Tobias Fischer on Nov 03 2020

How To Pass The ACFT Leg Tuck Test

How To Pass The ACFT Leg Tuck Test

Stumped by the ACFT leg tuck event? Here’s your three-pronged plan to nail this tricky event by strategically building the types of strength it demands.

All of the events in the new Army Combat Fitness Test, or ACFT, are difficult in their own way. Especially if you’ve been accustomed—as many soldiers have—to being tested only on sit-ups, push-ups, and running, having to perform heavy trap bar deadlifts, sled drags, and hand-release push-ups can be a serious eye-opener. But the event that has caused the most problems for aspiring testers so far is without a doubt event number 5 of 6: the hanging leg tuck.

According to Army standards, just one rep of the leg tuck is all you need to meet the minimum requirements for “moderate” Army jobs like drone operator and intelligence analyst. Five leg tucks are required for “heavy” jobs like infantryman and armor crewman. But huge numbers of initial ACFT testers—over half, by some measurements—have found even one rep to be out of the question.

This event has been such a challenge, in fact, that it was the subject of the only major revision the Army has made to the ACFT since it was newly released—what is called “ACFT 2.0.” According to ACFT 2.0, soldiers who cannot perform a minimum of one leg tuck have the option to perform an elbow plank for a minimum of 2 minutes.

However, military sources have stated that the plank isn’t planned to be a permanent option. So yes, it’s still worth your time to train for the tuck. In fact, I would say, you can and should aim to meet the standard of doing five leg tucks, not just one.

It may sound like a reach, but you can do this. Here’s how I recommend training to crush the leg tuck. You can see these principles in action in my BodyFit program Combat Fit: 8-Week ACFT Training Plan.

How To Make The ACFT Leg Tuck Instantly Easier

Before we get into the physical training aspect of how to improve your leg tuck performance, I’m going to share a simple technical tip that can instantly make anyone better at the leg tuck. If this test is on your calendar, file this away for when you need it! It’s all about the way you pull during each and every rep. 

The Best Exercises To Improve The ACFT Leg Tuck

To look at, the leg tuck is nothing all that complicated. It involves hanging from a bar with an alternating (mixed) grip and bringing your knees to your elbows. But this motion seriously tests the strength of your grip, arms, back, and abs, in a different way than almost anything else you do in the gym. You can be able to do pull-ups for a few solid reps and not be able to do a single leg tuck. You can be someone with strong abs and not be able to do a single leg tuck.

So how can we crack this movement? It can be tempting when trying to master something you want to get better at—or in this case, absolutely need to get better at—to simply keep trying it over and over again for weeks or months, hoping something will change by test day. But in the case of something as complex as the leg tuck, banging your head against the wall in this way is far more likely to leave you disappointed than triumphant.

If you can’t perform leg tucks right now, the best way to improve at it is to break up the movement into its component parts, and work on improving each of those. That will build the strength you need to access the move.

The three components (in no particular order) needed to successfully perform the leg tuck are:

  1. Grip strength to hang from the bar.
  2. Abdominal and hip flexor strength to touch your legs to your elbows.
  3. Upper-body pulling strength to lift your body toward the bar.

Put simply, training to improve your leg tuck performance means training to improve your strength in these three above areas. Let’s tackle them one at a time.


Grip Strength: Bar Hangs

Pop quiz: How long is the leg tuck event? The rules say 2 minutes, but let’s be honest: Nobody’s going to be hanging from the bar for that long, even if they max out the test with 20 reps. So let’s focus on the strength you need to pass, not what you would have in a perfect world.

Being able to hang from the diameter bar for at least 30 seconds is the minimum baseline I recommend having on test day. This is because struggling to do 5 leg tuck reps in good control with take you roughly 15-20 seconds. So, if your grip strength endurance to hang from the bar far exceeds that time frame, you can be confident your grip won’t be the limiting factor in your leg tuck performance.

If grip strength is your limitation, here are two ways to program it:

  • At the end of any (or maybe even every) workout, hang from a bar for 2-3 sets to failure. This ensures your grip fatigue doesn’t interfere with holding the weights in other exercises. As an added benefit, this is a great total-body stretch that also decompresses the spine after any other lifting you’ve done.
  • In a practice ACFT test workout, where the programming says, “leg tuck,” perform a set of reverse crunches (as described below), immediately followed by a hang of at least 30 seconds, or to failure.