Seven in 10 National Servicemen in their 30s fail their annual Individual Physical Proficiency Test (IPPT), and this failure rate rises as the NSmen age. This is based on the experience of a former head of physical training in the army, Mr Edwin Ong, who spoke to Channel NewsAsia following the news that the IPPT will be made simpler.

It is unclear what changes will be announced, and when they will be announced. Currently, said Mr Ong, IPPT problem areas for NSmen are chin-ups, the standing broad jump, and the 2.4km stations.

There are specific reasons the current IPPT stations are part of a serviceman’s training regime. The 2.4km run, for example, tests one’s cardiovascular fitness, said Mr Ong. “It tests how fit you are in terms of stamina, because your heart really needs to cope with the stress – and so it is a very good gauge of your overall fitness level.” This station is reportedly a problem for some seven in 10 servicemen.

The shuttle run is a station where the aim is to sprint a total of 40m in two loops, bending and touching the ground (or picking up a block) at each turning point. “The reason is we’re simulating a fire movement,” said Mr Ong, ex-Head of Physical Training, School of Physical Training. “So when you get into a position of cover, you need to really place one hand in front and get yourself down, and prone yourself down to get yourself in a firing position.”

Sit-ups, meanwhile, focus on another aspect. “It is important for NSmen because when we put on our uniform and our SBO (Skeletal Battle Order) or now the load-bearing vest, this will help us keep everything in hold,” said Mr Ong.

As for chin-ups, National Serviceman Mohd Azfar feels they are still relevant because “when you have to do FIBUA (fighting in built-up areas) exercises, you will have to scale walls, which requires upper body strength. So I feel there’s no need to tweak this station, as it is very relevant”.

One of the toughest stations is the standing broad jump station – fitness experts say about six in 10 NSmen have problems passing this station. “There are a lot of people who can’t really jump,” said Mr Ong. “One is that they do not have the strength and the power, and the second issue is their jumping technique.”

Indeed, while it takes only about an hour to go through all the current stations, it takes about six weeks to get ready for the IPPT as it stands now.

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