Get in Shape, Skip the Tape: Soldiers With Top Fitness Scores Will Be Exempt From BMI Rules

ACFT BMI

A soldier taking the Army Combat Fitness Test, or ACFT, at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin. Photo by Amanda Clark.

Photo by Amanda Clark.

Soldiers who can show they are in top physical shape will no longer have to “prove it” with a tape measure.

In a shift that soldiers have asked for for years, Sgt. Major of the Army Michael Grinston announced Wednesday, Oct. 12, that soldiers with a score over 540 out of a possible 600 on the Army Combat Fitness Test, or ACFT, will soon be exempt from height and weight standards and the hated “tape” test for soldiers who fall outside of those guidelines.

However those tables — which many soldiers believe penalize those with shorter builds and other body types — will not change.

“The science is right,” said Grinston in the announcement.

ACFT, BMI

Sgt. Daniel Brady with B Company, 782nd Military Intelligence Battalion (Cyber), competes in the Army Combat Fitness Test during the battalion’s Best Warrior Competition, Jan. 22, 2020. Photo by Steven Stover.

Photo by Steven Stover.

Currently, a soldier’s weight must fall below specific levels, based on their age and height. A 20-year-old, 6-foot man can weigh only 190 pounds, while a 28-year-old can weigh 200. A 5-foot-4 woman must weigh less than 145 pounds at 20, and 149 at 28.

Those who fall outside the weight limit must be measured more precisely around the waist and in other areas with a measuring tape to determine a better approximation of their body mass index, or BMI, which is a rough reflection of a body’s muscle and fat ratio.

Many who must be measured end up meeting minimum Army BMI standards after being “taped,” as soldiers call it. But soldiers have long complained that the height and weight standards do not reflect short, strong soldiers and those who have other body types.

Now, however, Grinston said, the soldiers who prove they are in top physical condition can skip all the weighing and measuring.

The change has not yet been adopted but should be soon, Grinston said.

The ACFT became the official Army PT test in October, with a three-repetition deadlift, a power throw of a medicine ball, hand-release pushups, a sprint-drag-carry event, planks, and a 2-mile run. The max score is 600.

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Matt White is a senior editor for Coffee or Die Magazine. He was a Pararescueman in the Air Force and the Alaska Air National Guard for eight years and has more than a decade of experience in daily and magazine journalism. He also teaches journalism at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
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