Ask Stew: Sea Cadet Prep for SEAL Training Programming

Sea Cadets rest between activities.
U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corps Able Cadet Oliveiri (left) and Recruit Cadet Madera, both Centurion Battalion, rest in their racks between activities. (Petty Officer 1st Class Abe McNatt/U.S. Navy photo)

During the summer, many teens in high school and college attend a variety of military training programs.  Some are designed as recruiting and career information programs, like the Sea Cadet program and the Navy ROTC Summer Cruise programs. 

Consider that some of these training summers are internships, for the most part. Some are more challenging physically than others. For instance, those members of the ROTC programs in college may attend the U.S. Marine Corps' Officer Candidate School, which is very challenging in terms of leadership and physical fitness.

The Sea Cadets and Young Marines also have tough training programs as well. Here is a question from a young man in Sea Cadets seeking more information about the SEAL training programs.  

Dear Mr. Smith, I am a 16-year-old in the Sea Cadets, and my dream is to join the Navy SEALs. I feel my run time, push-ups and sit-ups are getting progressively better. My swim qualifications are the worst of the PST events (swim, run, push-ups, sit-ups, pull-ups). I was wondering if there are any tips or exercises you would recommend for me to feel more comfortable in the water overall and get my swim and treading above and beyond. Thank you, Caleb

Caleb -- Obviously, just "tips and exercises" are not enough. You need a program to follow that answers all the issues, especially to prepare for the physical screening test (PST) to get selected into the Navy SEA Cadet Summer SEAL program and beyond.

Getting in the pool to tread water and swim a variety of strokes is critical to your swimming issues, but training goes much deeper than that. Many people focus too much on things they are either good at doing or very bad at doing, with leaving the opposite to get worse. If swimming is your issue, swim more but do not forget everything else.

There are some great PT Pyramid, Super Set, and Max Rep Sets workouts you should consider and start to master each week.  And for swimming, you have to get in the pool and swim to get into swimming shape, practice technique and watch YouTube videos on the CSS for ideas/skills.

Then there is running. You need to run both goal-paced runs and sprints to get faster an last longer at a set pace for good scores on timed runs. 

More running/swimming/PT articles:

PT test Power/Speed

Combat Swimmer Stroke (CSS)

More CSS – Common Mistakes

Improve Mile Pace (Learn a Goal Pace)

Train for Timed Runs

PT Programming Supplement Calisthenics and Cardio Challenges

Start your information and learning process with the above links. They will serve you well with figuring out what you should be doing and capable of doing in order to get selected for the program. Do not think you are in shape enough, because you play sports in high school. You have to get specific and start training for the events that will be part of your daily program during the summer 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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