Incorporation of Scientific Approaches in Military Training Methodology (Redux)

This is an abstract of a talk delivered by Col Vinay Dalvi, Founder/Director of MVI, at the Sports Authority of India Conference (SAICON) at New Delhi in December 2017. Reproduced here for the larger benefit of the Indian military fraternity.

Incorporation of Scientific Approaches in Military Training Methodology (Redux)

‘Enhancement of Training Curriculum in Armed Forces Training Institutes’ was a subject of discussion at the apex military level and a joint decision being taken to make military physical training more scientific by incorporating ‘Sports Medicine’ in the training methodology of cadets, recruits and combat soldiers.

The effective implementation of this decision on ground can bring immense benefits of sports/fitness medicine with systematic, progressive, and scientific physical training, especially for the officer trainees, where the physical training activities form 70% of their average daily 24-hour training period.

The entire physical training syllabus, curriculum, and tests rest on three great principles of PT (harmonious development, systematic progression, and continuity) evident in the training pamphlets. The inclusion of sports/fitness medicine can bring scientific orientation to the entire physical development. The aim of physical training in the military is to make and keep a soldier fit both physically and mentally to perform his assigned task effectively and efficiently.

The training methodology must consider the 24-hour daily routine of a trainee and cater for adequate rest, recovery, recuperation, diet, and nutrition with physical load being administered progressively to improve fitness levels methodically and scientifically to attain optimum results as per individual potential or capacity. The knowledge of physical and recreational training and sports/fitness medicine must be promoted amongst officers and junior leaders with a practical vision plan and road map.

Definition of Sports Medicine

‘Sports science’ (also sports and exercise science, sports medicine, or exercise physiology) is a discipline that studies how the healthy human body works during exercise, and how sport and physical activity promote health and performance from cellular to whole body perspectives. The study of sports science incorporates areas of exercise physiology, sports psychology, sports nutrition, anatomy, biomechanics, and bio kinetics.

Sports medicine, also known as sport and exercise medicine (SEM), is a branch of medicine that deals with physical fitness and the treatment and prevention of sports and exercise related injuries. Although most sports teams have employed team physicians for many years, it is only since the late 20th century that sports medicine has emerged as a distinct field of health care.


Sports medicine as a subject was introduced in the military in 1980s by our pioneer sports medicine doctors to a few select sportsmen, coaches, physical trainers, managers, and administrators in the field of sports, especially individual and team sports like athletics, weightlifting, boxing, and hockey; subsequently spread to few other sports disciplines. This new knowledge and its technical application were not adequately understood or taken seriously due to our rigid/status quo mind set and laid down training concepts and methodology.

Review of the Army PT tables for recruits/cadets/combatants and PPT and BPET for all ranks of the Army was done during late 1980s by a Review Committee under Commandant AIPT/ASPT including a sports medicine doctor and most qualified and experienced APTC officers.

The trials on the new PT tables and tests were conducted and comparisons drawn with the old system. The new system of PT tables and tests were approved and adopted from 1992 and continue till date. Based on these changes, the officer pre-commission military academies and recruit training centres adopted the new system with their existing ones to meet the new service requirements of trained officers and soldiers.

Relevance of the Subject

The importance and relevance of this subject in the field of overall physical training methodology of military training for cadets, recruits and combatants was strongly felt by me due to my all-round exposure to not only several sports disciplines at national level but also my deep and sustained involvement of training officer cadets, recruits and testing all ranks through laid down PT tests.

The old, obsolete, and outdated system of physical training methodology repeatedly came to my notice besides the unsupervised non-structured unofficial training by senior cadets and unqualified or inexperienced service officers especially at our elite military academies disturbed me tremendously. The damage that they had caused and continued to cause gave me many sleepless nights.

The only way to address these issues was through debate and discussion and subsequent penning down, initially as discussion points, articles, responses or debates and papers, leading to compilation of full volumes. ‘Role Model’, ‘Sun Tzu’, ‘Victory India’ – 1,2,3 and 4 involving over 60 reputed/renowned military Veterans and others.

