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Navy SEAL Phase 4: Grinder PT - The Key to Mental Toughness Program

Stew Smith

Stew Smith's Navy SEAL Grinder PT -
The Key to Mental Toughness Program 

The definition of "grinder' is the concrete-asphalt area at BUD/S where the students do their calisthenics workouts. It is surrounded by pullup bars, dip bars and the instructors, training officer, and commanding officer's offices. You have the constant feeling of always being watched while you are on the "grinder". So, put out hard, count loud, and cheer your class through the workout or you will wind up doing the workout "wet and sandy" or spend an hour in the leaning rest!

The Grinder PT Workout has been developed out of a concern for those future BUD/S candidates who may not be as prepared for SEAL training as they thought they were. Many members of the as well as readers of the Complete Guide to Navy SEAL fitness have stated that they felt like they were in great shape when they arrived to BUD/s, but some were not prepared for the verbal harassment and mind games of the instructors. Statistics kept since the beginning of SEAL training say that most of the people who quit BUD/S do so in the first 3-4 weeks. This program is designed around those first 3-4 weeks with many events of mental and physical challenges. This is not a workout that I would recommend to do often. In fact, it is so challenging that is may be best done only once and kept as a reminder and reference guide to the certain mental challenges you will face prior to Hell Week. My BUD/S class had over 120 people start in the first weeks and lost over 40 prior to Hellweek and another 40 in Hellweek.

To give you an idea of what type of mindset you should have prior to arriving at BUD/S is the goal of this program. Of course, you have to prepare to get TO BUD/S by acing the PST, but you also have to prepare for the events to get THROUGH BUD/S - that means longer runs, swims, and get used to carrying the load (boats, rucks, logs, people).

For instance, I have always stated that you should go to BUD/s with the mentality of competing to win every event such as the runs, swims, o-courses, but at the same time be a cheerleader to those behind you and cheer them onto finishing. You should not go to BUD/s with the mentality of just surviving and striving for the minimum standards. Too many people quit BUD/s by achieving the minimum scores listed on the BUD/s Physical Fitness Test criteria. The minimums and the recommended scores are below:

-- Swim 500 yards. Maximum time allowed is 12 minutes, 30 seconds -- but to be competitive, you should swim the distance in at least 8 to 9 minutes, utilizing only the side or breast stroke.

-- Max push-ups. Minimum number is 50 in 2 minutes, but you should shoot for at least 100 for an average score.

-- Max sit-ups. Minimum number is 50 in 2 minutes, but you should strive for at least 90 to 100 in 2 minutes for an average score.

-- Max pull-ups. Minimum is 10 with no time limit on an instructor cadence, but you cannot touch the ground or let go of the bar. You should be able to do 15 to 20 to be competitive.

-- 1.5-mile run. Wearing boots and pants, the maximum time allowed for this one is 10 minutes, 30 seconds, but you should be able to cover the distance in 9 minutes to be competitive.

Nowadays, you will not be accepted to even get to BUDS if you post the above minimum standards as you have to pass an elevated set of standards during the Delayed Entry Program and another set of standards when at BUD/S Prep:

NSW / BUD/S Prep Exit Test:
1000-yard swim - with fins (less than 20 minutes)
Push-ups: at least 70 (2 min)
Pull-ups: at least 10 (2 min)
Curl-ups: at least 60 (2 min)
Four-mile run - with shoes and pants (less than 31 minutes)

These are still minimum standards and you should be to perform well above these standards if you want to perform well at BUD/S. 

If you shoot for these minimums - you are destined to go to BUDS and just TRY to survive each event of the day. That mentality will wear on you quickly and you will most likely quit or become injured from overuse injuries.  There is a difference in your training that will prepare you to get TO training and THROUGH training - know the difference.  It is not all just PSTs. 

Once again - you should go to BUD/S with high standards for yourself and COMPETE for the best scores of the class in several events. Do not go to BUD/S thinking you are just wanting to survive the training!! You have to be more aggressive than that AND NOT let the mind games and verbal harassment of the instructors affect you negatively. You can only succeed by channeling any negative feedback from the instructors and turn it into a positive, self-fueling energy. You should think that nothing anyone will say will make you doubt yourself or your abilities. If you can do the above recommended standards you are more than half way to graduating. The next portion is internal drive and determination coupled with the understanding that you know you will be talked to negatively by instructors at times and driven to discomfort most of the time.

