Does no chin-up mean thumbs-up?
THE long-awaited changes to make the Individual Physical Proficiency Test (IPPT) simpler were unveiled yesterday, with servicemen required to undergo only three test stations.
The much-dreaded standing broad jump has been scrapped, a move that will no doubt be welcomed by many.
However, what caught many by surprise was the decision to drop the 4x10m shuttle run and the chin-up stations.
That leaves the new IPPT with the 2.4km run, sit-ups and a new test station - push-ups.
Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen announced the changes on his Facebook page yesterday in a post titled "New IPPT - Simpler and Better", saying that the new format will "make it simpler" for operationally-ready national servicemen (NSmen) to train.
Army chief Perry Lim will elaborate on the details of the new IPPT and when it will be implemented today.
While Dr Ng expects "more to pass" the new military physical fitness test, the changes, which are the first in more than 30 years, have raised concerns among fitness experts and NSmen that the new IPPT is too lenient.
Dr Ng said there will be a new scoring system and more age bands that stipulate the standards that servicemen of different ages have to meet.
This could make it easier for NSmen to meet the passing marks and qualify for monetary awards.
Career soldiers and full-time national servicemen will, however, have to meet the existing passing marks to get the monetary awards.
What is also new is that servicemen have to accumulate as many points for all three stations, instead of meeting a minimum mark for each station.
This way, soldiers can do more sit-ups to make up for their weaker stations like push-ups and the 2.4km run, said Dr Ng.
"There's a limit to how much you can make up, but I like this counting system because it encourages NSmen to max out on each station, and it plays to the individual's strengths," he wrote.
About 116,000 men take the IPPT every year, with about 50 per cent of NSmen passing the test. Failing it means a serviceman has to undergo remedial training.
The upcoming changes will put the SAF test in line with militaries like the United States', which has three test components, which Dr Ng said "keeps their forces fit".
But a simpler test does not necessarily mean servicemen can slack off, yet pass, said Dr Ng.
"Even though the new IPPT is simpler to train for, it will still take effort and regular exercise to pass. And that's the idea - keeping healthy and fit should be a lifestyle and it's good for you."
Personal trainers like Chris Chew, who trains people to help them pass the IPPT, was surprised that the army is also scrapping the chin-up and shuttle-run stations.
"The new IPPT does not test the flexibility, pulling strength and lower-body strength, which are very important during missions on the battlefield," he said.
"It looks like they are simplifying the IPPT to get more people to pass, but at the expense of training a combat soldier."
NSman Kenneth Sim, who has failed the IPPT in the last three years because of the standing broad jump, chin-ups and 2.4km run, hopes to turn his fortunes around next year.
The 31-year-old accountant said: "It looks so much easier as I don't have to worry about jumping and chin-ups, I can try to focus on clocking a faster run."
Undergraduate John Koh, 23, is hoping to strike gold next time round. "I think it's too easy now. I thought the IPPT is supposed to make sure you are fit enough to do things in a war situation."
Alex Yam, deputy chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Defence and Foreign Affairs, said the simplified IPPT has been "a long time coming" for NSmen who have to juggle work and NS commitments.
"It's not about how much of a superman you are, but about how well-trained you can be," he said.