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  • Writer's pictureLTC Brechin, USAF, Ret.

Candidate Fitness Assessment (CFA): Modified Sit-Ups

Be sure to pay attention to the details of this CFA event!


CFA candidate doing modified sit-ups

The CFA 'crunches' are unique to the military. ROTC cadets, Civil Air Patrol members, high school JROTC students, and other military groups, use this very specific form to accomplish their 'sit-ups.' As shown in the adjacent photo, candidates must cross their arms across their chest with finger tips touching their shoulders. The exercise consists of raising a candidate's torso at the waist, which will then allow the candidate to strike his/her thighs with extended elbows a mid thigh or higher. This form constitutes the CFA "modified sit-ups" required by all candidates for the U.S. service academies and ROTC scholarships.


Let's explore some more details arond the modified sit-ups.


The official description for the modified sit-ups is that the candidate must:


  • Assume a supine (back on floor), bent-knee position (approximately 90-degree bend) on a mat with arms crossed, fingers extended, touching the top of the shoulders, with shoulder blades touching the floor/mat.

  • Upon the command "GO," flex from the hip, raising the elbows so that they touch the front midpoint (or higher) of the thigh without finger tips losing contact with the top of the shoulders; extend from the hip until the shoulder blades touch the floor/mat.

  • Candidates cannot rest in the down position. Resting is only permitted in the up position. Fingers must stay in contact with the top of the shoulders while resting, and candidates cannot grab their legs or touch the ground with their hands.


To administer the CFA, the scorer will do the following during this event:


  • Note the event start time (should be at 15:00 minutes elapsed).

  • Monitor the start position to determine that the candidate's shoulder blades are touching the mat, fingers are touching the shoulders, knees are bent approximately 90 degrees, and an assistant is properly holding the candidate's feet (hands only on top of each ankle or foot).

  • Give the command "GO" and start a stopwatch for the two-minute trial.

  • Count one repetition each time the candidate's shoulder blades touch the floor/mat.

  • Monitor body position making sure during each repetition that the buttocks stay in contact with the mat, knees are bent appropriately, hands remain in contact with the shoulders, elbows make contact with the mid-thigh, and shoulder blades touch the floor/mat.

  • Verbalize "NO" for any repetition that does not meet the criteria listed above.

  • Stop the test at the two-minute mark and record the number of repetitions.


The Air Force Academy states that the average result for both male and female candidates is 80 sit-ups in two minutes. The maximum score is achieved by accomplishing 95 sit-ups. Ideally, students will achieve at least 80 sit-ups, although USMA notes a lower average of 72 and 68 sit-ups for males and females, respectively.


Here are a few 'CFA sit-ups' pointers for you as a service academy candidate:


  1. Practice and prepare for this event using the proper form. Preparations should include anchoring your feet as you conduct your sit-ups to achieve your best results.

  2. Prior to the test, figure out how you will anchor your feet for this event. You may tuck your feet under a bar, or other device. Also, someone may hold your feet or ankles during this event. I suggest testing which method is more effective and comfortable (as well as available!) for you prior to running a CFA.

  3. Learn how to pace your sit-ups. For example, if you desire to 'hit' 80 sit-ups in two minutes, then learn and practice this pace using 30-second 'intervals.' In other words, accomplish 20 sit-ups in 30 seconds, and then take a few minutes to rest followed by another interval. Eventually, you will be able sustain the pace throughout the full two-minute period.


The CFA modified sit-ups are a skill to be practiced and mastered. What's more, any successful candidate will continue to improve their fitness, including their core strength, throughout the time they are applying for the service academies. Practice and your sit-ups will be perfect!


[I would welcome a chance to discuss details with you. I offer coaching services to pace and prepare you (and your parents!) for the entire Academy application process . . . including advice around your CFA preparations! Contact me at chris@cbbrechin.com, 503.515.7406 or use my contact form on this website.]




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