Even if you are not interested in joining the U.S. military, you may want to take the army combat fitness test (ACFT). The infamous army combat fitness test leg tuck is considered the most difficult part of all the ACFT exercises. The Army has replaced this tough exercise with planks, so fewer people fail the ACFT, given nearly half of female soldiers used to fail the test; and quite a few men didn’t fare much better.
This is just one of many changes introduced as part of the latest attempt to make ACFT more comprehensive. As explained on Military.com, the most significant change in ACFT with six events is that it is no longer designed to prepare soldiers for battle but to assess their overall physical fitness. “Standards for men and women in different age groups often lower their chances of selection.”
The original ACFT had the same standards for women and men but a report by Rand Corp, a Congressionally mandated report by a Washington DC-based think tank, reported that “about half of women in the service can’t pass previous testing standards, especially the leg tuck events”. To work around these concerns, the Army swapped leg tucks for planks.
Let’s dissect the leg tuck and figure out how best to train for it, even if just for the fun and challenge of completing a few reps.
What is an Army Combat Fitness Test Leg Tuck?
Leg tuck is the most criticized area because many people have difficulty performing this basic exercise. ACFT grading standards require you to be able to complete at least one iteration of the test, at least part of the leg test, to pass the test. You will have to repeat 20 times without losing the bar to get the maximum number of points.
In the U.S. military, to perform a standard army combat fitness test leg tuck exercise, hold your feet off the ground in the middle of the bar to raise the bar with another grip. From here, you bend your elbows and bring your legs closer to your chest, which results in something that looks like a pretzel but hangs from a bar. Finally, you need to get back to the starting position before you start another one.
Army Combat Fitness Test Leg Tuck by short definition:
- Hold the pull bar with another grip
- Hang of the bar – the body is in a straight line
- Fold your elbows (no exact angle)
- Bring both knees and both elbows together
- Return legs to starting position
- When performing another repetition, you cannot use the swing or beat (aka momentum) at the bottom to help you get the next rep.
It is important not to cross your legs, because in combat situations you may have to jump off a wall or helicopter soon, and if your legs are crossed, you may fall off.
How to Train For the ACFT Leg Tuck
So you want to be a badass and incorporate the army combat fitness test leg tuck into your training? Let’s take a look at how we can go about training to complete a few reps of the leg tuck.
The first thing you need to do to improve your leg tuck skills is to know what muscles you are training. If you push yourself all day with all manner of exercise, you might never be able to tuck your legs. You need to know what muscles to focus on in the short term to make quick progress.
So, here’s a basic lesson in anatomy: you want to hit your biceps, lats, core, and the most important muscle that many people don’t appreciate or pay enough attention to – the wrist and grip strength.
If you can’t keep hold of the bar, how do you hope to do a leg tuck?
You need to start at the level you are at now and gradually move towards your goal. Don’t try to climb the bar and perform 5 or 6 repetitions right away. This is probably not going to happen unless you already have great full-body strength and stamina.
All pull exercises are ideal for improving your grip and training your back muscles for a leg tuck. Push-ups, pull-ups, chin-ups, barbell/dumbbell rows, and even lat-pulldown are all great strength exercises that will help you gain back and grip strength.
Hit your core HARD!
Any core exercise would be great for tucking the legs. Leg raises, reverse crunches, dragonflags, side planks, and farmer’s carries will build the core strength you need to leg tuck. Incorporating planks, Russian twists, and anti-rotation presses can also be helpful.
Owing to the alternative grip used in the Leg Tuck, the biceps are one of the main muscles to train. The latissimus dorsi (or lats) are the next big muscle that pulls your body up to the bar. These muscles are active when you do chin-ups, pull-ups, rows, or pull a weighted object such as a loaded sled.
In terms of force production and leg strength, maybe don’t worry as much since biceps are more commonly used, but lats are secondary motors and will help you better control your legs as they reach towards the bar.
Progression is the KEY For the ACFT Leg Tuck
You need to understand where you are. Can you repeat 2 reps under control? Can you repeat 10? No reps? No matter where you are at now, it does NOT matter! You can and will be even stronger. You have to start now.
Don’t give up on yourself!
You have to understand even if you can’t tuck your legs at all now, and that doesn’t mean you won’t be able to do repetitions a month later. The best outlook you can take is to gauge your progress after 3 months. Three months is generally a good goal to measure progress in both fat loss and strength gains.
Choose an action plan and follow it!
If you are on the heavier side, you need to lighten your body by eating lower calories and adding conditioning to your routine. If you are around the proper healthy weight, you can focus solely on strengthening your biceps, grip, lats, and core as we’ve discussed earlier. It’s really that simple.
Any way you look at it, you have to get started at your own level.
How Hard is the Army Fitness Test Leg Tuck?
ACFT leg tuck exercises are not easy. It is different from performing simple strength training exercises such as bench presses and deadlifts. When tucking your legs from a hanging position, you have to use almost every muscle in your body with each repetition, which of course gets very tiring.
It should be noted that most people who say they can do pull-ups or chin-ups, do not usually return to the correct hanging position after each repetition, which means if the person who is judging your leg tucks may eventually give you a no-rep despite performing the full leg tuck.
Many soldiers complained that they had a solid core, but could not hold onto the bar long enough. Grip strength is no joke, and there are a number of exercises that can improve it. Some of the best exercises to increase grip strength are kettlebell swings, deadlifts, and farmer’s carries. Exercises like rocking climbing can significantly improve your grip as well. If you’re not against diverse but repetitive training, this could be a good choice for you to improve your grip.
The important thing to note about the new test is that it is designed to measure fitness, not combat readiness. Well, if you’re willing enough to get a good result in ACFT, you’re probably physically ready for the fight, but that’s not the point. While the army combat fitness test leg tuck has been phased out, it can still be used to test yourself against yourself.
There are other great exercises to test full body strength. Try full get-ups with a kettlebell or Olympic complexes such as thrusters. Even a weighted plank is a great exercise that requires a lot of core strength. If ACFT aims to measure “fitness”, those exercises are a great choice, probably a better choice than leg tucks. After all, the ACFT leg tuck is not based on how an average soldier frequently trains, but on a person with a strong grip and solid core.