Ace the FBI Fitness Test

by Stew Smith

Many military members leave the military to attend federal law enforcement training programs. Though many of the fitness standards are similar, some have different tests than the standard military PFT by adding sprints, jumps, shuttle runs, and even weight lifting tests.

Here is an email from a FBI candidate who failed the FBI PFT the first time around.

"Stew, I wish I had used your FBI PFT workout about 10 weeks ago, but I am on it now and seeing good results. However, I am still having issues with the runs and the situps. What do you recommend to do in addition to the workout you wrote?"

There are a few things you can supplement with the FBI Academy Workout Plan, but most of it is learning how to take the test. Think of it as studying to take the college SATs. Remember learning HOW to take those tests. Your scores got better, but did you really get any smarter? No you just had a strategy and an understanding of how the test worked. The same holds true for physical fitness testing. Think of this article of the Barron's Guide to the PFT.

Pre-Test Eating Plan

I like to eat / drink foods with good carbohydrates in them for immediate energy. I have seen big success with apples / baby carrots personally for physical tests, but many people like chocolate milk in addition to a high complex carb pre-test power snack about an hour prior to testing. DO NOT TRY THIS ON TEST DAY without testing it on a practice test as it may or may not be the right fuel for you.

Warmup for Running and Situps

Warmup well with a light jog / stretch of the legs and torso to prep for the run and max situp test:

Event #1 - Max Situps in 1:00

Focus on Pacing the Situps

I have found that if you can muscle memory the pace you need for the goal score you want then the one minute test is a lot easier. Where people fail is that they sprint the first 30 seconds of the situp test and fail to match the score for the next half of the one minute test.

For example, a FBI candidate came to me after failing the test and only scored 40 situps in 1 minute. After explaining he needed to pace himself on the test he scored 50 situps in 1 minute. He did not workout, get any stronger, he simply learned HOW to take the test.

Here is how I recommend taking the situp test. Say your goal is 55 situps in 1 minute. That is ALMOST 1 per second pace. So at 15 seconds you should have 14 situps. Keep that pace the entire test and you will score 55-56 situps. The same person above had over 20 situps in the first 15 seconds when he failed with 40 situps so pacing is the way to go. Also another tip: Let gravity take you to the down position. Try to momentarily relax the abdominal muscles as you fall only to exert yourself on the UP situps. 

Good Situp / Run Workout: 

- Do 3-4 sets of 15 seconds of situps at goal pace.
- Rest with a 300m run in between each set.

When that becomes easy, do 3-4 sets of 30 seconds of situps at goal pace. Build up to 45 and 60 seconds of situps so your pace matches your goal score. 

Top Score Pace - 1 Situp in 1 Second = 60 Situps in 1 Minute

Stretching Your Legs

After the situp test, take a minute to stretch the legs, do a few squat jumps (2-3) to warmup the sprint muscles and loosen up the hamstrings and thighs. You may also want to stretch your hip flexors a bit as the situps can cause them to flex and get tight. 

To stretch your hip flexors one way is to do a thigh stretch while standing. Shift your hips forward and squeeze your butt cheeks together. You will feel this stretch from the hips, through the thighs, and to the knees.

Event #2 - Timed 300m Run

This workout tends to challenge most candidates even more than the 1.5 mile run.  This is an all out sprint but you can still build up your pace to a full sprint over the first 100m. You still want to explode out of the start by staying low for the first 10-20n in order to get the momentum going and by the 100m mark be at a full sprint. Pump the arms hard and straight as if your arms were riding rails of a railroad track. Many people swing their arms across their body which will slow you down by throwing off your gait. Breathe deeply throughout your run as this will enable you to keep pushing full speed for the next 25-30 seconds.

After the run, walk it off but stretch your arms and legs. Do a few pushups to get the blood up into the arms and ready for the pushup test. Take a few sips of a sports drink or water.

Event #3 - Max Pushups in 1:00

The pushup is a SPRINT exercise. If you try to pace pushups it tends to decrease your score as gravity has a way of taking away reps. Also, the instructors testing you will too IF you are not doing full range of motion pushups. Proper form: Arms straight at top and 90 degree bend at the bottom of a pushup position.

I like to let gravity be my friend on this exercise as with the situps. Let gravity take you down so you do not waste any energy letting yourself come down too slowly.

Before the run, once again, take a few sips of sports drink / water and prepare for pacing yourself on the run as you did with the situp test. Find your goal pace per 1/4 mile and maintain that so you reach your ultimate 1.5 mile time. Stretch your legs after a short jog to get the blood back to your legs after the pushups pump up your upperbody. Breathe deep and pump the legs a few times and stretch the chest, arms shoulders to loosen the upperbody prior to running. Many people run too tight or pumped up after a PT test and you need to get the blood back to your legs prior to the run.

Event #4 - Timed 1.5 Mile Run

Pace it out. If you goal is to run a 10:30 1.5 mile run then you need to run at a
7:00 mile pace or;

- 3:30 1/2 mile and a
- 1:45 1/4 mile.

This takes some training and practice, but many people are able to score better by just realizing they need to find their pace and stay there.

See related articles for detailed workouts:

- The Need for Speed
- Take 2:00 Off Your PFT Mile
- PFT - Train for the Transition
- The Proper Technique for Curl-ups
- The Push-up Push Workout

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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