How effective is initial military-specific training in the development of physical performance of soldiers?
The impact of basic military training (BMT) on recruit physical performance is well described. However, initial employment training (IET), the period immediately after BMT, is the final preparatory step before posting to an operational unit. There is limited evidence on the influence of this training in developing the physical attributes necessary for military duty. Therefore, this investigation determined the relative contribution of BMT and IET to develop physical capability in soldiers. Fifty-one soldiers (45 men and 6 women) were assessed at 4 time points: commencement of training (week 1), midway (week 8), at the conclusion (week 12) of BMT, and upon completion of the IET (week 18/27). Weeks 1, 12, and 18/27 are reported herein. At each time point, tasks relevant to military duties, such as 1 repetition maximum (1RM) box lift, 2 x 22 kg-jerry carry, 3.2 km of 22-kg load carriage, and preexisting assessments of military fitness, such as 20-m shuttle run, 2-minute push-ups, and sit-ups, were assessed. A subsample of recruits (n = 14) was assessed for 1RM bench press, vertical jump, 30-second high-intensity cycle ergometry, and peak treadmill oxygen consumption. A significant (p ≤ 0.05) decrease in 3.2 km of 22-kg load carriage (week 12, 1,109 ± 37 seconds; week 18/27, 1,161 ± 51 seconds), 2 x 22 kg-jerry carry (week 12, 753 ± 72 m; week 18/27, 683 ± 78 m), and 1RM bench press (week 12, 83.3 ± 16.0 kg; week 18/27, 73.2 ± 16.6 kg) was observed during IET. No change (p > 0.05) between week 12 and week 18/27 was detected in 1RM box lift, vertical jump, 30-second high-intensity cycle ergometry, sit-ups, and 20-minute shuttle run. In contrast, 2-minute push-up (week 12, 46.7 ± 2.7; week 18/27, 57.5 ± 3.1) performance increased significantly (p ≤ 0.05). Soldiers who participated in up to 15 weeks of additional IET did not make further physical performance gains in strength, power, and endurance or function before posting to their units. Thus, greater focus on the development of these physical attributes seems warranted within the IET training regimen.