Pushes and Pulls: The Leg Tuck and Hand Release Push Up of the Army ACFT

The functional fitness movement breaks down exercises into categories: some combination of squat, hinge, push, pull, and carry depending on where you are looking. The aim of this is to make exercise more transferable to daily life. The elements of the Army Combat Fitness Test challenge different areas of the functional movement spectrum. This is to relate specific exercises to functional tasks required for performance in war. I have a full breakdown of all six tests in the blog post breaking down the full ACFT. We are going to talk about pushes and pulls specifically today and advice for the tests.

The military selected hand release push ups to test push capability. Push ups were traditionally a part of military training, but hand release push ups challenge the conventional push up test. They require more technical skill by resetting each rep. You can’t cheat the range of motion or bang out reps quickly with momentum. If you are unfamiliar, you can see the form for hand release push ups in the number eight video below.

The basic principle that I use to achieve push ups is graded exposure to pushing activity. Even though you start hand release push ups on the ground, the foundation is finding and maintaining the plank position. This is the fundamental start and half the battle right there. Once you can get a solid plank position, apply it to gradually increasing percentages of bodyweight. Move to the next step when you feel like you can do reps comfortably without losing the plank. The idea is to master the basic part and gradually master increasing load without losing form.

Here is how I would rank push up modifications in difficulty from easiest to hardest. Each exercise has a link to the YouTube video for demonstration: 

Plank – Arms Extended

Barbell Elevated Push up- high  (the bar can be substituted for any raised, stable surface)

Barbell Elevated Push up- low (the lower the angle of your body, the more weight you push)

Knee push up

Push up eccentric 

Band assisted push up

Conventional Push up 

Hand release push up

Hand and elbow position are going vary a little based on comfort level and anatomy somewhere between elbows fully down at your sides to elbows pointing straight out. Find what works. Start at the beginning and work from there! 

Push ups check off the push category of functional movement. The pull category for the ACFT is leg tucks, which involves hanging from a bar with a sideways orientation and pulling your knees to your elbows. The leg tucks had a relatively difficult roll out due to high failure rates especially in female members of the military. It was recently decided that the leg tuck can be substituted for a max hold plank. So, either you can plank away or if you choose to still learn leg tucks, I have a comprehensive lecture on how to accomplish the feet. Check out the link to my lecture on leg tucks to learn more: Master the Leg Tuck. 

As always, be sure to consult a medical professional such as a physical therapist if you feel like you are stuck in the process, rehabbing an injury, or having pain. Everyone’s needs are different.

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