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Army Fitness Test - Deadlift, 3RM...

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Hello All,


I'm an Army Reservist and the Army is switching to a new fitness test, the Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT), which can be read about here:



One of the events is a trap-bar deadlift, 3 rep, max weight, and score is based on the weight. 


My question, what's best set / rep scheme to build for that type of event? 


Me: early 40's, have a basement and decent little home gym there, even bought myself a trap bar similar to what Army's going to use. 

How I work out: 

Short strength workouts where I pop to basement, do two lifts, alternating them, and that's it. Usually do 3 strength workouts, then a run day. I don't schedule rest days b/c married w/ two kids so inevitably at least 2x a week, "life happens" and those become rest days. 

Day 1: Bench & Deadlift.

Day 2: NF Rings - Muscle-Up progression (so pullups and ring dips)

Day 3: Front squat & weighted lunges

Day 4: run 2-3 miles, sometimes sprints



I progress slowly b/c I've... not injured per se, but strained my back in the past. Just started 200 lbs. on deadlift, do 3X5. Next workout, 3X6, then 3X7 then 3X8, then I add weight, go to 210 lbs. and go back down to 3X5 and work up from there again. That slows down progress, which is fine, but adhere's to NF "add a little of something, either weight or reps, every workout", which seems to work decently. 


I'm pretty happen with overall workout b/c I've gotten into good habits of getting into basement and doing at least a little something psychical every day. 


What I'm looking for: I don't think the set/rep scheme I'm doing on dead lifts is right to prepare for a 3-rep max for the ACFT. Is there a good program for that lift, or set rep scheme that's better? 


Another consideration: in a good unit, you'll know when you're taking an ACFT about 90-180 days out. But, they're not all good units... and lots of Soldiers have had experience of showing up to formation and hearing "Go change, you're taking a PT test today." 

So something that would allow a good base for "spontaneous ACFTs" but with a planned peak for a scheduled test would be good. 

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So, there are a couple of different factors to unpack, if I'm reading things correctly?

1) You'd like to (need to) work towards increasing a 3 rep max

2) You have some limitations that would/should prevent you from regularly lifting that heavy (ie. concerns about back) as well as time constraints

3) You are unsure when you will need to be 'ready'


FWIW, I'm a big fan of the method you're already using, which is to increase reps with the same weight until you've hit your goal and then drop down reps and increase weight to start again. Personally, I use something very similar with an added component: rep goals. So let's say you need to hit 25 reps every workout, so you're focusing on total volume in addition to reps per set; 5x5, 4x6 +1, 3x7 + 2, 3x8 +1 = increase weight and go back to 5x5 to start all over again.


If you're wanting to try working on lower reps, you could look at pyramid training, or something like 5/3/1. If you're not wanting to do lower reps every week, you could program in a 'test' day once a month maybe, to see how the 3 rep max is going? Don't forget that warmup sets are important, especially with heavier weights! The advantage of not regularly using lower rep sets is potentially less fatigue/wear&tear on your nervous system.


Alternatively, you could add accessory lifts to accelerate your progress with DLs like inverted rows and hip thrusts for example (which arguably should maybe be added to the rotation regardless); or pallof press and KB swings. These could help with training objectives while avoiding unnecessary loading on your back/spine (or in the case of the pallof & swing, adding to cross-axis stability). You could also rotate in some unilateral work like single leg dead lifts, or even single dumbbell single leg deadlifts (also good for the stabilizers in your core).


Are you able to acquire a trap bar? If not, maybe shift your focus to DB deadlifts if possible instead of using the BB, to practice the slightly different movement pattern in anticipation of the testing. Finally, I'd probably also include the other exercises for the test (backward and overhead medicine ball throw, hand-release push-ups, sprint-drag-carry, hanging leg tucks, etc) because they are also 'skilled' movements to a certain extent, and would likely benefit from some direct training as well.


All this being said, I don't do much low-rep work myself, and I'm most certainly not an expert. Maybe @Grumble or @Gainsdalf the Whey could chime in?

...but I'm adorable! Ask anyone who doesn't know me...

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Sorry for delay in response... my army computer doesn't like nerdfitness forums...


Fun ACFT news update: due to COVID-19 stop movement orders, the Army hasn't been able to distribute weightlifting stuff to as many units as it wanted. So it officially becomes the test of record on October 1, but... a failing score will not count against you for one year. Army still wants everyone to take it in FY21, but won't ding you for failing until FY22. Probably smart, a slower phase in to give everyone a chance to try it out. 


Anyway, a few points: 

1. Yes, 3RM for deadlift is what I'm training towards. 

2. Concerns about injury are mild... I guess I'm just noticing my body isn't as resilient as it was in 20's and 30's... it's a little easier to "tweak" things, and when I do tweak them, it takes longer to feel back to normal. 

Time constraints are minimal. I have my own trap bar, and some plates, in the basement... it just feels easier mentally to "pop down to the basement for 20 minutes" than think "uh after dishes gotta walk dogs then put in hour workout". 


Nice to hear "add reps / then add weight and drop reps" technique works for others, too. Will probably keep it up. I'll look into 5/3/1. 


Here's a question: how do i test a max? I haven't "maxed out" on lifts since college which was (oh good lord) two decades ago. Just go in on deadlift and day and keep adding 10's on each side until I cannot get 3 reps done? 



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On 6/23/2020 at 8:57 PM, darthgall said:

Here's a question: how do i test a max? I haven't "maxed out" on lifts since college which was (oh good lord) two decades ago. Just go in on deadlift and day and keep adding 10's on each side until I cannot get 3 reps done? 



It'll depend on how much you can lift. If you're working up to 500 lbs, 10-20lb increments will have you worn out before you're anywhere near the goal. You'll probably have an idea of where you want to end up; take comfortable jumps until you're in the area, then go by feel to add whatever additional weight you think you can handle until you can't get it any more.


I know that sounds vague and not super helpful, but it's going to vary based on your work capacity and strength. The idea is to get to your potential max without gassing yourself out, but also don't jump up so fast in weight that you aren't warmed up and ready.

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