APFT Obstacle Courses
Source: Department of the Army Field Manual, FM 21-20 Physical Fitness Training
Physical performance and success in combat may depend on a soldier’s ability to perform skills like those required on the obstacle course. For this reason, and because they help develop and test basic motor skills, obstacle courses are valuable for physical training.
There are two types of obstacle courses–conditioning and confidence. The conditioning course has low obstacles that must be negotiated quickly. Running the course can be a test of the soldier’s basic motor skills and physical condition. After soldiers receive instruction and practice the skills, they run the course against time.
A confidence course has higher, more difficult obstacles than a conditioning course. It gives soldiers confidence in their mental and physical abilities and cultivates their spirit of daring. Soldiers are encouraged, but not forced, to go through it. Unlike conditioning courses, confidence courses are not run against time.
NONSTANDARD COURSES AND OBSTACLES
Commanders may build obstacles and courses that are nonstandard (that is, not covered in this manual) in order to create training situations based on their unit’s METL. When planning and building such facilities, designers should, at a minimum, consider the following guidance:
* Secure approval from the local installation’s commander.
* Prepare a safety and health-risk assessment to support construction of each obstacle.
* Coordinate approval for each obstacle with the local or supporting safety office. Keep a copy of the approval in the permanent records.
* Monitor and analyze all injuries.
* Inspect all existing safety precautions on-site to verify their effectiveness.
* Review each obstacle to determine the need for renewing its approval.
Instructors must always be alert to safety. They must take every precaution to minimize injuries as soldiers go through obstacle courses. Soldiers must do warm-up exercises before they begin. This prepares them for the physically demanding tasks ahead and helps minimize the chance of injury. A cool-down after the obstacle course is also necessary, as it helps the body recover from strenuous exercise.
Commanders should use ingenuity in building courses, making good use of streams, hills, trees, rocks, and other natural obstacles. They must inspect courses for badly built obstacles, protruding nails, rotten logs, unsafe landing pits, and other safety hazards.
There are steps which designers can take to reduce injuries. For example, at the approach to each obstacle, they should post an instruction board or sign with text and pictures showing how to negotiate it. Landing pits for jumps or vaults, and areas under or around obstacles where soldiers may fall from a height, should be filled with loose sand or sawdust, All landing areas should be raked and refilled before each use. Puddles of water under obstacles can cause a false sense of security. These could result in improper landing techniques and serious injuries. Leaders should postpone training on obstacle courses when wet weather makes them slippery.
Units should prepare their soldiers to negotiate obstacle courses by doing conditioning exercises beforehand. Soldiers should attain an adequate level of conditioning before they run the confidence course, Soldiers who have not practiced the basic skills or run the conditioning course should not be allowed to use the confidence course.
Instructors must explain and demonstrate the correct ways to negotiate all obstacles before allowing soldiers to run them. Assistant instructors should supervise the negotiation of higher, more dangerous obstacles. The emphasis is on avoiding injury. Soldiers should practice each obstacle until they are able to negotiate it. Before they run the course against time, they should make several slow runs while the instructor watches and makes needed corrections. Soldiers should never be allowed to run the course against time until they have practiced on all the obstacles.
CONDITIONING OBSTACLE COURSES
If possible, an obstacle course should be shaped like a horseshoe or figure eight so that the finish is close to the start. Also, signs should be placed to show the route.
A course usually ranges from 300 to 450 yards and has 15 to 25 obstacles that are 20 to 30 yards apart. The obstacles are arranged so that those which exercise the same groups of muscles are separated from one another.
The obstacles must be solidly built. Peeled logs that are six to eight inches wide are ideal for most of them. Sharp points and corners should be eliminated, and landing pits for jumps or vaults must be filled with sand or sawdust. Courses should be built and marked so that soldiers cannot sidestep obstacles or detour around them. Sometimes, however, courses can provide alternate obstacles that vary in difficulty.
Each course should be wide enough for six to eight soldiers to use at the same time, thus encouraging competition. The lanes for the first few obstacles should be wider and the obstacles easier than those that follow. In this way, congestion is avoided and soldiers can spread out on the course. To minimize the possibility of falls and injuries due to fatigue, the last two or three obstacles should not be too difficult or involve high climbing.
Trainers must always be aware that falls from the high obstacles could cause serious injury. Soldiers must be in proper physical condition, closely supervised, and adequately instructed.
The best way for the timer to time the runners is to stand at the finish and call out the minutes and seconds as each soldier finishes. If several watches are available, each wave of soldiers is timed separately. If only one watch is available, the waves are started at regular intervals such as every 30 seconds. If a soldier fails to negotiate an obstacle, a previously determined penalty is imposed.
When the course is run against time, stopwatches, pens, and a unit roster are needed. Soldiers may run the course with or without individual equipment.
CONFIDENCE OBSTACLE COURSES
Confidence obstacle courses must be built in accordance with Folio No.1, “Training Facilities,” Corps of Engineers Drawing Number 28-13-95. You can obtain this publication from the Directorate of Facilities Engineering at most Army installations.
Confidence courses can develop confidence and strength by using obstacles that train and test balance and muscular strength. Soldiers do not negotiate these obstacles at high speed or against time. The obstacles vary from fairly easy to difficult, and some are high. For these, safety nets are provided. Soldiers progress through the course without individual equipment. Only one soldier at a time negotiates an obstacle unless it is designed for use by more than one.
Confidence courses should accommodate four platoons, one at each group of six obstacles. Each platoon begins at a different starting point. In the example below, colors are used to group the obstacles. Any similar method may be used to spread a group over the course. Soldiers are separated into groups of 8 to 12 at each obstacle. At the starting signal, they proceed through the course.
Soldiers may skip any obstacle they are unwilling to try. Instructors should encourage fearful soldiers to try the easier obstacles first. Gradually, as their confidence improves, they can take their places in the normal rotation. Soldiers proceed from one obstacle to the next until time is called. They then assemble and move to the next group of obstacles.
Rules for the Course
Supervisors should encourage, but not force, soldiers to try every obstacle. Soldiers who have not run the course before should receive a brief orientation at each obstacle, including an explanation and demonstration of the best way to negotiate it. Instructors should help those who have problems. Trainers and soldiers should not try to make obstacles more difficult by shaking ropes, rolling logs, and so forth. Close supervision and common sense must be constantly used to enhance safety and prevent injuries. Soldiers need not conform to any one method of negotiating obstacles, but there is a uniformity in the general approach. Recommended ways to negotiate obstacles are described below.
–APFT Calestinics Exercises
–APFT Conditioning Drills
–APFT Conditioning Grass Exercises
–APFT Guerrilla Exercises
–APFT Guerrilla Exercise List
–APFT Obstacle Courses
–APFT Conditioning Obstacle Courses
–APFT Confidence Obstacle Courses
–APFT Rifle Drills
–APFT Rifle Drill Exercises
–APFT Log Drills
–APFT Log Drill Exercises
–APFT Aquatic Exercise
–APFT Aquatic Exercises