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Will Brink

Anti Muscle Bias in The Military

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Military members with more muscle are penalized during fitness tests.

Keeping with my recent theme of there being a general anti muscle bias in the media and scientific community …I’m sure this will come as no surprise to those in the military, but it’s good to see that objective data shows the bigger guys and gals in the military tend to be penalized for carrying extra muscle mass during testing. A paper by a Dr. Vanderburgh published in Military Medicine entitled “Correction Factors for Body Mass Bias in Military Physical Fitness Tests” concludes

“…recent research evidence indicates that military physical fitness tests penalize heavier service members and do not measure levels of absolute fitness, arguably just as important as relative fitness.”

His research suggests there is a 15% – 20% penalty on heavier (not fatter! ) service members during the physical fitness tests of the U.S. Army, Navy and Air Force. In fact, these physical fitness tests imposes a systematic bias against heavier service members and this bias is independent of percent body fat.

This is a very interesting finding in my view and supports the fact there exists an anti muscle bias where endurance is rewarded but strength is not, even if it does not reflect the actual needs of soldiers or the general population.

The fact is, having more muscle mass (which may lead to slower run times) is more relevant to soldiers with “… the common push-up, sit-ups, abdominal crunches, and curl-up tests not only impose an unfair body mass bias, but they may have limited occupational relevance as well.”

Per my comments in a prior blog on a recent report that looked at injury rates of SF soldiers, it’s good to see researchers are starting to identify the limitations of “traditional” training used by the military and are suggesting ways of improving that training which will lead to improved performance and reduced rates of injury for the war fighter. Hopefully, these finding will trickle there way down into the training of our military forces.

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Updated 03-10-2010 at 03:23 PM by Will Brink

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