Ask Stew: Assessing and Preparing for Special Ops

usmarines special ops physical fitness

It’s true. Training for a PT test is not sufficient for optimal preparation prior to attending challenging military/special ops training programs. Countless candidates with exceptional PST scores quickly find they are lacking in important areas such as raw strength, mental toughness, or overall longer distance / higher repetition conditioning.

Here is an excellent question concerning this topic of preparing for BUDS and being ready for the daily grind of BUDS (or other selection programs):

Stew, What I would like to consult your expertise on regards more of what a desirable fitness level would be before shipping to boot. My question for you is “what does being "fit" mean, in your opinion? What are some running, swimming, lifting, calisthenics and flexibility benchmarks that should be attainable for the candidate who is optimally prepared for what's to come?”  Caleb

Caleb - Tactical fitness with a BUDS goal means you have to be good at everything.  Maybe even great at a few things (natural strengths) - BUT BUD/S will expose a weakness within a week.  So, it depends on what those weaknesses are.

Have you seen this article:  Getting To and Through Training.  It is all about the two different types of fitness program required to (1) get selected INTO the training program, and (2) the type of training required to get THROUGH BUD/S training.  

We also have a few podcasts on the topic with another former SEAL Jeff Nichols and I discuss the elements of fitness required to properly prepare for BUDS - strength, endurance, muscle stamina, speed, mobility...etc..

To answer your questions:

I would say this about the PST standard you should strive to achieve:

PST scores:  8 minute swim (500yds), 90-100 pushups, 90-100 situps, 20 pullups and a 9 min run.  These are good enough scores to get you TO the training with a strong base of strength, muscle stamina, and endurance in swimming and running.

However, to get THROUGH the training the distances increase on the runs (4 miles) and the swim (2 miles with fins) in the ocean. You must to practicing these prior to boot camp for several months.

Goals for pre-boot camp scores: 

4 mile run 26-27 minutes

2 mile swim with fins - 50 minutes

Log PT prep:  Be able to do the Sandbaby Murph - (easily).  This workout is a great way to prepare for the log PT events without a log or a group of 6-7 people to grab a log.

Devil’s Mile - 1/4 mile bear crawl, 1/4 mile lunges, 1/4 mile fireman carry, 1/4 mile burpee broad jump - be able to do this 30-45 minutes.  We like to mix this workout into what we call the Spec Ops Triathlon:

Swim:  1 mile swim with fins in the gear you will be running in
(no changing clothes - just put on shoes)

Run:  3 mile run

Devil's Mile (we just replace the last mile of the run with the following events)

1/4 mile bear crawl
1/4 mile walking lunge
1/4 mile burpee / broad jumps
1/4 mile fireman carry (partners split 1/4 mile)

Ruck: 4 mile ruck (40lbs)

The Spec Ops Tri is typical events you will see at BUD/S:  4 mile run, 4 mile ruck, 1 mile swim with fins. These are great cardio gut checks and events you will see regularly at training.

For strength cycle: Be able to do a 5 x 5 workout with dead lifts, squats, hang clean - with at least body weight on barbell.  Consider the following strength training programs: Navy SEAL Weight Training or Tactical Strength.  Both require you do mix in cardio to maintain, but also add in lifts such as bench press, dead lifts, squats, hang cleans, push press, tire flips, fire man carries, and crawls.

It Depends…

If you are an endurance athlete, you may find you need more time in the weight room to build up the ability so the log and boats will not crush you.  If you are a strength/power athlete, you may find you will want to spend more time running and swimming so the cardio events do not crush you. 

In closing and to reiterate the most important aspect of this answer:  BUD/S has a way of exposing your weaknesses within the first week of the 26 week training course.  Make sure whatever your weakness is, that you have made it less of a weakness and a borderline strength by the time to get to boot camp.

 

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Contributor

Stew Smith works as a presenter and editorial board member with the Tactical Strength and Conditioning program of the National Strength and Conditioning Association and is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS). He has also written hundreds of articles on Military.com's Fitness Center that focus on a variety of fitness, nutritional, and tactical issues military members face throughout their career.

Latest Fitness Books: Navy SEAL Weight Training and Tactical Fitness