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USNA Conducts "New" PRT

  POSTED ON: Monday, February 3, 2020 10:00 AM by MC2 Josiah Pearce

ANNAPOLIS, Md.-- The United States Naval Academy will conduct the biannual Physical Readiness Test (PRT) Saturday, Feb. 8, and for the first time, the curl-up is out and the plank is in.

This marks the first time that the entire Brigade of Midshipmen will be required to follow the new standards set forth in the November 2019 update of the Director of Athletics Instruction (DIRATHINST 6110.2C) outlining midshipman Physical Fitness Assessment procedures. According to this new instruction, the front-plank exercise will replace the curl-up portion of older PRTs, and the push-up portion will be modified by the addition of a cadence.

“At the Naval Academy, as initial entry training, the PRT is an internal process, so we can make these changes before the rest of the fleet,” said Cmdr. Joseph “Jody” Smotherman, deputy director of Physical Education. “We want the Naval Academy and its graduates to be the leading edge of physical education in the Navy.”

During the two-minute push-up portion of the PRT, midshipmen will perform push-ups in time with a two-second cadence. This allows for a maximum of 60 push-ups and provides a more accurate picture of a midshipman’s physical endurance. The cadence is included to ensure that all participants perform to the same standards.

“I believe the cadence push-ups do a good job of keeping the standards more equal and ensuring the push-ups are done properly,” said Midshipman 1st Class (senior) Hannah Wilson. “These new standards could go a long way toward increasing the physical fitness of Navy personnel.”

“Push-ups with a cadence have been shown to be a more valid test for upper body muscular endurance,” said Human Performance Lab Director Lt. Cmdr. Martin Wright. “Through numerous trials with various participants, we found that the cadence greatly improved form and standardized a more complete movement through the full range of motion.”

During the front-plank exercise, participants will hold the front-plank position for as long as possible and their final time will be noted according to a master timing clock. The front-plank exercise replaced curl-ups to prevent possible injury or health concerns associated with the curl-ups. According to Smotherman, the best way to reduce back pain is to ensure core stability and muscular endurance are maintained.

“What is fairly consistent in the scientific literature now, is that curl-ups can cause injury if done repeatedly,” said Wright. “We aimed to find an exercise that would mimic the way we would want our body to perform during most functional movements in life, and the front-plank does just that. It’s an isometric exercise and is more in line with how the body should be acting when working out.”

These changes to the USNA PRT were tested throughout the last year in different venues, including PE Fitness Testing elective, the remedial PRT program, and in core PE courses. The Class of 2023 took the PRT with the two changes – the cadence push-up and the plank – for score in the Fall 2019 semester.

In order to facilitate a more objective test and make sure the exercises are being done properly, shoes will be used as a reference point. During the push-up portion, the participant’s partner will remove one shoe and place it between the participant’s hands. While performing a push-up, the participant will lower their body until their chest makes contact with the shoe.

While performing the front-plank, the shoe will be placed under the participant’s knees. The exercise will be ended immediately for the participant if their knees come into contact with the shoe. This ensures that the correct form is maintained throughout the exercise.

“In previous tests, the requirements for a proper push-up have been well documented, but we wanted to have an actual physical point of contact so the counter and the proctors can have a visual of the person making contact with that surface. This way we have a more tangible marker of success.”

Not only do these changes ensure a better test of physical readiness, but, according to Wright, they ensure a more accurate and representation of the participant’s fitness.

“The entire theme of these changes are to make the test more fair, objective, and valid,” said Wright. “If nearly everyone is getting the same scores, it’s not rewarding to those who really work hard and are in great shape.”

In order to make sure participants are well rested and capable of performing the PRT effectively, each participant will have a six-minute break between the push-up and front-plank exercises.

As the undergraduate college of our country's naval service for 175 years, the Naval Academy prepares young men and women to become professional officers of competence, character, and compassion in the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps.