For most Singaporean guys, nothing shrinks the leather marbles faster than these four letters… I.P.P.T.
If you have the visual stamina for the expanded acronym, IPPT stands for “Individual Physical Proficiency Test”, the national standard in determining the fitness level of all able-bodied males in Singapore. Consisting of 6 stations – pull-ups / chin-ups, sit-ups, sit-and-reach, standing broad jump, shuttle run and 2.4km run, the exercises attempt to evaluate upper and lower body strength, core strength, speed, and endurance. Plus your vocabulary of swear words.
I haven’t done the IPPT in quite a while but as a measure of my current state of fitness to determine my baseline when going through a personal training regime with SAFRA EnergyOne, I faced these dreaded stations once again.
My IPPT was invigilated under the watchful eyes of my new EnergyOne trainer, Roy Chan, who provides consultancy services in designing fitness programmes for obese recruits to get them ready for BMT (Basic Military Training). Having attained the Silver Award during my army days, how would I fare almost 18 years later?
While I faced the five test stations with trepidation, I am thankful for one thing… the myths that Roy busted about IPPT. Through his experience in both conducting and preparing guys to excel at the exercises, he shared ways and means to perform better at each station just by a simple shift in perception.
So here are the tips (and some myths busted along the way) I learnt from Roy to do better at IPPT and they really work!
IPPT Test 1 : Pull-Up / Chin-Up
This is my all-time weakest station. At my best, I was able to do 10 solid reps. My score for this test? 3 reps for pull-up and 4 reps for chin-up. It’s a far cry from my fitter days.
Myth : Chin-up (underhand grip as in photo above) is easier than pull-up (overhand grip of the bars).
Busted : I always thought that underhand grip is the wuss version of the chin-up but I learnt from Roy that that’s not the case. Pull-up and chin-up tests the strength of different muscle groups (even though there may be overlaps) so neither is easier than the other. It just depends on which is the stronger muscle group for you.
IPPT Test 2 : Standing Broad Jump
Another station that I suck at, but did surprisingly well this time is the Standing Broad Jump. My leap measured a distance of 225cm. Roy told me that many younger guys can’t even manage a pass (> 212cm) at this station. Phew!
Myth : You should swing your arms and bounce your legs to build momentum in order to jump further.
Busted : Don’t swing and bounce as the leg muscles get stretched and contracted too much before a jump and that tires them out. Instead, look at the distance markings, fix a point, bend your legs and leap towards it. I tried that instead of my usual habit of bouncing and jumped one of my best records at first try.
IPPT Test 3 : Sit-Up
This station is my personal favourite simply because I always ace it. Even with that mid-life belly now, I still managed to clock 48 reps within 1 minute. That’s Grade A under the IPPT point system.
IPPT Test 4 : 4X10m Shuttle Run
Shuttle Run is another station that I do rather well at as I get regular training from sprinting after buses. My timing of 10.2secs is another Grade A for my age category. It’s a relief to know that my chicken legs still pack some torque.
Myth : You should only stop when you reach the touching line.
Busted : Start planning to stop about 3 steps from the touching line so that accumulated velocity during the sprint would not push you beyond the line and lose time to run back. And for the 4th sprint back to the start point, run through and do not stop at the finishing line.
IPPT Test 5 : 2.4km Run
When I was at my physical peak some 20 years ago, my timings for 2.4km has always been in the 9-minutes region. And that was despite the discovery that I’m actually asthmatic by the Army M.O. which resulted in a PES downgrading.
So you can imagine my shock when I completed the run this time round with a timing of 14mins 30secs! Where I used to attain a Grade A or B for the 2.4km Run, I’m now grade F… Fail!
Myth : Always start slow in the beginning of the run so that you’ll have energy to last throughout the whole distance.
Busted : The longer you run, the more tired you’ll get so even if you start out slow, chances are that you’ll be too tired to pick up speed later. So start off at a faster pace and try to maintain it for as long as possible rather than beginning with a slower pace and try to pick up speed later.
In The Long-Run
While I did pretty well for some stations and passed 4 out of 5 tests, my overall IPPT result was still a fail due to my 2.4km Run. Sigh.
Endurance level depreciates at a rate of about 20% every fortnight of not keeping up with cardio workouts. That is, if you are running at a 100% endurance level today, after 2 weeks of no running, your endurance level would drop to 80%. After another 2 weeks, it would drop to 66%.
To maintain your level of endurance, do some cardio activity (eg. jogging, swimming, circuit training) at least once a week for a minimum of 30 minutes. To really rev up endurance and stamina in the long-run, engage in medium to high intensity cardio cum strength training exercises at least 3 times a week.
Although there are 6 stations in the standard list of IPPT tests, we did only 5 to assess my overall level of fitness. My 2 weakest links are pull-up and 2.4km run but I’m not too concern with the run as my goal of personal training at EnergyOne is to bulk up and gain a well-defined body that’s thick with muscle volume and striations.
Of all the exercises, I think pull-ups would be the best benchmark to determine my improvements in upper body strength before and after 5 months of personal training with Roy. But as the whole body work as a complete system where improved endurance will help me to lift harder for longer, I would remain faithful to my cardio routine (jogging at least once a week) as well as yoga (twice a week) to increase my flexibility. Add these to my thrice weekly training sessions with Roy and that pretty much sums up my social life.
Staying healthy and building a muscular body has become a full-time job!