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The Study Group Deliberations (The Reason For Change in PT) (1986 to 1991)
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It’s for the benefit of all and APTC officers in particular that, I wish to recall from memory the thought, which went behind giving endurance training its due importance to further develop the aerobic and anaerobic energy pathways that, exclusively contribute to improving cardio respiratory endurance and include it in the construct of the Battle Physical Training Tables (BPTT) for trained soldiers.

In 1986/87 this was a path breaking change, which was undertaken by the Study Group to, by and large, turn on its head the existing BPTT, with the intent to give primacy to this critical component of fitness, which very substantially comprises a well-balanced physical training programme. With the knowledge that was available to us during the pre-Google, user friendly Internet applications or ChatGPT, but was reached by in depth study of the subject from books and research papers drawn from sports sciences libraries, we understood the nuances of exercise physiology and applied these to design and arrange the several training modalities in a progressive manner and incorporated it in our regimen. We were all through, conscious of the fact that our training was meant for en masse application for the Army and hence it should not at any point of time be overbearing and overwhelming for an average person who is of normal physical abilities.

The Tables were to cater for all and hence we had to keep the weakest in mind so as to ensure that, those for whom physical exercise was most needed were not ignored by disregarding the principle of training overload, which if not addressed mindfully, inevitably leads to demotivation and acute or chronic physical injury. Therefore, we were guided by our prudence and mindfulness to ensure that we didn’t plagiarise training schedules from others, but instead designed and calibrated our Tables in a manner, which conformed to our genetic characteristics,inclinations and climatic conditions/variations. This was done by first hypothesisising on our theoretical conclusions, in comparison to the extant design and structure of the Tables, preparing a progressive three months (24 days × 3) training programme. Based upon that, experimenting on it by physical trials on the target population, tabulating pre and post training performance results on existing and revised battery of physical tests by the two groups. Thereafter, comparing the performance results between the Control and Experimental Groups, plotting the entire results on a X and Y axes graph and then finally determining the value dispersion to arrive at grades/ standards with reference to where lay the maximum bunch of the tested population.  

As all this was being done in an uncontrolled manner, wherein the trainees were not kept in a state of active isolation from other forms of physical and sports activity and were participating in these as part of their routine training / duties. Also the PTIs conducting the Experimental Programme were continuing on their method of imparting physical training as then in vogue – the results which we got was not statistically significant to support the postulate arrived at by our theoretical conclusions.

There was something amiss in this because it didn’t lend itself to improvements in the specific fitness components, which the Experimental Programme ought to have brought about. Disappointed at this outcome, the Presiding Officer of the Study Group displayed the expected professional integrity by not falsifying the findings of our initial trials and placed the facts in front of the Director General Military Training (DGMT), with reasons for the unexpected findings, in complete contrast to our expectations. Allowing us the room for not being able to place our Final Report in accordance with our proclaimed timeline, the Presiding Officer requested for more time and which was allowed. We, thereafter did as best we could to minimise the dilutions in the manner in which training should be imparted by the PTIs, but didn’t have the luxury to isolate the trainees from any other form of physical activity that had the possibility to interfere in our trials. This was a Hobson’s choice for us and we couldn’t help but carry on with it. We had learnt the necessary lessons from our first trial, which went wrong owing to the excessively controlled and strict execution of training, that belied the more informal, relaxed and breezy manner required in the Experimental Programme and therefore were more careful and ensured greater supervision to monitor and oversee training and preclude any slip ups. On conclusion of our second trials, we got statically significant results in favour of the Experimental Programme of training as also the revised tests, which were specific to test the fitness components and motor abilities and related to the training that was imparted to develop these. It was the finding of the Study Group that, the existing BPTT didn’t stimulate the training effect, which was the need of the soldier and for which training over and above what was imparted in the daily programme of exercises, was required to be done. The most striking failing in this was the development and improvement of the cardiovascular endurance component that was substantially marginalised. The existing training and testing were loaded more in favour of anaerobic adaptations and evaluation, and therefore didn’t subscribe to an effective and efficient physical training regimen, which is designed around an essential pivot of aerobic capacity and constitutes a major portion of it.

