MTI’s Fighter Pilot Fitness Assessment


By Rob Shaul

Over ten years ago I was first approached by Air Force pilots interested in developing a fitness assessment to test the pilot’s ability to perform the Anti-Gravity Straining Maneuver.

The loss of consciousness caused by G-forces (G-LOC) is a hazard unique to fighter pilots. In high-G maneuvers, blood can be forced from the brain causing a blackout. If the pilot doesn’t recover in time, tragedy can occur.

Pilots are taught to fight G-Forces using the Anti-Gravity Straining Maneuver (AGSM), which is essentially isometrically tightening up of every muscle in the body, especially the legs and core, in an effort to keep blood from leaving the brain.

In response, I developed and personally tested an AGSM fitness assessment involving front squats, but I never heard back.

Over the years I received 2-3 more requests from fighter pilots and the request expanded from not only training testing for the AGSM, but also pilot general fitness. Most recently, one of the MTI mentors was a retired fighter pilot and we worked together to develop a mission-direct, practical assessment.

One area myself and the mentoree struggled with was developing a simple assessment for neck strength and strength endurance. Helmets, night vision equipment, etc. are heavy and neck issues are common amongst pilots. In the end, we were unable to find a simple, mission-direct neck event and one isn’t included in the assessment below.



Warm up:

3 Rounds:



1) 10 Rounds, 8x Front Squat @ 65% Bodyweight (women), 75% Bodyweight (men), every 45 Seconds.


After the warm up, complete …

  • 5x Front Squat @ 40% Bodyweight (women), 50% Bodyweight (men), rest 2-3 minutes,  then …..complete 5x Front Squat @ 50% Bodyweight (women), 60% Bodyweight (men), then, set up the barbell for your assessment load (65% bodyweight women, 75% bodyweight – men
  • Set a countdown, repeating timer to 45 seconds. On “Go” complete 8x Front Squat at your prescribed load as fast as possible. Once completed, rack the barbell and wait until the next round begins. The faster you finish your 8x reps, the more rest you’ll get between rounds.
  • Range of motion is from full knee extension at the top to 90-degree (thighs parallel to the floor) on the bottom. No cheating!
  • Continue each round as prescribed until you are unable to complete 8x reps at your prescribed weight in the 45 second time limit per round.

RECORD THE NUMBER OF FRONT SQUATS COMPLETED. So, if you made it through 8 reps for 5 rounds, and managed 4 reps on Round 6, your score would be 44.

Rest 5 Minutes, then …. 

2) Max Rep Bench Press @ 65% Bodyweight (women), 75% Bodyweight (men)


  • 8x Bench Press @ 40% Bodyweight (women), 50% Bodyweight (men), rest 2-3 minutes,  then …..complete 8x Bench Press @ 50% Bodyweight (women), 60% Bodyweight (men), then, set up the barbell for your assessment load (65% bodyweight women, 75% bodyweight – men
  • On “go” perform as many bench press reps as possible at your prescribed load. You may rest with the barbell in the up, elbow’s locked position, but may not rack the barbell or let it rest on your chest during this event.
  • Range of motion is from full elbow extension at the top to barbell touching your chest at the bottom. No cheating!


Rest 5 Minutes, then …. 

3) Max Rep Strict Pull Ups


  • No warm up or time limit. On “Go” perform as many struct pull ups as possible. You may rest in the bottom, elbows extended position, but your feet may not touch the ground or a bench/box. Both hands must remain on the barbell for the entirety of the event.


Rest 5 Minutes, then …. 

4) 1.5 Mile Run for Time wearing 25# Backpack

This event is designed to simulate a pilot’s rapid egress from his/her crash sight or parachute landing spot with his/her “bugout” bag.





In order to develop an initial scoring chart. I still need athletes between the ages of 22 and 45 to take the assessment.

If interested, please take the assessment, and email your results to Please include your age and bodyweight with your assessment results. 


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