Military Training: Physical Combat Proficiency Test

As society evolves, it is crucial for individuals to be able to adapt in order to survive. This can take many forms including martial arts and combat training, which military personnel will often partake of as a way of improving their performance on the battlefield. Although physical training was once restricted due to its violent nature, today it has been shown that practicing these disciplines actually reduces aggression in everyday life.

The “military physical test chart” is a guide to help soldiers pass the physical combat proficiency test. The tests are designed to give soldiers an idea of what they will be facing in the field.

Vintage military photo physical combat proficiency test.

The Army’s physical training exam, as we reported earlier this year, has gone through various versions over the years and has swung between two separate areas of emphasis: combat readiness and physical fitness.

The Army’s tough PT exam, which was used during and after WWII to assess all-around functional fitness, comprised of five events: pull-ups, push-ups, squat jumps, sit-ups, and a 300-yard run.

However, the military discovered that although the exam measured physical fitness, it did not adequately connect to the kind of physical duties demanded of troops in battle during the Korean and Vietnam conflicts.

As a result, the Army formalized a new exam, Physical Readiness Training, in FM 21-20 in 1969. The Physical Combat Proficiency Test is a test that assesses a person’s ability (PCPT) was designed to assess soldiers’ agility, coordination, and ability to perform “warrior tasks,” as the name of the field manual suggests. In addition to gauging soldiers’ strength, muscular endurance, and aerobic/anaerobic capacities, the PCPT was also designed to assess their agility, coordination, and ability to actually perform what the Army calls “warrior tasks.” It wasn’t merely a test of physical fitness; it was also a measure of physical talent. Participants had to perform five activities in their uniform trousers and boots: low crawl, horizontal ladder, dodge/run/jump, grenade toss (replaced with a man-carry for combat support troops), and a 1-mile run.

An developing focus on aerobic fitness in the broader society (see: running), concern over rising obesity rates in new recruits, and the inclusion of women into the military spurred the Army to design a new PT exam in the years after the adoption of the PCPT. The Army Physical Fitness Test, first introduced in 1980, consisted of just three events: sit-ups, push-ups, and a 2-mile run, all of which could be accomplished in a PT outfit of shorts and shoes. The APFT was created only to test general fitness and health, as seen by the nomenclature change, and was intended to provide more parity between male and female troops.

The APFT has received a lot of flak, but many people still regard the PCPT to be the pinnacle of the Army’s physical training exams – a real measure of overall functional fitness and physical competence.

If you’d like to take the Physical Combat Proficiency Test yourself (with or without combat boots), we’ve included a shortened version (without the administrative elements from the handbook) below. It does, however, need some equipment (another reason it was eliminated): four obstacles (easily made or borrowed) for the run, dodge, and leap events, as well as a target for the grenade toss. However, it’s a fun and intriguing exam that will help you determine if you’re “battle ready.”

If you take the exam, let us know how it went and how you fared by tweeting or Instagramming a picture and/or your score to @artofmanliness!

The Physical Combat Proficiency Test 

Fm 21-20 physical readiness training manual.

The Physical Combat Proficiency Exam (PCPT) is the Army’s major physical fitness test and the gold standard for determining physical fitness and specific physical abilities. Agility, coordination, strength, and endurance are all required to pass this exam. The Physical Combat Proficiency Test is available in two versions:


Crawling, navigating, throwing, evading, leaping, and sprinting are the abilities evaluated for all people save those receiving individual instruction. The 40-yard low crawl, horizontal ladder, dodge, run, and leap, grenade toss, and 1-mile run are among the five exercises that are used to assess these abilities.

b. With the exception of throwing, these abilities are assessed for troops undergoing BCT, AIT, and CST. The weight carry is utilized instead of the grenade throw, and the 150-yard man carry is used instead of the grenade toss. The Physical Combat Proficiency Exam — Modified is the name of this version of the test.

Test Event No. 1: 40-Yard Low Crawl

Vintage military soldiers low crawl pt training.

Instructions. The 40-yard low crawl is an endurance test that assesses your ability to crawl quickly.

At the starting line, lie down on your back with your elbows and chest resting on the line. When I say “GO,” you must crawl the length of the course and, when you get close enough to the finish line of your lane, reach out and touch it with your hands, then turn around and crawl back to the beginning line by spinning on your stomach. The time starts when you hear “GO” and ends when your hand reaches the finish line. You must crawl low to the ground, with at least a portion of your trunk touching the ground at all times. This indicates you’re on the ground with your hips, stomach, or chest. You are free to pick your own crawling technique as long as it allows ground contact with at least one component of the trunk during the crawl and maintains a low profile.

Breaking ground contact, failing to maintain a low silhouette, and diving or lunging at the start, turnaround, or finish may all result in a stop. If you break the rules, the scorer will give you a warning. You will be interrupted and forced to redo the course after the third warning. If you are warned three times more, you will be dismissed from the competition and will not earn a score.

Test Event No. 2: Horizontal Ladder

Vintage military boot camp pt training horizontal ladder.

Dimensions of the ladder: 9 feet in height, 20 feet in length, and 16 feet in breadth.

Instructions. The horizontal ladder puts your shoulder girdle and whole body coordination to the test.

Step up onto the supports and use the front grip with both hands to grab the first rung. Swing your feet off the support and begin forward movement, holding the next rung and driving your body ahead. You must alternate your hands grasping each rung of the ladder when the instruction “GO” is given. Turn around and return when you reach the bottom of the ladder. Continue climbing the ladder until you hear “STOP” at the conclusion of a one-minute countdown. At 15-second intervals, the passage of time will be indicated. The distance covered or “walked” on the ladder throughout the one-minute time will determine your score. You have the option to quit before the one-minute time expires if you are tired. You must truly hang your body weight from the final rung in order to gain credit for it, rather than just touching it. If you lose your hold and fall off the ladder during the first trip down, including the process of turning around, you will be halted and allowed to go to the end of the line to try the event again. The rung count resets to zero on the second try. If you fall off the ladder a second time, at any point along the way, you are not allowed to try again, and you are only given the number of rungs from your second attempt.


