physical training is designed to increase physical fitness so that graduates of basic training are prepared to meet the physical demands of advanced military training and to perform military occupations, including combat specialties. In addition, the physical training component of basic training seemingly contributes to the overall physical and psychological demands of the training process, which are aimed at preparing soldiers for the sometimes extraordinary stresses of military service. Because physical training serves both of these purposes and because of a traditional focus on team-building and unit identification in basic training, physical training protocols in basic training have tended to emphasize group exercise rather than individualized training methods. Typically, all members of a training unit engage in the same types and amounts of exercise without regard to the wide interindividual variability in physical fitness that is seen within units. While this method may serve some important purposes, it represents a violation of one of the most widely accepted tenets of exercise training: exercise intensity and dose should be adjusted in accordance with the initial fitness level of the individual. While it would probably not be practical to provide for total individualization of exercise training programs in basic training, it could be possible to consider the initial fitness status of recruits by grouping trainees for physical training on the basis of their current fitness levels.
Because sustained running is thought to be a problematic activity from the standpoint of increased risk of overuse injury, it would seem to be particularly useful to group trainees on the basis of current fitness for distance running sessions. This idea has been tested and found to be effective in reducing the risk of injury and attrition. Table 4-11 presents a summary of the literature on this topic.
The approaches examined have used modifications to existing training programs, particularly with regard to running, that emphasize grouping individual by fitness levels, matching training levels to individual fitness, and providing a gradual progression in running pace and running distance. In addition, most programs have significantly reduced the number of miles run per week. A complication of these studies is that it is not possible to randomize these programs at the level of the individual, since groups train as a unit; therefore, most studies have used historical cohorts as “controls.” Another feature of some programs is testing and assignment to “remedial” physical training protocols, either at the start of (Knapik et al., 2004a) or during (Knapik et al., 2003a, 2003b, 2004c; Rice et al., 2001) standard basic or advanced training. These programs have produced major reductions in the risk of injury without compromising the level of physical fitness at the completion of training (Almeida et al., 1997; Rice et al., 2001; Knapik et al., 2004c). In addition, at least one program has