The Experimental Programme and the newly designed assessment tests correlated to each other and we had arrived at our conclusions, which was validated and confirmed by on ground trials and established by statistical records and results. It is after that, the then de novo design of the BPTT has given exclusive attention to developing and improving aerobics power and capacity by separate Table Cards of Interval , Repetition, Fartlek and Long Distance Slow Continuous running training. These are briefly explained below -: 

1. Interval Training:

  • Description: Interval training involves alternating periods of high intensity exercise with periods of lower intensity or rest.
  • Physiological Adaptations: It improves cardiovascular fitness, increases aerobic capacity, and enhances the body’s ability to recover quickly between bursts of intense effort.

2. Repetition Training:

    • Description: Repetition training, also known as high-intensity interval training (HIIT), focuses on short bursts of intense exercise followed by longer periods of rest or lower-intensity activity.
    • Physiological Adaptations: Similar to interval training, repetition training improves aerobic capacity and helps the body adapt to higher intensity efforts, promoting cardiovascular endurance and speed. It develops tolerance to lactic acid .

3. Fartlek Training:

    • Description: Fartlek, meaning “speed play” in Swedish, is a less structured form of training. It involves varying your speed and intensity throughout a workout, often including both fast and slow-paced segments.
    • Physiological Adaptations: Fartlek training promotes a combination of aerobic and anaerobic adaptations. It helps improve both cardiovascular endurance and speed endurance by incorporating different intensities and durations.

4. Long Distance Slow Continuous Running. 

Long-distance slow continuous running is beneficial for developing cardiovascular endurance (CR endurance) as it enhances your heart and lung function, improves oxygen delivery to muscles, and increases your overall stamina. This type of exercise also helps build a strong aerobic base, promoting better endurance and efficiency in utilizing oxygen during prolonged activities.

Engaging in long-distance slow continuous running prompts various physiological adaptations in the body:

Physiological Adaptations : Cardiovascular System: The heart becomes more efficient, pumping blood more strongly per beat. Stroke volume increases, leading to a higher cardiac output. Blood vessels may also adapt, becoming more elastic and improving blood flow.

Respiratory System: Lung capacity tends to increase, enhancing oxygen intake. Improved efficiency of breathing muscles and increased diffusion capacity in the lungs contribute to better oxygen transport to muscles.

Muscular System: Muscle fibers may undergo changes to favor endurance, with an increase in the number of mitochondria (responsible for energy production). Enhanced capillarization ensures better blood supply to muscles.

Metabolic Adaptations: The body becomes better at utilizing fat as an energy source, sparing glycogen stores. This can contribute to improved endurance over longer durations.

Temperature Regulation: Increased sweat production and improved heat dissipation mechanisms help in maintaining a stable body temperature during prolonged exercise.

Mental Toughness: Long-distance running often requires mental endurance. Regular practice can lead to improved mental resilience, focus, and coping strategies during extended physical efforts.

These adaptations collectively contribute to increased endurance, allowing individuals to sustain physical activity for more extended periods without experiencing fatigue as quickly.

Significant Differences:

    • Interval Training vs. Repetition Training: While both involve high intensity efforts followed by rest or lower intensity, repetition training often focuses on shorter, more intense bursts with longer rest periods compared to interval training.
    • Fartlek Training vs. Structured Intervals (Interval & Repetition) : Fartlek is more unstructured, allowing for spontaneous variations in intensity, whereas structured interval training follows a predetermined pattern of work and rest.

Physiological Adaptations:

    • Cardiorespiratory Endurance: All three methods enhance cardiovascular endurance by increasing the efficiency of the heart and lungs, improving oxygen delivery to working muscles.
    • Speed Endurance: Repetition training specifically targets speed endurance by improving the muscles’ ability to generate force quickly and efficiently during short bursts of high intensity exercise.


In summary, these training methods share commonalities in promoting cardiovascular and speed endurance but differ in their structures and the specific physiological adaptations they emphasize. Incorporating a variety of these methods into a training regimen can provide a well-rounded approach to developing overall endurance.

Recommendations : As the Study Group was constituted in 1986 and the new design of PT and Evaluation/ Assessment Tests introduced into the Army in 1991/1992, it has been over 30 years since. There is far and muchmore that has changed in exercise physiology and sports sciences and is readily available at the click of a mouse/ button, to be read and understood for incorporating the latest developments and improvements which can help improve our training system and make it more time cost effective. It is therefore critical that those who are mandated with the responsibility to conceptualise and curate our physical training doctrine in the Army, are abreast with the changes that have subsumed the overarching subject of fitness and manifest the mental agility and resolute will to adopt CHANGE in its training playbook – its Doctrine. 

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

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