Our sustained and combined efforts to convert our penned down recommendations into realistic transformation on ground slowly but surely started ‘bearing fruit’ through better and wider awareness of the entire subject of quality military manpower, especially the elite officer leadership and the ways and means to improve it.

The decision of the UCC to incorporate sports medicine in the physical training methodology of military training of cadets, recruits and combatants in July 2017 came after one year of consideration by the three services and joint acceptance for implementation on ground.

Army Physical Training Syllabus, PT Tables & Tests

These are based on the training pamphlets issued by DGMT/ARTRAC and the PT doctrine and training methodology but finally left to the concerned training academies and recruit training centres. The trained manpower is left to the unit and formation commanders with supervisory role by concerned staff/tech/line directorates depending on the unit or establishment.

The immediate problem for incorporating sports medicine in training will be the imperative need to understand the laid down system of training as per the training pamphlets and guidelines. The correct/better understanding of this is a dire need as the training concepts and philosophy is personality based, not only in units but also training institutions. Other than APTC staff or PT Course qualified personnel, hardly anybody knows about the technicalities and principles of PT and the link with recreational training. Hence, this knowledge must be taken seriously first.

Thereafter, the introduction/incorporation of sports medicine/fitness medicine should be done. Sports and fitness medicine are two sides of the same coin. Similarly, the military training encapsulating the entire 24 physical training curriculums must be viewed holistically and a vision plan and road map made for systematic, methodological, and coordinated implementation at all levels including training academies and recruit centres.

"Violent and irregular doses of physical training in any form without rest, recuperation and recovery cause more damage than gain. The cadets and recruits must be made constantly aware of the drawbacks and adverse effects of following the wrong methods through unofficial training."
NDA Cadets going through 'Unofficial' training by senior term cadets colloquially referred to as 'Ragda', a practice which has led staggering relegations on medical grounds and even deaths in Indian Pre-Commission Training Academies over the years; File Photo 

Entry Level Physical Fitness Needs Revision

Entry level physical fitness tests/parameters and selection system needs immediate review especially for the officer cadre with transparent/objective mandatory tests. The recruit entry tests are basically physical oriented with less scope for other talented/technical candidates for selection. This needs review and dovetailed to meet different/varied requirements of multifarious trades of all arms and services, especially technical arms.

For the officer entries, the minimum physical takes off level required/demanded by the military academies must be met. The high wastage rate of cadets is partly due this 20-year-old demand of academies not being met. ‘Trainability’ and ‘potentiality’ are the two key words that have been ‘subjectively’ deciding the selection of SSB candidates.

Objective and mandatory physical tests at the SSB selection centers will raise the entry level physical standard of officer cadets and positively impact the overall fitness standard of cadets besides drastically reducing wastage rates and training injuries.

Fitness Enhancement with Scientific Methodology

The entire physical training methodology should be imparted progressively and scientifically to enable systematic and harmonious development of the cadets and recruits right from the beginning with small and progressive doses for all round steady development.

Violent and irregular doses of physical training in any form without rest, recuperation and recovery cause more damage than gain. The cadets and recruits must be made constantly aware of the drawbacks and adverse effects of following the wrong methods through official/structured or unofficial/non-structured training.

Awareness and education will bring in a desire to avoid wrong doings and misguided methods in both the trainers and the trained. Interaction between seniors and juniors cannot be avoided for effective teamwork and leadership development. However, it can be modified, refined, and improved through awareness of scientific methodology for enhanced fitness.

Benefits & Gains of Effective Implementation

The cumulative and collective benefits that will accrue with incorporation of sports medicine in physical training methodology of military training of cadets, recruits and combatants will consequentially achieve the following:

  • Enhance physical and mental fitness of trainees and combatants.
  • Spread technical knowledge and scientific methodology of PT/sports/fitness medicine.
  • Lead to more systematic, scientific, and methodological training of combatants.
  • Will reduce training related injuries and even consequent disabilities of combatants.
  • Will reduce wastage and morbidity rates of trainees.
  • Enable and facilitate better health and physical fitness of all trainees and combatants.

(This article has been reproduced from our book 'Mission Victory India: A Key to Quality Combat Leadership (Lessons in Military Leadership by Veterans & Academicians)'. Available on Amazon.)


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