as possible for Combat Fit.
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All Combat Fit workouts begin with a 5–7-minute dynamic circuit warm-up that cycles through movements like lateral shuffles, hip circles, alligator crawls, and yoga plexes.
Hold tight. Before we rip each of these workouts to shreds (just kidding, these workouts are pretty solid), here are a few must-know terms and training guidelines for Combat Fit:
- Leave 2–3 reps in the tank for all rep-based exercises; adjust weights accordingly.
- Each workout varies exercises, sets, reps, rest lengths, and set styles slightly.
- Rest breaks range from one to three minutes between sets.
- Paired sets are supersets with longer rest periods — typically about 30 seconds — between exercises.
- Tri-sets are supersets with a third exercise (i.e., complete all three to finish the round).
- Tumminello asks you to train to failure occasionally.
In the lead-up to that daunting ACFT, you’ll come toe-to-toe with these Combat Fit workouts:
Strength (Phase 1)
Combat Fit’s phase 1 Strength workout targets the muscle groups used in each of the ACFT’s six events. Below is a sample workout (notice the direct MDL and HRP focus).
- Paired set: Deadlift (2 x 8–10) & 1.5-rep push-up (2 sets to failure)
- Paired set: Chin-up (2 x 8–10) & single-arm standing shoulder press (2 x 7–8)
- Tri-set: Dumbbell skullcrusher (2 x 8–10) & single-arm dumbbell row (2 x 8–10) & hand-shift plank (2 x 15–20 seconds)
Conditioning (Phase 1)
Phase 1’s Conditioning session introduces the SPT, SDC, and LTK while also honing in on the lower body muscles, namely the hamstrings. Take a look at this sample Combat Fit workout.
- Paired Set: Medicine ball scoop throw (3 x 5) & leg tuck (2 sets to failure)
- ACFT sprint-drag-carry (2 x 50 yards)
- Superset: Exercise ball leg curl (2 x 12) & side-lying leg adduction scissor (2 x 10)
Conditioning (Phase 2)
With a newfound test-oriented twist, phase 2’s Conditioning session is about prepping for the stamina-based ACFT events. Here’s a sample Conditioning workout from phase 2.
- Maximum power jump squats (4 x 5)
- Shuttle runs (2 x 300 yards)
- Run (1 mile)
Lower Body Strength (Phase 2)
By the second phase, Tumminello splits the weekly full-body strength workouts into strictly upper and lower sessions for more strategic gains. Here’s a sample LBS workout.
- Paired set: Dumbbell step-down reverse lunge (3 x 7–8) & leg tuck (2 sets to failure)
- Paired set: Stiff-legged deadlift (3 x 7–8) & cross-body plank march (2 x 30 seconds)
- Paired set: Single-leg extension (3 x 8–10) & seated leg curl (3 x 8–10)
- Tri-set: Bent-knee hip adduction (3 x 8–10) & dumbbell single-leg hip thrust (3 x 8–10) & dumbbell calf raise (3 x 8–10)
Upper Body Strength (Phase 2)
Following in Lower Body Strength’s footsteps, the Upper Body Strength workout in phase 2 with another paired set and tri-set-heavy session. Check out this sample UBS workout.
- Paired set: Chin-up (3 x 7-8) & landmine press (3 x 5-6)
- Paired set: Seated row (3 x 10-12) & cross-over push-up (2 sets to failure)
- Tri-set: Rear delt fly (3 x 10-12) & dumbbell saw triceps skullcrusher (3 x 10-12) & alternating hanging knee raise (3 x 30 seconds)
- Tri-set: Standing band biceps curl (3 x 10-12) & bent over shoulder rotation (3 x 10-12) & standing cable low to high twist (3 x 8-10)
Test Day Practice (Phase 2)
After four weeks of building foundational strength and stamina, you’re finally ready to tackle a modified version of the ACFT test. Here’s Combat Fit’s version to track your progress.
- Deadlift (3 x 3)
- Medicine ball scoop throw (3 x 1)
- Hand-release push-ups (AMRAP in 2 minutes)
- ACFT sprint-drag-carry (1 x 50 yards)
- Leg tuck (AMRAP in 2 minutes)
- Trail run (2 miles)
Don’t forget to log your performance for Test Day Practice! Plugging your stats into this calculator will compare your current performance to the U.S. military’s test day standards.
Three rest days per week will feel like pure agony for recruits obsessed with fitness and swiping into the gym. But Tumminello recommends rest days remain just that — rest days.
Full rest days are key to muscle, joint, and central nervous system recovery.
Research also shows that 10RM performance peaks with 48–72 hours of rest between sessions in both the upper and lower body. The closer to full strength you are, the higher the ACFT score!
Either do nothing, relax in a hot or ice-cold bath, prepare your meals for the week, foam roll, or try a bout of low-impact cardio (i.e., swimming, walking, or biking).
