Too many people are concerned about how much weight they can lift. Just as when dealing with body weight, weight lifted has nothing to do with a person’s fitness or capability level…
Weight is an obsession, not only when it comes to how much a person weighs, but when dealing with how much a person can lift. In neither case is weight indicative of health. Granted weight is a black and white issue, and except for the metric system debacle, is universally understood. So when someone says that they workout with 25-pound dumbbells, most everyone can relate to what this means.
The bench press is the perfect example of how weight becomes the focus, as most guys are obsessed with how much they can bench. Some sports use the bench press to determine how strong an athlete is, and most gym rats judge their workouts by how well they did with their bench press.
Now at some level people who weight train need to be aware of how much weight they are lifting, and always should strive to improve their strength. But all too frequently the focus on increasing the amount of weight lifted detracts from their overall program while not improving their physical fitness.
As part of the process of applying to the various United States Service Academies, all applicants must pass muster in the form of a physical abilities test, known as the Candidate Fitness Assessment. Of the six events that make up this assessment, there is not one that deals with how much weight a person can lift.
This test is designed to measure a person’s strength, agility, speed, and endurance so the academies can see if a candidate will be able to handle the physical rigors of military life. The fact that the United States service academies do not judge a person’s fitness level or health– or even consider to be a part of this equation – any exercise that involves lifting weights.
Certainly, weight lifting is an important element of all physical fitness programs. Lifting weights is a tool that if properly used can help improve a person’s fitness level, but is not a very good indicator of a person’s fitness level.
Exercises like push-ups, pull-ups, and sit-ups should be a part of everybody’s workout routine. Calisthenics – jumping jacks, squat thrusts, and leg drives – are activities that everyone should engage in. And there another bodyweight exercise, such as squats and lunges, that if used properly can help a person get into fantastic shape. In the case of these kinds of exercise, it’s a matter of repetitions and time spent working and not a matter of how much weight lifted. Here’s a little test for you. See how well you can do in the following events; kneeling basketball throw, pull-ups, shuttle run, sit-ups, push-ups and 1-mile run. Anyone who wants to know how well they did will need to post their results here – you can use a pen name! – and if we get 30 people to respond I’ll tell you what the average score for applicants is for this year’s incoming classes at the academies. But before I go, here are some instructions and rules for you to abide by. For the basketball throw, kneel on two knees and keep them parallel to and behind the start line throughout the event. Throw with an overhead motion a men’s basketball as far as possible and don’t let any body part – except your knees – touch the ground at any point.
Pull-ups are done with a “palms away” grip and each rep needs to start and finish from the dead hang position, and no momentum can be used. The jawline needs to be parallel to the ground and above the bar for the rep to count. For women who can’t do a pull-up, you can do what’s called a flexed-arm hang, in which you get to the top position of the pull-up and hold this position for as long as possible. There’s no kicking or other body movement allowed. For the shuttle run, mark off a 10-yard area with a line at each end. You will complete this course by going “up, back, up, back,” thus covering 40 yards total. You need to stay behind the line at the start, and at each approach touch the lines simultaneously with hand and foot, except for when you run through the finish line. Sit-ups are performed with bent knees, arms across the chest with feet anchored.
Complete as many sit-ups as possible in 2-minutes. Arms must stay crossed with fingers touching shoulders, elbows much touch knees at the top of each rep and shoulders must touch the mat at the end of each rep. The only rest can occur in the top position. Push-ups are of the “guy” variety, as no variations to this movement are accepted. From the top of the push-up position, lower until upper arms are parallel to the ground and then fully extend back to the top position, and continue for 2-minutes. If at any time a hand or foot leaves the floor, or a body part other than the hands and feet touch the floor, the test is over. Rest is allowed in the top position. For the mile run, just run 4 laps around a track as fast as you can. Oh and all of these tests must be performed in exactly this order with no more than 3-minutes rest in between each event. The only longer break is the 8 minutes between the push-ups and mile run. Good luck and let us know how you did!