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What Does a Typical BUDS Class Look Like? The Rule of Thirds Apply

Stew smith

The Rule of Thirds and How it Applies to Your Training and the Makeup of Your Future BUD/S Class... 

You may have heard about the Rule of Thirds if you have trained hard for an athletic or tactical fitness goal. I first heard it in my teens/early 20s when training hard for sports and pre-military service. It goes like this:

- 1/3 of your training days will be great! Top Notch - PR Level Performance even.

- 1/3 of your training days will be good but not bad. Not 100% but not bottom 50%. 

- 1/3 of your training days will not be good at all.  Subpar less than 60% enthusiasm, intensity level, and overall performance. 

Your training days in spec ops selections will also be very similar to this rule. You will have great evolutions, grind through the day at just average, and poor performances. It just happens. Being mature enough to handle the negative feedback that soon follows poor performance is the difference maker in those who soon meet the standard and those who do not. 

If you are training hard, actively pursuing your recovery (eat, hydrate, sleep), you will still have these type of days each week. I advise using the bad days as special days to develop your mental toughness. You get up and train even though (and especially) because you do not feel like it. It works because I promise you there will be days in any military selection program that you do not feel like getting up and moving again in the wet, cold, sandy, and generally uncomfortable training days. 

Special Ops Candidates Beware:
The Rule of Thirds Could Determine Your Fate

As you prepare for the rigorous selection programs, it's essential to understand the Rule of Thirds and how it applies to both athletic and tactical training. This concept can serve as a valuable guide as you navigate the challenges.

Regarding tactical training, we see a similar breakdown within your class of candidates/students. The above Rule of Thirds will apply, and you will have great, average, and bad days throughout your training.  But the actual makeup will be the following (or close to the following Rule of Thirds):

- approximately 1/3 of the class does not even belong there. Their inadequate physical, mental, and emotional preparedness leads to an early exit.

- another 1/3 will quit or be dropped from the program for non-physical reasons, such as failing to meet the standards or sustaining injury.

- the remaining 1/3 will push through and graduate with a wide spectrum of performance levels. Some are high performers, some are average performers. And there will even be some below-average performers in the graduate group but they never quit, never fail to meet the standards, and grinded it out every day on pure guts, willpower, and mental toughness.

*This is purely anecdotal, but countless classes have fallen into these three groups over the decades of SEAL Training. Some classes have more / some less than the 33% rule, but these numbers are close on average. However, when the Navy needs 250 SEALs to graduate BUD/S and SQT in a year, they will accept 750 candidates that year.  That should tell you something. 

It's crucial to recognize that these statistics are not definitive, but they do offer some valuable insights. The Rule of Thirds can serve as both a cautionary tale and a motivation to train harder. As you prepare for the challenges ahead, be mindful of the pitfalls that could lead you astray, like ignoring weaknesses during your pre-selection training time. Ensure that your physical, mental, and emotional preparation is thorough so that you do not fall into the category of those who do not belong or those who quit.

If you're on the brink of entering the world of Special Ops, and the Rule of Thirds is at the forefront of your mind. Make sure you're not in the 1/3 that struggles or the 1/3 that quits—for your success, visit and explore the Getting To and Through BUDs Two-Part Course.

This is your opportunity to learn from the best and arm yourself with the techniques and strategies necessary to excel in the most challenging selection programs. Don't let the Rule of Thirds hold you back—embrace it as it will guide you not to let a weakness go undeveloped. Your weaknesses will be exposed in the first day of BUDS. Your future in Special Ops starts now.

There is More To than You May Know

(There are more than 40 books, 1000+ articles, online coaching - and more). If books are not the accountability factor you need, consider Online Coaching with Stew:

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Who is Stew Smith CSCS? Coach, Trainer, Writer, PodcasterI'm the former Navy SEAL that tactical 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

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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.  

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