Two Biggest Issues Students Have: Under-confidence and Over-confidence

The Grinder is chaos - constant chaos. Not meeting the standard? Pay the price with extra exercises, wet, sandy, water hoses sprayed in the face. You get constant attention especially by the first phase staff of instructors. (pic from @mcteams3842 and

The Grinder PT program places you at BUD/S - so to speak - with the added annoyances of 100-200 pushups or doing workouts soak and wet due to no real reason other than that is what you will do at BUD/S. Also, tips to running in sand, the Combat Swimmer Stroke, swimming underwater, preventing injuries, and maintaining the competitive edge will be addressed in this Stew Smith Phase 4 - The Grinder PT - The Key to Mental Toughness. 

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Testimonial: I did Complete Guide to Navy SEAL Fitness and built a solid base - able to crush the PT test and more. Then did Phases 2/3 and built on that even more. After Phase 4, I thought I would get my butt kicked as it is a bit of a gut check but I actually came back stronger increasing in PT numbers, runs, and swims.  I did eat and sleep well so I am sure that helped especially with the hellweek simulator...AWESOME workout! Jack

Stew: Phase 4 ot the Navy SEAL Key to Mental Toughness is by far my toughest workout ever created.  It resembles a day of BUDS, complete with "wet and sandy", runs after eating, high rep punishment push-ups, 4 mile timed runs, 2 mile swims with fins, log PT simulation, and even a HellWeek Simulator with 3 workouts a day.  

As with any of Stew Smith's products, access throughout your training is possible through email at He will answer all your questions.



Navy SEAL Workout Phase 1 Beginner Weeks 1-9 
Navy SEAL Workout Phase 2 - 3 - Intermediate Weeks 1-12
Navy SEAL Workout Phase 4 Grinder PT - Four weeks before Hell Week

Navy SEAL / SWCC, EOD, Diver Program Series - Phase 1 is what I call a beginner guide, but it is still challenging.  It is geared toward those who are scoring minimally or failing their Navy PST test - 500yd swim, pushups, situps, pullups, 1.5 mile run.  It is easier than The Complete Guide to Navy SEAL Fitness and a good prep course before attempting it. 

Phase 2 and 3 of the Navy SEAL / SWCC, EOD, Diver program is about the same level of intensity as Navy SEAL Fitness and is also a good follow-up plan after Phase 1

Phase 4 ot the Navy SEAL Key to Mental Toughness is by far my toughest workout ever created.  It resembles a day of BUDS, complete with "wet and sandy", runs after eating, high rep punishment push-ups, 4 mile timed runs, 2 mile swims with fins, log PT simulation, and even a HellWeek Simulator with 3 workouts a day.  

The Pipeline of Training Options: 


Navy SEAL Weight Training Book
Complete Guide to Navy SEAL Fitness Book

It depends:  The Complete Guide to Navy SEAL Fitness is a classic and focuses on high rep calisthenics and running and swimming base.  You will build up your running over 12-18 weeks to 20 miles but very fast paced focus on both the 1.5 mile run for the PST and the 4 mile timed run for weekly run test at BUDS. If you are an athlete with a strong power / strength background in lifting and not running or swimming, Navy SEAL Fitness is ideal for you. IF you need some place to start Navy SEAL Fitness is ideal for you as well because a calisthenics base / running / swimming progression is a good place to build a foundation.  Though you will likely need to spend some time in the Navy SEAL Weight Training Book OR if Navy SEAL FItness is too challenging, go with Navy SEAL SWCC, EOD, Diver, PST Phase 1 Workout.  Phase 1 is a good starting point if Navy SEAL Fitness program is too tough. 

Navy SEAL Weight Training - This is part two (winter lifting phase) of my SEAL Prep program. If you have done the Navy SEAL Fitness (12 weeks to BUDS) program a few times and need a break, this is the next program that integrates lifting with the Navy SEAL Prep training. This is ideal for people who have come from an endurance athlete background.  Athletes like swimmers and runners will also require some strength training as you will be exposed to challenges under logs and boats during the first phase and many miles of rucking 50+ lbs of backpacks and gear in 2nd and 3rd phases of BUDS.  Do not skip lifting in your year of training prep.  However, if you are coming from a powerlifting / football background, supplementing a few lifts into your endurance / muscle stamina focus plan is something you may enjoy especially if training for a year or more during your prep phase. 

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