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David H. Stem, Andrew Khoury, Michael C. McDowell, Kimbo E. Yee, George L. Grieve. The Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina, Charleston, SC.

BACKGROUND: Despite a variety of fitness tests across the different branches of service, there remains a common requirement to test cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF). The purpose of this study was to assess the relationship between VO2 during a weighted vest run (WVR) and CRF in currently serving US military personnel to determine if a WVR was a valid predictor of CRF. METHODS: Five exercise-trained, US service members (100% male, 22-34yrs) at The Citadel completed a baseline visit and two exercise visits separated by 7 days each. At the baseline visit, participants had body composition measured via BODPOD and completed a modified Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT), which included vertical jump, three-rep max (3RM) deadlift, leg tuck, sprint drag carry, and a 2-mile run (2MR). Participants then completed two separate exercise visits separated by 7 days in random order: a graded exercise test (GXT) to measure CRF via VO2max, and the WVR, which was a 20m pacer test with a 9.07kg weighted vest. Metabolic measures were taken during both the GXT and WVR with the COSMED K5. Pearson’s correlations were used to assess the relationship between GXT VO2max and WVR VO2. Multiple regression analysis was used to examine the relationship between baseline fitness measures and CRF. RESULTS: There was a strong significant correlation between 2MR time and WVR VO2 (r=-0.873, p=.05). Though not significant, there was a strong, trending correlation (r=0.781, p=0.12) between WVR VO2 and VO2max via GXT. In multiple regression analysis, there was no significant effect of body composition, vertical jump height, 3RM deadlift, leg tuck, or sprint drag carry performance on VO2max. CONCLUSIONS: These findings suggest that performing a WVR is a valid predictor of CRF while resembling combat performance by including load carriage, change of direction, acceleration/deceleration, and an externally stimulated pace. Additionally, the WVR VO2 strongly correlated with 2MR, which is the current CRF test used by the US Army. Therefore, these data provide initial evidence of the potential for a WVR to replace traditional CRF field tests in tactical athletes. Replicating this study in a larger sample of US military service members, with an emphasis on combat roles and females, is an important next step.

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