Ask Stew: Navy PFT Preparation for OCS Candidate

U.S. Naval Academy plebes carry a modified telephone pole during the log Physical Training station of Sea Trials (photo courtesy of

Every year, thousands of people apply for various officer training programs. Depending upon the specialty, the intensity of physical training can be part of a very competitive selection process. Officer candidate school is no joke. You need to begin your preparations far ahead of submitting  your application.

Here is an email concerning preparation and improving the fitness test prior to acceptance into OCS:

Hi Stew - I'm writing you as I am wanting to apply for Navy OCS for an SNA slot. I would like to meet the April deadline for the May selection boards. I am currently able to meet the bare minimum PRT requirements for a male 20-24, but I am not much over that. I would really like to be able to score at least an Outstanding Low, but right now I'm in the good low category. What workout plan would you recommend, and what is the possibility of that big of a jump in 90 days? I am already using your advice on eating and have a strict diet for some basic weight loss. Thanks for any advice you can give me! ~ Richard


It is very smart to be preparing well in advance of your application due date as well as continuing this fitness process until the day you start training if you get selected. Here are some things to consider with the standard Navy PFT:  Pushups, Crunches, and 1.5 mile timed run.

Pushups – Focus on proper hand placement first. Then practice. Get specific and do pushups. Make sure the form is good (all the way up / all the way down). Some favorite PT Workouts: PT Pyramid, PT Super Sets, Max Rep Set Workouts and more.

A Classic Warmup like this (below) will help you with your pushups. Once you are able to do 50-100 pushups in a multi-set warmup, you will have no problem with two-minute pushup tests.

  • Repeat 5-10 times
  • Jumping jack 10
  • Pushups 5-10

Quick Fixes to PT Scores – Check out the methods to increase PT scores significantly in a 14-day period.

Pushup Push – With this supplemental plan, you could increase your Pushups significantly in two weeks. Sit-ups Push (Curl Ups)  – With this supplemental plan, you could increase your curl-ups significantly in two weeks – just by learning the proper pace.

However, after this two week period, go back to doing normal split routines with pushups every OTHER day.

Curl Ups – The secret to good sit-ups is pace. Pace yourself at your goal pace especially in a two minute test as typically people will do great in the first 30 seconds and get 25-30 curl-ups, but fail to match that in the next 1:30 of the test. However, by slowing down the pace to perhaps 18-20 in 30 seconds, you are setting yourself up for 70-80 curl-ups in two minutes.  Pace Yourself!

The second trick is to this is let gravity take you down and exert ONLY on the UP movement (same as pull-ups / pushups). Drop back so your shoulder blades touch the floor and exert on the up so your elbows touch your knees to finish the repetition. The key is to not flex your abs as you are descending, giving your abs that split second of relaxation every curl-up versus being constantly flexed.

Recommended workout - Try timing yourself with 5 sets of 30 seconds, setting your pace to reach your goal. A good pace is 20 sit-ups in 30 seconds - totaling 80 in two minutes. Perfectly respectable score!

Transition from the PT to the Run: After you perform the PT test, take the 2-3 minutes to stretch the arms, chest, shoulders, stomach and lower back. Then run for about 2-3 minutes at an easy pace to get the blood down toward your legs. Finally, take about 3-5 minutes to stretch your legs. Keep shaking the arms, throughout the time in between the PT and run, to loosen up.

1.5 mile run - For most people the most challenging event of any PFT is the run, especially after maxing out on pushups and sit-ups for two minutes each.

You can fix this, but it requires making running a habit.

BIG TIP on Timed RUNS: The most important thing is to not start off too fast. Learn your pace and set your goal by pacing yourself to the finish. For instance, if your goal is to run the 1.5 mile run in 10:30, you must run a 7:00 mile or a 1:45 - 1/4 mile. This is basically learning HOW to run at your pace needed to reach your goal. Consider this a “muscle memory” drill of running. Soon you will be able to know how a 7 or 8-minute mile feels by the way your breathing, your arm swing, and stride are affected with each interval. The workout below is a classic for you to run at your GOAL Pace. Eventually, you will be able to maintain that pace for the entire timed run distance. That is GOAL PACE running.

  • Repeat 6 times
  • Run ¼ mile at goal pace
  • Walk 1-2 minutes

Try to hit your goal mile pace every lap. Decrease the rest interval as this gets easier then increase the distance to ½ mile and ¾ mile intervals at that same pace.

Other running workout ideas:

Programs to consider:

The Pushups, Curl-ups, and the Run are the events of the PFT. Getting specific with your training in preparation to score well is the key to success. If your workout looks like this fitness test in some way, you will be moving in the right direction. Once the test is over, then you are focus on some of the other specifics of the training in your future at OCS and beyond.

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