Combat Fit’s Nutrition Plan section is a bit thinner than we expected, but the reasoning behind that makes some sense: passing the ACFT doesn’t require you to have any particular physique.
Tumminello instead labels “energy” and “post-workout recovery” the goals of your new diet. That includes veggies, fruit, healthy fats, fiber, lean protein, and a s*** ton of water for hydration.
(He also links a nine-episode Bodybuilding.com series teaching generic nutritional principles. Each video is also some 8–10 minutes, to which we say, “WHO HAS THE TIME?” Not us.)
Or, simply plug your stats into the Bodybuilding.com calorie & macro calculator with “moderately active” and “maintain current weight” selected to learn about your ideal calorie and macro split.
The final piece of the ACFT puzzle is exercise supplements. Tumminello clarifies that there’s no magic pill to help you pass (sorry, he’s right) before firing off four of his top choices:
The muscles rely on dietary protein to trigger muscle protein synthesis and repair the microtears in the body post-workout. So the first item on your Combat Fit shopping list is protein powder.
Studies show that consuming 20–40g of protein within an hour of training (ideally) best activates muscle protein synthesis for complete recovery. Choose a whey powder within that range.
Recommendation: 1–2 shakes per training day
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Creatine is an amino acid stored in the muscles, fueling them with energy to contract. In supplement form, creatine is most effective for short-burst activities (i.e., 3RM deadlifts)
Recommendation: 5g per day
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Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Omega 3 fatty acids are among the few “healthy fats” known for reducing inflammation and improving cognitive performance. However, its strength & mass benefits are still unclear.
Studies suggest that omega-3s may improve endurance, reduce delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), and speed up muscle recovery post-workout.
Recommendation: 1.5–3g per day
Greens supplements are the modern-day “shortcut” to poorly balanced diets lacking the minerals and vitamins typically absorbed through vegetables.
If your diet is low in nutrients like iron, copper, vitamin A, or vitamin K, these supplements may fill these gaps to an extent. But no supplement will ever replace a healthy, balanced diet!
How Long Does It Take to Train for the ACFT?
It generally takes 1–6 months to train for the ACFT. However, the exact timeline depends on your current strength and endurance levels and what you consider a “good” passing score.
The U.S. Army requires all recruits to score at least 360 points and 60 points per event:
- MDL: 140 pounds
- SPT: 4.5 meters
- HRP: 10 repetitions
- SDC: 3:00
- LTK: 1 repetition
- PLK: 2:09
- 2MR: 21:00
Current or soon-to-be service members who exercise regularly (cardio & strength) may pass the ACFT with a month’s worth of event-specific training.
Newbies who are either untrained or overweight will lean closer to the six-month timeline.
5 Solid Benefits of the Combat Fit Training Plan
- What better way to guarantee a 360+ than by practicing each ACFT event for eight weeks? Combat Fit begins with modified versions of each test event (to master the technique) before four straight weeks of test practice. Log your performance for each event to monitor your week-to-week progress and learn if you’d pass the ACFT today!
- Combat Fit’s supplement recommendations don’t turn into a full-blown Bodybuilding.com advertisement. Instead, Tumminello lists four supplements to fill in slight nutritional gaps, maximize your strength and endurance in eight weeks, and build up to a passing score.
- The paired sets, supersets, circuits, and tri-sets won’t take your strength gains to the next level. However, they will shorten each workout to a more reasonable 45-ish minutes and put an aerobic spin on the more conventional resistance training workouts.
- If you complete the full program, adopt a healthy diet, and repeat phase 1 as necessary (if applicable), achieving the minimum passing score on the ACFT shouldn’t be too hard.
- Combat Fit is a satisfying blend of different training styles and principles. For example, test day practice, isolation exercises (biceps, triceps), rep ranges (5–10), tri-sets and paired sets, and various equipment.
2 Negatives of Combat Fit: 8-Week ACFT
- The Nutrition Guide isn’t detailed enough for novices. While Tumminello is right in saying the number of the scale doesn’t decide your ACFT score, a little guidance in ingredient choice, macro-counting, or recipes would’ve helped.
- It’s not a knock on the Combat Fit program because it’s built around the Army’s actual ACFT, but it requires access to a full gym (not Planet Fitness). Some gyms simply don’t have multiples of free weights (i.e., two 40-pound kettlebells) or nylon drag sleds. That leaves you with two options: buy your own or wing-it with replacement exercises.
Wrapping Up This Review of the Combat Fit: 8-Week ACFT Training Plan
Nick Tumminello’s Combat Fit: 8-Week ACFT Training Plan is non-negotiable for any new Army recruits or current service members with an ACFT on the calendar.
The constant event practice, foundational strength and stamina focus, and training variety should ease that menacing pre-test anxiety. A 360+ total score won’t feel so intimidating.
The only real downsides are the thin Nutrition Guide and the need for full-gym access. But even then … there’s no one-size-fits-all diet for a physical test, and the real test requires equipment!
If you’re in the military or considering enlisting, this program is a must.