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Recruits Start Here

stew smith

Often, I receive emails from young men and women in their teens who ask about military or law enforcement careers when they get old enough to serve their country by doing such honorable professions. I wish however, most emails were like this future Marine. Too many times, young men and women start to prepare way too late for professions that require fitness tests. But more importantly, their lives or their buddies’ lives may depend on their strength and fitness level. Here is an email from a young man who wants to become a Marine one day:

I'm 16-years old and want to become a marine. I just want to know how good my strength is, from your perspective:
80 push-ups w/o stopping
15 pullups, 25 diamond pushups w/o stopping, and
can run a mile in 5:25.

So how does it look, could I become a Marine?

I think any branch of service would be happy to allow you to serve. You are definitely getting into great shape. For the USMC, you should start to focus on getting that 1 mile run up to 3 miles in about 18-19 minutes, and get those pull-ups to 20+ with ease. That will put you in above average fitness levels upon arriving to boot camp. But, you have a few more years to prepare yourself not only for service but for the rest of your life. Those are great PT scores, however, not all of your career depends on your physical abilities. You should still study hard, learn to be a team player by playing sports, and figure out if you want to enlist out of high school or go to college and become an officer. There are great programs that will allow the military to pay for your college either through the GI Bill and enlistment bonuses or ROTC and Service Academy Programs. Regardless, your fitness is important and should be part of your daily life just as brushing your teeth is.

Here are some tips to help you get moving and building your fitness levels to the level you should be in before you attend any basic training program (military or law enforcement).

Upper body and lower body endurance – The military and law enforcement indoctrination programs use calisthenics of exercises like pushups, sit-ups, pull-ups, squats, lunges and many more to not only train hundreds of people at a time, but to build muscular endurance. Long lasting endurance will best help a recruit run longer, be able to perform better on load bearing marches / gear carries and fitness tests. Higher repetitions of these exercises will help your body last longer. See related articles on workouts:

The Stretching Plan

Tips for Better Pullups

Pull-up Alternatives

Running Even Faster

Take 2:00 Off Your PFT Mile

Ruck Marches

Learn to swim – Swimming is one of the first survival skills we all learn. Joining the military and not knowing how to swim can seriously challenge your indoctrination training. There are videos available to see how to swim, but the best way to learn is in person with a coach or swim instructor. Go to a local pool and seek lessons to learn the basic skills. Swimming is also a great way to rest the leg after miles of running throughout the week. Who knows, you may enjoy and join a swim team. See related swimming articles for more info:

Passing Military Swimming Tests

Swimming Workouts

Strength – being strong is important too. It takes full body strength to carry or drag a buddy out of a danger area. From your grip muscles in your hands to your lower back, you need to workout by adding pull-ups, weight training, and smart lower back exercises to help add strength. See related articles for more ideas on training the entire body to be stronger:

Pullup-Push Workout

The Push-Up Push Workout

Pyramid PT

Too often, I receive emails from people who need to lose 20 lbs quickly before they go to Indoctrination training, having started exercising only a few weeks prior. To be honest, to attend military or law enforcement training and perform well, you need to have a foundation of fitness for at least a year of sports and exercises for strength and endurance. Otherwise, you will have a higher percentage of injuring yourself or have to attend “extra” workout sessions to catch up to the rest of your class. Both situations add stress to an already stressful environment and distract you from learning your profession to the best of your ability. So do not go until in your are in shape. Otherwise, the instructors will take your fitness growth into their own hands and make your military and indoctrination tougher than it needs to be.

Good luck with your training programs. For more information on specific training workout plans, check out the workouts at Fitness Store. If you have any questions, please feel free to email me at

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