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"Don't Train for the Test" At Your Own Risk (The Benefits of Crushing the PFT, PST, CFT, PAST)

Stew smith

Don't End Your Military and/or Spec Ops Journey Before It Even Begins 
(Yes - Train for the Test) 

It is Black and White - If You Fail You Are Done

There - I said it. Depending on your place in the journey as a military, police, or fire fighter candidate, you may need to train specifically for the test OR your career goals are done before it has even started. WHY? 

First - you will never get accepted and earn a contract if you do not pass / ace the test - specifically the Navy PST for Navy Spec War jobs. 

Second - you will never enter training after bootcamp / basic training if you fail the fitness test prior to advancing to the Spec Ops Training Pipeline.

But Third - Any PT test should be such a non-factor to your abilities that you could pass it an any random day, after a tough workout even, or even when sick with the flu. That is how "easy" this test should be for you.

You do not get there by blowing it off and following advice of "not training for the test". Training for what comes after the test is even more important, but do not disregard Phase 1 of Tactical Fitness (Getting Accepted TO the Training).

Fail the PT Test = End of Spec Ops Journey

A few former students contacted me recently from various Spec Ops level pipelines. They all to the person said their first PST, PAST, and APFT after Basic Training / BootCamp cut their spec ops candidates nearly in half. Not hellweek or a gut check event, but simple pushups, situps, and a 2 mile run. The basic Army PFT ends 18x candidates in large numbers who fail to score a 240 APFT. Yes, that means doing pushups, situps, and running fast. Same goes for the Air Force PAST and the new Operator Fitness Test candidates will see in AFSW Prep and throughout the pipeline.  You will never get THROUGH the training (Phase 2 of Tactical Fitness) if you do not get TO the training. 

Simple Tests That Many Think Insignificant

I am not sure why people blow off these assessment tests. It would be no different than someone trying to get into college and not studying for the SAT or ACT.  They are important to your future even though they may not perfectly assess one's ability to become proficient at the next level. These tests can increase your salary, pay for college, and get you accepted into training and selections that advance your career as well. Places I have seen these tests make a difference in people's lives:

- People make rank (or not make rank and get kicked out of the military) due to passing / not passing a fitness test.

- People's college ROTC scholarship hang in the balance due to a basic fitness test ($50-100,000 saved).

- People get kicked out of Service Academies or lose ROTC scholarships for failing the fitness tests. 

- People show up on day 1 of a spec ops program and fail a fitness test to the standards and they are done. 

Whether you think it is or is not an accurate measure of someone's fitness level is irrelevant. The test matters no matter what you think. 

They do show how serious you are about pushing your perceived limitations:

You know what these tests do assess though? Your seriousness to working hard to score the best, to be the best, to win events and not just survive them. Obviously, there is more to the journey than a fitness test, but this PT Test IS the first hurdle of many in your future...

Same Goes for the Navy PST (BUD/S, SWCC, EOD / Diver)

Also from the Navy side, Dive Prep / Selection and BUD/S Prep Navy PST scores of 500yd swim, pushups, situps, pullups, and 1.5 mile run ends a significant portion of the candidate population as well.  The de-conditioning effects of Navy Boot Camp to the Spec Ops candidate is well known. If you are not crushing the PST by the time you ship for the 10 week boot camp and do not do everything you can to maintain your scores with extra PT on your own "in your spare time", you will be finished with your spec ops journey before it even starts. 

Know The THREE PHASES You Need For Tactical Professions

For so many years and even decades, you may have heard advice concerning military fitness tests. Every piece of advice comes with context and usually directed toward a select group of people in a particular situation versus everyone listening.  For an operator, training ONLY for the test makes little sense as you need to be training for the mission - the job in front of you. Once again, you will be tasked like all other active duty members to take a fitness test so short cycles to adequately prep for the test may be needed. These are evolving to be more tactically based so "training for the test" may actually be useful as Tactical Fitness Tests become the standard within the military and special ops unit. Seasonal Tactical Fitness Periodization also has applications for the operator as much as the candidate. 

There are Three Phases of Tactical Fitness - Do Not Confuse Them

If you do not know the phases of tactical fitness, it will be wise to learn them early in your preparation process:

Tactical Fitness Phase 1 - Getting TO the Training:  Getting accepted into the training program / branch of service of your choice requires thorough testing.  Physical Fitness, Academic (ASVAB / OAR), Medical, and body composition (height / weight standards) are the first challenges you will face in phase 1 of tactical fitness. Make sure you can do this even on a bad day. 

