Functional Training as a Tool for Improving the Physical Training of Conscripts


  • Vyacheslav Senin



functional physical training, combat oriented physical training, fitness, training effieciency improvement


The objective of the research is to develop a functional physical training program (FPTP) that could improve the fitness level of conscripts, and to find ways to implement it into each unit’s training schedule. As the combined research strategy is used, the research is divided into three phases, with different methods of data collection in each phase. The data collection method of the first phase was a survey questionnaire conducted from December 2015 to January 2016. The objective was to detect problems and restrictions in conducting conscripts’ physical training (PT) in military units of the Estonian Defence Forces (EDF). Officers and NCOs who deal with the planning and execution of PT in the five biggest EDF units participated in the survey. During the statistical analysis of the collected data, the Pearson correlation coefficient was used to measure covariance; analysis of variance (ANOVA) was used for comparing the groups’ means. Based on the detected restrictions, the author defined factors that should be taken into account during the compilation of the FPTP. For effective implementation, PT volume must be in compliance with the intensity of the unit’s training cycle. The program must be applicable with minimal equipment, regardless of the unit’s sports facility. The program must have a defined training schedule, where the implemented methods are described thoroughly and exercises are clearly demonstrated. Exercises should copy the movement pattern of real actions from different tactical situations. The data collection methods of the second phase were a document analysis and an expert group assessment. The objective was to develop a functional physical training program and to assess its suitability for the groups’ PT in the EDF. Three different functional training program manuals were analyzed. The chosen programs were previously successfully implemented in different military and civil structures. During the analysis exercises, training methods and fitness measuring means that meet the criteria defined in the first phase were found. Based on these findings, the draft version of the FPTP was composed and given to the expert group for feedback. The program was adjusted in accordance with the expert assessment. The final version of the FPTP consisted of 25 PT classes with progressive degrees of difficulty. A plan for fitting the program into a unit’s training schedule, an instructor’s manual, class notes and a description of the Battle Oriented Physical Test (BOPT) were included in the program. The data collection method of the third phase was an experiment conducted at the Kuperjanov Infantry Battalion from July to November 2016. The objective was to evaluate the influence of the implementation of the FPTP on conscripts’ fitness and functional capabilities. Two separate experiments were conducted: short-term (7 week) and mid-term (15 week). In both experiments the sample consisted of two company-sized units; one unit (testgroup) trained according to the FPTP and the second (control-group) had traditional PT, which mostly consisted of running and bodyweight exercises. The standard Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT) and the BOPT that was developed in the second phase of research were used for the fitness level measurements. Measurements were conducted on the first, the 7th and the 15th week of the training cycle. During the analysis of the collected data, paired and independent samples t-tests were used. The results show that for the short-term training cycle advantages of the implementation of the developed program are limited. Compared to the traditional PT, the usage of the FPTP provides at least the same improvement in BOPT tasks, push-up and sit-up tests. At the same time, the FPTP enables participants to achieve statistically significant higher improvement in the 3.2 km running test. It is important to note that the advantages of the developed program over traditional PT were more apparent during the mid-term implementation period. After the 15-week cycle, the application of the FPTP provided significantly higher improvement and better results in all battle oriented physical test tasks. It is important to mention that FPTP effectiveness becomes more significant in a cycle where physical training volume is limited to one class (90 min) per week. An additional advantage of the developed program is its independence of gym machines. Between the 8th and the 15th week of the cycle, the gym equipment usage was limited due to a higher number of personnel in the unit. Nevertheless, FPTP classes allowed the test-group to achieve significantly better results in tasks that required moving additional weights. At the same time there was no improvement in the control-group results. Taking into account the outcome of the experiments, the author concludes that successful implementation of the FPTP is possible. Compared to the usual PT, the application of the developed program is more effective in terms of soldiers’ preparation for battle-related physical tasks. That kind of preparation creates better conditions for the acquisition of skills and knowledge during collective (tactical) training. The author of the research recommends carrying out a similar study with a long-term (24 weeks) implementation period. In addition to functional capabilities measurement, a survey and/or interviews with participating soldiers should be conducted. The objective is to understand how functional physical training affects the learning motivation of conscripts. Based on the research results, the author made proposals to update EDF instructor training and modernize the sports facilities. These proposals will support the complex implementation of functional physical training into the EDF units’ training cycle.


Download data is not yet available.