Precision involves exact execution of the exercises so that the most beneficial stress can be imparted to the muscles, bones, and joints (5,10,30). Variety (also an injury-prevention measure) is achieved by providing a wide range of training exercises to avoid boredom and to allow for better recovery (56). Balance has a double meaning, ensuring that 1) fitness components are considered to the extent that they are involved in military tasks and 2) antagonistic muscle groups (e.g., hamstrings/quadriceps) are exercised (25,32,59).
The PRT involves minimal equipment and is designed to be as deployable as the soldier so that the program can be used in any environment in which the soldier operates. The major PRT exercises and drills are shown in Tables 2 and 3 under the columns headed “PRT activities.” The PRT activities were organized into groups of “drills” that involved similar types of movements. The exact exercises involved in each drill are described in a publication (3) and are available online at https://www.infantry.army.mil/usapfs/doctrine.htm. The program can be subdivided further into on-ground tasks (e.g., running, calisthenics, guerrilla drills), off-ground tasks (e.g., climbing drills, conditioning obstacle courses, confidence obstacle courses), and combatives (close, medium, long-range). Combative activities are described in another publication (2).
There have now been a series of 3 field evaluations that have compared PRT against traditional Army physical training. There is also 1 laboratory investigation that compared PRT against an aerobic and weight training program.
Thus, on the first investigation injury risk was lower and APFT scores were higher in the PRT group. However, the Army leadership expressed some concern over the cost and logistics associated with some of the drills and desired a second investigation to verify the results of the first. The PRT program was modified based on lessons learned in the first investigation, input from the military leadership, and feedback from the trainers. In another study (29), a PRT group (n = 829) was compared with a control group (n = 1138) that implemented a traditional BCT physical training program that was similar to the program in the previous BCT study. This time, injury data were obtained from a medical surveillance system that collected injuries as ICD-9 codes and specific codes were used to define injuries (28). After adjusting for covariates known to influence injuries, men in the control group had an injury risk 1.6 times greater (95% CI = 1.2-2.0) than men in the PRT group; women in the control group had an injury risk 1.5 times greater (95% CI = 1.2-1.8) than women in the PRT group. There were no group differences in the proportion of trainees passing the initial APFT, but, on the final APFT, pass rates were higher for the PRT group (84 vs. 88%, p = 0.02). Thus, the results of this investigation generally confirm the first BCT evaluation.
Most recently, PRT was evaluated in an infantry unit preparing for deployment to Afghanistan. In this evaluation, a battalion of male soldiers (n = 477) using the PRT program was compared with a battalion of male soldiers using a traditional but highly varied physical training program (n = 467). At the end of the 9-week evaluation, systematic medical records screening indicated that control group soldiers were 1.2 (95% CI = 0.9-1.7) times more likely to suffer an overuse injury and 1.4 (95% CI = 1.0-2.0) times more likely to experience a lower-extremity overuse injury. Fitness differences were not evaluated.
It should be noted that all of these evaluations were conducted while PRT was being phased into Army physical training. The PRT groups were those that were trained on the new techniques early during the phase-in process, whereas control groups were those that were required to phase in PRT later but were using traditional training at the time of the evaluations. Thus, subjects were not randomized into groups. Further, the Ordnance School evaluation involved a multiple intervention program that included injury-prevention education for the training cadre, a weekly injury report, and a monthly injury-prevention meeting, besides the training program. Despite these potential confounders, all 4 studies were consistent in showing that injury rates were lower or tended to be lower in the PRT program when compared with traditional Army physical training programs. The 2 basic training studies (29,31) indicated that APFT pass rates were higher in the PRT group, but there were no group fitness differences in the Ordnance AIT evaluation (26), and fitness differences were not assessed in the infantry evaluation.
The PRT follows specific physical training principles and is designed to improve military occupational tasks through the matching of military tasks with specific physical training exercises designed to improve specific fitness components. When compared with traditional Army physical training programs, injury rates are lower and fitness improvements are generally equal or higher in PRT programs. The PRT will continue to be developed and refined based on deployment research, feedback from trainers, commanders, and soldiers in the field and as common soldiering tasks are updated or changed to meet national security requirements.
The views, opinions, and/or findings contained in this report are those of the authors and should not be construed as official Department of the Army positions, policies, or decisions, unless so designated by other official documentation. Approved for public release; distribution is unlimited.
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