Tactical Fitness Phase 2 - Getting THROUGH the Training: Getting through and graduating the pipeline of training requires much greater preparation to make you durable enough to withstand injury with the work capacity to work long days and nights learning and performing new skills. Unfortuniately, most people neglect this cycle in the Spec Ops Training Pipeline. Some journeys will be more difficult than others and it is your responsibility to understand the challenges of that choice you made and prepare properly for the future. 

Phase 3 of Tactical Fitness - Active Duty Operator - Now you are the active duty operator that still has to train hard but differently than the above two phases to maintain physical abilities, tactical skills, but also learn alleviate the stresses of the job. One thing you will learn if this is your career, you will be older longer than you are younger in this profession. Your longevity matters.  

Train For the Test THEN Develop Fitness to Higher Levels

You should be able to pass a PFT, PST, PAST test on any day of the week even after a workout. One of our training mottos is to "Not let a PST interfere with your workout of the day or the day before."  The goal is to build up to crush the PT test early and long before you even talk to a recruiter so you have plenty of time working on the tougher events of your future (longer runs, rucks, longer swims with fins, logs, boats, obstacle courses, pool skills, etc). But you STILL have to maintain a high level PT test score while you fully develop yourself to withstand the journey.

One Day You Will Not Have To Take This PT Test...

There will be a day that you may never take the entry level fitness test again.  For instance, once you arrive at BUD/S Prep / Orientation, you will take a Navy PST, but once in first phase, you will not do that test again throughout BUD/S. 
You have to now rely on your Phase 2 training (Getting THROUGH) programming for what is next in your future. But, if you ONLY trained for the PST, the longer runs, swims, boats, logs will crush you. Phase 1 and Phase 2  of Tactical Fitness are that important to your success. 

Who is Stew Smith? Coach, Trainer, Author, PodcasterI'm the former Navy SEAL that special ops candidates go to for books, ebooks and online coaching to prepare themselves to get to and through intense tactical assessment and selection programs and qualify for service in their chosen tactical profession.  See More at

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 just about anything. We have a systems 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.  

My most recent programs that walk you through these four cycles with 12 weeks of each season in two programs. 

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)

The Specific Military / Special Ops Physical Fitness Workouts Where Optimal Performance Will Be Tested Each Day

Navy SEAL Workout Phase 1
Navy SEAL Workout Phase 2 - 3
Navy SEAL Workout Phase 4  Grinder PT
Navy SWCC Workout

Army PFT Workout (Prep For Rucking, OPAT, ACFT)
Army Special Forces / Ranger Workout
Army Air Assault School Workout
Army Airborne Workout


Advanced Running Program - Special Ops Supplement Plan
USMC OCS / TBS Workout


The Combat Conditioning Workout
Air Force PJ / CCT Workout  Battlefield Airman Prep Course
The UBRR Upper Body Round Robin Workout / Spec Ops version


The Coast Guard Rescue Swimmer / Navy SAR Workout
The Service Academy Workout (West Point, Navy, Air Force Academy)
The Navy, Air Force, Marine Corp Boot Camp Workout


The Law Enforcement Physical Fitness Workouts

The FBI Academy Workout  |   FBI Workout Vol 2  
The DEA Workout
The FLETC Workout - Ace the PEB
The PFT Bible: Pushups, Sit-ups, 1.5 Mile Run
The Fire Fighter Workout - Ace the CPAT


Online Coaching Options

Online PT CLUB - Weekly Workouts created personally for you.

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If you want access to years worth of workouts, many of the top eBOOKs, favorite workouts of the week, free fitness APP, closed Facebook Group, video / picture library of exercises, and more access to LIVE Q/A sessions check out the Stew Smith Fitness Members Section

The dashboard below has the links to all the information, archives, videos, and links to workouts, podcasts, live Q and A lessons. 

Consider this! - A Membership Program and Gain Access to Exclusive Content
(click for Fitness Club Dashboard - members only)

Best of all, if you have questions, email Stew Smith himself (  Join the tactical fitness group discussions, latest articles, videos, podcasts at the Stew Smith Tactical Fitness Training Closed Group on Facebook.


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