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  • Writer's pictureLTC Brechin, USAF, Ret.

Candidate Fitness Assessment (CFA): the Flexed-Arm Hang

Updated: Feb 27

As you prepare for the Candidate Fitness Assessment (CFA), a female candidate for four of the U.S. service academies has the option to perform the flexed-arm hang instead of performing pull-ups during the Candidate Fitness Assessment. The CFA is required for admissions to the U.S. Air Force Academy, the U.S. Military Academy, the U.S. Naval Academy and the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy. The U.S. Coast Guard Academy uses a different physical fitness test for admissions, which does not include a pull-up or a flexed-arm event.

As a candidate, you will score higher doing a single pull-up than if you attain the maximum hang time of 40 seconds. Clearly, you will want to continue to focus on accomplishing your first pull-up as you prepare for the CFA, and afterwards, as you prepare to enter the Academy.

Only USMA requires that you record a video of your flexed-arm hang so set-up the view to include your entire body in the frame clearly showing that your chin is parallel to the ground, above the bar and without any support for your feet and legs.

As the image above notes, you should use a platform to mount the bar. Also, avoid jumping up to the bar as you will expend energy absorbing the downward momentum created with this action. You cannot kick, swing or 'bicycle' your legs during the event. You may bend your legs forward from the waist or back from the knees as long as the motion is slow and even, avoiding a jerk or kick as specifically disallowed.

The key to success for this exercise, and pull-ups in general, is to start preparing early and to have a pull-up bar easily accessible to you. Often, I find students who cannot practice pull-ups daily, or at least, every other day will not do as well as those who do. I highly recommend the videos and books from USNA graduate and physical fitness expert, Stew Smith. His book, Service Academy Workout: Ace the CFA and PFT, may be purchased from his website, Stew provides a great range of exercises that will help a student improve in all areas of the CFA, including the flexed-arm hang.

The CFA is an important component of the admissions process to the U.S. service academies. You will want to do your best. Start early, practice often and use the proper form with each event to ensure that you receive credit for each second and each repetition that you earn. Good luck maxing the flexed-arm hang!

[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. Contact me at and/or 503.515.7406]

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