What Is the 'Best' Navy PST Workout?

Navy PST
Retired U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr. Joe Fuller, SEAL, San Diego mentor for future sailors participating in the Physical Standards Test (PST) at Admiral Prout Field, Naval Base San Diego, June 24, 2014, discusses how important the 1.5-mile run of the PST is to hopeful special warfare operators. (Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Eric Coffer/U.S. Navy photo)

Over the years, people have asked me for the best Navy Physical Screening Test (PST) workout. My first answer is that no one should pick just one workout. Instead, do a full cycle of training that focuses on faster running and swimming, alongside higher-repetition calisthenics. You can add supplemental lifting if you need it.

I do have a favorite Go-To Navy PST workout that will specifically prepare you for the test used to assess candidates for the Navy SEAL, SWCC, EOD/Diver, Rescue Swimmer and Special Amphibious RECON Corpsman (SARC) jobs in the Navy.

First, here is the Navy PST. You must meet above-average standards to perform well enough to be selected and obtain a pre-bootcamp contract to attend the training program:

  • Swim: 500 yards
  • Break: 10 minutes
  • Push-ups: 2 minutes
  • Break: 2 minutes
  • Sit-ups: 2 minutes
  • Break: 2 minutes
  • Pull-ups max reps
  • Break: 10 minutes
  • Timed run: 1.5 miles

The order of your workout matters. If you can, try to start your workouts with a swim. This is not always possible and, to be honest, I prefer swimming last.

If you really need help with the PST, you need to get used to working out after swimming. First learn how to swim properly because technique is even more important than conditioning.

This 50-50 workout improves both:.

Swim 50-50 workout

  • CSS warmup: 500 yards

Repeat 10 times

  • Swim freestyle: 50 yards fast
  • Swim CSS: 50 yards
  • Minimum rest

Note: Some pools are meter pools, and some are yard pools. Make sure you know the difference. Also know that 450 meters = 500 yards. For the Navy, you need to swim the test in yards. If your pool is measured in meters, just know that you need to swim only 9 laps vs. 10 laps in the 25-meter pool.

Full PT Pyramid Workout (1-10-1)

Pull-ups x 1
Push-ups x 2
Sit-ups x 3

Here is how the PT Pyramid Works: Go up the pyramid

  • Set/Step 1: 1 pull-up, 2 push-ups, 3 sit-ups
  • Set/Step 2: 2 pull-ups, 4 push-ups, 6 sit-ups
  • Set/Step 3: 3 pull-ups, 6 push-ups, 9 sit-ups (Your first few sets are basically a warmup.)
  • Set/Step 4: 4 pull-ups, 8 push-ups, 12 sit-ups
  • Set/Step 5: 5 pull-ups, 10 push-ups, 15 sit-ups
  • Set/Step 6: 6 pull-ups, 12 push-ups, 18 sit-ups (Here is where you may fail/max out.)

Keep going to set 10 and then go down the pyramid.

  • Set11/Step 9: 9 pull-ups, 18 push-ups, 27 sit-ups
  • Set 12/Step 8: 8 pull-ups, 16 push-ups, 24 sit-ups
  • Set 13/Step 7: 7 pull-ups, 14 push-ups, 21 sit-ups
  • Set 14/Step 6: 6 pull-ups/, 2 push-ups, 18 sit-ups

Keep going all the way to set 19, which places you back where you started at step 1:

  • Set 19/Step 1: 1 pull-up, 2 push-ups, 3 sit-ups

The goal is to be able to do this workout with only active rest by continuous movement through the three-exercise circuit. You'll "rest" the other muscle groups with each exercise.


This 3-mile interval workout is a great way to prepare for the PST's 1.5-mile timed run and get used to swimming and high-rep calisthenics after the swim.

Learn about goal pace.

Repeat 6 times

  • Run at goal mile pace for PST: 400 meters
  • Walk: 100 meters

Repeat 3 times

  • Run at goal mile pace for PST: 800 meters
  • Walk: 200 meters

If you are going to limit your training week to this workout, consider doing it every other day and add other events like leg days, non-impact cardio, treading and more swimming on the other days.

You may find that 3 to 4 weeks of this workout every other day will yield excellent results, but you may also get bored with it. That is why having a system of workouts with this one placed into the program once every week or two may work better for you in the long term.

-- 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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