Acing the Military Physical Fitness Tests

The U.S. military is one of the most elite fighting forces on the planet. The men and women who join need to be in top physical shape to survive not just the rigors of training, but also of combat. Today we’re going to look at the standards set by the modern military for graduation from basic military training and how you can develop the physical skills necessary to pass the physical fitness assessment of any service.

Physical Fitness Standards

Each branch of the U.S. military has slightly different requirements for it’s soldiers to graduate BMT. What they have in common is the core physical skills that they agree should form the basis for assessment: running, push-ups, sit-ups, pull-ups, and swimming. Not every service requires every skill to be tested, for instance only the Navy and Coast Guard assess swimming ability, while only the Marines and Air Force ask for pull-ups. Interestingly, the Marines don’t test push-ups, but all other services do. Everyone agrees that sit-ups (sometimes called crunches or curl-ups) and running are pretty required for a soldier.

What we’ve done today is to find the low end, average, and high end requirements of all the services for each test, so we can create a training plan that could prepare you for any of them, at any time. Our goal: be Soldier Fit every day, just in case.

Looking at the Numbers

We’ve averaged out the run for all services to a 2 mile requirement, with push-ups, sit-ups, and pull-ups averaged between the services that require them. We’ve also split things out by gender, since the military takes that into account. What we haven’t done, though, is account for age. It’s my firm belief that if you want to be fit, then strive for the best and not just the best “for a dude in his 40’s”.

Run (2 mile)

  • Male: 20:00 (poor), 15:25:03 (average), 13:38:40 (good)
  • Female: 22:00 (poor), 19:04:15 (average), 14:50:00 (good)

Push-up (2 min max)

  • Male: 24 (poor), 39 (average), 61 (good)
  • Female: 17 (poor), 24 (average), 35 (good)

Sit-up (2 min max)

  • Male: 34 (poor), 47 (average), 67 (good)
  • Female: 26 (poor), 44 (average), 62 (good)

Pull-up (without dropping)

  • Male: 0 (poor), 4 (average), 5 (good)
  • Female: 0 (poor), 3 (average), 3 (good)

Swim (max yards in 12 min)

  • Male: 350 (poor), 400 (average), 450 (good)
  • Female: 300 yards (poor), 350 (average), 400 (good)

The indicators of Poor, Average, or Good are based on the averaged numbers between all services as well as the low end and high end passing scores. In our numbers, by hitting the “Good” values, you have a good chance of passing any of the physical fitness tests for any branch. Now, lets look at how we can train for this!

The Training Plan

We mentioned above that we’re not training for Poor or Average, we’re training for Good or better in every category. These skills are universal enough that there’s no reason that a healthy, trained individual can’t perform at a high level for every aspect of these tests. Three days per week we’re going to be working on building strength and three days we’ll be working on cardiovascular development. On Sunday, you’ll be resting.

Some assumptions: male or female, we’re assuming you can do at least a few push-ups, a few sit-ups, and no pull-ups. We’re also assuming that nothing is stopping you from being able to run or swim (i.e. you know how to do both). For this plan you’ll need to know your starting max push-ups, max sit-ups, and max pull-ups (if any).

Let’s get started!

First Four Weeks

Monday, Wednesday, Friday

  • Perform 3 rounds of the following each day, trying to hit half of your current 2 minute max in each round
    • Push-ups
    • Sit-ups
    • Pull-ups
  • If you cannot do any pull-ups at all, you’ll do 10 negative pull-ups each round. For these, use a chair or box to get to the top of the pull-up bar, then lower yourself under control for 3-4 seconds.

Tuesday

  • Run 2 miles
  • Rest walk as needed
  • Record your time

Thursday

  • Swim 500 yards
  • Rest as needed
  • Record your time

Saturday

  • Perform 10 rounds of: 100m sprints, 50m jog
  • Swim 500 yards (as Thursday)

Weeks 5+

  • Retest your push-up, sit-up, pull-up, run, and swim maxes/times every month
  • Adjust the training plan to do more reps per round of the MWF work based on your new maximum reps
  • Continue the cardio work as written, going for better times every week