Ask Stew: Preparation Tips for Army Basic Combat Training

A soldier runs during interval circuit training.
Pfc. Michael Catlin, 10th Mountain Division human resources strength management specialist, runs laps around the Multi-National Division-Central Headquarters gym in Baghdad during interval circuit training on Jan. 7, 2009. (Photo courtesy of Multi-National Division-Central)

Joining the military and having to lose 25 pounds or more prior to basic training is very common these days. It is wise to prepare at least 4-6 months out from your ship date and build a foundation of fitness that will help you lose weight at the same time, keep you from injuring yourself during training and make basic training less stressful mentally and physically.

Here is an emailed question from a young man giving himself adequate time to prepare for basic combat training (BCT), given his current fitness level.

Hello, Stew, 

I am a future soldier, and I am preparing for my BCT for the U.S. Army. I am overweight by 25 pounds, and I am facing a hard time losing my weight. I have a very bad running time. I still have 4-5 months to ship. Could you please guide me regarding which eBook I should follow so that I can pass BCT and AIT (advanced individual training)?

Looking forward to your reply. Thanks, BV

BV, first of all, it is very smart to give yourself 4-5 months to get in better conditioning for Army basic and beyond. People often email me the same questions with less than a month to go before they lose their slot to go to BCT. You have to get moving today. Usually, with a moderately healthy diet and at your age, you can just add daily fitness to your world and you will be good to go.

However, if you eat a lot of sugary foods, snacks and overeat at each meal, you may have to alter your diet. You likely will find yourself losing up to or even more than 10-15 pounds in your first month with exercise, no soda and by drinking nearly a gallon of water a day.

I would suggest taking it one step at a time. Focus on adding Army-style fitness training to your day by mixing in calisthenics, running and walking with a backpack 4-5 times a week. Build up to 5-6 days a week of activity.

On the days you are not working out hard, you should focus on recovery, stretching and foam-rolling any aches and pains associated with adding new exercises to your weekly schedule.

Here are some sample Army PT workout articles to start with:

But since you have some time, you can check out the Beginner/Intermediate Workouts and Army Fitness Programs designed to help you lose weight and build a foundation of fitness first, then help you max the PT test and follow-on training.

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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