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Candidate Fitness Assessment

stew smith

Every week, there are several young people seeking advice about how to prepare for the country’s Service Academies fitness assessments. The CFA – or Candidate Fitness Assessment is a test that not only evaluates strength and endurance, but a measures potential for athleticism. The history behind the CFA is decades old, it but used to be called the PAE – which stands for Physical Aptitude Exam. The major difference between this fitness test and other PRTs in the military is the use of the shuttle run and the kneeling basketball throw. This article will assist Naval Academy, Air Force Academy and Military Academy candidates with this universal fitness exam.

This fitness test is a 40 minute exam that requires the candidates to perform a list of exercises in order and in accordance to strict time regulations. In summary, the test is the following chart:

Kneeling Basketball Throw

Cadence Pull-Ups

120 ft. Shuttle Run

Crunches 2:00

Push-Ups 2:00

1-Mile Run

See USNA link for more specific information on the CFA at

Here are some helpful tips to assist with performing to your best on the CFA:

Basketball throw – Practice throwing the ball from your knees at a 45 degree angle using your entire torso and arm. By using a twisting motion of your torso you will be able to generate more throwing power than if you just threw with your arm.

Exercises to assist with this test:

Lightweight Shoulder workout


Abdominal exercises

Lower back exercises

Cadence Pull-ups – The best way to get better at pull-ups or flexed arm hang is to PRACTICE PULLUPS / FAH. However, the following exercises will assist:


Negative Pull-ups


Assisted Pull-ups

Bicep curls

120 ft Shuttle run – The shuttle run is a full out sprint that requires you to stop and change direction as fast as you can. To get better at this agility drill, practice the shuttle run turn-around as well as the following exercises for speed and strength:

Run and Leg PT



Leg exercises on weight machines


Pushups – The pushup is a military standard. You should be able to do pushups continuously without much effort. The best way to be able to increase this upper body exercise is to do pushups 3-4 times a week. I do have a quick way to add significant numbers in a short period of time – see the article:

Exercises to assist with pushups are the following:

Pushups - See Pushups articles

Bench press – high reps – light weight

Light weight shoulder workout

Triceps extensions

Dips or bench dips

Crunches in 2:00 – When you have to do 2:00 worth of crunches, you will want to pace yourself and break up the 2:00 time into 4 x 30 seconds quarters. Find your goal and pace it out every 30 seconds. For example, if your goal is to do 80 crunches in 2:00, then at every 30 seconds mark you want to be at 20 crunches.

Compare the crunches to the run. If you sprint too fast in the mile run on the first ¼ mile, you will have a tough time maintaining your pace. The same goes for crunches in 2:00 period.

Sit-ups, curl-ups or crunch tests

1 mile timed run – Learn your mile pace by practicing mile runs as fast as you can for testing purposes as well as at a maintainable pace for long runs. For example, running a mile in 6:00 is not that tough to do, but maintaining that 6:00 pace for 3-4 miles is very tough. You should have two speeds. One for the mile sprint test in the CFA and one for distance runs of 3-5 miles. Find your pace and push yourself with sprints and interval training drills as in this workout plan.

Read several Running Articles on the right of the page

For more info on the CFA click the link to get the ACE THE CFA / PFT Handbook.

Also see Service Academy Article

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