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Effects of basic training on material handling ability and physical fitness of British Army recruits

Williams, Alun G. and Rayson, Mark P. and Jones, David A. (1999) Effects of basic training on material handling ability and physical fitness of British Army recruits. Ergonomics, 42 (8). pp. 1114-1124. ISSN 0014-0139

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Abstract

No study has yet evaluated the efficacy of British Army basic training in improving material handling performance. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to evaluate the efficacy of the current British Army basic training in improving material handling performance and physical fitness. Forty-seven males (19.4 (3.2)years of age, 1753 (59)mm in height, 71.0 (9.6)kg in weight) and 10 females (21.5 (3.5)years, 1623 (45)mm, 62.5 (5.2)kg) served as subjects. Testing was carried out in the week prior to, and in the final week of, an 11-week basic training course. Maximal box lifts to two different heights, and repetitive lifting and carrying of a 10 kg load did not improve with training. Static (38 cm upright pull) and dynamic (incremental dynamic lift to 145cm) lifting strength data concurred with the maximal box lift data in that no improvement was observed. Repetitive lifting and carrying of a 22kg load improved (29.5%, p<0.001), as did 3.2km loaded march performance with 25 kg (15.7%, p<0.001), but march performance with a 15kg load did not. Predicted VO2 max improved from 48.4 to 51.4 ml.kg-1.min-1, a change of 6.1% (p<0.05). Fat-free mass increased by 0.9 kg (1.5%, p<0.01), and body fat reduced by 2.7% of body mass (20.1%, p<0.001), resulting in a loss of 1.2 kg of body mass (1.7%, p<0.01). It is concluded that basic training in the British Army produces some favourable adaptations in recruits, especially in terms of aerobic fitness. However, the poor development of strength and material handling ability during training fails to improve the ability of soldiers to perform simulated military tasks, and it does little to reduce future injury risk while performing these tasks.

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