If you utilize the supports at either end of the ladder to help you turn around, or if you use the beginning blocks to rest or as a halt to obtain a stronger grip, you will be stopped and forced to replay the event. If you utilize the supports or footrests again on the second try, you will be halted and given the score you earned up to that point.

3rd Test Event: Dodge, Run, and Jump

Vintage military boot camp pt training.

Instructions. The dodge, run, and jump exercise assesses your ability to change directions quickly while running and leap a six-foot-wide ditch.

Begin running as quickly as possible from the starting line when the order “GO” is issued. Following the directions arrows, run between the first two obstacles. Jump over the ditch and sprint between the last two obstacles, completing round the last obstacle. Return the way you came, weaving in and out between the obstacles, jumping the ditch, negotiating the final two hurdles, circling the last obstacle, and beginning your second journey. Continue on the same path you took on your first journey. You’ll arrive at the same line where you began at the conclusion of your second full round journey. Make your run as quick as you can. You can’t help yourself by holding the obstructions with your hands, therefore you’ll have to leap the ditch. Both sides of the barrier have directional arrows. Follow the arrows in the direction they indicate. You’ll be graded on how quickly you can dodge and sprint around the obstacles, as well as jump the ditch.

You will be halted and forced to repeat the route if you purposefully contact any of the obstacles, fail to clear a ditch, or run out of the pattern. If you do one of these infractions again, you will be disqualified and will not earn a score. When you reach the conclusion of your final journey, time comes to an end.

Vintage military boot camp pt training dodge run jump.

Test Event No. 4: Grenade Throw

Vintage military boot camp pt training grenade throw.

Instructions. The grenade throw assesses your ability to toss a grenade accurately and over a long distance.

You must launch seven grenades at a target 90 feet away from the throwing line. The first two grenades are just for fun and will not affect your score. Scores will be awarded for the remaining five grenades. At my command, throw one grenade at a time, aiming towards the center of the inner circle with each grenade. From a kneeling posture, you must toss. You can toss with whatever overarm motion you like. Assume the kneeling posture and keep an eye on me when it’s your time to throw. With this flag, I’ll be stationed at the back of the target area. Keep an eye on the flag signal; when it goes up, get a grenade; when I lower the flag, make your throw. Take your time while pitching. The following are the scores for each of your grenades:

  • Hits in the inner circle get you 8 points.
  • Hits in the inner center circle get 7 points.
  • Hits in the outside middle circle get 6 points.
  • Hits in the outside circle get 5 points.
  • If your grenade lands within the square but not inside the circular region, you will get one point.

If a grenade lands on any line, the next greater value is awarded.


Vintage military boot camp pt training grenade throw diagram.

Test Event No. 4a: The 150-Yard Man-Carry

Vintage military boot camp pt training man carry.

In USATCs, this exercise replaces the grenade throw for BCT, AIT, and combat support training.

Instructions. You’ve been partnered with a guy who is around your weight. Do not switch partners or rankings. Mount, get set, and go are the first orders. You must hoist your partner utilizing the carry posture of your choosing when the instruction to mount is given. Place your lead foot on the starting line when you’re ready. Move as quickly as possible to the finish line at the far end of the course when the signal “GO” is given. You may pick up your companion or rebalance your load and finish the action if you fall, drop him, or he gets imbalanced. If this step is required, respond quickly since you are being timed. When you’ve completed the event, drop your companion to the ground and reassemble in rank order behind the ready line. Even-numbered men will carry their partners back up the course once the odd-numbered men have finished the race.

Test Event No. 5: One-Mile Run

Vintage military boot camp pt training one mile run.

Instructions. The one-mile run evaluates your endurance and ability to run for an extended period of time.

You’ll be running with a group of 36 guys. On the other side of the track, another set of 36 men will begin at the same time. All runners will start from the back of the starting line. Each guy will begin running around the quarter-mile track when the signal “GO” is given; each man will select his own speed and run to the right of the track stakes. One mile is equivalent to four circuits around the track. You’ll begin at this line and finish at this line after four circuits around the course. An official will declare the amount of laps left as you finish each one. Try to maintain a steady pace and avoid going all out on the first lap. Your ability to run the mile in the fewest amount of time will be evaluated.

The Test’s Scoring

To convert raw scores to point scores using Part I of the scorecard, proceed down the correct event column until the actual performance in time or rungs is achieved. The point value to be granted is in the first column on the card’s extreme left.

Physical combat proficiency test score table.

Physical combat proficiency test performance report.

All PCPT users must meet a minimum total point criteria of 300 points. Personnel in the following categories must achieve 300 points as well as the following extra minimum event point scores:

  1. Combat and combat support are two different things. A total of 60 points in each of the five events is required (Fig. 1). Failure to meet these requirements on any one of these events results in a test failure, regardless of the overall score.
  2. Support for combat operations. In each of the five events, a minimum of 45 points is required (Fig. 2). To get a total of 300 points, you’ll need to get more than 45 points on any or all of the events. Failure to meet these requirements on any one event, regardless of overall score, results in a test failure.

CPT combat ready standers.


PCPT standers for combat support personal.




The “military fitness test female” is a physical combat proficiency test that soldiers must pass in order to be considered fit for service. The test consists of push-ups, sit-ups, and a 2 mile run.

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