No Weights at Boot Camp

by Stew Smith

I received an email from a young man who says he is a former high school athlete who wanted me to critique his weight lifting routine as he prepares for Boot Camp. Being a former weightlifting football player myself, I stepped back into time some eighteen years and saw many of the same things I did to prepare for Plebe Summer at the Naval Academy. The only bad thing about the plan and the way I prepared for USNA is that it was the wrong way to train for the military style fitness.

I soon realized when I took my first physical fitness test (PFT) that one maximum set of push-ups was not the same as bench press and no matter what weight machines you use there is no substitute for pullups. Sure pull-downs, bicep curls, bent over rows all work the same muscles groups as the pullups, just as bench press is the same motion as the pushup - BUT nothing prepares you for pushup and pull-up tests quite like doing pushups and pullups to failure during your workouts. Check out my articles on push-ups and pull-ups for workout ideas.

Situps and Running:

The two other events of many physical fitness tests seemed easy enough. Anyone can do situps and run right? Sure most young people can do 50 - 60 situps in two minutes, but I realized to be competitive with other scores and to make a high grade in the situps test, you needed to be able to do 80-100 in 2:00. The only way to reach numbers like that is to practice situps several times a week with timed intervals and pacing yourself. Once I saw people hitting 100 situps in 2:00, I increased my pace (situps per second) and reached 30 situps in 30 seconds. I was moving fast - felt strong until about 40 seconds into the two minutes test where the lack of training caught up with me and I was only able to do another 30 situps in the remaining 1:30 for a total of only 60 situps. I barely passed the minimum standard.

When it was time to run, I was a bit worried when half the guys in my group all ran track and cross-country. I tried to hang with them on the first lap of a quarter mile track as they ran it in 80 seconds. After the first lap, I could not hang at a 5:20 mile pace and was spent for the remaining five laps struggling to breathe and run at my comfortable 7:00 mile pace. I just passed the run with only seconds remaining. How could this be? I was a very fit guy who lifted weights for three hours a day prior to coming to the Naval Academy's version of Boot Camp. Read the "Interval Training" article for more info on workouts to run faster.

Now, even at the age 36, I can nearly double my PT scores at my age of 18 and run sub-6:00 miles for a few miles. The moral of this story is "There are no weights at Bootcamp - start doing the events you will be tested in immediately!" If you want to be in the following branches of the service, here is what you need to be able to do to be competitive and remove the added stresses of physical discomfort and failure:

Service Run (Men - Women) Pushups Pullups Situps
Marine Corps 3 Miles (18-22:00) Not tested - 50 reps non-stop 15-20 80-100+
Navy 1.5 Miles (9-11:00) Men 80-100
Women 40-60
Not tested 80-100+
Army 2 Miles (12-14:00) Same as above Not tested 80-100+
Air Force 1.5 Miles (9-11:00) Same as above Not tested 80-100+
Coast Guard 1.5 Miles (9-11:00) Same as above Not tested 80-100+


*Note: These are not minimum standards but above average competitive standards recommended by Stew Smith

The hardest thing about failing a physical fitness test or not performing as well as your fellow soldiers is you have to play catch up. The good news is that at the age of 18-20, it is easy to get into shape and become competitive with your comrades, however, it is tough to do while in the middle of Bootcamp or other military training. My recommendation is to get in the competitive range PRIOR to attending these military programs. I promise you it will save you from becoming discouraged, reduce the pain of muscle soreness, and enable you to focus on your job at hand -- becoming a Soldier, Marine, Sailor, Airman, and Hero of Tomorrow.

Other Related Boot Camp Articles:

- Are You Fit to Serve?
- Prepare Yourself for Boot Camp
- Training for Boot Camp
- Pre-Boot Camp Training
- Physical Fitness Test Anxiety

Next Step: If you are considering joining the military, your next step should be to speak to a recruiter from the service of your choice.

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. If you are interested in starting a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle - check out the Military.com Fitness eBook store and the Stew Smith article archive at Military.com. To contact Stew with your comments and questions, e-mail him at stew@stewsmith.com.


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