FORT KNOX, Ky. (April 25, 2013) — The Army loves acronyms, but remember MFTC, which stands for the Master Fitness Trainer Course. The Army community is going to hear a lot more about it.
Field Manual 7-22 was published Oct. 26, and reflected a major shift in the thinking and execution of the Army’s physical fitness philosophy. Fort Knox is among the first installations to host one of the Army’s mobile training teams that are teaching the new MFTC, based on the new FM 7-22.
Master Sgt. Jeffery Kane, one of the instructors who is three weeks into the four-week course, said the course has been designed because the Army realized it wasn’t doing fitness “the right way,” and FM 7-22 outlines the right way to do physical readiness training, or PRT.
“It’s been in the works for the last 10 years,” Kane said. “The program grew out of the realization that the older (physical training) didn’t support the combat mission.”
Older physical training, known as PT, styles focused on the Army Physical Fitness Test, while PRT focuses on warrior task battle drills.
Some exercise will look familiar, Kane said, but there’s more emphasis on balance and coordination in the PRT.
At Fort Knox, 52 Soldiers reported for the MFTC, but 19 of them couldn’t pass the PRT test even though their units said the Soldiers met the PRT standards.
“Fort Knox isn’t unique in this regard,” Kane said. “There are six mobile training teams conducting courses now and the other five have encountered similar findings.”
The 32 remaining Soldiers will go back to their units and train their unit leaders. The class requires three hours of PRT instruction and exercise in the morning followed by classroom instruction in the afternoon.
In general, Kane said people don’t like change, and many more experienced Soldiers may resist the new program, although it’s being taught in initial basic training, so the Army’s newest Soldiers are already familiar with it.
“We’re developing new habits,” Kane said. “PRT supports functional movements for Soldiers to complete tasks, both in and out of operational settings.”
Convincing Soldiers that PRT is better than the PT they’ve grown accustomed to generally requires some hands-on experience.
“They have to see it and use it. We did a full-on session that ran for one hour and 20 minutes without any break. I think that was the turning point for many in the class,” Kane said. “They saw their conditioning had improved and we have had no injuries during the three weeks we’ve been training here. Some have seen changes already in their body composition.”
There are many advantages to PRT, according to Kane. The training develops movement skills, motor patterns, and muscle memory. Muscle building is not the goal of this program, he said. In fact, programs like Insanity, Crossfit and TRX aren’t helpful for long-term benefits and those extreme programs can be devastating to the point of fatalities.
Too often they encourage Soldiers to push through an injury, which only makes it worse, he said. PRT emphasizes precision, progression and integration while reducing injuries.
“The last 10 years have shown us that without proper conditioning, the back, knee, and lower extremity injuries of combat have increased,” Kane said.
FM 7-22 has a chapter on re-conditioning so that Soldiers can stay with the unit. Too often, they’re left to their own devices, Kane said; they may feel no one cares about what they’re doing, so they do less and less, becoming more depressed, which just worsens their injury and eventually, the Soldier may end up leaving the Army. Another advantage of PRT is that every exercise can be modified so that Soldiers who can’t perform PT with the unit won’t be walking all alone on the track.
“The downward spiral is difficult to stop, but these modified exercises keep the Soldier with the unit, show leaders that they’re making progress and helps with their mental health,” Kane explained. “Even if they’re just baby steps, it helps.”
In fact, Kane said there are no disadvantages to PRT.
“FM 7-22 will work for anybody. You can download the FM and if there is a description of an exercise that you don’t understand, you can click on the active links in the FM and it takes you to a video to see the exercise demonstrated. No matter your fitness level. You can do PRT,” Kane said.
While PRT may focus on exercise, it also includes other health factors like nutrition and sleep.
“We have a chronic problem in the Army,” he explained. “We don’t get enough sleep and we know that lack of sleep causes injuries.”
Kane is not ambivalent about the program. He said he doesn’t just teach PRT, but he uses it faithfully, especially performing the shoulder and hip stability drills every morning.
“This is the best job in the Army; you get paid to teach, paid to work out and you get paid to achieve a better quality of life,” he said.