Is it really a core exercise? The answer may surprise you.
Surprise surprise, the event that involves hanging from a bar is proving to be the most difficult part of the new Army PT test the ACFT.
If only they could have asked another one of the Services what happens when you require service members to hang from a bar… *cough cough* Marine Corps *cough cough*
But hey, I'm on team pro ACFT. The issues that are currently being seen with the test, especially when it comes to the Leg Tucks, are just growing pains.
Luckily, for you, I found the secret to the leg tucks…Just keep reading.
How PT tests work
Everyone except for the bootiest boot recruit knows that the goal of the PT test isn't to prove how in shape you are. It's to figure out how little you can do and still get away with achieving the most points possible.
"Perfect form" and "First-grade level counting skills" aren't really required.
Of course, there are events like the distance runs that you really can't make easier for yourself. Unless, of course, you're a damn dirty cheater.
That's really where the distinction I'm talking about lives…In the gray zone between following the ROEs (rules of engagement) and committing a war crime. No one wants to be a war criminal OR sit around getting shot at because of some rule an incumbent politician trying to get reelected came up with.
Pheww. Now that I got that out…Here's how that relates to leg tucks.
The writers of the IOC ACFT document wrote the following:
"An ACFT-focused program will train all aspects of fitness, including mental toughness. Just as soldiers have to carefully dose their stamina across different moments in combat, so too will soldiers have to plan their pacing strategy to avoid under-performing on one of the later events in the ACFT."Translation: Be as smart as possible by doing as little as possible while still winning.
How to win the leg tuck
Look back, bend less.
(Photo by Spc. Samantha Hall)
Bend as little as possible
Not bending at your elbows that much can be a pleasant experience.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Jason Hull)
When you read the publication mentioned above, you see that "The elbows must flex." but that's the extent of the guidance. Your elbows can't stay straight the entire time or bent the entire time. They must contract and expand in order for a repetition to count.
When it comes to the test, don't be foolish by doing a full pull-up on each rep. Only bend at your elbows enough to satisfy the requirement of flexing your elbows.
When it comes to training, do a full pull up each and every repetition. You need to train better than you plan to perform, that way when nerves kick in, your muscle memory won't let you down.This is the real secret to this movement: don't waste energy on an over-exaggerated movement.
Move that tightness from the face to the rest of your body.
(U.S. Army photo by Capt. Daniel Parker)
Energy bleed off is another waste of movement when it comes to the Leg Tuck. Learn to stay tight yet lax throughout the entire movement.
You want to be able to be quick at performing a repetition without looking sloppy or losing control of yourself. The best way to learn this is to get on a bar and get comfortable. If test day is your first time on the bar, you're gonna look like a freshly caught rainbow trout hanging by your bottom lip fighting for freedom.
Now that's a horizontal back angle.
(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Spc. Amy Carle)
You want your back angle to be as horizontal as possible at the top of this movement. This will allow your lats to more fully engage on multiple planes of movement, that's good.
Your lats should be doing two things as you perform this movement:
- Extending your shoulder
- Adducting your shoulder
That's two movements where your elbows are getting closer to your ribs, which is precisely what you want when performing the leg tuck.
When you have a very vertical back angle, you're only adducting the elbow. When you focus on achieving a more horizontal back angle, you're doing both.The easiest way to achieve a horizontal back angle is to look at your forehead. The body follows the eyes if the eyes look up, the back will follow. Give it a try.
How to train for leg tucks
Your first time attempting this should not be on test day
(U.S. Army Reserve photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret)
Do not kid yourself; this is not a core exercise. Sure, the abs are involved to some degree, but not in the same way your back and grip will be tested.
99% of people will find that their grip or back gives out before their core does. Test this yourself: rest your elbows in a dip station and see how many times you can bring your knees to your chest. If you get more reps than you can leg tucks, you just learned that your abs are not your limiting factor.
TRAIN FOR PULL-UPS
The pull up is slightly more difficult than the leg tuck. Train better than you'll perform.
You will waste your time doing the exercises on the ACFT website. Also, if you need three people to do alternate grip pull-ups you're going to have a bad time during the leg tucks portion of the test. I know the Army has to cover their ass by only showing "safe" exercises so that there's not even a whiff of negligence, but it seems like they almost want soldiers to fail this portion of the ACFT based on the exercises they chose to train for leg tucks.
I have a free and simple pull-up program that you can get here.
Keep it simple; you're more likely to stick to it that way. Even if you just hang from a bar and try to do a couple of max sets of leg tuck three times a week, you're going to do well.
Just train hard. Most soldiers' problem is that they aren't training. The days of rolling into the PFT blind are over. Use the Mighty Fit Plan to get in the gym and build consistency. Consistency will be your biggest ally in maxing this test.
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