Bodybuilders, powerlifters, heck, even callisthenics athletes can all agree on one thing – deadlift is king. For years everyone involved in fitness has known that when it comes to fitness testing, the deadlift is the best measure of true anaerobic power. It seems the US military agrees – as of late, they have updated some of their fitness tests and included the new ACFT deadlift as a regulatory strength test. 


In this short guide, we are going to break down everything you need to know about the ACFT Deadlift and how you can use it to improve your training as the average gym-joe. 


What is the ACFT Deadlift?

The ACFT Deadlift is a standard fitness test performed by the US military. 


ACFT or Army Combat Fitness Testing is a regulatory system that puts army corps to the test – measuring everything from anaerobic strength to cardiovascular conditioning. 


You can see a variety of their exercises and testing protocols with this link. Check it out! 


On a very basic level, the ACFT Deadlift is a strong measure that provides data learning for 3 maximum reps of a hex bar deadlift. 


3 Rep Max on a Hex bar

For those of you that do not know, the 3 rep max is a standard strength measure. It is perfectly within the strength range to calculate anaerobic power without entering into the potential injury territory that comes with singles or doubles (1 and 2 rep max tests). 


Additionally, the hex bar is a much more comfortable and ergonomic position for lifting a large amount of weight – especially if there are going to be multiple attempts. 


Three Ways to Maximize Your ACFT Deadlift

Honestly, fitness tests are some of the best goals you can have as a strength athlete. You can compare your results across a wide spectrum of athletes and most of the time the exercise that is picked for a strength or fitness test is pretty common, easy to replicate and highly adaptable. 


Whether you are training for the ACFT Deadlift strength test or you are just looking for a new goal in your strength journey, here are 3 ways to maximize your strength and build a killer hex bar deadlift. 


1. Train High Resistance, Not Volume

This might seem obvious but when you are training for a max weight test you need to be training with high resistance – aka, heavyweights. This comes down to the rules of specificity. The more specific your training can be to the actual event you are working toward, the higher the potential for adaptation toward that specific stimulus. 


In other words, training for a heavy hex bar lift requires you to lift heavy and within the same conditions of the test. 


Create a routine before you lift and ensure you are tracking all of your workouts and every lift you complete. My suggestion would be to work in the 2-4 rep range. Maximizing your ACFT Deadlift is all about completing similar reps to your test – ensuring you are capable of peaking the day of your actual testing. 


Looking for a complete strength program that will help you peak for your strength tests? Check out our strength and conditioning programs in our shop.



2. Heavy KB Deadlifts + KB Swings

Kettlebells are a great tool for strength training. Not only can they be used to build explosive power, but they are also very versatile when it comes to overloading the muscle through a variety of movements. 


Consider that the ACFT Deadlift is a max strength test – this means you should be using the kettlebells heavy and in an explosive way. My suggestion would be to complete sumo KB deadlifts and KB swings. 


Both of these movements will help to prepare your body for the high stress that will come when you are completing the ACFT Deadlift test. 


3. Plyometric Leg Movements

Plyometrics should always be a key aspect of your strength and conditioning program. They are crucial for creating the type of movement speed that is required for a heavy deadlift and help to create elastic tension in the muscle. 


Two movements that can be completed to help maximize your training for the ACFT Deadlift are the split squat jumps and the explosive depth lunges.  


TRAINER TIPS: Plyometrics put an excessive amount of stress on the joints. Try to split your plyometric workouts and your heavy lifting workouts into two different training sessions – allowing for at least 48 hours of recovery between each workout.  


a) Split Squat Jumps


b) Explosive Depth Lunges


ACFT Deadlift Optimization Workout

Information is great, but seeing an actual workout is best for most people. Here are two very basic workouts you can use to build strength and power – prepping your body for your ACFT Deadlift test. 


NOTE: Check out a guest post we did on tempo training and strength progressions. Creating consistent strength will always come down to your ability to progress into more complex movements and more difficult exercise intensities. 



Hex Bar Deadlift (ACFT Deadlift Protocol) 3 6 10X0 4m
KB Sumo Squats 6 5 10X0 3m
KB RDL 6 5 3110 3m



Depth Lunges 8 3 10X0 4m
Step-Ups + Split Lunges 8+6 3 n/a 4m
Hyperextension  12 3 3110 3m


Next steps? Check out our 6-Week Squat boosting routine!