How to Prepare for the Physical Training Demands of Boot Camp

Marine Corps pool program member works out.
U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Carlos Arroyo with Recruiting Station Springfield, Mass., Recruiting Substation Swansea, instructs a Marine Corps pool program member at Lincoln Woods State Park in Lincoln, Rhode Island, March 10, 2018. (Sgt. Connor Hancock/U.S. Marine Corps photo)

Every year, I have the honor of exercising with America's Heroes of Tomorrow bright and early at the Naval Academy during a one-week course called Summer Seminar. At 5:30 Tuesday morning, I exercised with more than 700 motivated high school seniors who are more than likely to become midshipmen in the Class of 2009. The goal of the workout is to show the future midshipmen that PT can be a stress reliever, not a stress increaser, if they arrive prepared for the daily grind of the military/boot-camp style of physical training.

Military PT is the one stress you can control simply by being prepared. The daily military indoctrination, being away from home for the first time (for many) and the constant verbal challenges from your trainers is stressful enough. Why show up out of shape? 

Every year, too many young men and women attend boot camp, military service academies and police academies ill-prepared for the physical training. When this occurs, the course is adapted unfortunately to have many of these young men and women who defend our freedom and safety striving for the minimum standards. 

This can be avoided if there were a bigger effort to help recruits learn how to train properly before attending a military or law enforcement training course. For most of the students, it was a great workout. For some, they soon realized the need to work a little harder before arriving next year.

That is why I am dedicated to teaching the way to ace the PFT and get into fighting shape. This is the program we did at the U.S. Naval Academy this week, which helps the students learn whether they are in shape. Anyone can get into shape; all it takes is practice.

Warm-up: Five minutes with slow run, stretch arms and legs

Repeat 10 times.

  • Jumping jacks 10
  • Push-ups 10 (rotate through each type: regular push-ups, wide push-ups, close triceps push-ups, eight-count bodybuilder push-ups). Total: 100

Ever warmed up with 100 push-ups? This is a great way to get the body started in just five minutes.

Repeat three times.

  • Sit-ups one minute
  • (Rest one minute while you hold your partner's feet.)
  • Push-ups: 50 straight nonstop

When it comes to sit-ups -- you can pace yourself and score higher -- people tend to start off too fast and burn out within the first minute. Try to set your pace at 20 reps in 30 seconds, which will equal 80 in two minutes. This is 15 reps above the minimum standard.

Superset for push-ups/sit-ups

Repeat 2-3 times in 2:30 each set:

  • Push-ups 10
  • Crunches 20
  • Wide push-ups 10
  • Reverse crunches 20
  • Close push-ups 10
  • Double crunches 20

The above superset is a great way to build a foundation in respect to adding push-ups to your PFT score. Mixing in maximum rep sets is another great way to increase your scores.

  • Stretch five minutes.
  • Run 1-2 miles.

If you need help on running, it is recommended to use the two-mile option for two months before increasing the mileage to three miles for a track workout, as seen on the "Interval Training for the PFT Run" article.

Check out the "Ace the PFT" article at

Other related boot-camp articles:

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. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you're looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to

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