Regardless of where they're deployed, National Guard soldiers need functional fitness to accomplish their missions. Basic Combat Training will help, but candidates will struggle to reach fitness standards if they're completely sedentary before training starts. Start a workout program at least six weeks before BCT, and don't stop after you pass your first test. Soldiers are retested throughout their careers.
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At the end of Basic Combat Training, recruits must pass the Army Physical Fitness Test. It calls for you to meet age- and gender-appropriate standards for push-ups, sit-ups and a two-mile run. You have to pass the APFT at least once every year for your records. You have to pass with more than a minimum score for promotion to certain positions, such as a non-commissioned officer.
During your workouts, you break down muscle tissues. You make fitness gains as your body repairs those tissues with bigger and stronger muscle fibers. Overtraining can lead to muscle atrophy or injury. For best results, plan a workout cycle that includes two or three strength-training sessions a week, including your push-ups and sit-ups, and two to four weekly runs. On recovery days, build additional aerobic capacity with low-impact cardiovascular exercises such as biking, swimming, hiking, cross-country skiing or elliptical trainer workouts.
Training for the Run
The APFT demands you complete a two-mile run within a time limit determined by age and gender. The key to success is increasing training gradually over a period of six to eight weeks. Once you can walk for two miles, alternate walking and jogging, then gradually increase the jogging percentage until you can jog or run the entire two miles. Develop endurance with a weekly long run, increasing the distance you run by 5 to 10 percent each week. Build speed with weekly interval workouts, alternating 20 to 30 seconds of running at your top speed with 60-second recovery periods. Do some runs on dirt, grass or hills to develop balance, agility and additional muscle groups.
Work the Abdominis
The main muscle involved in sit-ups is the rectus abdominis, which runs along the front of the abdomen. If you can't perform five consecutive sit-ups, build up the muscle with partial sit-ups, or sit-ups with your arms crossed over your chest rather than behind your neck. Once you can manage five, do as many sit-ups as you can with good form, rest for a minute, and then repeat for two more sets.
Work the Other Core Muscles
Several other muscle groups help with sit-ups, including the iliopsoas, rectus femoris, sartorius and obliques. If you hit a plateau, target these helper muscles with exercises such as captain's chair twisting knee lifts, twisting sit-ups, side bends, and the bicycle maneuver. For a more intense challenge, use a decline bench or add weights.
Push the Push-Up Limits
If you have difficulty completing five push-ups with good form, build your upper-body strength with bench presses, wall push-ups, incline push-ups and knee push-ups. Once you can do five, do three sets of as many as you can manage with one-minute rests between sets. To avoid overtraining, vary your hand position slightly for each set. For an additional challenge, or to bust through plateaus, try variations such as one-armed push-ups, decline push-ups, side push-ups, burpee push-ups and push-ups with claps.
Eat Right, Always
Guard members have to maintain a body mass index and body fat percentage appropriate for their age and gender. Although you burn calories working out, a diet of junk food can sabotage your fitness efforts. Get at least 1.2 to 1.7 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight to build muscles. In addition to lean proteins, load up on fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. Drink at least two to three liters of water a day, and skip fatty, salty and sugary snacks.