Be a Better Recruit (Regular Military & Spec Ops)
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There are many way you need to prepare yourself for military service. The basics are staying out of trouble, graduating high school, do your research as to what jobs you would like to do, and prepare yourself for the height / weight standards, physical fitness tests, and ASVAB by actually practicing ALL of the ABOVE.
This article is for the regular military recruit focused on serving in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, or Coast Guard. There are literally several hundred jobs you have available to you with any of the branches of service. The main focus will be physical standards and other basics for the regular military and how to prepare yourself. If you are considering special ops level of training when you join, the preparation will be much greater especially on the physical fitness spectrum (see related links):
Be a Better Recruit (Spec Ops Level)
For those seeking Special Ops Level advice on being a better recruit see the links below:
Prepare Prior To Military Service
For a majority of jobs in the military, your high school education, sports history, and good scores on the ASVAB will be enough especially if you score well on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery test (ASVAB), pass the height weight standards, and meet / exceed the physical fitness standards. Here are the steps you need to focus on to get the most out of your military service:
1) Study for the ASVAB - The better you score on the ASVAB means you qualify for more jobs and can have the pick of the job available to recruits. However, if you do not do well, you maybe limited to jobs in the military that your heart is not into doing. That is no way to enjoy your first (or last) enlistment of 4-6 years. Take a few practice tests and learn how the test works. There will be English, Math, Science, Mechanics, Technical, and simple understanding of academic concepts. You will be graded on the following:
These concepts are tested across ten subtests:
- General science
- Arithmetic reasoning
- Word knowledge
- Paragraph comprehension
- Mathematics knowledge
- Electronics information
- Auto information
- Shop information
- Mechanical comprehension
- Assembling objects
Do not blow this test off and fail to study as the job you really want to do WILL depend on you passing this test or not.
2) Do Your Research - Go to ALL the official websites of the Department of Defense and read about the job opportunities, physical fitness requirements, and ASVAB scores you need for certain Army or Marine Corps MOS, Air Force AFSC, or Navy and Coast Guard Ratings. Military Occupational Specialty (MOS), Air Force Specialty Codes (AFSC), and Ratings are also known as professions in the military and will be what you sign up to do (if you qualify).
3) Start Preparing Physically TODAY! - Make today day 1 not one day! The more physically fit you are the less likely you will fail any of the fitness standards during training or get injured because you are not durable enough to handle the basic training of the military branch of your choice. You do not have to be a world class athlete, but anyone can get into good physical conditioning. It takes some practice and consistency actually doing the things you know you will be doing at basic training / boot camp. If you are a beginner check out this beginner training program with a food plan to assist with weight loss.
- Run - Learn how to run and get in shape to run 2-3 miles without stopping. See beginner / intermediate running plan. But, you may need to start off with just walking depending on your fitness level. If you played sports that had a little bit of running in it (football) or no running in it like swimming, you need to practice running regularly to get over the growing pains accompanied with impact cardio like running and rucking. To do well on timed runs, you need to practice that distance at a goal pace. Learn about GOAL PACE Running.
- Calisthenics - You will be doing calisthenics not only throughout the day in basic training, but as a fitness test as well. Get used to exercises like pushups, crunches, plank poses, pullups, squats, and lunges to work the entire body. If you need some ideas, see the programs below that address all the physical fitness challenges you will see in preparation, testing, and basic training and beyond. The Boot camp, PFT, Bible, and Cals and Cardio are all encompassing workouts that will prepare you for the challenges of Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard basic training and fitness tests as well. The Army and Marine Corps will require more challenging workouts and fitness testing. See links of the books below to see more details of the Combat Fitness Test you must be able to accomplish when you join.
Rule #1 to Physical Training - DO NOT RELY ON THE MILITARY TO GET YOU INTO SHAPE AT BASIC TRAINING. You will get into better shape for sure during your training, but you need to arrive with a foundation of physical fitness that is specific to your future job in the military / fitness tests / training.
Swimming / Drownproofing Training - You will have a basic swim test and training to survive in the event you fall into the water. If considering Navy, Marine Corps, or Coast Guard, take swimming lessons prior to joining. You will not have time to learn how to swim and get comfortable in the water while at boot camp. You will have to take a water survival test in the Army and Air Force too.
Rucking - If going Army or Marine Corps, learn how to carry a back pack and build your body to be able to handle various load bearing. That means lifting weights, walking with a back pack, carrying equipment during your preparation training as you will be required to walk many miles carrying gear in your arms and back packs. See Rucking Progression Article.
You will be required to pass the following tests:
Navy: Pushups, Plank pose, 1.5 mile run
Air Force: Pushups, situps, 1.5 mile run
Coast Guard: Pushups, situps, 1.5 mile run plus jump into pool and swim 100m unassisted.
USMC: Pullups (or pushups), Crunches (or plank), 3 mile timed run, plus the USMC Combat Fitness Test.
Army: Pushup, Situps, 2 mile run will be seen as a recruit, then you will be taking the new Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT): Dead lift, Hand release pushups, Leg tucks, Spring, Drag, carry shuttle run, 2 mile timed run.
Helpful Piece of Advice - DO NOT STRIVE FOR THE MINIMUM STANDARDS. No matter what your job is in the military, one day your fitness level could determine whether you survive, your buddy survives, or someone you are trying to help live or die. Your fitness is that serious. If that does not motivate you to train a little harder, then you should consider another profession because we all need you to be capable. Be an asset. (READ)
4) Assess Yourself - Before you talk to a recruiter, assess yourself and see how you do on a practice ASVAB and PT Test. You may need more practice. Consider this a job interview not an information session. You can find all the answers to your questions online using the official military websites about the details of enlisting. But you will not know what you need to work on IF you do not assess yourself. Be ready to join when you talk to a recruiter.
If you go into your recruiter's office meeting the height/weight standards, meeting the physical fitness standards, and understanding the ASVAB testing process because you took a few practice tests, you will be taken seriously. Here are some resources to help you with your journey. Thanks for considering to serve your country. Now - serve it well by being ready to serve.
Marine Corps Height / Weight (recruits must meet ht/wt standards)
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Where to Find More Information About Optimal Performance Training Programs
When you start training again, consider the seasonal tactical fitness model. I call it A WAY to train and obviously not the only way to train. But it offers the opportunity to never neglect your weaknesses, helps with flexibility and mobility, but will also put you at a level of physical abilities where you are happy with your overall ability to do just about anything. We have a system where the seasons dictate our training. When it is nicer outside, we tend to run and do more calisthenics. When it is colder and not so nice, we lift more, run less, and still maintain our outdoor activities with shorter runs and rucks. Check it out: Seasonal Tactical Fitness Periodization System.
These Seasonal Tactical Fitness BLOCK Periodization programs will walk you through 4 x 4 weeks cycles with 16 weeks of each season in two programs. (32 total weeks)
Increase Strength & Crush the PST / PAST
3 Weeks Strength - 1 Week PT / Cardio Focus
These programs will walk you through 4 cycles with 12 weeks of each season in two programs.
Army / Air Force Advanced Fitness / Special Ops
Beginner / Intermediate / Advanced Fitness Guides
The Beginner / Intermediate Guide to Fitness
Reclaim Your Life Erin O'Neill Story (beginner / intermediate)
Veterans Fitness Baby Boomer and a Flat Stomach
Circuit Training 101 Beginner / Intermediate Guide to the Gym
Tactical Fitness Over 40 Series
Tactical Fitness (40+) Phase 1, Phase 2, Phase 3, Phase 4
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Stew Smith Fitness
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 store if you're looking to start a workout program to get you TO and THROUGH any tactical fitness training program OR create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.