by Scott Prater
Sit ups, those pesky abdominal exercises.
A one-movement full crunch from the flat position to the sitting position is all it takes. But, perform the movement more than a few times and those abdominal muscles begin pleading for forgiveness.
Everyone who takes the Air Force Fitness Assessment has become all too familiar with the exercise, but some haven’t familiarized the movement well enough. According to Fitness Cell Monitors Krys Bankard and Stephen Steinke, sit-up failures have accounted for 34 percent of Fitness Assessment failures year to date (starting July 1).
Have sit ups suddenly become harder to perform recently? No, says Ms. Bankard.
“But, the Air Force instruction for the sit-up component of the test changed starting in July,” she said. “Some people may not be aware of the change. I don’t know if we can point to the AFI conclusively, but we’ve seen a big change in the number of sit-up failures.”
So what about the AFI changed?
The former AFI indicated test takers could only rest in the up position. The new AFI, however, explicitly explains that if test takers rest in the down position, with their shoulder blades touching the floor, or if they hold their knees/legs in the up position, then this component of the test will be terminated.
“That’s an important distinction,” Mr. Steinke said. “The former AFI simply stated that people could not rest in the down position.”
That’s not all. Mr. Steinke and Ms. Bankard also explained that some test takers often perform their sit ups improperly once they begin to fatigue.
“The AFI clearly states that people need to keep their arms crossed, and their hands need to be touching their shoulders or chest during the entire movement,” Mr. Steinke said. “When a person lifts their hands away from their body during the movement, that nullifies the sit up. We had a guy last week who did six in a row, which didn’t count because his hands shook and he lifted them off his body.”
Ms. Bankard indicated that if a tester rests for any length of time with their shoulder blades touching the floor, that tester is given a warning. If the person rests again in the same fashion, the component test is terminated.
Airmen also need to be aware that each component, (run, push ups, sit ups and waist measurement) have minimum requirements. So if minimum requirements are not met in each component, the tester fails, even if they post high scores during their other component tests.
“Frankly, I don’t see a lot of people performing abdominal work,” Mr. Steinke said. “I see a lot of folks lifting weights and running, but they seem to skimp on the core work.”
So how can Airmen alleviate this sit-up problem?
“It’s pretty straight forward,” Ms. Bankard said. “People need to practice their sit ups. We have a ton of resources here at the fitness center to help people improve their core strength, including personal trainers. Airmen are allotted 12 free sessions with a personal trainer.”
Classes designed to strengthen a person’s core area are also offered at the fitness center, such as Yoga, Pilates and Fitness Improvement Progam.
The old adage, “knowledge is power” also applies. The FAC monitors advise Airmen to make sure they are knowledgeable with the new AFI and help is available at the fitness center. Ms. Bankard and Mr. Steinke will demonstrate proper sit-up technique to both individuals and squadrons when asked. They’ll demonstrate the proper form of each component, but it’s important to note: they cannot provide practice-waist measurements.
“We don’t provide courtesy tapings because the Fitness Assessment Cell does all official
testing and because of time constraints,” Ms. Bankard said. “Physical Training Leaders conduct unofficial practice tests to include taping, and a member should go through their PTL to have an idea of where he/she is at.”
Contrary to misconceptions, the FAC monitors say they are not out to get people. Instead their function is to standardize testing and record scores.
“Some may think otherwise, but we don’t want people to fail,” Mr. Steinke said. “Besides wanting everyone to succeed, there is a lot of extra paperwork, not only for us, but for everyone involved if someone fails. “Testers who fail must attend classes, do extra training, and their commanders are never happy about the news.”