Tactical Fitness: How to Balance PST Training and BUD/S Fitness

Airmen take part in a 1.5-mile run as part of the Navy SEAL physical screening test.
Airman Vincent Turo, an aviation electrician's mate, middle, and Airman Christopher Bollwahn, an aviation structural mechanic (equipment), left, take part in a 1.5-mile run as part of the Navy SEAL physical screening test at Misawa, Aomori, Japan, Oct. 12, 2010. (Chief Petty Officer Daniel Sanford/U.S. Navy photo)


I have a question about preparing for BUD/S after you pass the PST and get your contract.  I contracted SEAL back earlier this year on my first PST.  My PST scores are:

  • Swim 500 yards -- 9 minutes
  • Push-ups -- 90
  • Sit-ups -- 85
  • Pull-ups -- 20
  • Run 1.5 miles: 9:20-9:45

I recently have switched my training over to focusing on BUD/S specific training -- building endurance, running mileage and swimming with fins. However, my PST scores are not improving because I have not been doing PST-focused training. Do you think I should continue to do BUD/S specific training, or is it more important to blow the PST out of the water?

You are doing fine with the PST scores. As long as your PST scores do not start to get worse, you are fine with those numbers. Remember that the PST gets you to BUD/S. Mastering everything else (below) will get you through BUD/S. Sure, you could be faster in the 1.5-mile run, but getting faster in the four-mile timed run is more important.

Swimming 500 yards should be the warmup for every swim workout, then put on the SCUBA fins and build up your ankle, leg and hip strength by swimming 1-2 miles with fins.

It is also a good idea to prepare for the rucking (40-50 pounds) with a fast walk and shuffle run on the beach if there's one near you. This will help prepare you for carrying weight on your head and shoulders, too (log PT and boat carries).

It is not a bad idea to do some lifting to prepare for the boats and logs if you do not have much lifting experience. Lighter weights with more reps of deadlifts, hang cleans, farmer walks and push presses are great exercises to add to a full-body workout day 1-2 times a week.  Mix in your high-rep PT exercises, too -- pull-ups, push-ups, sit-ups, flutter kicks, dips and rope climbs every other day as well. This likely will help push your PST numbers at the same time.

You need to prepare for the running, rucking, swimming and high-rep calisthenics more than anything. Spend most of your time moving your body instead of in a weight room.

There are many things you can fail at BUD/S, but do not practice any of the dangerous exercises or tests without Navy instructors teaching you (50-meter underwater swimming, drownproofing, etc.). You will have time to learn these at Pre-BUD/S, as well as time to practice at BUD/S.

But in a nutshell, here are some tasks you'll need to pass:

  • Timed four-mile runs each week
  • Timed two-mile ocean swims with fins each week 
  • Obstacle courses each week
  • Log PT, boat carries (Not helping the boat crew lift is cheating.)
  • 50-meter underwater swim 
  • Drownproofing 
  • Lifesaving
  • Underwater knot tying
  • SCUBA diving tests 
  • Pool comp 
  • Dive medicine tests 
  • Dive physics tests
  • Land navigation
  • Weapons tests
  • Demo tests
  • Shooting tests 

And there are many other events and tests.

Remember: you will be taught how to perform on all of them during BUD/S.

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 stew@stewsmith.com.

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