Fitness Training for Women in the Australian Defense Force

In 2011,  the Australian military decided to open up all ranks in the armed forces to servicewomen. The decision allows women to serve alongside male soldiers on the frontline. However, Australian defense minister, Stephen Smith  stressed that women would not receive preferential treatment in the armed forces. They must meet the same stringent physical and psychological criteria required of their brothers in arms. “This is simply about putting into the frontline those people who are best-placed to do the job, irrespective of your sex,” Smith told The Guardian. “In the future, your role in the Defense Force will be determined on your ability, not on the basis of your sex.” Your physiotherapist can help you design a military conditioning program.

The Pre-Entry Fitness Assessment

Members of the military must possess a diversity of physical capabilities that draw on all aspects of physical and mental fitness. The physiological demands of military tasks usually challenge multiple components of the energy system continuum. As such, all military candidates must undergo a Pre-entry Fitness Assessment (PFA) prior to acceptance. This includes the Multistage Fitness Test (or shuttle run) to measure your aerobic capacity. Male and female candidates must also perform push-ups and sit-ups. Here are the different requirements:


Male requirement: 15 Push-ups, 20 Sit-ups (feet held), 6.1 Shuttle run score.

Female requirement: 6 Push-ups, 20 Sit-ups (feet held), 6.1 Shuttle run score.

The only exceptions are Navy Clearance Diver and Naval Reserve Diver applicants, who must pass the PFA at the following standards: 6 Heaves (chin-ups), 30 Push-Ups, 25 Sit-Ups and a 10.1 Shuttle Run score.


Male requirement: 15 Push-ups, 45 Sit-ups, 7.5 Shuttle run score

Female requirement: 8 Push-ups, 45 Sit-ups, 7.5 Shuttle run score

For Special Forces Direct Recruiting Scheme (SFDRS) candidates, the PFA standards are:

Male requirement: 30 Push-ups, 60 Sit-ups, 10.1 Shuttle run score

Air Force

Male requirement: 10 Push-ups, 20 Sit-ups (feet held), 6.5 Shuttle run score

Female requirement: 4 Push-ups, 20 Sit-ups (feet held), 6.5 Shuttle run score

For applicants over the age of 55 the following standards will be required:

Male requirement: 5 Push-ups, 20 Sit-ups (feet held), 6.5 Shuttle run score

Female requirement: 3 Push-ups, 20 Sit-ups (feet held), 6.5 Shuttle run score

Physical Requirements of Military Tasks: Challenges for Women

In the past, military conditioning programs overemphasized aerobic exercise and muscle endurance, whilst placing minimal emphasis  on strength, agility, and power training. These neglected components of fitness correlate with the physical demand requirements of many military tasks, including:

  • Heavy box lifting
  • Climbing
  • Carrying loads
  • Flight or fight reactions

Inadequate strength, power and agility can cause injury, and, in some cases, costs soldiers their lives. Upper body strength is often an issue for women. In the United States, for example, more than half of female Marines in boot camp can’t do three pull-ups. Furthermore, weak hamstrings – often a female-specific issue – make women susceptible to injury during jumps and other types of power moves.

Case in point: The results of a 2001 study titled “Risk factors for training-related injuries among men and women in basic combat training” indicate that during training, female soldiers had twice the injury rate of men.

When it comes to conditioning female military personnel, two factors come into play:

  1. The need for an intensive routine
  2. The susceptibility of women to specific types of injuries

 For this reason, if you are a woman considering military training, it’s best to let a physiotherapist design your conditioning program, call Happy Physio on (08) 9272 7359 now!